Tag Archives: book reviews

#HookonWIH: Curtis Interviews Lilyn, Site Founder of Sci-Fi & Scary!

Today in the #HookonWiHM series, the honcho at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews, Curtis Freeman, interviews horror reader, blogger, and founder of the site Sci-fi & Scary, Lilyn George. This is the first in his three-part series on women blogging in the horror genre. I’m glad we are getting the word out about other women in horror in addition to all the amazing authors. It takes a community to make the genre shine! Lilyn is one of the nicest and yet most brutally honest people working in the genre and she’s always looking on improving her site even amid her already busy regular life. She’s also a great proofreader! I am really thankful myself for all Lilyn has done for me and my clients.

I had been taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February, but I have quite a few still set to post and so I decided to take them all year long. You can find information on this at the bottom of the post. Take it away Curtis – thanks for a great interview with Lilyn!

tentacles.jpg

CHHR: What was the first horror book you ever read?

SF&S: I haven’t a clue. Probably something Dean Koontz, though.

CHHR: What is the scariest book you ever read?

SF&S: Scott Sigler’s Infected, but for a specific reason. I experienced this as an audio book and would (as I normally do) put it on to listen to as I fell asleep. Well, I wasn’t quite aware of the fact that he was going to make great use of sound effects in the book. I’m used to traditional narration! Anyways, I woke up at like 3 AM one night with the book right next to my ear going “We’re hungry! We’re hungry!” in that overlap of discordant tones. Scared the hell out of me. And I had that happen a few times with this book. It should come with a disclaimer: “Don’t fall asleep listening to it, you don’t know what you’re going to wake up to!”

CHHR: When did you become a blogger? What made you want to blog about books?

SF&S: About 2.5 years ago. Basically, Mira Grant’s book Feed is what turned me on to blogging. Even now it shapes the way I look at things, and how I want to handle the site as a whole. I still love that first book.

CHHR: What annoys you the most with your blog?

SF&S: I can’t make it perfect. Annoys the feck outta me.

CHHR: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror fiction? Explain.

SF&S: In published writing? Hell, yes. Of course there is. However, I think there’s a whole lot of women out there with scary stories tucked away, begging to see the light of day.

CHHR: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror book blogging? Explain.

SF&S: Not that I’ve seen. I know a lot of authors review books as well, so I see a certain predominance of men there, but when it comes to straight up just reviewers? I can name more women horror book bloggers than I can men, so I think it equals out.

CHHR: How can we fix the bias?

SF&S: By doing away with the idea that horror books ‘aren’t real books’ and showing people that it’s okay to have a little fun on the dark side.

CHHR: I find it sad that we still live in a world where women authors have to use initials to seem less female. What are your thoughts?

SF&S: Until we eliminate the idea that the female sex is somehow not as capable as the male sex in certain areas, women are always going to have to be a little tricky to get ahead. I don’t have any particular thoughts as to the trees because I’m looking at the forest, you know?

CHHR: What pushes your buttons with your blog?

SF&S: Authors not reading the bloody review policy and making me waste my time reading the entry forms that I’m inevitably going to reject because they didn’t read the policy!

CHHR: Do you think the Horror Writers Association (HWA) should start recognizing horror book bloggers?

SF&S: Oh yeah, this is the group that Michael Hodges sometimes talks about, isn’t it? They don’t recognize book bloggers? Shame, that.

CHHR: How has the horror community treated you since starting your blog?

SF&S: I’ve met lots of lovely people, and feel treated quite nicely, thanks!

CHHR: What makes a good horror book?

SF&S: A properly edited and proofread manuscript that has been researched as much as possible, with a coherent plot, believable dialogue, and any elements a reader finds scary.

CHHR: What scares you?

SF&S: In life? My living child dying. Having lost one child already, nothing in fiction can compare to that shit. In fiction? Demons and demonic possession.

CHHR: Who’s your favorite horror author? You have to pick one or three authors, but it can’t be two.

SF&S: Bill Schweigart, Danielle DeVor, and William Meikle

CHHR: What books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

SF&S: Courtney Alameda’s Pitch Dark, Jeremy K. Brown’s Zero Limit, and Rob Boffard’s Adrift

SciFi and Scary bio photo

Lilyn George, Biography –

Lilyn George is the founder of the book and film reviews and news site Sci-Fi & Scary, which focuses on primarily independent works.  Insomniac, rabid reader, spoonie, and afflicted by PTSD.  Also, there’s the tentacle thing.

And thank you to Curtis from Cedar Hollow Reviews for his fantastic interview with Lilyn. What a great addition to the women in horror series.

Follow her Sci-fi and Scary site for Science Fiction, Horror, Comics, Film, and More!

Find Lilyn on Twitter too!

About Curtis Freeman-

Curtis

Curtis is a lover of horror books and films and a passionate addition to the horror genre. He reviews at his site Cedar Hollow Reviews and has just begun to interview authors via his YouTube Channel. Curtis even grilled me for over 3 hours one evening. His heartfelt excitement for the genre shows. This is the first in a series of three women horror bloggers Curtis is interviewing for my #HookonWiHM project. You can also find Curtis on Twitter.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiHM series….

February was Women in Horror Month but we are honoring them all year! It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiH series, or Women in Horror at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

WiHM8-Website-Logo-Retina

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under HookonWiHM, Q and A with Authors

Welcome to 2018: Book Lovers and Writers Unite!

emoticon hiWelcome to the SEVENTH year here at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! That’s right, SEVEN years! We are celebrating our seventh year of bringing you news about books, reviews, interviews, guest articles, and our professional editing and publicity services. We’ve seen a lot happen over these last seven years and I want to personally thank everyone, in all the genres we dabble in, for their support. You have my eternal gratitude for your respect, inspiration, and love.

UPDATE ON THIS BLOG

At times, I get so busy working in publishing, polishing books by others and sharing them with the world, and in what little free time I have, and depending on the season, I have the needs of my growing three kids, so this blog doesn’t see as many reviews or interviews as in the days I tried to do five to six posts a week that were strictly reviews and interviews. In fact, when I started it seven years ago, it was to talk about the books I was writing! It was my outlet for that from my busy job(s) as a marketing and PR professional out there in the world.

Now, I’m running Hook of a Book Media and working with many top indie authors and writers, even bloggers and publishers, on editing, writing mentorship, and marketing and public relations/publicity. Currently, I work with not only authors, but directly for Sinister Grin Press as an editor and doing marketing and publicity as well as Raw Dog Screaming Press. Working in publishing is very busy. I often work 7 days a week and some days 15-18 hours a day, seasonally. Out of the book industry, I still occasionally do marketing, advertising, copy writing, and PR work for business and non-profits. As well, I am chair of the board of directors of a our local mental health center and rape crisis domestic violence shelter. This also keeps me busy!

But since I’ve stopped doing as many posts, I’m happy to say though that my traffic, due to all my well-written content, stays very high each month and posts are read and re-read even from many years ago. I learned to write for SEO many moons ago, and so much of my views come from google searches. I’m very proud of that. As much as I can, I hope to continue to do reviews, interviews, news, and hosting guest articles on my blog, interspersed with news of my own publications and writing pursuits. This is NOT a review mill, but a site run by an educated journalist, a PR professional, editor, and author.

WHAT NOT TO DO AS AN AUTHOR

I’ve not got off to a great start of posting here in 2018 yet, at least in the realm of posting reviews and interviews at least. My first major post at the beginning of the month was to be an interview with a historical fiction author. It was one that I was to post months prior, but that I hadn’t gotten posted due to our overwhelming personal struggles last year (including moving to a rural area, no internet service – then it taking over two months of a wait for installation, family problems, my son having a very long extended illness, my kids needing me, etc), and the blog becoming a last priority.

As the air cleared a little, and our internet finally was hooked up, and life had a bit more of a routine, even on crazy days, I began to catch up, and I posted the interview. I noted at the beginning of the interview about the delay, the season, and that I wanted to get 2018 off to a better start. Unfortunately, the author asked me, after I had spent about two hours formatting it, to take it down and re-post in the coming summer, also indicating to me that in the introduction I had written, since I noted one thing of accomplishment she had achieved since my previous review posted,  I had left off two awards she won (I hadn’t heard).

As this blog is volunteer-run, posts and hours to do them are always free, and I’m already spread very thin, often times only sleeping two hours a night (and sometimes struggling with my own health issues), so I didn’t really take too kindly to this at all from a personal stand-point. Being cordial back, and as always a professional, I removed the post and only asked her to remind me when she wanted posted, but did indicate to her that I wished she had respected my judgement. I hold no ill will. But as a future note to authors, both from the stance of running this site and personal desires, plus as a note from me as a professional, don’t do this. Don’t harass, embarrass, or take bloggers, reviewers, or media and their time for granted. Most of them, if not all of them, in the book world, do it as a labor of love. When you do these things, it makes it more like free labor and less like love.

My interviews, since I am a trained journalist, consist of originality every time. I write each interview catered toward the author. I sometimes ask the hard questions. I could get paid for my interviews, and I have, but on my own site they are free to you. Please understand the time involved in writing and posting them. It’s your job as an author to respect my time as well as your own, provide me with good answers, photos to accompany them (often times I spend time searching them out and verifying for use), and to share it along with me. This is the same advice I give my author clients, or any clients in entertainment or even business, when working with other sites or the media.

MY WRITING

And all of this talk of time does even mention the fact that I’ve made goals for myself of actually carving out more time for my own writing. Last year saw my own first collection published, a dark poetry and fiction mix called BREATHE. BREATHE. by Unnerving, as well as work in two more anthologies, HARDENED HEARTS from Unnerving and MY FAVORITE STORY from Project Entertainment Network, in which authors and podcasts hosts featured their favorite story. Proud to say I am in this with authors like Brian Keene, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Mary SanGiovanni, and more. This year, I already have two secret projects going and I’m writing and submitting more this year as well. I need to be creative too, just like you do.

non writing monster.jpg

So, now that I’ve cleared the air, I hope that my site continues to offer the best it can, as well as our business Hook of a Book Media, in which we offer editing, writing mentorship, publicity services, and more. Tim is now also offering editing services. I’m often booked, so please consider him if you’re looking for editing services as well. You can find information on that under our services tab. We offer respect and professionalism and support those who bring their best selves as well.

WANT TO BE FEATURED?

I am always open for guest article submissions, either articles you’ve written or interviews you’d like to do with others as a feature on my site. As well, I’m always available to try to fit in writing a guest article for your site too or to be interviewed. For book reviews, we are always open to receiving e-mails about new titles you’d like us to consider. I do not do formal reviews of clients book or book from publishers I directly work with on my blog or other online sites, for ethical reasons.

YOU CAN BE INVOLVED HERE

Upcoming projects of note for the site: we will doing volunteer campaigns for Women in Horror Month, Women in History, and National Poetry Month! You can check each individual page on this site for the calls and more information ongoing.

Thanks for a great seven years so far, and really looking forward to a wonderful 2018 in the book world. My best advice to everyone: JUST BREATHE. HAVE PATIENCE. IT WILL BE OKAY! 🙂

If you follow me here, THANK YOU!!

-Erin

Scatter Kindness.jpg

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Book Services, Breathe Breathe, Editing, Feature Articles, Guest Posts, My Writing, Q and A with Authors, women in history

Bestselling French Novel, The Rocheforts by Christian Laborie, Translated to English: Sweeping Family Saga of Industrialist in Early 1900s

rocheforts-cover

The Rocheforts, Information~

by Christian Laborie

(fiction / saga)

Release date: May 5, 2015

from Open Road Integrated Media

484 pages

ISBN: 978-1-4804-6120-8

Goodreads

Synopsis~

Two very different families are bonded by scandal in this sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal.

Anselme Rochefort has built an empire manufacturing serge de Nîmes, or denim. His biggest client? Levi Strauss. As the craze for blue jeans begins to sweep the globe, Rochefort Industries seems poised for untold success. But Anselme can be as cruel and ruthless with his family as he is in business.

The Rocheforts’ neighbor Donatien Rouvière has one of the region’s most prosperous farms and is desperate for a son to carry on his legacy. After the births of three daughters, the Rouvières adopt an orphan from the Sisters of Charity convent and raise him as their own.

When Anselme suggests uniting the two families by arranging for their children to marry, it seems like the perfect match. But as the lives of the two clans grow increasingly intertwined, dark secrets come to light, including the mysterious circumstances of the death of Anselme’s eldest daughter.

With The Rocheforts, Christian Laborie weaves a captivating tale of deceit, intrigue, and the dynamic tension between industrialization and a way of life rooted in the land.

Review~

I really love a good family saga, or this case, an epic saga at almost 500 pages. Don’t let the length deter you though, as you might not even feel like it’s such a length once you start flipping the screen pages. It’s a translated novel, from French to English, and the author’s first English novel. But he’s an author of many other novels in France. Possibly with a writing-style much like most foreign authors, in which they tend to tell their story and be less visual, or maybe due to it being translated, it could be a bit more stiff rather than showy; however, I feel that it still is very readable as the character drama propels the reader.

I used to love to watch the old family style sweeping historical mini-series showings on Masterpiece Theater, or other like channels, when I was a child. I still love them. But I do like books even better. Something about them really captivates me, as I enjoy reading of these rich and prosperous or such families in history. When I read the synopsis for this one, in which the family of Rocheforts, who live in de Nimes (and make denim, isn’t that cool where the word comes from?), and of the Rouvière,who are their farming neighbors, I was entranced already. I continued to be delighted upon reading. The novel takes us from 1898 and 30 years past, into the effects of World War I and the financial crash. We see the marriage of children in the family, adoptions, deaths, and the many facets of the political and social upheavals this time period brings.

It also has some suspense at the beginning, which created a few mysteries, but one that wasn’t too difficult to figure out or was the main basis of the book. It was character and drama driven with good research into the history of the time period. It told of romance, economic class struggles, family issues, murder and mystery, politics, and industry. I thought it was interesting how all five Rochefort children had such different personalities and were all well-developed–some liked, some not. The character of the Rochefort patriarch was strong, as he was owner of the legacy and fortune (passed to him from his father), and also with one of his sons to whom he passed down his cold demeanor, and we see his terrible personality unfold as he strives to put back together a family fortune and reputation he’s all but lost.

I did especially enjoy the sections on the textiles and denim, though, which was their business. The juxtaposition of the Rochefort’s industrial life was contrasted well against the life of the other family, who made their money off the land. We could easily see how personalities are made or changed with wealth sometimes and we see how intertwining such families really could cause future issues. Yet, we also see shining light of how it could work as well.

There truly was so much happening in this novel, with twists and turns in regard to family and life struggles, so that the book was easy to remain attached to and that helped propel me through the novel. I love reading family histories, especially during this time period of major industrial and financial change.

I’m not sure when this was originally published, but it reads like those wonderful family sagas from decades ago. I miss those, with the writing today that is so action focused. There is something to be said about this type of book. It had a vintage historical feel that I really liked and I enjoyed being able to slow down and read this book over time, without losing any momentum on it.

I would highly recommend this book if you like dramatic familial novels, showing decades of ancestors with all their secrets, lies, and anguish. Personally, I love books about turn-of-the-century industrialists and how they lived, so I really liked this one. I can fully see why this novel was a best-seller when it first published in France.

Author Christian Laborie, Biography~

Rocheforts - Laborie

Christian Laborie was born in the North of France, but has lived in the southern region of Cévennes for more than twenty years. The Rocheforts is his first novel to be published in English.

Follow Open Road Integrated Media on Facebook | Twitter

Subscribe to Open Road’s Newsletter

Buy the book: Amazon

Giveaway~

You can enter the global giveaway at the Entry-Form link below or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Entry-Form

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]

Global giveaway open internationally:
5 winners will receive 1 digital copy of The Rocheforts

Click on the banner to see more reviews, excerpts, and giveaway options!

Rocheforts banner

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

From the Charred Remains Historical Mystery by Susanna Calkins: Available in Paperback + Review

charred remains 2

Review~

From the Charred Remains, the second book by Susanna Calkins in the Lucy Campion Mysteries Series, comes out March 17, 2015 in paperback, after publishing last year in hardcover and e-book format. I’m celebrating with a review today, as I read it last year and inadvertently left it in my drafts section! That was remiss of  me, because I really liked this book and I’d been excited to tell you about it.

I read the first book in her historical mystery series, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, when it came out in 2013, you can see that review HERE and an interview about her debut HERE. If you haven’t read either, I suggest both. In reading them all, you’ll get to know Lucy better; however, these can also be read stand alone as Susanna does a wonderful job of including enough information that you won’t be missing too much. And coming in April 2015, is her third book in the series, The Masque of a Murderer.

Lucy is a chambermaid, a former chambermaid as we read this book two of the series, and I was thrilled to see that she was taking on a different job, working at the print shop in publishing and selling! Right there, that part of book peaked my interest. I loved the early description of how the printing press worked, the intricate block system. I felt myself as if I were Lucy, experiencing it all. Lucy as a quality about her that makes her seem very authentic. As a journalist and lover of books, like many other inquisitive minds, I knew that Lucy becoming an apprentice in this world would only serve her well with her curiosity (and if she happened upon any other murders, of course).

In the 1600s in England, printing was a busy profession and one that set the pulse of the area lived, as people read their news and opinions through the written word on paper and in book form that were sold amid the streets daily. Many time political, religious, and social outrage graced the pages, as well as propaganda. However, working in this field allowed Lucy, as a single woman, some freedom of movement that other women might not be allowed.

I loved Susanna’s characterization of Lucy in A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, but I enjoyed even more her growth in this second book. I really appreciated her determination and confidence in creating a life for herself. She’s a very detailed and analytical person and that’s someone with whom I can relate. Plus, it’s perfect for solving murders, of which Lucy just can’t seem to get away from, even if she isn’t sure that something she truly wants to continue to do in her life! But aren’t the greatest sleuths like that…they are rather unlikely and kind of just fall into the role. That allows us, as readers, I think to see a more authentic view, almost as if we are able to solve the murder ourselves too.

I thought the book was so interesting historically as Susanna set it during the time of the Great London Fire of 1666, which overtook much of the central part of London destroying about 80,000 homes in the process and many churches. The fallout from that was economic and social issues as many were without homes, work, or their goods. Rebellion simmered at an already volatile time. Susanna sets up the murder in her book in a way that utilizes this turning point in Restoration London history by having a body be found, one charred during the fire, when all is extinguished, and laying with a knife in its chest. Was this person murdered before the flames ignited? What are the strange items found by the body? Lucy gets right to exploring this question with Constable Duncan, putting her intelligence and wit to the test.

All of the historical detail, Lucy’s personality, and the mysterious plot all made this reader turn the pages with lightening speed. Sometimes historical detail can bog down a mystery, as well as the writing style, but Susanna’s books don’t do either. The historical description is just enough to make a reader feel as if they’ve entered the time and place, while her sentences are well-constructed and flow with ease. There are a myriad of twists to keep you on your toes and engaged.

Susanna is one of the best historical mystery writers on the market today! From the Charred Remains enticed me, educated me, and most of all entertained me, and I am looking with eager anticipation to the next books in her series. Susanna is very original and stands on her own well in the 17th Century historical fiction mystery genre. In this era of historical mysteries, there aren’t many others who write and research with as much captivating quality.

Charred RemainsFrom the Charred Remains, Synopsis

Series: Lucy Campion Mysteries (Book 2)

Paperback, 352 pages; Also available hardback or e-book
Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 17, 2015-Paperback; 2014 Debut Hardback)

It’s 1666 and the Great Fire has just decimated an already plague-ridden London. Lady’s maid Lucy Campion, along with pretty much everyone else left standing, is doing her part to help the city clean up and recover. But their efforts come to a standstill when a couple of local boys stumble across a dead body that should have been burned up in the fire but miraculously remained intact–the body of a man who died not from the plague or the fire, but from the knife plunged into his chest.

Searching for a purpose now that there’s no lady in the magistrate’s household for her to wait on, Lucy has apprenticed herself to a printmaker. But she can’t help but use her free time to help the local constable, and she quickly finds herself embroiled in the murder investigation. It will take all of her wits and charm, not to mention a strong stomach and a will of steel, if Lucy hopes to make it through alive herself.

With From the Charred Remains, Susanna Calkins delivers another atmospheric historical mystery that will enchant readers with its feisty heroine and richly detailed depiction of life in Restoration England.

Praise for Susanna Calkins~

“Susanna Calkins makes Restoration England come alive in her terrific debut, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate. Murder, romance, and flawless social history combine into a beautifully crafted mystery that captivates until the very last page.” —Stefanie Pintoff

“Calkins’s debut brings London on the eve of the Great Plague to vivid life . . . the high quality writing augurs well for future outings.” —Publishers Weekly

“Calkins makes Lucy’s efforts to find the [killer] entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax . . . This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London.” —Booklist

“Calkin’s debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail. Even mystery mavens who winkle out the killer may well enjoy the story anyway.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[An] excellently written, well-researched and engaging debut.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

Purchase Links~

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Susanna Calkins Biography~

calkinsSUSANNA CALKINS became fascinated with seventeenth-century England while pursuing her doctorate in British history. A former pirate, she once served on the Golden Hinde–a museum replica of Sir Frances Drake’s ship–now dry docked in the Thames. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons.

The Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (2013), featuring Lucy Campion, is her first novel and was shortlisted for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). Her second novel is From the Charred Remains (2104) and was shortlisted for a Lovey and recently nominated for LCC Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third mystery in the Lucy series is set to come out in April 2015, called The Masque of a Murderer.

You can contact Susanna Calkins at s.calkins.nu@gmail.com or like her author page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorSusannaCalkins or on Twitter @scalkins3.

Find her on the web at: www.susannacalkins.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Mist of Midnight is an Excellent New Christian Gothic Mystery Romance: Highly Recommended!

My 500th post to Oh, for the Hook of a Book!!!

For me, everything is more than right about Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd! Before reading my review, take a peek at the synopsis and the amazing cover, then continue down for my thoughts….

01_Mist of Midnight

Mist of Midnight, Synopsis~

Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Howard Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire
Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance

GoodReads Link

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

Review~

I am in book love. From the lovely yet esoteric cover to the title fitting the story perfectly to the opening of the inside pages where lies an engaging story seeped in gothic and mysterious tones, I am thrilled to have been able to submerse myself into this novel. I was completely hooked from the first chapter, and when I fell asleep late into the night, I woke up needing to dive right back into it!

This penetrating romance reminds me of favorite authors and reads of the 19th century such as Bronte and Hawthorne, as well as romantic suspense authors such as Victoria Holt and my beloved Daphne Du Maurier. Yet, Sandra creates her own voice with a lighter, cleaner air to the writing, even through the foreboding, atmospheric development!

It’s difficult to find books such as this, even though they are a book of choice for me! Though I don’t care for many cheesy romances, I do love well-done historical and mysterious romances, and though I am no prude, I do prefer often times to have the heated side of romance take a subtle seat so I can enjoy the character and the environmental development. Mist of Midnight, as most Howard historical romances do, hit this on the head of the nail for me. I was pulled into the the main character’s romance by feeling the suspense of their tension for one another. The romance was paced perfectly, right along with the air of mysteriousness.

Rebecca is an adult daughter of missionaries who returns from India, where her family lived since she was very little but have recently been killed, to their estate in Hampshire, England. But someone is living as the heir to the estate, an attractive Captain Luke Whitfield, and he says that another woman named Rebecca already claimed as the heir, but  recently committed suicide, being buried late at night on the grounds.

Of course, the disrepair of the estate, and the fact that she is a mystery to them (and the other Rebecca to her) creates a sense of foreboding from the very beginning. Enter creepy developments, right? Woman not claiming to be who she says….murder….a graveyard on the estate rolling in mist at night….yes, Victorian Gothic we have. I did nothing but eat up each ominous page!

Sandra does a stellar job of placing just the right pieces into the novel to layer the eerie–such as a prominent portrait of an ancestor, a run down garden with broken statues, and things disappearing. She then creates a cast of characters in whom I was suspicious of all right from the start. Each character, whether Captain Whitfield and his societal friends, the locals, or the downstairs staff, were finely developed and dimensional. As the main protagonist, I was compelled to care about Rebecca straight away and wanted to defend her claim. No wonder she felt at times as if she was the one going mad with paranoia as the story unfolded. I took to solving the mystery of the other Rebecca right along with her. She was strong and engaging, yet kind, innocent, and thoughtful.

I also relished the historical aspect of the English estate and town folk, but especially the interwoven details that Rebecca gave of her sights, sounds, and experiences in India during her time as a missionary there. They were delicious and mesmerizing and as a reader I could feel Rebecca’s love of the country and people in which she served until the Indian Mutiny over British Crown rule destined her to leave.

Of course in reading Sandra, or many Howard Books, the main character is often Christian and relies on talking through her faith to help her through and we listen to her prayers. As a Christian I am fine with this, but if you are not, I think the story is still enjoyable and never preachy so that anyone can read it. It fit well with the story.

Sandra gives us ambrosial descriptions seeped in atmospheric details to create a Gothic mystery that was really difficult for me as a reader to put down. The suspense gave me a welcome apprehension and the creepiness produced goosebumps, while her writing propelled me quickly through with a smooth tone. This one is going on my best loved Gothic romance reads list and will take a lasting place on my best loved books shelf. Highly recommended, Sandra is one of THE best! This should definitely be on Masterpiece Theater!!

Praise for Mist of Midnight~

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

Pre-Order/Buy the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Author Sandra Byrd, Biography~

03_Sandra Byrd AuthorAfter earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

04_Mist of Midnight_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/mistofmidnightblogtour/

Hashtags: #MistofMidnightBlogTour #HistoricalRomance #HistFic #Victorian #ChristianHistorical

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @sandrabyrd @Howard_Books

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

Love and Drama with Isabella and Fernando: The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

Review of The Queen’s Vow, C.W Gortner
Ballantine Books/Random House Publishing

Note:  Keep reading for an original interview with C.W. Gortner!

The Queen’s Vow, by C.W. Gortner, was so eloquently written with a passion and fervor reminiscent of the time it’s set in~the rise of Queen Isabella and King Fernando of Spain in the mid 1400s~that it propelled me to continue reading it without ceasing and made me cry for more of the story even as I read the last paragraph.

Gortner hit the high mark with me on The Queen’s Vow; I didn’t want to have to use my bookmark. His writing is engaging, smooth, emotional, detailed and intense. I was compelled by the story telling he wound around his research into one of the most exciting periods of history.

Though many assumed that Isabella would never be Queen, she thrusted through the rules of the day that men set in place for women, as well as forging past intrigue and conniving paperwork clauses, religious notions and advisors, and her own guilty conscience and merciful heart, to leave a legacy almost unrivaled.

Always believing that female heirs were as entitled as male heirs, she held fast in her belief that she was true heir to her half-brother King Enrique’s reign in Castile (through their same father) and not his illegitimate daughter, Joanna.  King Enrique was known for overindulging in his many luxuries, as well as running Castile into the ground financially (and with no upkeep of holdings, literally) and making it vulnerable to attacks from many sides.  This was especially disheartening because during this time Spain was fractured into several countries and not all under one rule. 

One such area besides Castile (which was the largest) was Aragon. This is from where Princess Isabella meets her true love, Prince Fernando, whom she saw only once when she was first brought to Castile as a young teenager. However, anyone from Aragon at that time was deemed not worthy to marry any royalty from Castile and they forbid her union. Building their love from afar, Princess Isabella vows to marry Fernando.  Secretly, they do so to the horror of many around them.  Together they work to fight off those who attack Castile and their territories, while they also work on making heirs to their own throne (which will unite Castile and Aragon into one country) that they ascertain once King Enrique dies a painful death. 

The way the book read I felt this amazing woman never rested for a minute. I was more and more proud to be a woman with each chapter. Reading about her strong presence in politics was astounding as I could imagine her signing a declaration one minute and bending over in labor the next.  She rode to the battlefield while with child, organized warfare, cuddled with her children, and cared for her subjects. She assisted in raising her children more lovingly than most monarchs in history and she left a legacy of peace for Spain, brought the first printing press to her country and was the first queen in Europe to mandate that women could earn degrees. Not only that, but she was a visionary, supporting and urging Christopher Columbus in his endeavors to find new lands, though she did also eventually oppose slavery of the First Peoples.

Gortner did a phenomenal job depicting Queen Isabella’s heart and how she must have truly been, taking into account her caring and merciful soul. I could ultimately feel her strength and passion leaping from the page and swoon at her love for her Fernando.

Being a lover of English, French and Russian history, I’ve never truly read a story featuring Spainish monarchs. I’ve only read of Columbus and the various Spanish explorers. With this book now read, I have to truly say that I am now seeking more on the subject and I’m going to start with Gortner’s The Last Queen, which is the story of Isabella’s daughter, Juana.

Synopsis of The Queen’s Vow

No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

Interview with C.W. Gortner, Author

Christopher, THANK YOU so much for joining me on my blog, Oh for the Hook of a Book! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read and I absolutely love your writing. I am so excited to virtually chat with you about your life as an author, your writing, and your books.

Hi Erin, it’s lovely to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me and for your kind words. I’m honored. 🙂

Let’s get started with the interview now, and as always, I allow people to ask questions in the comments section! That is, unless I ask everything first. Ha!

Q: You’re a historical fiction author, so you must love history. I’ve always loved history myself and really delved into foreign history in college, ultimately majoring in it out of pure love!  That’s my story, but when did you first become fascinated with it and how have you fueled that passion over the years?

A: I’m half-Spanish by birth and was raised near the city of Malaga, which is the site of one of Isabella’s more terrifying experiences in The Queen’s VowThere was also a ruined castle (now fully restored) close to where I lived, so I basically grew up with history all around me. It wasn’t just in school and in books; I could see its palpable remnants. I was always intrigued by the personalities, too, especially the fascinating women with such controversial reputations. My fascination never abated; throughout my formative years, I read everything I could and became interested in what lies underneath the veneer of what we call ‘fact’; the stories hidden within stories, so to speak. That fueled my desire to both uncover and write these secret stories.

Q:  You often write about fabulously strong women from the past such as Catherine de Medici and Juana of Castile. What spurs this interest? What inspires you?

A: I have found that historical women, in particular those I’m attracted to as a novelist, have not had much of a say in how their history was depicted. As I studied history, I began to see a repetitive pattern  of stereotyping: Elizabeth I is the virgin; Catherine de Medici  the crone; Isabella of Castile the fanatic; and Juana, her daughter, subject of my first novel, the victim; and so on. It was easier— certainly, simpler— to relegate these complex women to clichés. However, the truth is much more interesting. All of these women were fallible, extraordinary, flesh-and-blood human beings. Their motivations aren’t so simply defined; the challenge for me, the inspiration that spurs my writing, is the desire to get underneath their skins and try to discover the actual person they may have been.

Q:  How do you decide which women move you enough to write about? How do you begin your research for your books?

A: She must have a controversial element in her life that captures my attention. I’m not really that interested in straightforward characters: I’m attracted to complexity, contradictions. Inevitably, these women’s lives aren’t easy, in some instances, but they do defy the norm. Research can begin years before, often in preparation for another book. For example, it was while writing The Last Queen, my first novel, about Juana of Castile, that I became engrossed in her mother, Isabella. I portray Isabella’s last twelve years in that novel, so I focused my research on that particular portion of her life; however, I also researched her earlier years, to get a better sense of who she had been and how she developed as a woman and queen. For me, research is ongoing; I gather bits and pieces, tucking away what I don’t need at that moment for possible future use.

Q: Do you have to travel frequently to do your research? If so, what is the best experience you’ve had?

A: Yes, I always travel to the countries and extant places where my characters lived; it’s important to me to get a feel for the landscape and experience it, even if a lot has changed. There really is no substitute for “being there.” One of the best experiences I had was dancing a galliard in the great hall at Hampton Court; I was touring the palace, and was unexpectedly invited to dance with a group who was re-enacting Tudor dances. I took a quick 5-minute lesson and was then led into the dance by a lovely lady with long dark hair, clad in a dark green dress. I have to say, it was amazing to realize I was dancing in the very place where Anne Boleyn must have danced with Henry VIII!

Q:  Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet? Where do you want to go back to?

A: I’d love to visit Russia. I have a fascination with Russian history. And I’m always happy to return to Rome; it’s one of my favorite cities in the world.

Q:  What intrigued you the most about Isabella of Castile? In your research to pen your novel, did anything stand out and surprise you?

A: I was intrigued by her duality. She had this incredible commitment to the good of her country and her people, and yet she sanctioned something as monstrous as the Inquisition. She defies easy explanation. I was very surprised to discover how forward-thinking she was in terms of women’s education. She herself had rudimentary schooling, while she regretted; she even set herself to learning Latin when she was queen and had each of her daughters educated in the new style. Isabella’s daughters were regarded as the best-educated princesses in Europe. Isabella also set forth the first decree allowing women to not only gain degrees in Spanish universities but also to teach there, thus opening the doors to higher learning for women who’d previously been denied access. Isabella also championed literacy and imported the first printing presses to Spain, thus seeding the golden era of literature of the 17th century.

Q:  How do you hope readers will feel about Isabella of Castile? How did you feel when you completed your novel?

A: I hope readers will come away with an understanding of the complex challenges she faced and of her strength, as well as her fallibility. In the end, she was human, like us. She made horrible mistakes and she accomplished extraordinary feats. Isabella was an exceptional woman, and also very much a product of her time. I personally felt a sense of having come full circle in regards to Isabella; having depicted her as the older queen in my first novel, it was rewarding, and challenging, to return to her life. I’ve always wanted to write about her. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity.

Q: What types of traits do you feel that women from the Renaissance period had that allowed them to overcome the issues of the day? Do women today have the same strengths? Why or why not?

A:  I think that all of us, men and women, have the same inner strengths that our antecedents had, only those of us who have the luxury of living in developed countries and cities tend to get indolent; we forget just how fortunate we are in terms of our access to medicine, domestic comforts, food, etc.  Women of the Renaissance faced death every day on a very real level:  there were no antibiotics and a crude understanding of how disease afflicted the human body:  infections, viruses, even childbirth could kill. Women had to be strong and vital to overcome the obstacles of daily life; it was a question of survival, even if you lived in a palace. The wealthiest were as vulnerable as anyone else to catastrophe. It’s the same today, to a certain extent: all it takes is one natural disaster for us to realize just how vulnerable we are. The main difference is, people of the Renaissance knew it all the time. They incorporated mortality into the fabric of their existence, whereas we, as a whole, tend to avoid it.

Q:  The first book I ever read by you was The Tudor Secret and I loved it. Taking place in the time right prior to Queen Elizabeth I’s rise to the throne, it was the tale of a male servant’s role as a spy at court. What made you decide to write a mystery/suspense historical novel and what are the future plans for this series?

A: I decided to write The Tudor Secret, really, because no one wanted my stand-alone historical novels! It was written years ago, after both The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici had been rejected by more than 20 publishers. My agent at the time suggested I might have better luck breaking into the market if I wrote a mystery. Of course, I decided instead to do a thriller /adventure about a Tudor spy with a secret of his own, and it didn’t sell, either. So, I self-published it under its original title, “The Secret Lion” and it eventually attracted the attention of my current agent. After she sold my first two books to Random House, an editor at St Martin’s Press, who’d loved my work for years but been unable to acquire it, bought the spy thriller and re-titled it The Tudor Secret. He also wanted two more in the series, which we called the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. So, it goes to show, you never know when that door will open. I love writing the Spymaster books because I get the chance to play with fictional characters, interacting with historical ones. I also like that my lead character, Brendan, is a man of shadows, caught between two opposing world. I hope the series continues to grow and find its readers. For the moment, I have finished the second in the series and it’ll be published in 2013. Titled THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY, it takes place a few months after the events in The Tudor Secret. During the harsh winter of 1554, Brendan returns to court, where Mary Tudor is now queen, and goes undercover to help save Elizabeth from a treasonous plot in which the princess may be a willing participant. It’s a darker novel than the first one; Brendan matures and realizes the true dangers of his life as a spy.

Q:  What other historical time periods or people intrigue you?

A: I’ve mentioned Russia. I’m also intrigued by ancient Egypt, and the early medieval era in Europe. I like Edwardian and Victorian England, too.

Q: How do you keep your writing voice flowing so well? You seem to write non-stop and are very successful at turning out books each year. What is your secret?

A: I’m disciplined, even when I’m not inspired. Writing is my job. I write for pleasure too, naturally, but not every day is a party at the keyboard. Like everyone else, there are days when I’d rather go shopping. But I write 5 days a week, regardless. I’m under contract; I’ve been given a portion of an advance and I have a daily word-count to meet. And I’ve learned that even if what I write is awful at first –and it often is – it can always be improved during revision. The tough part is just getting that first draft out. Everything can be fixed, except a blank page.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors about how to manage time and balance life with writing and research?

A: Persevere. Publishing is a tough business and is in transition; though there are more options than ever before, with each option comes the responsibility of being true to your vision for your work. No one can say which way is best: you have to decide that for yourself. Whatever you do, give it your all and write the very best book you can. Write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph; stay in touch with the nuts-and-bolts of the craft itself. Have a life, as well: know when to stop and let things steep. Writing benefits from time away to gain perspective, especially when the going gets rough. With research, remember it is a master seducer. We can research for years, without ever actually writing a word of the book. Learn only what you need to know to get writing and pick up the rest as you go.

Q:  I thoroughly enjoyed working on a writing project for charity with you this year. I know that charity work with animals is near and dear to your heart (a compassionate heart by the way). What types of animal protection issues do you feel are important currently? How do you feel people can assist more in environmental and animal security?

A: We all need to be more conscious of how we, as a species, impact life on this fragile planet. We share our mother earth with beautiful, irreplaceable animals that cannot defend themselves against our relentless encroachment and consumption of resources. A little change can go a long way: don’t buy or wear any type of fur. Know where your food comes from, to the best of your ability. Get involved in local charities and protect wildlife in your area. Likewise, please adopt all pets, and of course, make sure they are spayed or neutered. Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every single day because of overpopulation and irresponsible breeding. An animal has the same noble heart, whether purebred or mixed. My corgi is a rescue; if every one of us adopted a rescue animal, shelters wouldn’t be as overcrowded or desperate for funds. And if you can’t adopt, foster, volunteer time, donate money and supplies. Get involved.

Q:  What other books are you working on currently? What is the idea behind them and what made you choose the topic?

A: I’m writing my fourth historical novel for Random House, this time about Lucrezia Borgia. Thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter, Lucrezia embarks on a savage struggle to escape the web of her family’s ambitions. Once again, I’ve found myself drawn to a woman who’s been vilified by history; I’m completely enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope readers will be.

Q:  Do you have any future historical figures in mind to make come alive on the page for your readers?

A: I do, but it’s a secret 🙂

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: Of course, in most physical bookstores. If they don’t have the book in stock, they can always order it. Please buy via independent stores online here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780345523969

Or via the usual online suspects:

Amazon: http://bitsy.me/76i

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-queens-vow-c-w-gortner/1110779310?ean=9780345523969

Q:  What is the best way for readers to connect to you?

A: Via my website here: http://www.cwgortner.com/contact.html

I have enjoyed getting to know you author mind better, Christopher, and I love your work. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Best wishes on the success of The Queen’s Vow.

Thank you, Erin, for having me. It’s always a delight to visit with bloggers and I sincerely hope your readers enjoy our Q&A and THE QUEEN’S VOW.

***********************************************************************************************************

C.W. Gortner, Author Bio

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.

5 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

Hurry! Download Jonathan Janz’s newest, creepiest HOUSE OF SKIN!

If you’re in the mood for another creepy, fear-filled horror novel to start off your summertime reading this June, try out my buddy Jonathan Janz’s newest release HOUSE OF SKIN! I can’t wait to read it this month myself. I’m sure I’ll probably report back to you to be sure to read only in daylight hours in some public place where there are plenty of people to call for help. 

So before another season of American Horror Story (with super yummy Adam Levine I must say) begins, read HOUSE OF SKIN for yourself and let me know what you think!

Introducing the most awesomest cool cover…

Here’s the synopsis of HOUSE OF SKIN:

“Myles Carver is dead. But his estate, Watermere, lives on, waiting for a new Carver to move in. Myles’s wife, Annabel, is dead too, but she is also waiting, lying in her grave in the woods. For nearly half a century she was responsible for a nightmarish reign of terror, and she’s not prepared to stop now. She is hungry to live again…and her unsuspecting nephew, Paul, will be the key.

Julia Merrow has a secret almost as dark as Watermere’s. But when she and Paul fall in love they think their problems might be over. How can they know what Fate—and Annabel—have in store for them? Who could imagine that what was once a moldering corpse in a forest grave is growing stronger every day, eager to take her rightful place amongst the horrors of Watermere?”

Sound good? You can pick it up in e-book format starting today, June 5, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or his publisher Samhain. Looks like right now, it’s cheapest currently from Samhain: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/house-skin-p-6804.html.

Congrats Jonathan!

***********************************************************************************************************

Jonathan Janz also published The Sorrows last year and you can read that review HERE and my interview with him HERE for all the latest info on his writing. Or you can go to www.jonathanjanz.com.

1 Comment

Filed under New Books I've Found

The Sorrows, by Jonathan Janz, Uses Elements of Storytelling at their Finest!

Old-fashioned storytelling. Fast paced plot. Well-developed characters. Awesome elements of horror. The Sorrows from Jonathan Janz delivers it all! Read on for exciting information and review of this book!

I read Janz’s novel, The Sorrows (his debut with Samhain Publishing’s new horror line), a few months ago and it’s been percolating for review for enough days that I just had to complete it before it crept anymore inside my head and made me go mad. That’s right, this book hooked me and I am not about to find the time to go to the insane asylum anytime soon so I’ll need to let the beast onto the page and hope it doesn’t rip it to shreds! Ok, it’s typed on a screen, I know. So how about I just tell you how great this book was instead and subdue the monster.

First, the book teaser for The Sorrows:

The Sorrows, an island off the coast of California, and its castle have been uninhabited since a series of gruesome, unexplained murders in 1925. But its owner allows film composers Ben and Eddie and a couple of their friends to stay in Castle Blackwood. Eddie is certain a haunted castle is the setting Ben needs to find musical inspiration for a horror film.  But what they find is more horrific than any movie. Something is waiting for them in the castle. A being, once worshipped, now imprisoned, has been trapped for nearly a century. And he’s ready to feed.

So what did I think about The Sorrows?

First of all, don’t you love Samhain covers? It draws the reader into the book before they even open the pages.  But that isn’t all that is great about this book. 

Following in the line of some of the great horror novels I’ve read lately, this one was right on par with the newer horror novels I’ve been enjoying that are full of mystery, suspense, fantasy, superb storytelling, and of course, an element of fear. Not a former reader of Richard Laymon or Richard Matheson myself (ummmm….both named Richard?), two writers I’ve heard Janz being attributed to in writing style, I will just have to tell you my own thoughts. (And yes, please don’t judge me for not reading any other master of horror other than Stephen King. I led a very sheltered life growing up.)

Reminiscent with the storytelling of Edgar Allan Poe, with a jolt of modern-day horror flick to round out the plot, The Sorrows certainly introduced several different styles.  I did (and do) read a lot of Edgar Allan Poe and Janz integrates influential lines and references to Poe that give it the dark, eerie, calculated feel of Poe text. I loved that about this book. I really liked how he worked this fantasy story, which was about an ancient family secret, and melted it with the contemporary plot of two present day film composers being sent to the island to write  a musical score for a horror movie. (The horror movie which in fact is his next book House of Skin, coming this year).

Set the scene with an ominous castle on a fog infested island, a real jerk of a guy who likes to exploit women, another guy who is struggling with his musical muse, and two women with self-esteem and/or revenge issues and you’ve got the making of one screwed up house party.

Once they get to the island (which took a little bit of time, I suppose setting up characters and building the scene, but wish it had moved a tad faster), I am reminded of the show Harper’s Island. If you watched it, the show was killer (no pun intended) and reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, but set on an island village where each person slowly gets knocked off until we find out who is the murderer. The Sorrows reminded me then, not being a longtime horror connoisseur, of an Edgar Allan Poe tale meet Agatha Christie meet Harper’s Island, with some violence and explicit sex rolled in.  And yes, be warned of the explicit sex. There is quite a bit of it.

It did have an element of old-fashioned horror movies, like Alfred Hitchcock who I adore, but also with some cheesiness of the type many people love from those 80s horror films. In addition, there is a touch of the normal issues and disputes among people and in relationships, as well as some romance, all while they are fighting a supernatural demon who can easily fool you by seeking out your weaknesses and using them against you. And there is an interesting story behind this fearful demon that you’ll not want to miss. 

If there was much blood, I didn’t notice it because the plot propelled me forward through the story. That’s how I like my horror.  It’s the way Stephen King does it, right?  Storytelling is an art and horror should be a slow burn type of fear or dread, not just gore. But yes, there were acts that would have been bloody for sure had I been a character in the story watching it unfold before my eyes.

 The story also jumps between chapters taking on characters from generations before, and an old family dilemma at the castle, to the present day activity. This adds an element of history, secrecy, and mystery to the book. In fact, I loved this part of the book the best and its ultimate resolution.

 As you can read from what I’m saying, there was A LOT going on in this book, so you’ll read faster just to keep up. Plus you won’t want to put it down once your mid-way through because you are going to want to find out what secret this castle is keeping, whose involved, and how it ends for everyone.
 
Well done, Jonathan Janz! I like the old-fashioned horror story feel to your novel and I can’t wait to read more of what you plan to publish in the future.
 
Readers, stay tuned for an exclusive interview on my site with Jonathan Janz coming this Sunday, May 13! He answers all kinds of my probing questions. I can’t wait for you to see his deepest, darkest inner thoughts about The Sorrows, writing, horror, and much more. And he’s always hilarious, so I can’t wait for you to check it out.
***********************************************************************************************************
Bio of Jonathan Janz, Author
 
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard. In a way, that explains everything. The Sorrows is his first novel, which published with Samhain Horror in late 2011 and his second, House of Skin, is set to publish with Samhain Horror this year (2012). Just this week his third book, The Darkest Lullaby, sold as well.
 
He has also written two novellas (Old Order and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories. His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true.

One of Jonathan’s wishes is to someday get Stephen King, Peter Jackson, Jack Ketchum and Joe R. Lansdale together for an all-night zombie movie marathon. Of course, that can only happen if all four drop their restraining orders against him.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

Can U Finish This Sentence to Win, The Cursed Man, during #SpringHorrorRAT?

Blog includes~

*My update

*Challenge Housekeeping

*CHALLENGE 5~Co-Hosted by amazing Horror writer, Keith Rommel. He’s helping to host this challenge and we’ll use both our blogs so pay close attention to the directions. It’s a “finish this sentence” challenge for a chance for 1 (one) signed hard copy of his book and for 1 (one) e-book!! Due Date: SUNDAY at 11:59 p.m.

My Update~

I finished the supernatural horror book that I was reading for an author in the editing stages. All I can say is that this book is one you won’t want to miss when it comes out. I’ll be sure to tell you all when it does. So sorry for not being able to tell you now. But I really needed to get it finished as well. So I’ve got two books finished so far. And I’ve busted my butt blogging and arranging challenges and promoting like crazy. I’ve got the most hits on my blog EVER……

Challenge Housekeeping~

…….Which leads me to ask, why aren’t more of you taking these challenges? They aren’t hard. Some questions mostly, some typing. Come and join in the fun, these are great books we are giving away!

Don’t forget you can enter Challenge 2, 3, 4 and 5 anytime up until SUNDAY at 11:59 p.m. EST. This gives you time to do them this weekend. You don’t want to miss out on these books!

Challenge 2~Click HERE!

Challenge 3~Click HERE!

Challenge 4~Click HERE!

Challenge 5~Keep Reading…..

This challenge will show your creative side! Take the beginning of sentence given to you by going to Keith Rommel’s site at http://keithrommel.weebly.com where you need to click at top on the word BLOG. There will be a post with the sentence and some content from Keith. You’ll need to finish his sentence in 250 words or less, so write as much as you want to up to that limit, or as little as you want.

You’ll need to POST your writing in the COMMENTS of KEITH’S blog you went to at the link or post the link to where you wrote it (blog, etc.)! Don’t forget to come back to mine to leave regular comments and for extra entries.

Keith will be judging these and the winner will win a signed copy of his first book The Cursed Man. AND the winner will win a guest post on my blog where you get to feature your writing and a blog or anything else you want to promote. Plus free promo by me, a professional PR person! 

All the rest of you that participate will be put in for the drawing for an e-book copy of The Cursed Man.

The Cursed Man, by Keith Rommel, is the first in his Thanatology series. I loved this book when I read it. It’s got that old fashioned horror feel, as in a  short story by Edgar Allen Poe. It’ss totally psychological in nature. You can read my review of it HERE

Extra Entries~

For extra entries for the e-book you can follow me on Twitter @ErinAl-Mehairi for +1.

You can tweet this challenge for +5. Tweet Challenge 4 for +4. Tweet Challenge 3 for +3. Tweet Challenge 2 for +2.

You can follow @keithrommel on Twitter for +2.

You can click “like” on the Amazon page for The Cursed Man at http://www.amazon.com/The-Cursed-Man-Keith-Rommel/dp/1934597031/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1335582085&sr=1-1-catcorr for +5 extra points!!!!!

Follow Keith on GoodReads here http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10798544-the-cursed-man for +2.

Rules: You need to be in the U.S. to win the paperback due to shipping unless you want to contact me for other arrrangments. Anyone is eligible for the e-book!  This challenge 5 is due on Sunday by 11:59 p.m. EST, but the sooner the better!! Winners will be notified next week.Happy reading AND writing!! I really can’t wait to see what you come up with!! 🙂

10 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Read-a-Thons

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon This Weekend, You Could Read to Win!

This weekend is the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon put on by several other blogging book lovers. What you read doesn’t have to be Halloween oriented, just any genre is fine. Just read, read, read! You can participate in challenges which you’ll find on the main site (you can click on the other blogs during the times allotted to get challenges), updating as you go and using your social networking skills to talk it up. You can win prizes for doing so! There is still a day to sign-up (as of Friday at 3:00 p.m.) and you can do that here: http://www.myshelfconfessions.com/read-a-thon/ or http://rebgeo.net/posts/wonderfully-wicked-read-a-thon-intro-information/and see more information. You can see challenges NOW at the latter link of Kindle Fire’s blog.

Hashtag on Twitter is #WWReadathon, so use it frequently!! Spread the love of reading and books.

I’m going to do this one with the kids so we’ll be reading lots of picture books, YA books, and I’ll try to log what all we read together. I love making reading a family project. It’s rainy and awfully cold and windy in Ohio, so what a great time to snuggle up with books and hot tea with honey.

Have fun and don’t forget to sign-up to win here:  http://www.myshelfconfessions.com/read-a-thon/ or http://rebgeo.net/posts/wonderfully-wicked-read-a-thon-intro-information/.  Thank you to all the hosts who organized the read-a-thon and are supporting the challenges.

4 Comments

Filed under Other blogs