A Stranger Here Below #CharlesFergus

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with reviews. I’ve read so many books and written so few reviews that my head is full, my blog has been sitting empty and Netgalley and Edelweiss are wondering what’s up. Please don’t hate me as I overload your feeds with extra reviews and too many comments on your blogs as I read and write my way through all that I’ve missed.

41Ri0iutn1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_amazonA Stranger Here Below is the first in what promises to be an intriguing historical mystery series set in early America. The series introduces us to Sheriff Gideon Stoltz, a man whose origins are Pennsylvania Dutch and who is still a bit of an outsider who speaks and acts differently from his fellow townsfolk. When the judge of the town commits suicide, Gideon cannot accept that any man would kill himself but especially not his friend, Judge Biddle. As Gideon discovers more about why the judge might have killed himself, his search for the truth becomes more dangerous to himself and those around him.

Fergus knows his history, has an incredible, intuitive feel for this region, the land and its people and it flows from each word in A Stranger Here Below. The prose is rich and atmospheric. Every detail, from the tools to the clothing, is impeccably accurate; I found myself immersed in the history of the tale and countryside. It took a bit of reading to get into the mystery itself. Perhaps it was because there was so much background needed to set to the proper stage for this era, rural Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. Perhaps it was the very simple writing as Gideon thought and spoke as any Pennsylvania Dutch would at the time. Regardless, I admit that I struggled with the slow pace in the beginning. As I grew accustomed to the writing, however, I liked the gentle flow of the words and the mystery itself began to build toward a rewarding conclusion.

This definitely is for a different type of reader, I won’t gloss over that. It’s not a thriller or suspense. It’s not a quick read or historical romance. My eighth-grade history teacher would have loved it and, most likely, she would have added it to an extra credit reading list – and I would have been the first one in line to sign up for it. If you’re a real American history fiend, then you will like this one, or, if you like slowly unfolding, atmospheric historical fiction you might enjoy it as well.

I received my copy from @Edelweiss and @SkyhorsePub

Advertisements

Tempation Rag #BlogTour brought to you by #HistoricalFictionVirtualBlogTours #ElizabethHutchisonBernard #Giveaway

I have been anxiously awaiting today so that I could share with you this incredible book, Temptation Rag. Of all of the historical fiction books that I recently have read, this one is right at the top of my favorites list! Of course, you already know by its title, that it is set in an era that I adore, but it revolves around my most beloved music in all of the world: Ragtime!

50461254_2195279250791300_745404807015038976_n

When I was a little girl I was forced loved to play the piano, but dreaded really never came unto my own musically until my tutor decided, after she had lost all of her hair, to introduce me to Ragtime. At last!! There was something about the syncopated rhythm that found its way into my heart and suddenly, quite literally, overnight my fingers were flying all over the keyboard. Forget hymns, Bach, even Stravinsky, all I wanted was Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington and Tommy Turpin from morning until night. So, when I was given the opportunity to read a historical fictional account of “The Ragtime King of the World,” Mike Bernard, you better believe I jumped at the chance and squealed in delight at the prospect! Not only that, it is written by the wife of Bernard’s grandson. It’s like heaven right here in my ragtime era sitting room. Seriously, can you tell I’m excited yet?

Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the talented young Mike Bernard, an aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But after their secret liaison is discovered, neither is prepared for the far-reaching consequences that will haunt them for decades. As Mike abandons serious music to ruthlessly defend his hard-won title, Ragtime King of the World, May struggles to find her voice as an artist and a woman. It is not until years after their youthful romance, when they cross paths again, that they must finally confront the truth about themselves and each other. But is it too late?

Temptation Rag is told from multiple viewpoints, including in May’s voice and from Mike’s second wife, Jessie. There are multiple timelines as well but the author deftly transitions from past to present, person to person in a way that makes it very clear and the reader never loses the flow of the story line throughout. What is fascinating about the story itself are the characters, many of whom are based on real-life people who were in the ragtime/vaudeville circuit with Bernard. The era is real, the music is real and the social conditions – racism, women’s rights, child labor – which are being discussed throughout, all are quite real. As I’ve mentioned before, this era was a time of great change, socialism was making a huge impact across America. People of both sexes, all races, young and old, were demanding fairness and equality and it was from this turmoil, growth and change from which all of this incredible art and music sprung forth. I’m not sure why we don’t have that now but it was a beautiful thing then. Within this context we have the on again/off again love story of May and Mike. Although the blurb makes it appear that the book is about May, I don’t think we get nearly enough of her story. I wish there had been more but that is my only, very tiny complaint. Despite that, it is a very well researched, incredibly well written, engaging and entertaining tale. I cannot recommend it highly enough regardless of which type of genre you enjoy.

Frederic Tulsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist says it best –

“Terrific historical research and deft writing provide a striking portrait of racial and gender inequality in the ragtime era. An unforgettable and deeply human story.”

And now,  since it’s Monday and I’m supposed to include MUSIC on MONDAYS I have a rare treat for you!! A very early recording from 1915, of Mike Bernard, The Ragtime King of the world playing the piano!!  No joke.

The Ragtime King of the World – Ragtime Two-Step

Pretty darn awesome, right?? You can purchase Temptation Rag at any of the fine retailers below:

AMAZON  BARNES AND NOBLE | CHAPTERS | INDIEBOUND

About the Author:

Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is the author of The Beauty Doctor, Finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2017 AZ Literary Awards, and a Medallion Honoree of the Book Readers Appreciation Group.

Her novel The Beauty Doctor is a suspenseful tale that takes place in the early days of cosmetic surgery—when the world of medicine was a bit like the Wild West and beauty doctors were the newest breed of outlaw. Temptation Rag: A Novel immerses readers in the bawdy atmosphere of vaudeville and early twentieth-century African American musical theater in a story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness.

Elizabeth currently lives in Arizona with her husband and their much-loved and very spoiled black Lab.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

Please join us on the remainder of the BLOG TOUR:

Monday, February 18
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 19
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, February 20
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Friday, February 22
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages

Saturday, February 23
Guest Post at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Reviews

Monday, February 25
Review at Peppermint Ph.D.

Tuesday, February 26
Excerpt at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, February 27
Interview at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 1
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Monday, March 4
YOU ARE HERE – > Review at Macsbooks

Wednesday, March 6
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Friday, March 8
Excerpt at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, March 12
Review at Reader then Blogger

Friday, March 15
Review at Coffee and Ink

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away copies of Bernard’s other novel, The Beauty Doctor. One paperback and two eBooks are up for grabs. To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

HERE IS A DIRECT LINK TO ENTER

Whew! Thank you for reading ALL of this and thank you to Amy at #HFVBTBlogTours @HFVBT and @ EHBernardAuthor  for my copy of this amazing book!

 

Innocence Lost #SherilynDecter #HFVBT #HFVBTBlogTours #BookGivaway

Innocence Lost is the first book in a thrilling new series, The Bootleggers’ Chronicles, a historical mystery set during the Prohibition Era when bootleggers and speakeasies were common and crime was everywhere you turned.

50094227_292740241593203_5348341448779497472_nIn a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…

Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie Barnes doesn’t have much left. After the death of her husband, she finds herself all alone to care for her young son and look after their rundown house. As if that weren’t bad enough, Prohibition has turned her neighborhood into a bootlegger’s playground. To keep the shoddy roof over their heads, she has no choice but to take on boarders with questionable ties…

When her son’s friend disappears, Maggie suspects the worst. And local politicians and police don’t seem to have any interest in an investigation. With a child’s life on the line, Maggie takes the case and risks angering the enemy living right under her nose. Maggie’s one advantage may be her new found friend: the ghost of a Victorian-era cop. With his help, can she find justice in a lawless city?

It’s no secret that this era is my favorite in history. The Roaring 20s, the gangsters and bootleggers who were romanticized more than feared, rum-running and moonshiners in the cities and the hills combine to create a magical backdrop to an ever-changing landscape. However, in reality all of those things we love most were highly illegal and it led to many streets and cities being quite dangerous. This is the life that our heroine, Maggie, finds herself living in after the “great war.” She’s trying to make a home for her son in a run-down house in a city that is filled with crime. When her son’s friend goes missing, it appears that the two of them are the only ones who are willing to search for the boy – along with one very unusual policeman.

Decter has created an intriguing mystery that combines the best of the historical mystery genre with the gothic eeriness of paranormal. Because of the time period, it doesn’t really seem all that strange that the copper who helps Maggie is, well, a ghost. It just fits. And while there are those who shy away from magical realism or paranormal, this book marries these genres together so seamlessly that the storyline never once falters. The believability remains present throughout. It takes a good writer to do that and Decter accomplishes that feat. Innocence Lost is a well written, entertaining historical read; one that I highly recommend.

Innocence Lost is Available Now at AMAZON
fancy-lines-clip-art-1024x683
03_Sherilyn Decter[718]Sherilyn Decter is a writer, researcher, and lover of historical fiction. Her work is set in the Roaring Twenties and if you like feisty and determined heroines, complex cover-ups, Prohibition stories about criminal underworlds, police and political corruption, then you’re going to love Sherilyn’s grand gangster tales.

For more information, please visit Sherilyn Decter’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Thank you to Amy at @HFVBT, @HFVBTPartner for my copy of #Innocence Lost and to @SheriDecter for this incredible book. Please be sure to enter the FABULOUS GIVEAWAY BELOW and check out all of the stops along the amazing BLOG TOUR!

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two prize packs of a copy of the book, a set of Paper Dolls, and a Jazz Age Fashion Coloring Book! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

04_Innocence Lost Banner[719]

 

 

 

The Familiars @Stacey_Halls

There are times when I get absolutely giddy over a book that I’ve just finished, so much so that I start babbling to my neighbors, call up family members, talk about it to strangers in stores despite their strange looks as though I’ve lost my mind. That is exactly what I have found myself doing with Stacey Halls new book, The Familiars.

39835415Are you familiar with familiars? Yes, I know. I’m part Scottish so these things are embedded into my DNA but for many, I now realize, they are not. A familiar is an animal that is close to a witch who does certain things for the witch. They can act as protectors, spies, a type of servant or, most often, a close companion. If you see one, you most often will see the other because they rarely are separated. 12187815_10153804022438755_392989809902135028_nYou know, kind of like this photo. 😉  Okay fine.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the 17 years old mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. The year is 1612, and she pregnant for the fourth time. The problem, however, is that she has yet to bring a child to term, something both she and her husband are concerned about, each for very different reasons. By chance, Fleetwood encounters a woman in the forest on her property. This woman, Alice Gray, claims to be a midwife and promises Fleetwood that she can help her give birth to a healthy child. They agree on terms and Alice is brought into Gawthorpe Hall where Fleetwood almost at once begins to feel better. There are problems, however. King James, as we all should know, is on a witch hunt and his minions who wish to stay in his favor will do whatever necessary to stay in the king’s good graces, including accusing innocent women of witchcraft. Fleetwood has the misfortune of living near Pendle Hill and one of her husband’s dearest friends and benefactor’s is just the sort of man to gather up innocents to appease the king – and that is exactly what he does – including Alice Gray.

I live in a town named Pendleton settled by men originally from Pendle Hill. We actually have a place called Pendle Hill in our tiny town so I have a strange, slightly bizarre fascination with the Pendle witches of Lancashire. When I first read about The Familiars, I was led to believe that it was a witch story and somewhat cutesy. That is far from the truth. This is a story of the women in the surrounding village who eventually were charged with murder and witchcraft at Pendle Hill, specifically, Alice Gray. It is the story of Alice’s friendship with Fleetwood and the extreme measures that Fleetwood took in order to save her friend. It is a beautifully told story of women, devotion, love, motherhood, history and so much more but it is very much rooted in historically accurate research. At the heart of the tale is Fleetwood and her desire to bring her child into the world safely and alive. In order to do so, she truly believes she must have Alice by her side. It isn’t about magic or witchcraft, it is about herbs and knowledge passed down from one generation of women to the next. As we learn, these women were being rounded up far too often because of men who merely wanted them gone for reasons of cheating, anger, because the women were more knowledgeable, not unlike what is happening today when intelligent women are mocked in the public arena. They were also being hanged because their religion no longer aligned with that of King James. Then, as now, religion was a source of war. Isn’t it amazing how absolutely nothing has changed after all of this time? How we have learned nothing from the past?

I absolutely loved the transformation of Fleetwood from silly, frivolous socialite to the mature woman willing to fight for her child and her friend. Women will do that when they have the right influences to guide them and it was beautiful to see how Alice, so quiet and unassuming, could give the much needed confidence to Fleetwood, not with magic but through friendship and care. In the end, this is a novel of historical fiction and it stays true to the story. Twelve women were charged with witchcraft, some were hanged, one landed in stocks for a fortnight and one is released. This is a wonderful imagining of their story, one that I highly recommend!

Thank you to #Netgalley, #Harlequin-Mira and #StacyHalls for my advanced copy of #TheFamiliars.

I’ve included this book toward the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge at Passages to the Past. Won’t you join us as we read our way through history?
2019 (1)

Journey of York @HasanDavis

There are few stories more well known in United States history than that of the Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the farthest reaches of the continent, what would become known as Oregon/Washington. The pair of explorers took with them 23 crewmen, most were former military men with whom they had served; all but one were volunteers: York, the African slave whom Clark had inherited from his father’s estate. However, aside from the Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, and her “husband” Toussaint Charbanneau, no one was more valuable to the success of the exploration than the man known as York. Yet, for nearly two centuries York’s story and vital contributions have remained largely untold – until now.

cover146882-medium

To say that I am an avid devotee of the Lewis and Clark expedition is an understatement – and even that statement doesn’t do justice to my obsession. While my university degree is in history (and US politics,) my area of specialty is the Jefferson/Jacksonian period primarily because I simply could not get enough information about Lewis and Clark and their westward adventure. I wanted to know what they found, the native Americans they met, how they survived the winters, about their longboats. Yes, I’ve even retraced the Lewis and Clark trail from beginning to end and back again. I’ve toured Fort Clatsop, visited burial sites, read their journals and far, far more. What always has fascinated me, however, was how much this pair relied on York, how much they wrote about him and then how quickly his importance vanished. They used his skin color to fascinate native Americans who never had seen any human with that skin color. They thought he was a “medicine man” or “magic.” He opened doors for the explorers and saved their lives on more than one occasion. His brute strength enabled them to carry more boats over dry riverbeds and to build their fort before the winter cold could kill them. He even became – literally – the first African American to vote on American soil when the party had to decide which side of the Columbia river to set up their fort. It was groundbreaking. And yet, once the explorers returned back home – no mention of his bravery, heroics, saving strength or equality was mentioned again. It was during a time in American history when already a division was growing among the states over the slavery issue and giving York credit simply was not done. Shame on everyone involved and KUDOS to Hasan Davis for finally telling this hero’s story!!

The book is written for young readers and is very simplistic in its telling. Think back to the history books of your childhood and this book is written similarly. I would have liked for the illustrations to have been more imaginative in order to capture the attention of graphic savvy young readers, but the story itself is well told, doesn’t stray from historic fact and isn’t too heavy handed when it comes to finger pointing – which it could have done. I think this is an absolute must read for all young American readers, for teachers of young students, parents, and perhaps even adults who are clueless regarding the real heroes of the expedition. I love Lewis and Clark but I know, without a doubt, where the credit for their expedition’s success truly lies.

Thank you to #Netgalley, @CapstonePub and #HasanDavis for fulfilling all of my wishes for the new year by allowing me to read York’s story and especially to Mr. Davis for bringing York’s story to life at last!

For additional reading on the Lewis and Clark expedition, I highly recommend a historical fiction book by Anna L. Waldo titled “Sacajawea.” I have read it five times over the past 30+ years and will read it again this year. It never gets old. Fiction yes, but a beautiful, captivating story never-the-less.

 

 

The Shop Girls of Lark Lane @PamHowes

The Shop Girls of Lark Lane will tug at your heart-strings once again as we catch up with Alice and the gals of Lark Lane

5168awKg7JL

This is the second book in a series and  as the book opens, we find the war is over and the men are returning home. Alice, who was introduced in the first book, is reunited with her husband who is seeing his daughter for the first time. She isn’t exactly happy to share her mum with this new man and makes their adjustment rather difficult. But then, there are difficult adjustments for everyone as the women give up their factory jobs and independence and settle back into domesticity. Tragedy, sadly, does not escape Alice in this saga and her story holds more tears for her and requires much courage as she finds herself alone once again.

Although The Shop Girls of Lark Lane is part of a series, I had no trouble at all reading it as a stand alone. I suspect that it helped that I didn’t have preconceived ideas about certain characters, especially as they evolved into rather unsavory sorts as the book progressed It did start off rather slowly which, I think, partly was due to the fact that the author was laying down a lot of background information so that readers could catch up from the first book. A quarter of the way in I was hooked completely and fell in love with the characters, Alice in particular, and their stories. Normally I’m not a fan of this era but this tale was well told with a lot of historical detail and human emotions. If you enjoy historical fiction then you will like The Shop Girls of Lark Lane which is available now.

Thank you #Netgalley, #Bookouture and #PamHowes for my copy of this terrific book. The first in the series is titled #TheFactoryGirlsofLarkLane

#PassagestothePast #HistoricalFictionChallenge

It’s been a few years since I’ve participated in a reading challenge but Passages to the Past has created a historical fiction challenge again for 2019. I’ll be joining and, if this is a genre that you enjoy, I invite you to join along as well.

Basically, you select a reading level, see below, for the challenge, post on Passages to the Past and link up your reviews throughout the year. Sounds simple enough, right? I’ll be doing this once a month and would love also to link up with you if you join us. The more the merrier!

The Levels
20th Century Reader – 2 books
Victorian Reader – 5 books
Renaissance Reader – 10 books
Medieval – 15 books
Ancient History – 25 books
Prehistoric – 50+ books

Since this is my first challenge in a while, I’ll be going for the Renaissance Reader but hope to, at least, read one a month so my personal goal is 12 books. If you play along, please let me know. 🙂