Banned Books Week - September 24 - 30

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cat Thursday - Cats do/say the funniest things


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! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Some randomly funny lolz this week. Hope you like them! Oh, and happy belated Memorial Day! Hope your weekend was safe and happy. :)



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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rebecca Hazell's Solomon's Bride - Guest Post



MEDIEVAL LOVE, LUST AND MARRIAGE

If you’re a woman reading this, do you see yourself as savvy, independent, and self-reliant? That’s the modern image of womanhood, but not so long ago the image of the ideal woman centered around home and hearth, not on independence of any sort. Even where women could vote (in one country, not until 1984!), they were expected to cast their ballots as their husbands dictated.

So, what were women’s lives like, or supposed to be like, before our recent image of womanhood arose? Not so different from a woman’s life in the thirteenth century: rich or poor, she was supposed to get married, keep house, and produce children. Daughters of peasants and burghers probably had a little more freedom of choice than the ruling classes when it came to marriage, but the royalty and nobility regarded women as useful for sealing alliances; marry a daughter to an enemy’s son and get a new ally and a chance at more land, wealth, and power.

That last practice thankfully is no more, but my heroine, Princess Sofia Volodymyrovna of medieval Kyiv (Kiev) would have been married off by her father the minute he found a suitable political ally. And she might have been betrothed or even married by the age of eight! Love was not part of the equation, nor was lust. And to complicate things more, by the thirteenth century, in Western Europe a major shift in thinking had occurred. In the twelfth century, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine had sponsored romantic poetry and song celebrating an ambiguous kind of passion outside of marriage, perhaps physical and perhaps spiritual. Her influence was enormous, especially in upper echelons of society. But the Church had stamped out that kind of thinking, and women were now regarded with deep suspicion. They were the Daughters of Eve, full of lust and guile, and their only saving grace was that the Virgin Mary had been a woman: therefore they couldn’t be all bad!

Of course lust was fine for men, especially noblemen, who regarded lower class women as free game and rape as inconsequential. But even in marriage, you really weren’t supposed to have fun; you were supposed to procreate.

Just in passing: there was another option for the wealthy noblewoman. She might decide she didn’t want to marry or to be forced to remarry if she was widowed. She could take refuge in a convent where she could live quietly, embroider altar cloths, keep a pet lapdog, walk in the gardens, and of course attend Mass as often as she liked. Often she didn’t even have to become a nun.

Nonetheless, people did fall in love either before or after they married, and many couples were devoted to each other all their lives. And marriage ceremonies reflected that ideal. Sofia, who must endure hardship and challenge and a singular lack of luck in the love department, witnesses several marriages in the course of her adventures, from Mongol to Persian to Frankish.

As a woman of her time, she yearns to find a mate she could love, with whom she could experience passion as well as spiritual intimacy, so it is an especially poignant experience for her. Do her romantic, perhaps naïve dreams come true? To find out, you must read my trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove. The first two novels, The Grip of God and Solomon’s Bride have both been released, and the concluding novel, Consolamentum, is on its way. And there’s plenty of love, lust, and yes, marriage in all three.

About the book
Solomon's Bride is the dramatic sequel to The Grip of God. Sofia, the heroine, a former princess from Kievan Rus' was enslaved by a Mongol nobleman and then taken as a concubine by the leader of the Mongol invasions, Batu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. Now, having fled the Mongols with a price on her head, Sofia escapes into Persia and what she believes will be safety, only to fall into the clutches of the Assassins, who seek to disrupt the Mongol empire. In a world at war, both outer and inner, the second phase of her adventures unfolds. Can she ever find safe haven, much less the lost love and family that was almost destroyed by the Mongols?

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The third book in the trilogy, Consolamentum, will be released soon.


About the author
Rebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca:

Website | Goodreads | Facebook


Visit the Official Tour Schedule

Watch for my review...coming later in June!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PUYB: Francesca Pelaccia's The Witch's Salvation - Guest Post


Characterization through Names in The Witch’s Salvation

A name for a fictional character isn’t just a name. It’s a personality, a history, and sometimes a future. Here’s the rundown and the rationale for the names of the major characters in The Witch’s Salvation.

My heroine Anasztasia is a Hungarian name meaning resurrection. The actual spelling is Anasztázia but the second “z” made the name too severe- looking. Also, the accent was irrelevant for English speakers. The name alludes to Anastasia of the House of Romanov, the last imperial dynasty to rule Russia. It was regal-sounding but more importantly could be shortened to “Annie” an everyday and endearing Anglo name. In The Witch’s Salvation, Anasztasia always tries to do the right thing. She is a kind-hearted urban princess, who is uncomfortable with her royal status and heritage. But she comes into her own, experiencing a “resurrection” on several levels. The name was perfect for her.

Matthias is the Anglicized form of the Hungarian Mátyás. Matthias is a borderline genius, wildlife advocate, and sports enthusiast, who rejects his nobility and his stuffy royal family. I named him after Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary from 1448 to 1490 and a military commander, who introduced the Renaissance to his kingdom.

Matthias’s middle name is Stefan, which in Romanian means “crown.” At the beginning of the novel, Matthias doesn’t suit the integrity and significance of his names. However, by the end of the novel, Matthias grows into their nobility.

The secondary characters in The Witch’s Salvation were given names either for their root meanings or historical significance. Anasztasia’s grandfather is Constantin, which in Romanian means steadfast. Constantin is the prince of the House of Senesti and an unmovable force of tradition. Matthias’s grandfather is Alexandru, the prince of the House of Barbat. In Romanian, his name means defender of mankind. The name “Alexandru” is as formidable-sounding and looking as the name “Constantin”. These two princes were rivals in history for the Wallachian throne, but they are mirror images of honor, pride and nobility.

Strigoaică is a female witch in Romanian folklore. I changed the name to “Strigoaic” and applied it as a generic name to a girl who has lost her real name and yearns to reclaim it along with her humanity. Hence, the witch’s salvation and the title of the novel.

Andrei is a major character in the historical section of the novel. In Romanian, the name means “warrior” and that is exactly what he is. Friar Gavril also appears in the historical section. Gavril means “man of God”. The reference to Gabriel the Archangel is intentional. Renata is a Gypsy but I gave her a Hungarian name that means reborn. Renata has been raised away from her clan. She is also almost killed when my hero and heroine show up and save her, giving her another chance at life.

A name for a fictional character is part of his or her personality and role in the novel. I find that once I have assigned the right name to a character, I can think and write from his or her point of view and to stay in character. Sometimes, it works in reverse. I can only assign a name to a character once I know his or her background information.


About the author
The Witch's Salvation is Francesca Pelaccia’s debut novel and the first book of The Witch's Trilogy. A teacher and now at long last an author, Francesca has written in other genres but enjoys creating and writing time-travel fantasies. Francesca blogs on the craft of writing especially as it relates to genre and reviews books. Currently she is working on the second book of The Witch’s Trilogy entitled The Witch’s Monastery. Visit Francesca at www.francescapelaccia.com.

Connect & Socialize!
TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS


About the book
A witch who demands humanity.

The immortal families who denied her of it.

Two mortals commanded to right the wrong.

That is the fate of the urban princess Anasztasia and the renegade prince Matthias, born shockingly mortal to two immortal families. If they go back in time and restore the witch’s humanity, she will grant them immortality. She will also break a 550 year-old curse that imprisons Matthias’s family in their ancestral homeland and exiles Anasztasia’s family from it.

But to make their lives their own, the heirs must return to the most dangerous day in their families’ past, Easter Sunday, 1457. This is the day Vlad III, aka Dracula, massacred nobles.

How can Anasztasia and Matthias reverse the past when their families won’t speak of their sins? How can they refuse when the witch owns their lives?


Purchase your copy: 
AMAZON

 
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE  


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Friday, May 23, 2014

HFVBT: Stepanie Thornton's Daughter of the Gods - Review and {Giveaway}


My thoughts

My fascination with ancient Egypt began when I was eleven years old. While browsing at the library one day, I came across some books on the discovery of and what was found in King Tut's tomb. I was hooked. My obsession continued into my high school years when I wrote my tenth grade term paper on ancient Egyptian burial customs (on which I received an A, I might add). However, despite my great interest in the culture and time period, I have not read many fiction books set in Ancient Egypt. I have read River God by Wilbur Smith, which I really enjoyed and, of course, my beloved Anne Rice set the origins of her vampires in ancient Egypt, but my repertoire of ancient Egyptian historical fiction reads is severely lacking. And now, along comes this fantastic novel of Ancient Egypt, Daughter of the Gods, about the life of Hatshepsut, an historical figure I greatly admire. 

As she did with her first novel, The Secret History, Thornton has once again created a heroine to root for. Although completely different from The Secret History's Theodora and her origins, Hatshepsut is still an endearing and inspiring character. In a time when the Great Royal Wife of the pharaoh is destined to live out her days in the Hall of Women, Hatshepsut seizes the opportunity to rule when misfortune befalls her pharaoh husband. She brought success and great temples to Egypt and yet her reign was obliterated from history. I guess the dominant male culture of ancient Egypt didn't want it to be known that it was once ruled by a great and powerful female pharaoh. 

Thornton is an historical fiction author that really engages a person who is truly interested in history. As much as I know and have read on ancient Egypt, I did not know that the women were bare breasted even when dressed. Very interesting. As I was reading Daughter of the Gods, I kept thinking to myself, "I really must read more in depth about ancient Egyptian culture." And so, this leads me to state something that I have said many times before. Great historical fiction leads us to history. It leads us to learn more, above and beyond, what's in the book we're reading. This is an accomplishment that any author should keep in their back pocket.

If you have not read Stephanie Thornton yet, I urge you to do so...sooner rather than later. She is a new and exciting voice to the historical fiction genre. I can't wait for her next one, which just happens to be The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, coming this November.

About the book
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
NAL Trade
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt…and sets her on a profoundly changed course.

Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Isis Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.

Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall….

Once again, Stephanie Thornton brings to life a remarkable woman from the distant past whose willingness to defy tradition changed the course of history.

Praise for Daughter of the Gods

“Daughter of the Gods is a wonderfully intimate and dramatic evocation of Ancient Egypt, where one headstrong young woman dares to become pharaoh. Stephanie Thornton vividly portrays the heat and the danger, the passion and the heartbreak of Hatshepsut’s struggle, as she defies even the gods to ensure success on the throne of Egypt. A touching love story combines with a thrilling tale of death, courage and political intrigue to produce a superbly researched and powerfully written novel. This is the kind of book that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. A remarkable story, remarkably told.” -Kate Furnivall, author of Shadows on the Nile

“Stephanie Thornton’s heroines are bold, brave, and powerful–they make me want to stand up and cheer!” -Kate Quinn, author of Lady of the Eternal City

“Daughter of the Gods is a full-out, total immersion experience of ancient Egypt. From her moving love affair with a commoner to her fierce and unwavering commitment to Egypt as a female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut crackles with fascinating complexity. Her ka must be grinning with pleasure at this richly textured account of her life, one that is worthy of the great queen herself. “ -Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of Cleopatra’s Moon “An epic saga that brings ancient Egypt to life with vivid imagery and lovely prose. Stephanie Thornton is a rising star!” -Stephanie Dray, author of Lily of the Nile



About the author
Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” is available from NAL/Penguin, and “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” will hit the shelves May 2014 and “The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan” will follow in Fall 2014.

For more information, please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #DaughteroftheGodsTour #StephanieThornton #Hatshepsut #VirtualBookTour

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton! (Open to U.S./Canada)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cat Thursday - A Grab Bag of Cat Funnies


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! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Once again, I'm running late on visiting your posts from last week. I will have to do a double whammy when I stop by this week. I don't know if I'm coming or going these days. Alice and Arya can testify because I keep forgetting the cat treats. ;) 

Happy Cat Thursday! 




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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Vicky Alvear Shecter's Curses and Smoke - Book Blast and {Giveaway}

Curses and SmokePublication Date: May 27, 2014 Arthur A. Levine Books Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Genre: YA Historical
When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto?
TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But his warrior's heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom.
LUCIA is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she's been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air...
When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them -- to Lucia's father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?

Buy the Book


Vicky Alvear ShecterAbout the Author

Vicky Alvear Shecter is the author of the young adult novel, CLEOPATRA'S MOON (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra's only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta.

Author Links


Book Blast Schedule

Monday, May 12
Bibliophilia, Please
bookworm2bookworm's Blog
Tuesday, May 13
Broken Teepee
Passages to the Past
In the Hammock Blog
Wednesday, May 14
CelticLady's Reviews
The Most Happy Reader
I'd So Rather Be Reading
History From a Woman's Perspective
Thursday, May 15
Kinx's Book Nook
A Bibliotaph's Reviews
Historical Fiction Obsession
Friday, May 16
Booktalk & More
The Mad Reviewer
Book Lovers Paradise
Saturday, May 17
SOS Aloha
Reading the Ages
Kelsey's Book Corner
Sunday, May 18
Giant Squid Books
WTF Are You Reading?
Monday, May 19
Caroline Wilson Writes
So Many Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, May 20
West Metro Mommy
The True Book Addict
The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Wednesday, May 21
Book Nerd
Tower of Babel
Hardcover Feedback
Thursday, May 22
Paperback Princess
Bittersweet Enchantment
Friday, May 23
History Undressed
Historical Fiction Connection
Saturday, May 24
Literary Chanteuse
Just One More Chapter
Sunday, May 25
A Dream within a Dream
The Little Reader Library
Monday, May 26
Pages of Comfort
Griperang's Bookmarks
Raizza's Book Blogging Adventure
Tuesday, May 27
Princess of Eboli
Ageless Pages Reviews
The Musings of a Book Junkie

Giveaway

To win a copy of Curses & Smoke or a $25 Amazon Gift Card please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on May 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on May 28th and notified via email. Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, May 16, 2014

HFVBT: E. Knight's My Lady Viper - Review and {Giveaway}


My thoughts
I've said this before and I'm not the only one. The Tudors are becoming a bit over saturated in books and other mediums. In order for this illustrious historical dynasty to stay fresh, and don't get me wrong here...I love the Tudors, I really do, but as I was saying, in order for them to appeal to us in a fresh way, the stories need to be told in a fresh way. And one way of doing this is to bring to the forefront the background characters. That is exactly what this author has done. By telling the story of Anne Seymour, a background figure of the Tudor world who was actually at the center of the intrigue, she has livened up the Tudors again.

Anne Seymour is an enigmatic character. I mean the title of the book is My Lady Viper and it's a suitable name for her at times, but at other times that name could never describe her. I tend to believe that the times were so precarious, especially during Henry Tudor's reign, that women had to be ruthless in order to not be swallowed whole by the intrigue. Another realization hit me as I was reading this book. Ladies in waiting were actually very powerful. Let me explain. Anne Seymour succeeds in drawing King Henry's attentions away from Anne Boleyn (though his desire was already waning because of her inability to bear him a son) by parading various ladies in front of him. One could say, and it's implied in this book, that she was a major player in the downfall of Anne Boleyn. Anne Seymour was instrumental in bringing Jane Seymour to Henry's attention and we all know how that turned out.

Anne ends up being involved in the intrigue at the Tudor court all the way up to Henry VIII's death. Of course, it makes sense that the Seymour's would remain in good graces with their nephew as the shining prince. However, towards the end, the constant plotting seems to have really taken its toll on Anne. And that's what I meant when I said Anne was enigmatic. She plots and schemes and yet felt real guilt at the downfall of most of the subjects of her diabolical plans. I think that she had an extreme case of loyalty to her husband's family because of something that happened to her earlier on. Trauma can do terrible things to a person's psyche. In the end, I didn't see Anne as a viper. She was just a conflicted person who did what she had to to survive in the times she was living. I have to say that the author has written one of the most interesting characters I've experienced in a historical novel.

My Lady Viper is the first historical novel for this author, who is a prolific writer of historical and erotic romance. I'm very impressed and I highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to the next book in her Tudor Court Tales, Prisoner of the Queen.

About the book
Publication Date: May 2014
Knight Media, LLC
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

May, 1536. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

When Anne Boleyn falls to the executioner’s axe on a cold spring morning, yet another Anne vows she will survive in the snakepit court of Henry VIII. But at what cost?

Lady Anne Seymour knows her family hangs by a thread. If her sister-in-law Jane Seymour cannot give the King a son, she will be executed or set aside, and her family with her. Anne throws herself into the deadly and intoxicating intrigue of the Tudor court, determined at any price to see the new queen’s marriage a success and the Seymour family elevated to supreme power. But Anne’s machinations will earn her a reputation as a viper, and she must decide if her family’s rise is worth the loss of her own soul…

Book Two, Prisoner of the Queen, will be released later in 2014.

Praise for My Lady Viper
“E. Knight breathes new life and new scandal into the Tudors. This is an engrossing historical fiction tale that readers will love!” ~ Meg Wessel, A Bookish Affair

“A brilliant illustration of a capricious monarch and the nest of serpents that surrounded him, My Lady Viper is an absolute must. Intricately detailed, cleverly constructed and utterly irresistible.” ~ Erin, Flashlight Commentary

“Author E. Knight proves that though there are a plethora of Tudor novels out there a writer can still create a fresh and unique view of one of history’s most treacherous courts, that of England’s King Henry VIII. Schemes and scandalous trysts abound in ‘My Lady Viper’, making for a very captivating read. Racy and deliciously sensual, once started I was hard pressed to put the book down. I eagerly await the next installment in E. Knight’s stand-out Tales of the Tudor Courts series!” ~ Amy Bruno, Passages to the Past
About the Author
E. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.

She is avid in social media and readers can find her at:

Website
Facebook
Twitter (@ElizaKnight)
Goodreads


Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #MyLadyViperBlogTour #EKnight #TudorHistFic

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a print or eBook copy - Winner's Choice - of My Lady Viper by E. Knight! (Open Internationally)

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A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review and {Giveaway} of Rebecca Hazell's The Grip of God and Announcing the Solomon's Bride Tour

Today is the official start of Rebecca Hazell's Solomon's Bride Virtual Book Tour, second book in the Tiger and the Dove series. Tracy (Pen and Paper) and I are kicking off the tour with reviews of the first book, The Grip of God. Following my review and information about The Grip of God, you will find the tour information for Solomon's Bride, along with a link to the full tour schedule.


My thoughts on The Grip of God
Historical fiction is a wonderful genre. The reader learns so much about historical times, people, and places that they might not have otherwise learned, especially if the book is well-researched. This book is exactly that. I honestly cannot remember learning of Kievan Rus, even in my many college history classes. In The Grip of God, we are introduced to Sofia, a princess of Kievan Rus. And so the education begins.

The book is set smack dab in the midst of the Mongolian invasion. The Mongols are poised to invade and conquer Kievan Rus and Sofia's father, fearing for her safety, sends her ahead to Constantinople with an army of guards and many peasants in tow. The guards are vigilant in their protection of Sofia, but they prove no match for the mite of the Mongols and their raiding parties. Sofia is captured and taken to a Mongolian ordu where she is made to serve an up and coming Mongolian warrior, Argamon, and become his slave...in more ways than one.

Sofia is very naive and, I must say, uppity in the beginning, but as the book progresses, she grows as a person, both in intelligence and compassion. I really liked Sofia and enjoyed reading of her trials and triumphs, although the latter were few and far between. At the heart of Sofia's transformation is a struggle with her spirituality. Raised as an Orthodox Christian, she finds it difficult to embrace the religious tolerance of the Mongols. Her friendship with Dorje, a translator and Buddhist monk, helps her to somewhat reconcile her conflict. Dorje's words of wisdom and conversations with Sofia really guided her transformation. Sofia also becomes close with Q'ing-ling, Argamon's mother, and receives spiritual guidance from her as well. Below are two passages, the first from Sofia that evidences her spiritual conflict and the second from Q'ing-ling which shows her guidance and compassion.

"The heart must find ways to shield itself, if it is not to turn to rock or be crushed by the woes of this world, but I did not know that yet, and mine found none. I was crushed in another way, by shame that my petty dramas and the pleasures of the flesh had chased away the grief I should be feeling. I must be damned!" (Sofia)

"As to your fear of damnation, I leave it to someone more learned than I am to decide about reward and punishment. But this I know for certain: we cannot act in hope for heaven or fear of hell. Some people choose to live in love and some do not, and some who call themselves Christian do not choose to love." (Q'ing-ling)

The Grip of God is a masterful historical novel. The author has created characters who are real and who invite us to live along with them. The story is engaging, touching and exciting, backed up by rich historical detail. Sofia's story carries on and I'm can't wait to join her again in Solomon's Bride.

About the book
The Grip of God is the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove. Set in the thirteenth century, its heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. She begins her story by recounting her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol armies that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is threatened by the bitter rivalries in her new master's powerful family, and shadowed by the leader of the Mongol invasion, Batu Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson. How will she learn to survive in a world of total war, much less rediscover the love she once took for granted? Always seeking to escape and menaced by outer enemies and inner turmoil, where can she find safe haven even if she can break free? Clear eyed and intelligent, Sofia could be a character from The Game of Thrones, but she refuses to believe that life is solely about the strong dominating the weak or about taking endless revenge. Her story is based on actual historical events, which haunt her destiny. Like an intelligent Forrest Gump, she reflects her times. But as she matures, she learns to reflect on them as well, and to transcend their fetters. In doing so, she recreates a lost era for us, her readers.

Praise for the trilogy
“How deftly and compellingly Hazell takes the reader with her into that mysterious and exotic world, and makes it all seem so very close to hand!” – Peter Conradi, Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature and author of Iris Murdoch: A Life, and of A Very English Hero.

"I enjoyed watching her morph from a spoiled sheltered princess with slaves of her own, into a tough, savvy survivor, with a new awareness of social injustice. The book is action packed. I couldn't put it down." -- from a review on Amazon.com.

"I got completely caught up in the characters and story and always looked forward to getting back to them. What a fully fleshed and fascinating world you developed and it was wondrous to learn so much about that time and the Mongol culture. Your gifts come out in your lush descriptions of place and objects. All very vivid and colorful." --author Dede Crane Gaston

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The second book, Solomon's Bride, is out now and the third in the trilogy, Consolamentum, will be released soon.

Excerpt
December? Anno Domini 1239

An evil dream: weird whistling demons were chasing me. I woke into darkness. It took several moments to realize that the whistling was real. A harsh medley of thuds, cries, groans, shouts, clashing metal, and screams of fear and pain brought me fully awake. Our horses, tethered on the far side of the clearing, were whinnying and jostling each other. The dead stranger’s terrible smell was back.
               
“Kateryna?” I called softly. There was no answer. I crawled out of my furs to waken her. She was gone. Thinking to crawl to my tent flap, I threw my cloak over my shoulders and shakily drew my eating knife from its sheath, but another unearthly shriek threw me flat as something tore through the tent. When I dared to look up, small holes on either wall gleamed like little gray stars. I inched forward to lift the bottom of the flap a little, but at first all I could see was a boot sole. I lifted the flap a little higher.
               
A corpse lay on its back, open eyes glittering in the moonlight, knees bent and boots before my face, its beard obscuring its features. A stick jutted out of its throat—no, an arrow. I dropped the tent flap back down, gulped air, stared at those holes. Where was Oleg? He shouldn’t leave me alone—Good God, this must be a bandit attack and he must be with his warriors fighting it off! But then Kateryna should not be out there. More shouts, screams cut short. Why didn’t Alexander come for me? Should I go or stay?
               
It suddenly grew quiet. Oleg’s warriors must be chasing the attackers from our camp. Nonetheless, I hesitated for an eternity, afraid to pass that corpse in case its angry ghost fastened on me. I began to feel both foolish and cowardly. By now Alexander should have come to make sure I was safe—
               
Dear God, had something happened to him? I awkwardly pulled on my boots, fastened my cloak, and slowly drew aside the tent flap.
               
At first the light from the half-moon transformed the meadow into glowing silver and deep black shapes, lending an eerie beauty to the camp. But then I truly saw. It was as if a tempest had struck: bodies scattered everywhere with arrows thrusting up from most of them, tents askew, goods spilled. Strange men with torches were moving among the fallen, bending over each in turn. A terrible stench struck my nose, a mixture of that dead man’s bad smell, loosed bowels, sweat, and blood. I looked down at the corpse.
               
It was Oleg.
               
Just beyond him lay Kateryna, her arms flung out, a knife in her hand, blood still oozing from a slash across her breast onto the pelt that lay under her like a funeral bed.
               
“No!” I cried. The world went black.
               
An iron hand gripped my arm, twisted me around, and pulled me upright. My head cleared, and a stranger stood before me, so like yesterday’s dead man that for a moment I thought it was his ghost. But this man was very much alive. His slanting eyes glinted down at me, his high cheekbones seemed carved of stone. A pointed, plumed helmet covered his head, animal tails dangling absurdly from its sides; metal-plated leather armor covered his clothing. Worst, though, was that foul odor of stale sweat, dirt, and of blood, old and fresh. Not even a peasant stank like that. He grinned at me.
               
I swung my little knife, but the man-beast knocked it out of my hand with a humorless laugh. Others like him came up, and they all began barking in some hideous dog speech. One of them squatted by Oleg and Kateryna, slit their throats, cut an ear off each as if carving meat for supper, and stowed his bloody relics in a bulging bag.
               
I’d have fainted again, but the man-beast wrenched me upright into painful clarity as he lifted his sword, smirking. With cunning born of terror, I twisted from his grip and fled. He shouted; within moments a pack of those dogs was so close behind me that I could almost feel their breath on my neck. Rabbit-like, I bounded one way and another, jumping over corpses and dodging felled tents, slipping right past one man, to his dismay and the hoots of his companions, but they rapidly encircled and then closed in on me until I had nowhere to go. I was panting with fear and frustration, and they were laughing!
               
The circle parted. The warrior who had first found me stepped into it, followed by another with a torch. He glared at me as he marched up, wicked sword in hand, reached out and gripped my arm so hard it nearly broke off, shook me like a rag, forced me onto my knees, yanked my hair up, and raised his sword once again. I closed my eyes, waiting for the sword to strike.
               
The blow never came.

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About the book
Solomon's Bride is the dramatic sequel to The Grip of God. Sofia, the heroine, a former princess from Kievan Rus' was enslaved by a Mongol nobleman and then taken as a concubine by the leader of the Mongol invasions, Batu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. Now, having fled the Mongols with a price on her head, Sofia escapes into Persia and what she believes will be safety, only to fall into the clutches of the Assassins, who seek to disrupt the Mongol empire. In a world at war, both outer and inner, the second phase of her adventures unfolds. Can she ever find safe haven, much less the lost love and family that was almost destroyed by the Mongols?

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The second book, Solomon's Bride, is out now and the third in the trilogy, Consolamentum, will be released soon.


About the author
Rebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

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A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.

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