Tuesday, May 24, 2016

D.J. Niko's The Judgment - Spotlight and Excerpt #TheJudgment


THE JUDGMENT by D.J. Niko

Excerpt (from Chapter Nine)

The stones of Nicaule’s betrothal house closed in around her, suffocating her with the stench of wet earth and animal manure. It was the house of Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, vacant since her death the year prior and now appointed to the woman who would soon be the king’s wife.

Nicaule had been there almost four weeks, waiting in isolation as Solomon readied the wedding canopy at his father’s house. Though they were betrothed, they had not seen or spoken to each other since the king’s retinue, with his prize in tow, returned to Israel. It suited her just fine. She did not care to parade herself around Jerusalem, the detestable city of Judahite kings, nor to have the Hebrews gawk at her and whisper over each other’s shoulders, “There walks the foreigner King Solomon bought.”

She looked down upon her bare arm and stroked it with her fingertips. Her skin was soft as a dove’s feathers, dark as the red clay of her beloved Nile. She was so different from these people, who gulped wine and tore their meat like animals. Coarse swine. Living among them for the rest of her days felt like a punishment, even if they would call her queen.

Any time now he would come for her. Word had arrived the night before through Solomon’s emissary, Azariah, a son of Zadok the priest, that the king was ready for the marriage ceremony. She was to bathe and perfume herself, dress in her finest white clothing, veil her head, and wait. She would know of his imminent approach when the horn sounded.

She drew a deep breath. How would she lie with this man for seven days knowing her beloved longed for her on the other side of the Sea of Reeds? The distance between her and Shoshenq seemed impossible to bridge. She had departed Egypt only weeks ago, but already her former life seemed like faded letters on a forgotten papyrus.

Would he remember his promise?

“My lady Nicaule.” Irisi came into the bedchamber with a tray of jewels.

Nicaule offered a weak smile. Irisi’s face was a boon in this godforsaken place.

Irisi approached and sat next to her on the bed. “Azariah says the king will come for you at sundown. The time nears.” She gently cradled Nicaule’s hands and glanced at her from head to foot. “You are like the sacred blue lotus from the pools of Nun, so sweet-smelling and lovely.”

Nicaule sighed. “I go with heavy heart.”

“You must be strong, my lady. This is your destiny. The gods have willed it, and you cannot but accept it.”

Nicaule squeezed her hands. “You are wise, my dearest and most loyal friend. Your mere presence gives me solace.”

The deep, solemn wail of the shofar sounded in the distance, alerting the entire city of the ceremony under way. A violent knock came from the other side of the door, then the voice of Azariah. “The bridegroom comes. Be ready.”

Nicaule sprang from the bed and wrapped her arms around her chest. A wave of nausea overcame her. She jerked her head to and fro, looking for an escape, though she knew there was none.

Irisi rose. “Calm your nerves, my lady. You are about to be crowned queen. You will have the life so many women dream of.” She chose from the tray of jewelry two gold cuffs with moonstone scarabs.

Nicaule held her arms out as Irisi fastened the cuffs. “I cannot do it, Irisi. I cannot lie with him.”

Irisi looked deep into her eyes. “You must. It is your duty to Egypt. The way you conduct yourself will either magnify the glory of your fathers or diminish it.”

A bitter smile crossed her lips. Irisi was right.

The rapid cadence of a hundred drums, accompanied by a carefree flute song, sounded as the wedding party approached Bathsheba’s house. She imagined the man whose face she had gazed upon but twice, who spoke a different language and believed in a foreign god, who looked and smelled unlike her people, leading her by the hand to the royal marriage chamber. Anxiety stirred her belly with the fury of a maelstrom, and she bent over a pot, heaving.

The music grew closer. The singing voices of the attendants were now within earshot. She raised her hands to her ears to escape the vulgar sound. She wanted to cry, but no tears came.

Irisi’s gentle hands lifted her to her feet, then wiped her mouth and forehead with linen gauze. Irisi said nothing—not a word of judgment or of encouragement—as she reapplied ochre paste to Nicaule’s lips.

Another hard knock.

Irisi held up the veil, a diaphanous silk cloth embroidered with tiny flowers in red and white thread and edged in delicate golden fringe. She slipped it over Nicaule’s head and let it hang to the floor.

Covered completely by the fine silken shroud, Nicaule felt safe. It was a curtain separating her from the activities unfolding around her, a barrier between her and him, a symbol of her detachment. In her country, only the dead would be swathed in such a manner.

The door creaked open, and Irisi stepped back into the shadows of the room. Nicaule stood alone, clenching her fists to control her trembling limbs.

Azariah stepped into the doorway. “Behold, the bridegroom has arrived. Go out and meet him.”

Nicaule drew a long breath, her last as a single woman. With head high, she did as told.

As she stepped out into the autumn night, a cool breeze kissed her cheeks and delivered the scent of molten beeswax. The whole of Jerusalem had come out to witness the occasion, cramming the path between Bathsheba’s house and King David’s palace and spilling down the hillside. They held candle lanterns, their flickering lights like a thousand stars fallen from the sky, and chanted a happy tune whose words Nicaule could not comprehend. They craned their necks to get a glimpse at the object of Solomon’s affection.

At the top of a narrow passageway through the swarm of gawking Israelites stood the bridegroom and two white horses with garlands of white lilies hanging around their necks. He stepped onto the stoop of his mother’s house and gazed at his bride. He was dressed in a long white tunic over which was wrapped a white linen coat with wide sleeves, cinched at the waist with a belt of silver. A crown with twelve golden fingers reaching toward the heavens encircled the soft black curls that tumbled to his shoulders.

He signaled to one of his attendants, who promptly delivered the bride’s gift on a cedar tray inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Solomon took up the golden crown, a smaller and more delicate version of his own, and placed it on her veiled head. He said something in Hebrew that she loosely understood to mean Welcome to my house.

Emboldened by her gossamer shield, she met his gaze. Orbs the color of post-flood Nile silt regarded her with the voracity of a raptor. The intensity of his gaze held her captive, and she forced herself to look away lest she be mesmerized. She shuddered.

He walked down the steps, and she followed him. He stopped in front of the horses and stroked the neck of one. He turned to his bride and lifted her from the waist, as effortlessly as if she were a feather, onto the horse’s bare back. He mounted the other horse and led the way through the crowd of witnesses.

Nicaule’s eyes darted from face to face. Glowing like molten copper in the lantern light, they seemed like wraiths from the underworld haunting her steps, mocking her. Their gazes were like whips, their toothless smiles like spurs, goading her to the embrace of their king so she could become one of them, insipid and vulgar and stinking of too much wine.

The palace of King David stood at the end of the ascending path, its two wings like open arms. Torches surrounded a tented canopy at the entrance, sealing her fate by fire. The rhythmic clop of the horses’ hooves on the cobbled stones, the sound of her fleeting freedom, grew slower until it stopped altogether. She issued a trembling sigh only she could hear.

Solomon dismounted and walked to Nicaule, offering his hand. Together they walked to the wedding canopy and stood before the cheering crowd. Trumpets sounded, then drums and flutes. She felt like an impostor, posing as the happy bride when in reality there was nothing about that moment she wanted to own. She wanted to flee into the cold arms of the night, to be swallowed by its dark womb.

About the book

Publication Date: May 10, 2016 
Publisher: Medallion Press 
Publication Length: 416 pages 

965 BCE

Upon the death of his father, Solomon has been appointed king of the united monarchy of Israel and Judah and charged with building the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. He travels to Egypt to negotiate with Pharaoh Psusennes II for gold for the temple and to improve relations between the two nations. There he falls in love with the pharaoh’s beautiful daughter, Nicaule, and the two kings agree to an arranged marriageh. Against her will, for she loves another, Nicaule follows her new husband to Israel.

Forty years later, Solomon’s empire is on the verge of collapse. Power has made him arrogant, permissive, and blind to the scheming of his wife and one of his lieutenants to topple the united monarchy. As the king’s faith falters and his people’s morals collapse, enemies gather at the gates of Israel. A visit from a mysterious queen restores Solomon’s perspective in time to save his soul—but it is too late to preserve his kingdom.

Someone who once was loyal to King Solomon has come back to claim the crown of Israel—and tear Solomon’s empire asunder.


About the author 
D.J. Niko is the pseudonym for Daphne Nikolopoulos, an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and lecturer who has spent her entire adult life traveling the world.

As a former travel writer and zealous adventurer, she has visited remote spots on six continents, many of which have inspired her archaeological thriller series, The Sarah Weston Chronicles. She was born and raised in Athens, Greece, and now resides in Florida with her family.

Find out more about D.J. Niko on her website.

Praise for D.J. Niko 
“Like a sandstorm roaring out of the Judean Desert, The Riddle of Solomon rips readers out of the familiar world, dropping them breathless in a place where ancient kings still keep their secrets. D. J. Niko’s storytelling carries the grit of desert dust and the seductive scent of incense on every page as Sarah Weston races with a madman to save the treasures that King Solomon left behind.” - Mary Anna Evans, award-winning author of Artifacts and Wounded Earth

"Take a dash of Dan Brown, a sprinkle of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a whole lot of originality, and you've got the recipe for D.J. Niko's latest novel, the second in the spellbinding Sarah Weston saga. For readers who like their adventures steeped in research, authenticity, and nonstop intrigue, The Riddle of Solomon is highly recommended!" - Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase and Cradle Lake

“Action, adventure, romance and historical mystery—who could ask for more? The Oracle is a great read.” —James O. Born, award-winning author of Scent of Murder

“Although each book in the Weston series can be read as a stand-alone, there is clearly a story arc involving the series’ two lead characters, one that enriches each book and makes the series more than just a collection of independent thrillers.” —David Pitt, Booklist

“This wonderful action-adventure story has all the elements of Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider and a little James Bond thrown in for good measure. This is exactly the kind of story I love, and I found it very hard to put down. The story moves between the fall of Delphi and a modern-day archeology thriller. Well researched, well written, with strong and believable characters.” — LibraryThing

Buy the book

Want to Feature D.J. Niko? 
If you would like a copy of the book for review or to conduct an interview with D.J. Niko, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at Hook of a Book Media: hookofabook@hotmail.com.



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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cat Thursday - It's a last minute, random kind of week


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Just some random funnies this week!




Me...every morning


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spotlight & {Giveaway} - Susan Wittig Albert's Loving Eleanor #LovingEleanorBlogTour


Publication Date: February 1, 2016
Persevero Press; Thorndike (Large Print)
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Large Print

Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction



When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the wife of the 1932 Democratic presidential candidate, the two women become deeply, intimately involved. Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship that ends only with both women’s deaths in the 1960s—all of it documented by 3300 letters exchanged over thirty years.

Now, New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert recreates the fascinating story of Hick and Eleanor, set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War. Loving Eleanor is Hick’s personal story, revealing Eleanor as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation’s First Lady, as well as by a compelling need to care and be cared for. For her part, Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life.

Drawing on extensive research in the letters that were sealed for a decade following Hick’s death, Albert creates a compelling narrative: a dramatic love story, vividly portraying two strikingly unconventional women, neither of whom is satisfied to live according to the script society has written for her. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see and celebrates the depth and durability of women’s love.


Praise

“Albert captures Hick’s spirit with energetic prose, painting a colorful picture of her fascinating life together with and apart from Eleanor. Although this memoir is fictional, the author draws upon thousands of personal letters, first-person accounts by others, and further research to present a compelling possible narrative of the relationship between Eleanor and Hick. Albert’s illuminating afterword adds important context to her narrative choices, and a comprehensive bibliography will encourage additional research. This warm, extensively researched novel will entrance readers and inspire them to look further into the lives of two extraordinary women.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Albert captures the turbulent thirties and forties with affecting detail, writing a novel notable not only for its emotional authenticity, but for its careful historicity. The nuances of Eleanor and Hick’s relationship are both moving and involving. Loving Eleanor is an intelligent love story with huge historical appeal.” —Foreword Reviews

“Susan Albert has done it again with another engaging, rich portrait, this time of women in love. Drawn from history, the love story of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok is full of excitement, drama and pathos. Both women of great intelligence and deep feelings, Eleanor and Lorena move from lovers to lifelong friends in the context of the most turbulent times of the 20th Century. As same-sex relationships finally move toward full acceptance in our culture, Albert’s book reminds us that love has always been love, no matter the partners.” —Robin Gerber, author of Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way

“Loving Eleanor, Susan Wittig Albert’s novelized memoir of Lorena Hickok’s intimate relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, is both richly nuanced and impressively detailed. Drawn from the thirty years of correspondence Hickok donated to the FDR Library toward the end of her life, “Hick’s” voice felt utterly authentic to me, always real, raw and compelling. Hick is a dichotomy—a tough, streetwise Associated Press reporter, and a tender, devoted friend and lover. This is not only an important book, but a great read. Loving Eleanor deserves to be at the top of your reading list!” —Ellen Hart, author of The Grave Soul, a Jane Lawless Mystery

“Susan Albert has, with imagination and deep knowledge of the historical record, supplied the missing pieces of the love story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. Here is everything we wish we knew. I couldn’t put it down.” —Leila Rupp, Professor of Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara,

“This birds-eye view of the FDR years is engaging from the first sentence. With Eleanor Roosevelt’s long-time lover as its narrator it navigates the catastrophes of the era and the heartbreak of women loving women in an unwelcoming time.” —Rebecca Coffey, author of Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story


About the Author

Susan Wittig Albert is the award-winning, NYT bestselling author of the forthcoming historical novel Loving Eleanor (2016), about the intimate friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok; and A Wilder Rose (2014), about Rose Wilder Lane and the writing of the Little House books.

Her award-winning fiction also includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Darling Dahlias, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.

She has written two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place, published by the University of Texas Press.

Her nonfiction titles include What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (winner of the 2009 Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction); Writing from Life: Telling the Soul’s Story; and Work of Her Own: A Woman’s Guide to Success Off the Career Track.

She is founder and current president (2015-2017) of the Story Circle Network and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.


For more information please visit www.susanalbert.com and www.LovingEleanor.com, or read her blog. You can also find Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Like the Loving Eleanor page on Facebook.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 26
Review at Bibliotica

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Broken Teepee

Thursday, April 28
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Friday, April 29
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, May 2
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 3
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Wednesday, May 4
Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, May 5
Interview at A Holland Reads

Friday, May 6
Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter
Spotlight at To Read, or Not to Read

Monday, May 9
Review at The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, May 10
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, May 12
Interview at Back Porchervations

Monday, May 16
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, May 17
Spotlight at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, May 18
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, May 20
Guest Post at Creating Herstory

Monday, May 23
Review at Unabridged Chick
Interview at Layered Pages

Tuesday, May 24
Interview at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, May 25
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, May 26
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Monday, May 30
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, May 31
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story


Giveaway
Three copies of Loving Eleanor by Sisan Wittig Albert are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents 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.

Loving Eleanor

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cat Thursday - Authors and Cats (53)


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author with their cat(s), or pictured with a cat(s).


Katherine Anne Porter (b. May 15, 1890 - d. September 18, 1980) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. She is known for her penetrating insight; her works deal with dark themes such as betrayal, death and the origin of human evil. (Goodreads)

I think I have only heard her name in passing. I know two of her novels I've heard of are Ship of Fools and Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Definitely going to have to check out her work, especially now that I know she was a cat lover. =^.^=

What about you..have you read any of her books?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spotlight on James Dalessandro's 1906

02_1906 Cover

1906: A Novel By James Dalessandro

eBook Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Crossroad Press eBook; 368 Pages
Genre : Historical Fiction/Mystery/Thriller

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Every disaster has a backstory, none more thrilling than this one. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning tale of political corruption, vendettas, romance, rescue—and murder—is based on recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Told by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Victorian-era city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battle—fought even as the city burns—that pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens, and a lone federal prosecutor. With the appeal and texture of The Alienist, Carter Beats the Devil, and the novels of E. L. Doctrow, James Dalessandro weaves unforgettable characters and actual events into a compelling epic.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND | KOBO

Praise

“…an imaginative and dense interplay between fact and fiction …of corruption, crime lords and the great San Francisco earthquake...” -Publisher’s Weekly

“Imagine ‘Gone with the Wind’ set against the backdrop of the great San Francisco Earthquake…it steals your breath away.” -Bookideas.com 

“A Bold, Sweeping Novel…Richly Textured…Extraordinary.” -Vincent Bugliosi (author ‘Helter Skelter’) 

“loaded with admirable historical detail and raptor civic corruption as murderous as the San Andreas Fault.” -Oakley Hall (author, the Ambrose Bierce mysteries)
“…will keep you at the edge of your seat.” -The New York Sun 

“..action packed…exciting and vivid.” -Kirkus “A riveting account of corruption, greed and murder…” -Dallas Morning News

03_Author James Dallesandro

About the Author

James Dalessandro was born in Cleveland Ohio, and educated at Ohio University and UCLA film school. In 1973 he founded the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Ken Kesey, the nation’s largest literary event. He has written for Playboy, the Examiner newspapers, San Francisco magazine. He was writer of the House of Blues Radio Hour and created the nationally syndicated program “Rock On” with Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. He has published four books: Canary in a Coal Mine (poetry); Bohemian Heart (noir detective fiction); Citizen Jane (True Crime); and 1906: A Novel (Historical Fiction). He is award winning writer/director/producer of the documentary film THE DAMNEDEST, FINEST RUINS (PBS/KQED), and writer/producer of the Hallmark Movie “Citizen Jane,” based on his book. He is screenwriter of “1906” the upcoming Pixar/Warner Brothers live action film based on his novel of the same name. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Katie and best pal Giacomo Poochini.


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 11
Blog Tour Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, April 13
Spotlight at A Holland Reads
Tuesday, May 3
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, May 4
Spotlight at Broken Teepee
Friday, May 6
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court
Saturday, May 7
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Monday, May 9
Review at Book Nerd
Tuesday, May 11
Spotlight at The True Book Addict
Thursday, May 12
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Friday, May 13
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, May 16
Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book
Interview at Historical Fiction Addicts
Tuesday, May 17
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Wednesday, May 18
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, May 20
Review & Excerpt at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, May 23
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

04_1906_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Reading Life (43) - Akhenaten, #BoutofBooks and more #ReadNobels


My thoughts on Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth by Naguib Mahfouz
This is the story of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten, related to a young man by each person who was close to, or who served, the pharaoh. I couldn't help but be reminded of the current state of American politics. Everyone tells a different story. Every single person had a differing opinion on Akhenaten. So, who do you believe? The one consistent thread among all was that he had a strange appearance and that his faith in the One God was unwavering.


I would really like to read other books by Mahfouz, as I'm thinking this probably isn't his best. I mean, it was interesting enough, but the many points of view relating the story made character development difficult...and I'm a big fan of character development. I'm not saying I disliked the book immensely, but I have read other historical novels about various ancient Egyptian royalty and found them much more interesting.

That being said, historical fiction always leaves me wishing I could travel back and find out the real story. A fly on the wall, so to speak. As Akhenaten's life is somewhat of a mystery compared to other pharaohs (due to his name, etc. being obliterated because he was judged a heretic), I especially wish I could learn the truth about him.


Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. An Egyptian writer, he published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian and foreign films. (Goodreads)

Other books by the author:
Children of the Alley
The Cairo Trilogy: 
Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street 
Midaq Alley
The Day the Leader was Killed

I read this selection by Nobel Prize winner Mahfouz for the Read the Nobels perpetual challenge, the 2016 Read the Nobels challenge and the Where in the world will your Nobel take you? April challenge, hosted by Aloi at Guiltless Reading.

Bout of Books

What I'm reading this week:
  • For TuesBookTalk, the required section for this week's reading of The Great Mortality by John Kelly
  • Get caught up with the reading section for this week's Roots read-along check in on Friday (I'm WAY behind!)
  • Blood Sacrifices by Brian Moreland
  • I'm going to listen to some audio books about writing too: Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine and Put Your Heart On The Page: An Introduction to Writing by Anne Perry

I just announced this special event, the Sci-Fi Summer Read-a-Thon, last week! I'm so excited. I need to read more Sci-Fi. This will probably be a yearly event, in between my four regular read-a-thons, like the Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon in November. I hope you will think about joining us. Sign up here!

*******



Design for Dying by Renee Patrick


The Poldark series 1-3 by Winston Graham:

Ross Poldark
Demelza
Jeremy Poldark


Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell
Affinity by Sarah Waters


What's going on in your Reading Life?

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Martha Conway's Sugarland - Excerpt and {Giveaway}


SUGARLANDA Jazz Age Mystery
By Martha Conway

Chapter One (excerpt)

Hoxie, Illinois, 1921
At two in the morning the trains were stopped for the night, and the old wooden depot, manned only during the day now that the Great War had ended, was deserted.

Eve could see her breath in the cold January air as Gavin Johnson helped her up the last step of the empty train car. Then he jumped up himself. He moved closer and she smelled whiskey and something musky he’d splashed on his face. He pressed her against the rail and began to kiss her with lips cold at first but getting warmer. That was all right.

She turned her head and kissed him back, a feeling of steam moving up through her body. The night was so still it was like a creature holding its breath. She pulled away for a moment. “How’d you get a key to the train car?”

Gavin just laughed. “Let me put out the light.” He opened his lantern’s tiny glass door to blow out the flame, and in the darkness Eve followed him into the empty car.

Her blood was still warm from the corn whiskey she had drunk with the boys after the show, and she felt a little lightheaded. Here she was with a handsome man late at night, alone, her heart beating hard. Before her the rows of worn velvet seats were like people turning their backs. For some reason this excited her more.

“Nice at night, dontcha think?” Gavin asked, taking her hand. With his other hand he touched the soft fold of her dress at the collar. Then he began to unbutton her coat. They were in the Entertainers’ car, the special train car they all traveled by and even slept in if there weren’t any colored hotels in town. Jimmy Blakeley and His Stoptime Syncopaters, they were called, with Gavin Johnson on tenor sax and Eve Riser on piano. Everyone in the band was young and excited, and Eve felt young and excited just being around them. But sometimes it got lonely going from place to place without resting.

From the window Eve could see the empty depot house. Gavin touched the side of her face and she closed her eyes.

Oh she should know better all right. But she was feeling so good, she had played so well that night, really found her way into the music. Also that afternoon she had started a new song—“Sea Change,” she would call it. The first four bars were a gift, just appearing in her mind as she walked back to the hotel from the drugstore, and they still looked good even after she’d written them down.

It was hardly warmer inside the train than out and she pressed against him too now, wanting to feel every inch. Gavin spread his overcoat on the floor and Eve let him guide her down onto the aisle, a hard space meant for feet. After a while his kisses became firmer and deeper like now they had really started, they were really going somewhere now.

She felt his hands behind her neck, fumbling with the buttons of her new dress.

“Gavin,” Eve said.

“Shh, angel girl. I got us all covered.”

She let him undo the buttons. She’d been on the circuit six months now. Six months of playing different pianos all in need of tuning, of fending for herself, of shooing off managers who said come on back to my office and I’ll show you something I know you’ll like. Some of the boys in the band called Eve beautiful but she didn’t know about that. What she cared most about was her music. The horn players liked to start off with notes so strong and high you thought there was nowhere else to go, challenging Eve to follow. She always did. She thought of them as brothers, the teasing variety. But then Gavin came in halfway through their tour, a fine-looking man with deep brown eyes and a complexion her grandmother would call Georgia brown. At first Eve thought he was just another alligator with his little straw boater and his silk tie and his fine boutonniere pin from one of his daddy’s social clubs, but it turned out he was there to play second sax. He called her angel girl and brought her coffee in the mornings. She was tired of being lonely. She liked his sloping smile.

Gavin got her last button unbuttoned. His eyes dark liquid drops in dark hollows. He pulled her dress down to her shoulders and kissed her collarbone again.

“Beautiful,” he said.

“I should say,” said a deep voice behind them.

# # #

About the book
A New Mystery by Edgar-Nominated Author Martha Conway

In 1921, young jazz pianist Eve Riser witnesses the accidental killing of a bootlegger. To cover up the crime, she agrees to deliver money and a letter to a man named Rudy Hardy in Chicago. But when Eve gets to Chicago she discovers that her stepsister Chickie, a popular nightclub singer, is pregnant by a man she won’t name. That night Rudy Hardy is killed before Eve’s eyes in a brutal drive-by shooting, and Chickie disappears.

Eve needs to find Chickie, but she can’t do it alone. Lena Hardy, Rudy’s sister, wants to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder, but she needs Eve’s connections. Together they navigate the back alleys and speakeasies of 1920s Chicago, encountering petty thugs, charismatic bandleaders, and a mysterious nightclub owner called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all. As they fight racial barriers trying to discover the truth, Eve and Lena unravel a twisted tale of secret shipments and gangster rivalry.

SUGARLAND mixes the excitement of a new kind of music—jazz—with the darker side of Prohibition in a gripping story with “real suspense for anyone who likes a good mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Find SUGARLAND on Amazon and Goodreads!



About the author 
Martha Conway is the author of Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery [Noontime Books], available via Amazon as of May 12, 2016. Conway’s first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her second novel, Thieving Forest, won the 2014 North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly Review, The Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Folio, and other journals. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension, and is a recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Connect with Martha on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her website: www.marthaconway.com

GIVEAWAY: Open to U.S./Canada entrants only. To enter, please leave a comment telling me your favorite historical mystery, or one (besides this one) you've been wanting to read. Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact the winner. Giveaway will end on Monday, May 23rd at 11:59 pm CT. Good luck!


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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bout of Books 16 #boutofbooks

Bout of Books

I always sign up and plan to participate...and then something always come up. Hopefully, this time will be better. All I can do is try and I do have a ton of great books on my reading plate this month.

Here's the official scoop:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Are you participating? Feel free to share your progress/what you're reading in the Seasons of Reading group on Facebook. 

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cat Thursday - Cats in Art (19) #MothersDay


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Wishing those of you who are mothers of humans, cats...or both, a very Happy Mother's Day! Today's art is in honor of "our" day. Enjoy!

Blaas, Eugen von. A helping hand. 1884 Oil on panel. 
Domestic scene of women, children and cats

Art - Poster - Art Nouveau - Advertisement - 
Campaigne Chocolate et The

Children Teaching the Cat to Read - Jan Steen 1663 - 
held by Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland.

Portrait-Painting-Children Playing with a Cat

Portrait-Painting-Mother-and-child-with-cat-weenix

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Guest Post by Maria Lynch, author of Beneath the African Sun



Writing Historical Fiction

For me writing historical fiction facilitated the creation of a migrant’s story that covered historical events and facts of an era gone by. Research provided a voluminous amount of information to sift through and then there were the interviews and recollections of the people who lived through the era I was writing about. I was faced with a curious imagination of how to shape the different characters within that time frame. A series of back stories were created to sort through the data that allowed me to decide what would be obvious to the readers.

I was energized by the stack of information that I reviewed with care and thoroughness. Some of the back stories were clearly evident in the story while others remained invisible to the readers as I let my story develop from a street-level viewpoint of the protagonist who was a tradesman. The interactions through dialogue illustrated the authenticity of the era and the setting of the story as did the physical movement of the characters from one place to another. It was a gradual introduction of modes of transportation as they progressed in that era. The historical facts and events had a direct impact on the lives of the characters. It gave rise to conflict and angry disagreements that portrayed a lack of a sense of belonging to a troubled yet beloved country. But there was happiness, marriage, love, success and tragedy. I constructed the twists and turns within the story. I described the acceptance of the status quo by the characters and the effect of the unfolding history on the lives of ordinary people. There was political turmoil stemming from the decisions made by political leaders who did not appear to be cognizant of how their decisions adversely affected the people.

It was a challenge to sort through the interviews and recollections as it appeared that the same incident or event was recounted differently. Hence I chose the information that would suit the characters for the story I created keeping intact the historical framework. I became inquisitive when the social justice issues surfaced along with the impact of a close-knit community. I incorporated these nuances that caused frustration and deep disappointment within the story.

Writing historical fiction was an inspiring experience. I created a story with a historical backdrop that embodied pertinent issues that inform the readers who may not be aware of that time in history in a faraway land.

About the book
Title: Beneath the African Sun
Author: Maria Lynch
Publisher: Friesen Press
Pages: 282
Genre: Historical Fiction

When Sabby Mendes leaves Portuguese Goa aboard the dhow Monsoon Wind bound for British East Africa in 1916, he has one dream—to find work as a tailor in the relatively new capital of Nairobi. Sabby is a young man, still a teenager, but he is determined to build a life for himself, and he knows that the opportunities in the British Protectorate are better than those facing him at home.

A bright, affable young man with a genuine passion and talent for tailoring, he is not prepared for what he is about to find beyond the Arabian Sea. The Protectorate, which will become British Colony of Kenya, is a highly segregated society with the British firmly ensconced at its top; below them are the “Asians” like Sabby; and at the very bottom are the native African population who are regarded as little more than savages in need of civilization.

Beneath the African Sun offers, through the eyes of its protagonist, a street-level view of the changing social and political climate of Kenya between 1916 and 1970, including the ‘Mau Mau’ Uprising of the native Kikuyu, the eventual independence of Kenya in 1963, and the political fallout that followed.

More than a history, it is a story about family, home, social justice, and what it means to truly belong somewhere. 

For More Information 
Beneath the African Sun is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:
We walked out of the snack shack into the night.

Menino gazed into the sky as we started down the dusty mud pathway that led from the snack shack.

“Sabby, I remember overhearing some of the older folk at your place when we were there for Sunday lunch—who is leaving and who is coming back. Are we too young to leave home? What do you think, Anton?”

“I don’t know, Menino. I’m not sure. I don’t even know what I want to do with my life. How can I even think about going to Africa? What would I do there? Sabby is learning to become a tailor. I suppose he can find work as a tailor.”

We didn’t say much to each other in the darkness of the night. We went our separate paths home.

That night I had dreams of being on a ship bound for Africa. They were beautiful dreams of a very different life. But there were also dreams of things going wrong and getting mixed up with different kinds of people who were strangers to me. The morning brought me back to being in Goa.

When I wasn’t at the shop, the days and nights passed as they usually did. I continued improving my tailoring skills with Mr. Fernandes, and he liked my work and offered praise. By April, I was taking measurements for customers, chalking out the cloth according to the measurements and then cutting the cloth. This was very interesting, and though, at first, I made a few mistakes, with practice I became good at it.

The Monsoon season, in June, brought heavy rain almost all day and all night. It was very hot. But we lived through our routines. Back at the shop and with Mr. Fernandes watching over me, I was now able to make a suit. I was very happy and proud of myself. Mai and Pai were very glad that I was doing well in tailoring. When a customer came in asking for me to do a suit for him, Mr. Fernandes told me that this was a sign that I was becoming a good tailor.

One day in September, with only few more months of apprenticeship remaining, I spoke with Mr. Fernandes about going to Africa. It was after closing time. We were alone in the shop. We sat down, and he told me that he knew of people who had gone there. Some had liked it and stayed, but others found it difficult to adjust and returned to Goa.

“Here,” he said, “we are all the same people, but in Africa there are the Africans, as well as the European and Indian settlers. You will have to learn to live and work with these different kinds of people and customs.”

I listened to everything he knew about living outside Goa. He said it was more important to take the advice from my parents, for it would be a big adjustment for them. He cautiously told me that we sometimes hear talk from people who come back and this is turned into stories; but you cannot know if those stories are true or not. It was difficult to say how any one person would adjust to living in Africa. I thanked him for his advice and walked out of Margao and onto the pathway to home, thinking it was time to talk to Mai and Pai to help me make a decision.

Regularly I had been meeting up with Anton and Menino at the snack shack for our Saturday evening discussions and sometimes arguments. On some of these nights, we would go dancing at the local dance hall. We cheered on our local teenagers who would stand in front of the crowd to sing. And when Menino did his song and dance number, we would shout as loud as possible. It was always fun on these Saturday nights. The next day, we drowsily saw each other in the church pews of St. John the Baptist Church in Pedda and tried to properly participate in the Sunday Mass.

After Mass, Mai was into her routine of preparing a big Sunday lunch. Some friends, relatives or neighbours would drop by to eat, drink, talk and sing. Sometimes, I brought Menino and Anton to our Sunday lunches. We joined in the conversation, while at other times we only listened to the stories. The best part was when we would sing and dance. This was enjoyable. I knew that if or when I did leave Goa, I would miss those Sundays. I would be with different people, and who knew what kinds of activities I would do. I knew that I would miss Mai and Pai and, of course, my brother, Miguel. He was younger than I and still at school.

On Sunday afternoons my friends and I would go to our favourite Benaulim beach. On one of these beach afternoons, Menino talked about working on a ship again, while Anton talked about doing carpentry at a shop in Margao. Sometimes I met up with Anton on the pathway on our daily walk to Margao. That day, however, we were sitting on the sand, looking out onto the Arabian Sea.

“My uncle from Bombay will be visiting us soon,” said Menino, his eyes on the horizon. “I am going to find out about working on a ship. He may be able to tell me how I can do that. There’s no one here who would know this information. What do you think?”

I couldn’t imagine being at sea for long periods of time.

“Menino, you are serious about working on the ship. I think it will be very different. You’ll be on the ship most of the time, and then on your days off you’ll come home. You will be between the ship and home. I wonder what that will be like.”

“Yes Sabby, it’ll be different all right. I have to find out more. My parents tell me that they have heard of young fellows working on the ship as stewards. I think I would like to do that. I will have to be trained. You know as I say it out loud, it feels exciting and terrifying at the same time. I’ll be on the ship day and night.” Menino sounded worried and looked to the sea in hopes of an answer.

Anton too was looking off into the distance and not saying anything. I wondered if he still liked doing carpentry work.

“Anton, why so quiet?” I shoved him on the sand. “Do you think Menino will make it on the ship? And what does a steward do anyway?”

“I don’t know. If that is what he wants to do, he can always try it out. Who knows what is good and what is not until you try it out. I am still not sure that I like carpentry. I do not know if this is the kind of work that I would become good at, and I’m not sure if this is what I want to do every day of my life. It’s very confusing for me. But now I’m listening to Menino talking about leaving Goa and doing work elsewhere. I have to think more seriously about carpentry,” Anton said, making circles in the sand with his fingers.

“Anton, the more carpentry you do, the better you will become at it,” I said. “As for leaving Goa, I’m considering it. I often wonder what it is like to live on the other side of the world. The more I think about it, the more I want to explore other places. It’ll be different with other kinds of people. I’ve been talking to my parents about leaving Goa. They seem to think that I would be better off in another place rather than here. They talk about Pedro being in British East Africa. He’s from our village. My parents know the family. He misses Goa very much, but he likes it there and will stay there for a while. He likes the work he is doing for the railway company in Mombasa. I think he is a mechanic.”

I looked down and realized that I had been drawing dress designs in the sand.

We continued our discussion about leaving Goa. We exchanged bits of stories we heard from other people who talked about living in Africa and what it was like there. These people received letters from Beira, Nairobi and Mombasa. It seemed to be a big adjustment from life in Goa. This was gossip from the villagers. It seemed risky to go some place faraway to live and work.

At home, the dinnertime discussions were quite different. Mai and Pai wanted Miguel and I to go to Africa for a better life, but they knew that once we were there they might never see us again unless we came back on holidays. But that would only happen once we had jobs and were able to save enough money to make the journey back to visit them. It could be as long as two or three years before they saw us again. It was distressing Mai very much, but Pai seemed confident about us going to Africa. Then the big question was around the choice between British East Africa and Portuguese Mozambique—which like Goa, was under Portuguese rule. These discussions came from the rumours and gossip in the village. We heard there were more jobs in British East Africa than in Portuguese Mozambique. But I wanted to do tailoring and, therefore, would it make a difference where I went? Would there be the same amount of tailoring work in both countries?

Then there were other considerations that my parents talked about constantly. The British had been in India since the sixteenth century and were still ruling the rest of India—except our Goa since the Portuguese would not give it up—would I adjust more easily under Portuguese rule or would it be difficult either way because both these places were in Africa? There was too much to sort out in my mind before I made my decision to leave Goa. In the meantime, I knew I had to continue working on my tailoring skills.


About the author
Maria was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. After graduating from Dr. Ribeiro Goan School and with secretarial skills and her experience as a School Secretary she arrived in London, England in 1967 in the midst of “hippie world.” She studied at Pitman’s College for a Commercial Teacher’s Diploma which she successfully achieved in 1969. Due to the tenuous political situation in Kenya she had to find a new home. In the autumn of 1970 she emigrated to Canada in search of a home to put down her new roots. This she did with her husband, Tim who immigrated to Canada from South Wales, UK.

To Maria and Tim, Canada became a land of opportunity and new beginnings. In pursuit of these opportunities, they lived in Hamilton, Montreal, and Toronto. Tim pursued post graduate studies at the University of Toronto while Maria achieved a B.A. in Economics from York University followed by a B.Ed. from the University of Toronto. During this time, she and Tim nurtured their two sons. When they reached school age, Maria taught Business Studies’ courses at high schools in the City of Toronto for fourteen years. In 1999 she achieved an M.A. (Leadership and Training) from Royal Roads University, British Columbia.

Maria is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction books. The latter enables her to delve into her favorite topics of social justice issues, community development and philosophy. In 2009 she began blogging, visit www.dovemuse.ca. This deepened her interest in writing novels and is author of Beneath the African Sun; for details visit www.authormarialynch.com. She also enjoys nature trail walking and traveling.

For More Information
Visit Maria Lynch’s website.
Connect with Maria on Facebook and Twitter.
Find out more about Maria at Goodreads.



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