Wednesday, October 29, 2014

HAND OF FIRE by Judith Starkston: Book Spotlight

A Novel of Briseis and The Trojan War
Judith Starkston
Fireship Press; September 10, 2014
Paperback and ebook, 301 pages
Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology
About the book
The Trojan War threatens Troy’s allies and the Greek supply raids spread. A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god. Will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks? Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles’s famous captive, Briseis.
Advance praise
But what is the difference between a good historical novel and a brilliant one?
I suggest you read Judith Starkston’s Hand of Fire and you’ll discover the answer." -- Helen Hollick, Historical Novels Review Editor and author of Forever Queen

"In Hand of Fire, Starkston's careful research brings ancient Greece and Troy to life with passion and grace. This haunting and insightful novel makes you ache for a mortal woman, Briseis, in love with a half-god, Achilles, as she fights to make her own destiny in a world of capricious gods and warriors. I devoured this page-turning escape from the modern world!" – Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of The World Beneath

“Suspenseful, tragic, surprising and sexy” –Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Chalice

"Briseis steps out from the handful of lines she gets in Homer's epic, and fearlessly tells her own story as healer, war prize, and partner to the famous Achilles –here a godlike hero who manages to be all too human. Recommended!"–Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills

“In her portrayal of Briseis, Judith Starkston has cast a bright light on one of the Iliad's most intriguing sub-plots. With her fast-paced story, three-dimensional characters, and fascinating cultural details, Starkston has given historical fiction fans a tale to remember.” –Priscilla Royal, author of Covenant with Hell

“Starkston breathes new life into an age-old tale in this masterful retelling of the Iliad. The reader experiences the terror, bravery and heartbreak of Briseis who now takes center stage in one of the most famous love triangles of all time.” –Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Golden Dice
Buy Links
Amazon UK   
About the author
Judith Starkston writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. Ms. Starkston is a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their golden retriever Socrates. Hand of Fire is her debut novel.
Find an excerpt, Q&A, book reviews, ancient recipes, historical background as well as on-going information about the historical fiction community on Starkston’s website
Follow Judith Starkston on FB and Twitter   




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CAUGHT IN A STORM by Salwin Anand: A Review

My Journey of Hope
Salwin Anand
Some big life lessons in this little memoir. First and foremost, you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens. When caught in a storm, you are the only one who can stir your boat to salvation.
"Miracles do happen and dreams have hidden messages".
Salwin Anand knows that all too well. Caught In A Storm is based on his true story, a story that changed the lives of everyone in his family. It all started with a precognitive dream on the night of March 2nd, 2012:
"an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety had set within soul had departed my body awaiting before my lifeless self as I became a part of the universe around me...I could feel the angry waves smashing...lightning racing towards the ocean...the heavens roar...I began to travel, perhaps faster than the speed of light. Looking up towards the sky, my world had turned upside down. I was now caught in a storm."
Call it divine message or subconscious intuition, Anand's sixth sense knew that a life-changing experience would soon upset the harmonious flow of his uneventful life.
A Fiji Island native living in Toronto, devoted husband and father of two healthy and active kids, Anand's daily routine was a predictable repetition of activities and priorities involving family members. Driving to work, picking up his father from dialysis, dropping his kids to taekwondo classes, assisting them with their homework...the simple comfort of methodical gestures. An orderly universe, you might think, but one Anand could not control - "if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans".
We plan our goals for the day, for the week, for months to come, even years, but do we really know the time we have in this universe? We have one life, one chance to understand our destiny, and yet we go after our past and our future, letting regrets and anxiety ruin our chances to fully enjoy the present.
News of a critical decline of his father's health (his demise was expected by doctors within a year) were just the runway leading to a downturn that would closely affect Anand's bill of health.  Overwhelmed with grief and pressed by the incessant responsibilities of tending to a terminally ill father, Anand ended up neglecting his own health. An oversight that was going to cost him dearly.
"Even death should not be feared by one who has lived wisely."
The sixth sense that had previously helped Anand access his future, in the form of a dream, turned out to be the helm he courageously and discerningly held to stir his own life to a safe haven - against the odds, against the doctors' unforgiving prognosis, against the debilitating pain of an aggressive ailment. Anand's close encounter with death unleashed an unsuspected amount of spiritual energy and from that source of inner power he drew the ability to heal himself.
For everyone out there leading a personal campaign against illness or spiritual dejection, Anand's memoir will be a beautiful reminder that we are all  born with a web of vital energy running underneath the surface of our physical body. It is possible to channel that non physical energy in order to heal ourselves - if only we decide to look beyond our worldly circumstances and accept, without fear, that hope is always possible.
4.5 out of 5 stars
***Review copy graciously offered by the author in exchange for an unbiased and honest review
About the book
My Journey of Hope
Salwin Anand
Balboa Press; June 25, 2014
Paperback and ebook, 104 pages



Friday, October 24, 2014

ENCHANTRESS "A Novel Of Rav Hisda's Daughter" by Maggie Anton


ENCHANTRESS by Maggie Anton

Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 400

Series: Rav Hisda's Daughter
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Fantasy

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Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia.

One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda’s daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava--whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a "man” out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death--the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk.

The author of the acclaimed Rashi’s Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where "abracadabra” originated. Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman.

Praise for Apprentice (Rav Hisda's Daughter: Book I)

“A lushly detailed look into a fascinatingly unknown time and culture—a tale of Talmud, sorcery, and a most engaging heroine!” —Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series

Anton, the author of the acclaimed “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy, has penned her best book to date. Using her extensive knowledge of the Talmud and other historical Jewish writings, she immersed herself in the tractates to uncover a marvelous heroine for this historical novel… Complex discussions of Jewish law and tradition as well as detailed description of the culture and customs of the times enhance truly wonderful storytelling. VERDICT This absorbing novel should be on everyone’s historical fiction reading list." —Library Journal (starred review)

“Fascinating reading await those who dive into the vividly depicted world of Babylonian Jewry … Anton succeeds brilliantly in drawing us into the formative period leading up to the Talmud … what we have is the work of a master craftswoman set upon repairing a major gap in Jewish literature —Philadelphia Jewish Voice

“Rav Hisda’s Daughter provides a wealth of historical detail about Jewish life in Babylon and Israel in the 3rd century CE. It depicts the daily life and coming of age of a prominent rabbi’s daughter rather than propelling its reader through a traditional arc of action with a crisis and resolution. Its interest lies in its portrayal of the sorcery, incantations, and women’s customs in this exotic, faraway period of time and place, sometimes against the backdrop of war.” —Historical Novel Society

Praise for the Rashi's Daughters Trilogy

“Anton delivers a tour de force . . . [Readers] will fly through the pages and come away wishing for more.” –Library Journal (starred review)

“A compelling combination of drama, suspense, and romance.” –Lilith magazine

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03_Maggie Anton

About the Author

Maggie Anton was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a secular, socialist household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. All that changed when David Parkhurst, who was to become her husband, entered her life, and they both discovered Judaism as adults. That was the start of a lifetime of Jewish education, synagogue involvement, and ritual observance. In 2006, Anton retired from being a clinical chemist in Kaiser Permanente's Biochemical Genetics Laboratory to become a fulltime writer.

In the early 1990's, Anton learned about a women's Talmud class taught by Rachel Adler, now a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She became intrigued with the idea that Rashi, one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, had no sons, only three daughters. Slowly but surely, she began to research the family and the time in which they lived. Much was written about Rashi, but almost nothing of the daughters, except their names and the names of their husbands. Legend has it that Rashi's daughters were learned in a time when women were traditionally forbidden to study the sacred texts. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a trilogy of historical novels about them was born.

After the success of "Rashi's Daughters" Anton started researching the lives of women in 4th-century Babylonia, where the Talmud was being created. Surprised by the prevalence of sorcery among rabbinic families, she wrote "Rav Hisda's Daughter: Bk 1 - Apprentice," which was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award Fiction finalist and a Library Journal pick for Best Historical Fiction.

For more information please visit Maggie Anton's website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Enchantress Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 6
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Book Drunkard

Tuesday, October 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, October 8
Review at A Dream Within a Dream

Thursday, October 8
Guest Post at Bookish

Friday, October 9
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, October 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, October 14
Review at
Spotlight & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Wednesday, October 15
Review at Based on a True Story

Thursday, October 16
Review at Mari Reads

Friday, October 17
Interview at Layered Pages

Tuesday, October 21
Review at History From A Woman's Perspective
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, October 22
Guest Post at History From A Woman's Perspective

Thursday, October 23
Review at Layered Pages
Spotlight at A Book Geek

Friday, October 24
Review at Beth's Book Reviews
Interview at Mina's Bookshelf

Saturday, October 25
Review & Interview at A Cup of Tea & A Big Book

Monday, October 27
Review at TeacherWriter

Tuesday, October 28
Review at My Book Addiction and More
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, October 29
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, October 30
Review at Book Nerd

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA by Greg Michaels (Guest Post)

Why Casanova?
by Greg Michaels
I’d had my fill of the walking dead. Couldn’t stomach another twelfth century zombie. Was bored to tears with vampire heroes.
“But,” you scold, “you chose an incorrigible, womanizing charlatan to be the protagonist of your historical mystery?”
“Yikes,” I reply, “I did.”
But please, please, allow me to digress . . .
Not to get too personal about whole generations of folks, but for those of us who survived the wild and crazy ‘70’s and ‘80’s—well, I’ll talk about just me—by the turn of the 21st century I was in need of a bit of redemption. If nothing else, it was imperative for me to discover what I really felt about life, religion, salvation, the metaphysical, afterlife, etc. You know—the pesky subjects.
“Too much uncertainty in my spirit,” I thought. “Writing could be potent therapy. So maybe a glossy coffee-table book? Something hip like that.”
Now what’s that quote?  “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” A teacher, an historical figure, appeared just as I was primed for a spiritual lesson or two. That is, a guy’s biography practically jumped from the bookstore shelf into my sweaty palms. And I bet you know whose biography it was.
Casanova lived from 1725-1798, during a period that was later called The Age of Reason. From your high school history class, you’ll effortlessly recall The Age of Reason as a time of scientific thought, skepticism, and intellectual interchange that challenged the established order, especially government and religion.
Religion! Wasn’t that one of the subjects that was troubling me?
“This ain’t gonna be no coffee table book,” I finally decided. No, Casanova leaped from each biographical page. He was far more exciting than his reputation, larger than life, grander (!) than a coffee-table book.
Ah, here was a decadent cad upon whom I could hang my literary hat. Here was an antihero who could lurch from decadence to redemption in three-hundred pages. And, by the way, did I mention that some called him genius?
But wait, unbelievably there was more that could fit my literary needs:  as a young man, Casanova began his training in the priesthood—until he was expelled from the seminary for degenerate behavior. Later, after particularly frustrating life experiences, he twice considered checking into a monastery. I began to suspect that beneath his debauched behavior there was some spiritual underpinning to the man, a kernel of decency.
And then there were Casanova’s words in the preface of his autobiography: “I am not only a monotheist but a Christian whose faith is strengthened by philosophy, which has never injured anything.” And his deathbed words:  “Almighty God, and you witnesses of my death, I have lived as a philosopher and die as a Christian.”
Casanova’s biographer didn’t buy a word of it. But maybe it was up to me to decide?  
Oh also, along the way, I discovered that Casanova rubbed shoulders with kings, queens, philosophers, popes, pimps, prostitutes, and adventurers. This libertine knew life from the gutter to the church tower. Fantastic!
Casanova’s character—or lack of it—excited me. The way he lived his life electrified me. Could I—in a novel—bottle some of his exuberant spirit, his intellectual prowess, his damning deficiencies? As my protagonist, what questions might Casanova ask? What could he find? What would be the dramatic result? Casanova himself says “I did not stop to discover if what was leading me on was vice or virtue.” What a vast literary license those words offered!
And why not put a smart, brave woman at his side? For moral balance.
Whole-heartedly I chose Casanova as my main man. With my pen I sent him on an epic journey throughout Europe in a search for his heart, mind, and soul.
Now dear reader, if you’re in need of a little “therapy” for past transgressions—even if all your peccadilloes took place pretty recently—may I humbly suggest The Secrets of Casanova? My novel will not present “answers” but be assured, there are plenty of those pesky, soul-searching questions.
Plus mystery, romance, peril, and passion!
Thanks for reading.
Publication Date: October 21, 2013
Booktrope Editions
Formats: eBook Paperback; 334p
Genre: Historical Fiction
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About the book
2014 Nancy Pearl Award Winner for Fiction.
Loosely based on the life of Jacques Casanova, The Secrets of Casanova is a rich, lush novel of love, sex, family, ambition, intrigue, and adventure. Set in Paris of 1755, Casanova’s luck is fading and his past is shoving up against his present with potentially disastrous consequences. What price must he pay to uncover a treasure of inestimable value? What hearts must he break along the way? Casanova’s will and destiny collide again and again in this riveting historical fiction that brings to light a man of great passion and not a few secrets.
Praise for The Secrets of Casanova
“A Shakespearean actor with a flair for the dramatic and a superb ear for dialogue, Michaels’s debut novel puts a brilliantly original spin on an historical figure whose very name is a cliché. This Casanova must wrestle not only with falling hopelessly and passionately in love, but embarking on a mysterious quest that is as much a spiritual awakening as a swashbuckling adventure. The Secrets of Casanova is so erotic and so sensitively written, I found it difficult to believe its author was a man.” -Robin Maxwell, national best-selling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn
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About the Author
After receiving his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, a chance experience thrust Greg into a career as a professional actor and fight director. To date he’s acted in over fifty theater productions, more than forty television shows, and choreographed dozens of swordfights for stage and screen. In THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA, Greg again proves his skill at telling a theatrical story. He lives with his wife, two sons, and Andy the hamster.
For more information please visit Greg Michaels’s website.   Like The Secrets of Casanova Facebook Page. Follow Greg Michaels on Twitter.
The Secrets of Casanova Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, October 13
Review at Bookish
Tuesday, October 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, October 15
Thursday, October 16
Review & Interview at Carpe Librum
Friday, October 17
Monday, October 20
Review at A Book Geek
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, October 21
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, October 22
Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf
Thursday, October 23
Friday, October 24
Review at Book Nerd