Read Across America/Dr. Seuss Day, March 2 + Favorite Quotes

Today was Read Across America Day AND Dr. Seuss Day in honor of his birthday! I’ve always loved Dr. Seuss. I fondly remember having a subscription to the books..you know, where once a month a couple appeared in the mail? It was always such a thrill. I still have my collection and now my children have read them!! His creative spirit is admirable as well as his huge heart for humanity and the environment.

I’m glad he still is enjoyed by each generation. My 7 year old found some pencils, erasers, and bookmarks with Dr. Seuss characters on them at the store on Friday night, so she was more than prepared to celebrate for the entire year, not just the day!

What Dr. Seuss book inspired you? Which books do you love? 

Dr. Seuss never gets old in our hearts!! Here are some fave quotes, perfect for anyone:

“Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

“If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.

“It is better to know how to learn than to know.

“Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

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Sam Thomas Delivers Stellar Third 17th Century Mystery Novel: The Witch Hunter’s Tale

Sam Thomas has recently published The Witch Hunter’s Tale, the third novel in his Midwife Mysteries! I have all the information below, plus my review of this stellar third mystery featuring midwife detective Bridget Hodgson.

witch hunter's tale_MECH_01.inddPublication date:
January 6, 2015

St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 320

Series: Book Three, The Midwife Mysteries Series
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Sam Thomas takes readers back to Puritan England with midwife Bridget Hodgson, hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction.”

Winter has come to the city of York, and with it the threat of witchcraft. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike.

Bridget—accompanied once again by her deputy Martha Hawkins and her nephew Will Hodgson—finds herself playing a lethal game of cat and mouse against the most dangerous men in York, as well as her sworn enemy Rebecca Hooke. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?

Review~

I love the midwife historical mysteries by Sam Thomas! He had me hooked from the first one, which was called A Midwife’s Tale and introduced us to the kind, hard-working, no nonsense midwife Bridget. I am not overly into midwifery by any means, but Sam takes his historical research experience of the 17th midwife life and couples it with period details and societal, religious, and political intrigue to plot out fabulous murder mysteries, which of course, Bridget inadvertently becomes involved in solving. He does also highlight the profession of delivering babies as well, which I’ve found has become quite interesting in its technique and manner. As a mom, it makes me cringe thinking what women went through back then in regards to childbirth.

Based on the idea that a midwife with a good name and some wealth can move just about anywhere in the street without the need of a man or husband, Sam can put his lead character Bridget in a good place to really search out clues that might not be an option for many other women in that era. Plus, she’s privy to all kinds of information that would be hard for anyone else to collect as she listens to her female clients’ gossips and understands the nature of all families in the area, whether wealthy or poor. The times are quite heated between people due to the English Civil War, which creates an air of fear and violence.

I have to say that this third mystery, A Witch Hunter’s Tale, has been my favorite of all so far. It could be because I am really interested in the history of witch hunts as well as witches, magic, and alchemy in history. The fact that the book’s mystery delved around the frantic time of the witch hunts being performed in South England, and religious fanaticism taking its hold northward where the series is set, truly had my attention the entire time. I do believe, however, that it’s also Sam’s finest novel to date due to his underlying tones of the persecution of women, and the double standards the laws created against women, as well as his portrayal of the religious fanaticism of the time and how it effected the country’s people and political structures.

I had just recently mentioned to another 17th century British mystery novelist, after reading a post on this site from Cat Cavendish about the infamous 17th century witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, that he’d be great to include in a mystery novel! Then I opened Sam’s book and saw his name mentioned! He wasn’t a character in Sam’s book, but there was some threatening of bringing him in to the area to pull out all the witches. However, the political leaders of the area, including Bridget’s uptight nephew, Joseph, and her nemesis, Rebecca, a former midwife, want all the power for themselves. They start hunting for witches and collecting them in the “gaols,” which Sam writes about with utterly horrid details that allow you, unfortunately, to smell and visualize the surroundings in a way that makes you never want to be transported to that time and place. However, his vivid descriptions are one of the amazing things about this book and they truly allow the reader to feel the plight of these suspected women.

So how does a midwife become involved in witch hunting? Since a midwife is concerned in birthing, she also serves to care for a woman’s body, therefore, she would be able to verify if a woman were a witch by finding a teat or witch’s mark on the body. Due to this, Bridget is quietly worried they will ask her to perform this exam, for if they are determined to hang someone as a witch, and have other proof, but as a midwife she finds the examination clear, she could be called a witch herself! Luckily, she has enough family prestige to not have a finger pointed at her, but some people will go to any means (even lying or killing) as a Searcher to torture and hang women, putting the fear of God into all the area.

Once the murder has occurred in the novel, Bridget becomes wholly invested in finding the truth, as her other nephew Will, of whom she treats like a son, is accused and thrown into jail by his own brother. Martha, Bridget’s trusty deputy midwife (and deputy amateur detective alongside her), are on the case to redeem Will’s name and save his life.

Other themes explored within this novel are Bridget’s inner emotions over losing her two children when they were young, as well as her husband. This happened in her life before even the first novel, and as a midwife she finds joy in delivering babies and had seemed to put it mostly out of her mind. But in this third novel, the author really examines her feelings of their deaths and how it effects her spirituality, her take on life and God’s role in it, her connections with those she has now come to love, and with the addition of little Elizabeth (an orphan) coming to live with Bridget, I saw more of her nurturing side in a way that really endeared me more towards the midwife. His character development of Bridget, as well as the other supporting characters in this novel, became more dimensional and deep. Plus, I just love how this sleuth and sidekick (Bridget and Martha) are female leads, with the men in supporting roles!

In The Witch Hunter’s Tale, Sam writes with great historical details, sensational description, deep and heartfelt emotion, and a formidable plot that kept me guessing and turning the pages right up to the end. I’d highly recommend this book, both in the series and as a stand alone, to anyone who loves mysteries or 17th century English life. He truly connects the reader to this era in northern England, which is ripe with strife, confusion, religiosity, and fear, and shows us how one woman can care for an entire town, and her hodgepodge of a family, just by opening her heart.

witch hunter's tale_MECH_01.inddPraise for the Midwife Mysteries Series~

“Sam Thomas has created one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction—a crime-solving, wealthy, widowed midwife in embattled 17th-century York, England. . . . Bridget is as fascinating, fun and fierce as ever.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Harlot’s Tale”Besides making his heroine a plausible sleuth, Thomas conveys the challenges of midwifery without clumsy exposition.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Harlot’s Tale

“As pleasurable as his mystery is, the true thrill here is Thomas’s lively portrait of 1644 York and his unique heroine.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Midwife’s Tale

“A briskly plotted historical mystery starring a pair of brave, tenacious, intelligent women who take no prisoners and make no apologies.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of Gods of Gotham

“Thomas is a historian by profession and it shows in the wealth of detail with which he recreates the city of York amid the turmoil of the English civil war.” —Rhys Bowen, author of the bestselling Royal Spyness series

“A heart-stopping page-turner coupled with a gritty and realistic portrayal of two strong and contrasting woman characters vividly depicted against the backdrop of the besieged city of York.” —Cora Harrison, author of I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

“The gripping story, fascinating characters, and intriguing era make Thomas’s debut mystery a reader’s delight.” —Priscilla Royal, author of The Killing Season

“Thomas’s fiction debut is packed with fascinating information about a midwife’s skills and life during the English civil war. The ingenious, fast-paced mystery is a bonus.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Midwife’s Tale

“Everything rings true in historian Thomas’s superb first mystery. . . Authentic details of life in 17th-century York complement the whodunit’s intelligently concealed clues.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Midwife’s Tale

Buy the Book~

Amazon (Hardcover)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
IndieBound
Powell’s

Author Sam Thomas, Biography~03_Sam Thomas

Sam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and recently leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio. Formerly, he was an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.

For more information please visit Sam Thomas’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Witch Hunter’s Tale Blog Tour Schedule~

Monday, February 9
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Spotlight at What Is that Book About

Tuesday, February 10
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, February 11
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Friday, February 13
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Monday, February 16
Review at Book Babe
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, February 17
Review & Interview at The Emerald City Book Review
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Wednesday, February 18
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, February 19
Interview at Back Porchervations

Friday, February 20
Review at Build a Bookshelf
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, February 23
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, February 24
Review at A Book Geek

Wednesday, February 25
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, February 26
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Spotlight at Brooke Blogs

Friday, February 27
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

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Open Road Media Releases Victoria Strauss Popular Fantasy E-book Titles + Tweet to Win

E-book Release of Two Victoria Strauss Titles: The Burning Land and The Awakened City

straussburningland_132340842247The Burning Land by Victoria Strauss was released as an e-book for the first time on February 24th, 2014, along with its sequel, The Awakened City! They were first published in 2004 and 2006 to fantasy lovers rave reviews.

In honor of this e-book publication, there is a giveaway happening for a short time in which if you buy The Burning Land, you can enter to win its sequel! See more below about it, right after the excerpt!

In The Burning Land, Gyalo is a devout priest—but he is also a Shaper, a powerful mage with magic unchecked by the law or religion. Sent across the desert to recover refugees from a vicious war, he soon learns a shocking truth that may destroy him and everyone he holds dear.

Victoria Strauss, who holds a degree in Comparative Religion, builds a unique world both religious and fantastical, culminating in “a deeply felt and richly imagined tale that explores issues of faith, destiny and the fallibility of human nature” (Jacqueline Carey, author of Kushiel’s Dart).

Strauss, a one-time judge for the World Fantasy Awards, is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Passion Blue series. A prolific book reviewer, her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, among other magazines. In 2009, she received the Service to SFWA Award for co-founding Writer Beware, a publishing industry tell-all guide for writers.

See more: www.victoriastrauss.com

Excerpt~

After four months of travel, they came to the most hostile landscape they had yet encountered: a vast plain of pebbles packed flat and hard as pavement, polished by time and the elements to the reflectiveness of glass. A wind blew off it, like the breath of a furnace. Even the most desolate of the dunes had supported some vegetation, but there was none here, nor any other sign of life. Far away at the southern horizon, a range of twilight-colored mountains poked up into the sky, some of them showing the flattened cone-shape of volcanoes.

The party made camp, while Teispas dispatched scouts to survey the terrain. They returned exhausted and sunburned, with tales of infernal temperatures and light so intense they had to bind their eyes. They had traveled for two days, and seen no sign of change.

There seemed no choice but to try and go around. To the east the plain curved north, so the party turned west. After a day and a half the plain’s margin dipped sharply south, and the mountains drew closer, revealing fold after fold of fire-colored cliffs descending from their flanks. Now, suddenly, the Dreamers’ Dreams acquired definition, producing an array of symbols that, according to Rikoyu, meant human life and work–still south, somewhere beyond the pebble plain.

They had, it seemed, found the lost Âratists.

But the plain ran on, and scouts sent ahead reported no end in sight. After a week of this, Teispas called a meeting. He and his second in command, Aspâthnes, were present, as were Gyalo, Rikoyu, and Vâsparis. Outside, the sun was slipping over the edge of the world in a glory of gold and orange cloud; its fading light filtered through the canvas of Teispas’s tent, enveloping the men in a ruddy gloom.

“We’re sure now that what we’ve been sent to find lies on the other side of that plain,” Teispas began. “Probably in those mountains. Do you agree, Brother Rikoyu?”

“Yes,” said Rikoyu hoarsely. He looked terrible, his hollow cheeks covered with an unkempt beard, his scalp patchy where skin rashes had caused his hair to fall out.

“But it’s been over a week, and still the plain goes on. And the Dreamers have begun to lose focus again.”

Rikoyu nodded.

“We have supplies for only a year. We’ve been traveling more than four months, and it’ll take us at least that long to return–longer, if the lost Âratists are with us. We have no time to waste. But that is exactly what we’re doing–wasting time. For all we know, this ash-cursed plain goes all the way to the sea.” He paused. Like all of them, he had lost flesh; he had not had much to spare to begin with, and now was gaunt as a ghost, his clothing hanging on him, his skin stretched tight over the bones of his face. With his tangled hair and overgrown beard, he looked like a castaway rather than the leader of a military expedition. “We must try and scout a crossing.”

For a moment there was silence.

“There’s bad places in the Burning Land, but no place crueler than the pebble plains.” Vâsparis sat crosslegged, his hands resting on his knees, self-contained and easy as always. Of all of them, the journey had changed him least, for he had been whip-thin and sun-black long before it began. “There’s a little one west of Thuxra City. My partner and I tried to cross it once, but we had to turn back. ‘Twasn’t for lack of supplies or water–it was the heat. The sun pounds down on those stones till you’d swear you were frying on a griddle.”

“We can travel at night, and take shelter by day.”

“That’s fine for men.” Vâsparis shrugged. “But what about the camels? Nothing for ’em to eat or drink out there. They can go maybe ten days like that–and only if there’s good forage at the end of it.”

“We can’t carry more than ten days’ supply of water in any case,” Teispas said. “So their limit and ours is the same. We’ve seen rain clouds above the mountains–it seems likely there’s good land there. The scouts can try at the most southern point, where the Dreamers’ Dreams were strongest. If they can break through in eight days, it shouldn’t take the main party more than ten.”

“And if the scouts can’t break through?” asked Aspâthnes, Teispas’ second. “Or if they don’t return?”

“Then we’ll move on and try another route. And if that one doesn’t work, another.” Teispas fixed Aspâthnes with a hard black gaze. A strained quality had come upon him over the past weeks, a kind of wire-strung tension, as if the barrier of the plain was finally more than his stoic endurance could support. “And if that one doesn’t work, I’ll concede defeat, and we can go back to slogging along the edge of this bloody plain, until our supply situation forces us to turn tail and go back to Arsace without completing the mission that right now, this moment, is finally within our reach.”

“Very well,” Aspâthnes said. “If the scouts can cross in eight days, and find good land at the exit point, I agree it should be tried.”

“And you, Brother.” Teispas turned that gaze upon Gyalo. “What do you think?”

The question was only a courtesy–Gyalo was in charge of the vowed Âratists, but he had no voice in the mission’s command, and any disagreement would be overruled. But he did not disagree. Since the Dreamers had begun to Dream, a blazing excitement had filled him. He was as impatient as Teispas to break past this final barrier and confront the truth they had sought so long.

“Crossing will be risky,” he said. “But every day we travel the Burning Land is a risk. I agree we should try to find a way.”

“Good.” Teispas’s nod was approving. He looked toward Aspâthnes. “See to it. Two men. They’ll leave this night. We’ll follow in the morning.”

The scouts departed, with four camels and ample water. The main party came on at a slower pace, until they found the red and gold marker the scouts had planted at the point at which they had decided to try a crossing. There was good camping close by, a small oasis where water bubbled up to form a pool and a grove of ghost oaks cast a whispering shade.

The party waited, using the time to patch tents and clothing and repair frayed harness, and to increase their food stores by hunting the large lizards Vâsparis called greenback dragons. On the fifteenth day the scouts emerged, exhausted but triumphant, to report that it had taken them seven nights to reach the far side of the pebble plain, and that verdant land such as they had not seen in all their months of travel waited on the other side.

They set out the night after the scouts’ return. The water barrels were full. Inessential items–spare canvas, clothing, cooking pots, the remaining marker posts–had been unloaded and left behind, and the difference made up with green fodder for the camels, to buy extra crossing time should it be needed.

They rode till dawn beneath the cold-starred sky. The waxing moon stared down, a half-closed eye; around them the plain lay flat and featureless, glistening with reflected moonlight like a plaque of beaten silver. There were no variations, no landmarks, nothing at all with which to measure motion–a monotony as difficult to bear, in its way, as any physical hardship.

At dawn they halted. Looking back, Gyalo could see no trace of their starting point, nor any sign of the land ahead other than the hazy mountains. Tent pegs could not be driven among the packed stones, so they spread the canvas of their tents across the camel-saddles, and beneath this low shelter passed the broiling day. Gyalo dozed and woke and dozed again, tangled in dreams of fire and suffocation. When evening came, the blankets he had lain on were soaked with sweat, and the stone of the plain burned his feet through the soles of his boots.

The camels bore up well for the two nights the fodder lasted, and for two foodless, waterless nights after that. On the fifth night they began to slow, raising the possibility that the journey might take longer than the nine nights Teispas had estimated. The water allowance was reduced (except for the Dreamers, for whom nothing was ever rationed); the thirsty men grumbled, but were not ready to listen to Vâsparis when he suggested, seriously, that they drink their own urine–a survival technique, he claimed, that more than once had made the difference between life and death for him.

At sunset on the seventh night, the travelers crawled from their sweaty burrows to begin the labor of saddling and loading. Gyalo was unhobbling Cirsame–not that she really needed hobbling, for she was by now too depleted to wander–when he heard a shout:

“Look! Over there!”

It was one of the camel handlers. He stood beside the water barrels, pointing south, toward a peculiar disturbance in the sky. Above the plain the air was trembling, shimmering like the heat-haze above a sunstruck rock. The margins of this area were blurred with iridescence.

“What do you think it is?” Sittibaal, who had spread his canvas nearby, came to stand beside Gyalo.

“I don’t know. It reminds me–”

“Of what?”

Gyalo shook his head. What it recalled to him, strangely, was Shaper sight: the air around a substance about to be transformed often looked just so.

Faintly came a long roll of thunder. Storm clouds, thick and gray and turbulent, began to unfold at the disturbance’s center, slowly compounding and enlarging. They pulsed and shook with sullen lightning. A swirling irregularity appeared at the storm’s eastern edge; after a moment a column of cloud slid smoothly downward, like a long black finger. It touched down, lifted, touched again.

“I’ve never seen a storm like that,” Sittibaal said. “Have you?”

“No. No, I haven’t.”

For a while they stood watching as the cloud-finger investigated the ground, sweeping east, then west, then slowly east again, almost as if some invisible hand were shepherding it. At last they returned to their preparations. Gyalo had forced Cirsame to kneel and was loading her when the thunder suddenly boomed louder. He looked up and saw the storm had grown, eating up much of the southern sky. It was still expanding, the clouds swelling, the black column engorging, like a bladder pumped with air–

No–not expanding. Approaching. The storm was coming toward them, racing along the pebble plain at unbelievable speed. In the instant Gyalo realized this, the first winds struck, pressing his clothes against his body, lifting the canvas behind him. The air darkened. Wetness struck his face–rain?

Another clap of thunder split the air. Cirsame bellowed and tried to rise; he pulled her traces, attempting to hold her down. There was a confusion of running men, of shouting–“Bring the camels down! Bring the camels down!” “Hold the canvas!” “The god save us!”–and then the storm struck, a screaming madness of wind and rain. Lightning flashed, blinding; the thunder that followed was like the earth cracking in two. The wind tried to pick Gyalo up; he wound his wrists with Cirsame’s traces and hung on for his life.

There was another flash, another crack. The wind wrenched him savagely around. Pain burst in his shoulder, like nothing he had ever known. Something struck him, crushing him to the ground. And then there was nothing in the world but agony and the storm.

GIVEAWAY~

If you go get The Burning Land, you can enter to win The Awakened City!

From now until March 1, anyone who tweets with the hashtag #BoughtBurningLand will be entered to win one of 10 free download codes for the 2ndbook,The Awakened City. Be sure to follow @OpenRoadMedia so we can contact you if you win! Full rules here: http://www.openroadmedia.com/victoriastrauss

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Cognac Conspiracies is Another Great Edition to Winemaker Detective Series, Based on French Television Show

cognac-conspiracies-coverReview~
Read below for excerpt and giveaway!

Last month I read a really fun mystery that is outside of my element, but something about the words “France” and “Cognac” drew me in and made me curious! I always love a good foreign mystery. I hadn’t realized at first that it was a series, with the others featuring wine in their mysteries, or even that it’s a popular TV mystery series abroad! However, I can see how this would make a great French TV series, full of dramatic flair and a likable wine expert turned amateur detective named Benjamin Cooker and his side-kick, handsome and astute Virgile. Cognac Conspiracies is book five in what looks to be a twenty-part mystery series based on the television show.

It’s a pretty slim book, compared to novels that I generally read, so it doesn’t go too far in-depth with various outside plots, but rather, takes the reader on an interesting meandering ruse through the business world and history of cognac. During the reading, the mystery seeps slowly in, and though short on pages, it still had time for multiple twists and turns that kept me guessing. It did visualize as a television episode to me, which I loved. Some of the back story, as on TV, featured relations or issues in Cooker’s own life. As an American, I loved getting my fix for foreign TV through this book.

There is a good balance between character development, plot, and mystery, as well as dining with cognac, but from what I’ve heard of the other mysteries, I think there was a little less dining on delectable foods in this novel, but it did feature a few areas, so no worries!

The novel made up for this with its wonderful description of cognac, especially the various types of cognac and how they are made with herbs and flowers. I was pleasantly surprised by this practice, which reminded me of fragrance-making, and I could almost smell the various types of brandy and feel the liquor melt on my tongue; the details opened my senses. Cognac certainly held its own for me against the other wines featured in previous mysteries, as I am sure it does in its wine-making region as well, which was the area featured in this novel.

The authors really focused on grand descriptions of the river and village and countryside that were very lovely, as well as their character development of the supporting cast. They were smart, sly, conflicted, and quite often scandalous, which of course, make for good TV murder mysteries and follow through with the books as well. Anyone could have “who-done-it” and we feel suspicious of them all. There is an air of intrigue, deceit, and suspense that makes you anxious to the turn the pages.

This novel is an entertaining petite paperback, or a quick electronic read, and is just perfect for when you have a few hours during a train or airplane ride in which you wish to escape reality. Or maybe you need a free evening at home by the fireplace, glass in hand, in which to escape to the French countryside? I know I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of this series!

Read an excerpt!

“Pierre Lavoisier. Mr. Cooker, I presume?” Benjamin shook his hand and said, “This is my associate, Virgile Lanssien.”

The man, who appeared to be in his forties, adjusted his gold-rimmed glasses and gave the winemaker’s assistant a thorough look-over before moving his lips almost imperceptibly. It was difficult to tell whether he was smiling or brooding.“ Beauty is the promise of happiness, is it not?” “That’s exactly what Stendhal said,” replied Benjamin, always confident of his literary knowledge.

Pierre Lavoisier began to tremble ever so slightly, and sweat beads formed on his forehead. So, Benjamin thought, he didn’t know how to play this game. Arrogance was not his métier, much less pedantry.

“My sister will see you, if you will kindly wait here,” was all that he said before leaving. “Have a seat, please.”

“We’re not really tired,” Benjamin responded as he inspected a large lithograph of Jarnac in 1830.

The winemaker, a connoisseur of antiques and an occasional historian, reached for his glasses. With great interest, he examined this panoramic view of a former chateau, which had been sacrificed for a suspension bridge spanning the Charente River. On the embankments, imposing homes reflected the good fortune of their owners. Along the river’s edge, only a few trees dared totip their boughs, lest they hinder the passage ofthe barges. Benjamin took a few steps back to better appreciate it and then turned his attention to a family photo. He recognized Pierre, standing proudly next to a beautiful woman with blonde hair. Seated in front of them was an elderly man—presumably the patriarch. Off to one sidewas another man, whom Benjamin presumed was the infamous Claude-Henri.

“Strange, very strange,” Benjamin mumbled.

Virgile wasn’t paying much attention. He was busy staring out the window at this Pierre, who had undressed him with his eyes, like a slave trader.“There’s something suspicious about him.”

“What’s that, my boy?”

“I’m saying that he’s strange, too.”

“Who?”

The door opened, and Marie-France entered the room. She was wearing a pink silk suit that complemented her astonishingly radiant complexion.

Her wrists and neck were unadorned, butshe had several extravagant diamond, sapphire, and ruby rings on her fingers. Her handshake was firm and formal. Ms. Lavoisier knew how to holdher own.

“So, gentlemen, what can I do for you?”

Benjamin shot a glance at his assistant before tactfully and a bit solemnly explaining the assignment he had been given. He confessed that he had not met his client, Shiyi Cheng, in person.

“We have only exchanged correspondence,” the winemaker said, hoping to gain a semblance of consideration from Lavoisier. Her pale eyes were making him uneasy. “I believe your shareholder simply wishes to know the status of the accounts.”“I don’t have to tell you that there are certified public accountants for that, Mr. Cooker.”

She lashed out his name, and Benjamin could almost hear a whip cracking. Then her eyes fell on Virgile. She stared not at his face, but at his body, from sternum to crotch. Benjamin could feel his assistant’s embarrassment. Virgile crossed his legs and pulled himself straighter in his chair as she continued her indecent and perverse inspection. Benjamin tried to correct himself. “PerhapsI did not make myself clear, Ms. Lavoisier. Our assignment has more to do with how we can help the company evolve. We’re here to study the business. Cognac is going through difficult times. I hope, in the framework of this mission, you will consider us allies, rather than enemies.”

cognac-conspiracies-coverCognac Conspiracies

Jean-Pierre ALAUX and Noël BALEN

(cozy wine mystery)

Release date: February 18, 2015
at Le French Book

140 pages

ISBN: 978-1939474322

Website | Goodreads

Synopsis~

The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors. Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he is stonewalled, crosses paths with his first love, and stands up to high-level state officials keen on controlling the buyout. Meanwhile, irresistible Virgile mingles with the local population until a drowning changes the stakes. [provided by the publisher]

An episode in a long successful French mysteries series that is a hit television series now in its fourth season and attracting an audience of over 4 million. The series is a huge success in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Alaux-BalenJean-Pierre ALAUX and Noël BALEN, Biographies~

The authors of the Winemaker Detective series, are Epicures. Jean-Pierre Alaux is a magazine, radio and TV journalist, when he is not writing novels in southwestern France. He is the grandson of a winemakerand exhibits a real passion for wine and wine making. For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.

He gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about the Winemaker Detective, which he coauthors with Noël Balen.

Noël lives in Paris, where he shares his time between writing, making records, and lecturing on music. He plays bass, is a music critic and has authored a number of books about musicians in addition to his novel and short-story writing.

Translator Sally Pane, Biography~

Translator Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado where she wrote Camus and the Americas: A Thematic Analysis of Three Works Based on His Journaux de Voyage. Her career includes more than twenty years of translating and teaching French and Italian at Berlitz and at Colorado University Boulder. She has worked in scientific, legal and literary translation; her literary translations include Operatic Arias; Singers Edition, and Reality and the Untheorizable by Clément Rosset. She also served as the interpreter for the government cabinet of Rwanda and translated for Dian Fossey’s Digit Fund. In addition to her passion for French, she has studied Italian at Colorado University, in Rome and in Siena. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband.
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GIVEAWAY!!!!

You can enter the giveaway here, by clicking on “entry-form” or on each book blog participating in this tour, click the banner below to find them all.

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Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook in the entry form below. Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! Just follow the directions on the entry-form link below.

8 winners will be chosen. Choice of print or digital format for US residents. Digital format for all other residents. Giveaway run by France Book Tours.

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Historical Witchfinding 101 featuring Matthew Hopkins: Article by Catherine Cavendish of The Pendle Curse

Catherine Cavendish, an author friend of mine who writes great gothic ghost tales from the UK, just released her latest novel with Samhain Horror, called The Pendle Curse, on Feb. 3, 2015. A mix of history, the paranormal, and subdued creepiness, her novels put a modern twist on the classic atmospheric telling of tales. This current novel delves into a past that includes a harrowing tale of witches.

Of course, as most readers know, I love to read anything to do with witches as well, so I’ve been highly anticipating this novel! My review will come soon, but in the meantime, take a moment to learn about the most infamous witch finder of all time, Matthew Hopkins.

Have  you heard of England’s Matthew Hopkins? The Infamous Witchfinder General

by Catherine Cavendish, author of The Pendle Curse

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A photo of Matthew Hopkins / Photo supplied by C. Cavendish

My new novel – The Pendle Curse – has some of its roots in a true story. In August 1612, ten men and women were convicted, in Lancaster, England, of crimes related to witchcraft and subsequently hanged on Gallows Hill. They became known to history as the Pendle Witches. Their trial created a template for others to follow, and one who was no doubt inspired by it was none other than the most infamous witch hunter of them all. The self-styled, ‘Witchfinder General’, Matthew Hopkins.

Hopkins was born in 1620 and little is known about his early life. His most famous career lasted just a couple of years – between 1644 until his retirement in 1647, but in fourteen months of that time, he managed to be responsible for the deaths of some 300 women, mainly in the eastern counties of England. All were convicted of witchcraft, on his authority. The total number of executions for witchcraft between the 15th and 18th centuries amounts to less than 500. Matthew Hopkins and his colleague, John Stearne, certainly contributed more than their fair share.

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Since the Lancashire witch trials of 1612 that convicted the Pendle witches, the law had been changed. It was now necessary to provide material proof that accused person had practiced witchcraft. It was the role of Hopkins and Stearne to provide evidence that the accused had entered into a pact with the devil. A confession was vital – from the human, as the devil would hardly confess.

Hopkins travelled freely throughout eastern England, although Essex was his centre of operations. His career as witchfinder began when he heard a group of women talking about meeting the devil in Manningtree in March 1644. Twenty three women were tried at Chelmsford in 1645. Four died in prison and nineteen were convicted and hanged. Hopkins was well paid for his work and this may well have spurred him on to be even more zealous. He and Stearne travelled with a team and wherever they turned up, the local community found themselves handing over significant amounts of money. In Ipswich, this was so great, that a special local tax had to be created to fund it!

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Hopkins’s methods were dubious to say the least. He would employ torture, including sleep deprivation. He would ‘cut’ the arm of a witch with a blunt knife and if, as was likely, she did not bleed, she was pronounced a witch. He was also a great fan of the ‘swimming’ test, or ducking. As witches were believed to have renounced their baptism, water would reject them. So, they were tied to a chair and thrown in the river. Those who floated were guilty. Those who drowned were innocent.

Hopkins also favoured the practice of ‘pricking’. Basically this involved searching the accused’s body for any unusual blemishes or moles. A knife or needle was used to test the mark. If it bled, on being pricked, the woman was innocent. If it failed to bleed, she was guilty. It has long been alleged that many of these ‘prickers’ had a retractable point, so that the hapless prisoner would be confirmed as a witch when the mark failed to bleed. What better way for a ‘witchfinder’ to enhance his reputation than by identifying so many ‘witches’?

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Hopkins and his merry band spread fear all over the countryside, but their reign was short-lived. John Gaule, vicar of Great Staughton in Cambridgeshire, preached a number of sermons denouncing him. His opposition began when he visited a woman who was being held in gaol on charges of witchcraft, until such time as Hopkins could attend to investigate her guilt or innocence. Gaule heard of a letter Hopkins had sent, where he had enquired as to whether he would be given a ‘good welcome’ in that area. A good, financially rewarding welcome no doubt. At around the same time, justices of the assizes in Norfolk questioned Hopkins and Stearne about their methods of torture (which was outlawed in England) and the extortionate fees.

The writing was clearly all over the wall. Their reign of terror was over. By the time the next court session sat, both Hopkins and Stearne had conveniently retired and the infamous Witchfinder General had put away his witch ‘pricker’ for the last time. But that was, sadly, not the end of his story.

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Hopkins published a book, called The Discovery of Witches, in 1647, where he outlined his witch-hunting methods. This ensured his legacy lived on – and expanded far beyond the shores of his native England. Witch-hunting in New England began, according to his methods, and, in 1692, some of Hopkins’s methods were once again employed at Salem, Massachusetts.

Now, here’s the cover and blurb for The Pendle Curse~

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Four hundred years ago, ten convicted witches were hanged on Gallows Hill. Now they are back…for vengeance.

Laura Phillips’s grief at her husband’s sudden death shows no sign of passing. Even sleep brings her no peace. She experiences vivid, disturbing dreams of a dark, brooding hill, and a man—somehow out of time—who seems to know her. She discovers that the place she has dreamed about exists. Pendle Hill. And she knows she must go there. But as soon as she arrives, the dream becomes a nightmare. She is caught up in a web of witchcraft and evil…and a curse that will not die.

Here’s a short extract from the beginning~

His spirit soared within him and flew up into the storm-clad sky as blackness descended and the rain became a tempest.

He flew. Lost in a maelstrom of swirling mists. Somewhere a baby cried until its sobs became distorted, tortured roars. Beyond, a black void loomed. He saw Alizon’s spirit just ahead and tried to call out to her, but his voice couldn’t reach her.

Beside him, another spirit cried out. His mother. He flinched at her screams before they were drowned in the mass—that terrible parody of some hideous child.

The blackness metamorphosed. An amorphous shape formed as his eyes struggled to see with their new vision—the gift of death. Small baby limbs flailed towards him. Eyes of fire flashed as a toothless mouth opened. Screeching, roaring and demanding to be fed. Demanding its mother.

His spirit reached out for his lover. Tried to pull her back. “Alizon!”

She turned anguished eyes to him. “It calls to me.”

He recognized it instantly. The blazing fire. The devil child. That cursed infant had come for them.

Again he reached out with arms that no longer felt connected to him, but he was powerless to stop Alizon being swept away, deep into the abomination’s maw.

“No!” His cry reverberated around him—a wail of anguish in a sea of torment.

Then…silence. Only he remained, drifting in swirling gray mists of time.

“I will find you, sweet Alizon. One day I will find you. And I will find the one who betrayed us.”

From somewhere, he heard an echo…

You can buy The Pendle Curse here~

Samhain Publishing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Catherine Cavendish, Biography~

Catherine CavendishCatherine Cavendish – Cat to her friends – lives with her husband in a haunted 18th century building in North Wales. Fortunately for all concerned, the ghost is friendly and contents herself (she’s definitely female) with switching on lights, and attempting to discover how the TV and washing machine work (it’s a long story!).

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. She is the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits In The ShadowsThe Pendle Curse is her latest novel for Samhain; her first  – Saving Grace Devine – was published in 2014.

Her daily walks have so far provided the inspiration for two short stories and a novella. As she says, “It’s amazing what you see down by the river, as it flows through a sleepy rural community.” Those with delicate constitutions are advised not to ask!

You can connect with Cat here~

Catherine Cavendish (website)

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