Monday, March 2, 2015

Blog Tour Character Interview with Mary Catherine, Star of Confederado do Norte by Linda Bennett Pennell

Please join me in welcoming author Linda Bennett Pennell to Let Them Read Books! Linda is here today with an interview with Mary Catherine, the heroine of her new historical fiction novel, Confederado do Norte. Read on to learn more about this fascinating woman and enter to win a paperback copy of Confederado do Norte!

After surviving war, young Mary Catherine is torn from her home and thrust into a strange new life when her family decamps for Brazil rather than live with the terms of Reconstruction. Shortly after arrival in Brazil, she is orphaned, leaving only maternal uncle Nathan to care for her. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his beloved sister’s death following a childish mistake. He is also a man with an incredible secret that he will go to great lengths to protect. When the opportunity for Nathan to be rid of her arises, Mary Catherine faces either forced marriage to an unsuitable man or flight into the wilderness containing jaguars and enclaves of people with much to hide. Mary Catherine chooses escape.

Finding refuge among strangers who become her surrogate parents, she matures into a beauty who marries the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. At last, Mary Catherine has happiness and security until civil unrest brings armed intruders with whom she has an inexplicable connection. When the thugs murder her husband for failing to meet their demands, she directs them to her uncle and his secret in order to save herself and her in-laws. With the danger passed, however, her husband’s family demands that she is arrested for complicity in her husband’s murder. Innocent and betrayed by family for a second time, Mary Catherine must now fight for survival.

Mary Catherine is rescued from the gallows by friends, but cannot remain in Brazil. She boards a ship bound for New York with little money and without a home to return to, a family to welcome her, or a nation from which to claim citizenship. Her father never took the loyalty oath required of all former Confederates in order to have their citizenship restored. Once again, she must recreate herself in order to survive.

In old age, Mary Catherine is still haunted by the long ago events for which she feels responsible. After a lifetime trying to forget, she seeks peace, understanding, and the ability to forgive through writing her story, Confederado do Norte.

Character Interview with Mary Catherine
of Confederado do Norte

LBP: Would you introduce yourself and tell us where you were born?

MC: My name is Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell and I was born January 1, 1857 in Washington County, Georgia on a farm overlooking the Oconee River.

LBP: We know that you left Georgia in 1866 because your father didn’t want to live under Reconstruction. You must have been quite small when the Civil War began. Do you have any memories of life before the war?

MC: It’s sometimes difficult to recall that there was ever a time before the war or that  anything existed prior to our world’s being reduced to ashes. That period for me is really only impressions and shadows because they are my very earliest memories, those of a child of less than five years.

LBP: Would you mind sharing what you do remember?

MC: I suspect my memories are, as is the custom with very young children’s recollections, somewhat mixed up and jumbled together. Nevertheless, I will do my best to explain how it once was and then how it became.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Spotlight: The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

Please join Michael Schmicker as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for The Witch of Napoli, from February 16-March 20.

Publication Date: January 15, 2015
Palladino Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fantasy

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 Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, erotic medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know – does the “Queen of Spirits” really have supernatural powers?

Nigel Huxley is convinced she’s simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England’s Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. The Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe. 

Praised by Kirkus Reviews as an “enchanting and graceful narrative” that absorbs readers from the very first page, The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter 19th century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.


Praise for The Witch of Napoli


"Impressive...an enchanting, graceful narrative that absorbs readers from the first page."
~Kirkus Reviews


About the Author


03_Michael Schmicker AuthorMichael Schmicker is an investigative journalist and nationally-known writer on the paranormal. He's been a featured guest on national broadcast radio talk shows, including twice on Coast to Coast AM (560 stations in North America, with 3 million weekly listeners). He also shares his investigations through popular paranormal webcasts including Skeptiko, hosted by Alex Tsakiris; Speaking of Strange with Joshua Warren; the X-Zone, with Rob McConnell (Canada); and he even spent an hour chatting with spoon-bending celebrity Uri Geller on his program Parascience and Beyond (England). He is the co-author of The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People (St. Martin's Press). The Witch of Napoli is his debut novel. Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut, and worked as a freelance reporter in Southeast Asia for three years. He has also worked as a stringer for Forbes magazine, and Op-Ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal Asia. His interest in investigating the paranormal began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand where he first encountered a non-Western culture which readily accepts the reality of ghosts and spirits, reincarnation, psychics, mediums, divination,and other persistently reported phenomena unexplainable by current Science. He lives and writes in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a mountaintop overlooking Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Connect with Michael Schmicker on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blog Tour Review: Ten Fingers Touching by Ellen A. Roth

From the Back Cover:

Evil plots his return to power and Good fights to defeat Evil's sinister plan. Caught between them in this epic struggle are two young lovers - Martak, master of the forest, and Marianna, a beautiful maiden and governess to Rosy, the impetuous, young princess. Evil's desperate scheme to outwit Good and rule the Kingdom puts Martak, Marianna and the Princess at risk as they are drawn into the conflict.

Will the soulmates realize their "happily ever after?" Martak must first unravel the curse and destroy evil. In this land where magical forces vie for dominance, could true love be the most powerful weapon of all?

A beautifully illustrated tale for women of all ages, Ten Fingers Touching explores the complex nature of love and fate. It is an enchanting journey of romance, mystery and adventure. Ellen A. Roth's debut novella is an imaginative take on a classic genre-and a treat for the romantic soul.

My Thoughts:

I've been loving the trend these days of re-imagined fairy tales, and so I was drawn to Ten Fingers Touching. But rather than a re-imagining, this is a classic-style, original tale of the battle between Good versus Evil and the mortals that are drawn into the conflict.

The story is simple and told in the manner of a fairy tale, which doesn't allow for much by way of character development, but there were a couple of surprises at the end. The story was darker than I expected, and it was racier too, which it didn't necessarily need to be. The flowery descriptions of love-making were a little over-the-top, and that turned out to be the only real weak spot for me in an otherwise solidly written piece.

What made this book for me were the gorgeous illustrations. The book is very well produced with bright, glossy pages and vibrant art that captures the eye and the imagination. The author calls this book a labor of love, and that is evident in the finished product. The presentation alone makes it worthy of adding to any fairy tale lover's collection.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5


TEN FINGERS TOUCHING
February 2015
$22.95 hardcover; 104 pages
ISBN-10: 0990726827
ISBN-13:  9780990726821

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan

From the Back Cover:

Beatrice Knowles is a Maid of Honor, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s secret protectors. Known for her uncanny ability to manipulate men’s hearts, Beatrice has proven herself to be a valuable asset in the Queen’s court—or so she thinks. It has been three weeks since the Maids thwarted a plot to overthrow the Queen, and Beatrice is preparing to wed her betrothed, Lord Cavanaugh. However, her plans come to a crashing halt as rumors of a brewing Scottish rebellion spread among the court.

Beatrice’s new assignment is to infiltrate the visiting Scottish delegation using her subtle arts in persuasion. The mission seems simple enough, until the Queen pairs Beatrice with the worst of the lot—Alasdair MacLeod. Beatrice cannot help but think that the Queen is purposefully setting her up for failure. But Alasdair could be the key to unlocking the truth about the rebellion….and her own heart. Caught in a web of ever-more-twisting lies, Beatrice must rise up among the Maids of Honor and prove what she’s known all along: In a court filled with deception and danger, love may be the deadliest weapon of all.

My Thoughts:

I really want to love this series. It has such a great premise and such great characters: five special maids-of-honor who serve as spies in Queen Elizabeth I's court while navigating political intrigue and affairs of the heart. But both this book and the first in the series, Maid of Secrets, fell a bit short for me. I like them, but I don't love them, for reasons I'll explain in a bit. But first:

Beatrice is the ice queen of the group, the consummate courtier, the only one actually born and bred to the position, and she carries it out with grace, poise, and indifference. But in this book we get to see the woman that lies beneath the facade. A woman whose family problems have forced her to seek salvation in an arranged marriage, a woman whose hatred for the queen is eclipsed only by her desire to best her, and the only way to do that is by succeeding in every difficult task the queen sets for her. But this time, the queen has gone too far. This time, the queen has ruined Beatrice's shot at stability by calling a halt to her wedding and secretly assigning Beatrice to get close to the leader of the Scottish delegation at court, Alasdair Macleod, in an attempt to uncover a Catholic plot against the queen. Charming the uncouth warrior and learning his secrets should be easy, and finishing this annoying assignment will bring Beatrice one step closer to her ultimate goal, but Beatrice is about to discover that there's something far greater at risk here than any conspiracy--her heart--and her own actions may result in her losing the only true chance at happiness she's ever had.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway with Carmela Catutti, Author of Between the Cracks

Please join me in welcoming author Carmela Catutti to Let Them Read Books! Carmela is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical fiction novel, Between the Cracks, based on the true story of her great-aunt's immigration to America and triumph over adversity. Read Carmela's thoughts on what makes humans so resilient and enter to win a Kindle Touch! 

Pathway to Resilience 
By Carmela Cattuti, author of Between the Cracks

It is often said that children are resilient and bounce back from adversity much quicker than adults. But is that platitude reserved only for children or can adults rediscover their reserves of resilience? When we think of resilience we think of the power to return to one’s original state of youth and vitality. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood our ability to rise above adversity seems compromised. We become less buoyant each time an obstacle is placed in our path. Some people spend years trying to come back from the slightest transgression from another or from a job loss or divorce.

How does one return to a state a balance from unspeakable adversity? What if an entire family perishes in a car accident or a loved one is murdered? In this time of weather uncertainty and earth changes there are countless natural disasters across the planet. Who does one blame for tsunamis or earthquakes? The obvious answer is God, where ever he or she may be. We can rail against anyone we like, but to stay in a state of anger and seeking revenge keeps us from tapping into our innate resilience. If anyone would like to get back at God, accessing our power of resilience is the perfect remedy.

Here are four pathways to accessing resilience and coming back in the world stronger:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway with Jerome Charyn, Author of I Am Abraham

Please join me in welcoming author Jerome Charyn to Let Them Read Books! I was honored to have the chance to ask this distinguished author, who has been called “one of the most important writers in American literature,” a few questions about his newest novel, I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War. Read on for Jerome's thoughts on inspiration, influence, and writing from Lincoln's point of view, and enter to win a paperback copy!

Narrated in Lincoln’s own voice, the tragicomic I Am Abraham promises to be the masterwork of Jerome Charyn’s remarkable career.

Since publishing his first novel in 1964, Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape. Here in I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.

Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln’s life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady’s dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.

We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man’s-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.

Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction.

Hello, Jerome! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for Let Them Read Books.

So many books have been written about Abraham Lincoln. What inspired you to write your own?

History’s a kind of frame and a straightjacket at the same time. You know, you have to deal with the Civil War, you have to deal with the family, the love for Mary, and the Emancipation Proclamation, which for me is the most important American document ever written. So you have to stretch that straightjacket and push the fiction inside it. Then you have a kind of explosion, and that’s what I wanted to do.

What do you think sets your novel apart from others?

Very few historians have been willing to see the Lincolns as sexual creatures, and that’s one of the things that was important to me, to really try to explore what was the attraction between this very tall man and this very short woman. Well, you know, Mary Todd was a kind of a foxy lady. She was quite attractive, and she fell in love with him, and he jilted her, and she waited, and she waited, and she waited, and he came back. That’s a great love story.

It must have been challenging crafting a novel from Lincoln's point of view. How did you get inside his head to create his "voice"?