Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why I Like Your Blog

I hope this post doesn't ruffle any feathers, but I just felt like speaking out a bit.  In light of the recent plagiarism controversy about which I am completely appalled, I would like to address what was actually plagiarized.  It was a series of blogging 'dos and don'ts', etc. which I have always taken issue with.  Some of the don'ts are always "don't have too large of a header," don't have auto-play music," etc., etc. and blah, blah, blah...  Here is a copy of the comment I left on the Beautifully Invisible blog regarding what went on, but also addressing the issue I'm talking about above:

I am so sorry that this happened to you all.  Plagiarism is not to be tolerated and by no means is it ever accidental, except in some extreme cases.  I have steered clear of said plagiarist's blog ever since I first started my book blog in 2009 because, back then she did a series of posts about the no-nos of blogging.  I just have to say, who's to say what is right and wrong in blogging.  I have a large header and auto play music on my blog.  It has not caused me any harm to have it designed this way.  In fact, I have almost 600 Google Friend Connect followers and over 700 feedburner subscribers.  I get compliments regularly about my blog design and my music.  What I'm trying to say is that no post should be plagiarized by no means, but what are these types of posts trying to accomplish?  A slew of blogging automatons who all have the same blog design.  I'm sorry, but I would much rather be the odd color in the crayon box.  

Now I realize that I have gone off topic here, but I just get so tired of hearing these "guidelines."  Back in 2009, in the first few months of starting my blog, I decided to steer clear of said plagiarist's blog for just this reason.  A series of blogging no-nos posted on her blog.  For a new blogger, especially someone like me who has always marched to the beat of her own drum, this made me feel very inadequate and that my blog was crap.  But you know what?  I had continual visitors paying me compliments on the design and the music.  Yes, I'm sure there are some who hate it, but ultimately, I started my blog for personal reasons and to please myself.  There were never advance plans of gaining a following and everything else that has happened in almost three years of blogging.  What a pleasant surprise it was to discover that those things do happen and it's quite nicely the icing on the cake, but I still blog mostly for myself.  I'm the one who does all the work and I'm not being paid to do it.  If I'm not being true to myself, what's the point?  So, what I'm trying to say is...

These are the things that will keep me coming back to your blog

  • Have any damn size header you want.  Make your whole blog a header or don't have one at all, for all I care.  I'm there to read your content and if I have to scroll down a bit to get to it, well, boo hoo, my poor down-button finger (not).
  • Have some cool music playing.  There is such a thing as a pause button if I don't like it (do make the player visible for that reason or have a note at the top telling it's location), but I probably won't pause it.  
  • I don't care if you have loads of stuff in your sidebar(s).  Are blog readers so easily distracted by what's going on in the sidebar?  Sorry if you are, but I'm not. 
  • Design it to your liking.  Again, I'm there to read your content, not for your blog design.  If it's pretty, all the better, but it's not a deal breaker if it is not.  If someone comes to your blog to read your content, but leaves because of the design...well, maybe you don't want them reading your blog anyway.
  • For those of you who have a more plain and organized blog, I like you too. ;O)
There you have it.  Again, I hope I don't upset too many people with this post, but after almost three years of feeling this way, I just finally had to say something.

To read more about the plagiarism controversy, visit this POST.

I selected this post to be featured on Book Blogs. Please visit the site and vote for my blog!


Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Tour: Interview with Donna Russo Morin, author of The King's Agent

First of all, I would like to welcome Donna Russo Morin today. Donna, thanks so much for taking the time to visit and answer my questions.

I’m thrilled to be here; thank you so much for having me. 

The King's Agent is your new book. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

The King’s Agent
chronicles a fictional event in a factual life. I found Battista della Palla while researching my third book, To Serve a King. He was of such a complex character and dashing countenance, that I knew I must write more about him. He was, in fact, one of Francois I’s art agents, his foremost art agent in Italy, instructed to obtain those masterpieces the King of France craved, at any cost, even—when all else failed— thievery. Yet he was the very definition of contradiction, deeply religious and loyal yet with the heart of a rogue. The Lady Aurelia is a sequestered, cloistered woman drowning in her own serious life and burdened by the profound duty that imposes it. What I wanted for this story—for these two characters—was adventure, diversion, depth, intrigue, puzzles, art, murder, and more…a many layered tale. In a search for a relic for Francois, Battista and Aurelia cross the magnificence that is Italy. Clues hide in great works of art, political forces collide, secret societies and enemies abound, and danger lurks in every challenge they face, those that mirror the passages of Dante’s Divine Comedy. But in the end it is not just the relic at stake, but the balance of power throughout Europe. 

What was the inspiration behind the writing of Aurelia and Battista's story?

As I mentioned above, the dichotomous nature of Battista was an inspiration in itself, but I was also anxious to try my hand at writing from a male perspective. I think it’s important for artists of any medium to try and continually evolve and try new things, not just keep doing the same type of story written in the same kind of way. Having never written from the male pov, doing so was one such challenge for me. Aurelia was inspired by where I was in my life at the time; overburdened with duty and responsibility, the woman simply longs for adventure and fun. Battista and their search for the relic allowed her to have her titillating escapade and serve her duty at the same time. 

Having written four novels of historical fiction, what books or films, if any, were motivators for your writing historical fiction? Are there any authors that you particularly admire?

There are two major works that really put me on the path to the historical, one a book, one a movie. The first, the book, was Gone with the Wind; I think I was twelve the first time I read it, and, like so many others, it stayed with me—the ‘epic-ness’ of it, the sweeping saga, and yes, the history. The other piece of the puzzle, the bigger of the two actually, was the movie, the 1973 version of "The Three Musketeers"; it actually directly inspired my first book.

In terms of other authors…there’s Stephen King (more on him in a bit) but in my genre there’s James Michener, John Jakes, Rosalind Laker, Leon Uris, and Diana Gabaldon. Their works taught me a lot about the kinds of books I wanted to write. 

In addition to writing, you have also been a writing teacher, a model, and an actress. Are you still doing any of the three or have you officially made writing your central career?

I still do a little of all three. A bad marriage followed by an even more disastrous divorce has left me a single parent/head of a household. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep me and my boys (they’re really young men now—22 and 18) together and in our home. That said, the modeling work is a little tougher to come by now that I’m in my fifties and the acting, which has always been extra work in movies and television, is enormously time consuming. I do dream about obtaining my MFA in Creative Writing and teaching on the college level as opposed to adult extension, but I love to share my passion for the written word with others. All that said, novel writing is my main profession and accounts for the vast majority of my time and, someday soon I hope, all of it.

What about writing historical fiction do you enjoy the most? Was there something that motivated you to start writing in that genre? I know your bio states that your first writing was of "the gruesome and grotesque."

I’m a card-carrying history nerd (there really isn’t a card, but maybe I’ll create one for me and those like me someday ;-). So the research process is really just a delightful privilege for me; digging through old records and books and primary source documents and finding those nuggets of gold—no matter how big or how small—is enormously satisfying. Learning more about the past than I ever did in sixteen years of school, and learning it on a truly human level, is one of the best things that I get to do. Then when I can see parallels to modern life and my imagination discovers how to put it all together with my plot…it’s like magic. 

I did start out writing ‘the gruesome and grotesque,’ otherwise known as horror. Stephen King published his first book during my impressionable teenage years, when I already knew I wanted to be a writer. Reading his work taught me so much about good story telling, I just followed him down his dark path; in fact my first published short work was in horror. But it didn’t sit right, and that’s mostly because of my ‘voice’, that distinctive tone—like a fingerprint—that every writer possesses uniquely unto themselves. Mine is formal and perfectly suited to historical fiction. When I discovered that, my struggle to publication became a much smoother road.

You probably get this one a lot, but me being an aspiring historical writer, I have to ask if you have any advice for those interested in writing historical fiction?

Don’t be afraid to write the stories you want to write. In historical fiction, more than in any other genre, I think it’s really easy to fall back on what appears to be the most popular characters and time period of the moment…the Tudors and Eleanor of Aquitaine jump to mind. Only write about them if that’s what you are truly passionate about, not because you think that’s what you have to write to make it in the genre. What’s popular in any given moment, in this industry, can change with the quickness of a heartbeat. Write an outstanding book and they will read it.

Can you give us a hint about what you're working on next or is it top secret?

No, it’s not top secret. In fact, I’m so excited by it, so passionate about it, I can’t NOT talk about it. Part of my enthusiasm is that, once more, I am trying to expand my writing wings and, for the first time, am attempting a series. 

The research for the last two books has left me with an obsession for Italian Renaissance painting and artists, but I’ve grown tired and frustrated with the all-male club of it. In my current work in progress, it is the bonds of women—of girlfriends—coupled with that growing obsession of Renaissance art, that is inspiring a trilogy, one about the birth of the female Renaissance artist. The trilogy will feature six women in all, women from all the different ranks of Renaissance life, that are bound, at first, by their passion for art, but that are tied by the bonds of friendship that women seem to be able to experience on a much deeper level than men. Their stories will be set against the backdrop of Florence and some of the most traumatic events in that extraordinary city’s history. I hope to peel back the layers of female relationships, that universal, timeless experience—the good and the bad—within the construct and the depth of historical fiction.

A final two-part question...What are you currently reading? What recent historical fiction novel would you recommend to my readers? 

I’ve just finished Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell. The period is a bit earlier than I normally like but the man is amazing at writing historical fiction. Now I’m on I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis, reading it in my continual study of writing ‘other’ European (for me meaning Italy and France) historicals. 

Donna, it has been a pleasure having you here today. Thank you.

I always consider the opportunity to personally relate to readers and, hopefully, potential readers an honor and a privilege. So thank you. 

Check out the TOUR SCHEDULE 
Links for author Donna Russo Morin: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER
Twitter Event Hashtag: #KingsAgentVirtualBookTour


Coming in July: Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn

Set to release on July 1, 2012 is Jerome Charyn's new young adult book, Back to Bataan!

Hiding out in Riverside Park after lashing out at the boy who stole his girlfriend, Jack joins ranks with a group of vagrants and is soon under the sway of a man called the Leader, a charismatic ex-convict.

Check it out on Goodreads and add it to your to-read list!  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cat Thursday

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)

In honor of my Spring into Horror Read-a-thon which I'm hosting over at Castle Macabre this week, I give you a combination of reading cats and cats scared of zombies.  Have fun!


TuesBookTalk May Selection: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass

TuesBookTalk Read Alongs on Twitter (@tuesbooktalk  #tuesbooktalk) and on Goodreads chose fantasy (epic, steampunk, dystopian, fairy tales retold, etc.) for May's genre.  Our discussion starts Tuesday, May 1 on Twitter at 9:30pm EST/8:30pm CST.  You do not have to join us on Twitter.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the Goodreads group if you can't make the chat on Twitter.  Get the full reading schedule HERE.  This month we are reading:


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pardon my dust...

Yes, I pick now to decide to change from the old minima template to the new blogger templates.  I've just about got it done.  Just have to find a background that will work.  I appreciate you bearing with me.  Hopefully, it will look pretty again soon.  =O)


{Give@way} Happy 3rd Birthday, Virgin and the Crab!

WINNER: address:  elizapol(at)hotmail(dot)com  Already won on another blog so chose a new winner who is: Oloore...oloore at gmail dot com

Congrats! You will be contacted.

It is three years ago that the first edition of my novel ‘Virgin and the Crab’ first came out, and I would like to thank Michelle for her continued enthusiasm for the story and for helping me to celebrate a little by launching a giveaway contest here today. The story itself is set in England during the twelve year period from 1547 to 1559 in which we saw no less than five different people upon the throne – from the demise of Henry VIII, to his son Edward, followed by Queen (Lady) Jane, then Mary and finally Elizabeth. It was an amazing and, for many, a terrifying time, full hope and despair, passion and romance - and therefore also a perfect backdrop for the attentions of the writer of historical fiction. It has been a wonderful experience, the past three years, telling everybody all about it - and the story itself has, I’m glad to say, been very well received – including Michelle’s wonderful review from 2010 - which, I understand, she is about to dust off and publish again here to accompany this contest. Wishing you all the very best of luck if you enter. Meanwhile, you can find my webpages here on: and perhaps I will get to meet you over on my Facebook page sometime, too:  (Giveaway details at the end of post)

My review of Virgin and the Crab (originally published here in September 2010):

When I finished reading 'Virgin', I told Robert that it should be recognized by a major publisher.  He responded by saying that most publishers will not touch a debut novel of over 100,000 words.  'Virgin' is close to 200,000.  It's a shame because this book is one of the best historical novels I have ever read.  There's no fluff in the pages of this book.  Just straight historical fiction that reads almost like non-fiction, but nowhere near as boring.  Not that I generally think that non-fiction is boring, but some can be real yawners, if you know what I mean.  What I enjoyed most about the book was that I was able to follow what was transpiring with Elizabeth directly parallel to what occurred from before Mary's (Elizabeth's sister) reign and then from the beginning until the end of Mary's reign.  I enjoyed the intrigue that was involved in this plot to protect Elizabeth and to ensure that she would someday take the throne.  There was a lot of breath holding on my part, even though I already knew the outcome.  I liked the way Lady Jane Grey was portrayed here...more as a pawn then a willing participant in seizing the crown.  Which made her end all the more tragic.  Mary was not portrayed in a favorable light.  She comes across as pias, petty and prudish and so full of hatred and the need for revenge for what happened to her mother that she takes religious fanaticism to a new extreme and many people die as a consequence.  I'm on the fence about Mary.  The character of John Dee was very interesting.  I do not know much about him outside of this book, but after reading 'Virgin', I'm compelled to find out more.  Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it portrays my favorite historical figure in the best possible light.  Elizabeth was an enigma...a skillful and powerful ruler who chose to be married to her country instead of a man.  How much of what we know is true?  And what do we not know?  Here in this favorite quote of mine from the book, Elizabeth speaks about the mystique that surrounds her (and John Dee):

Men say he has his darker side.  And many, I know, go in fear of him.  Like Us, a mystique has surrounded our friend, John Dee.  It is good that this has occurred, and We shall keep it so.  But really, in truth, he is a darling of a man - and no more a Crab than I might be a Virgin - though we'll say no more of that!

I highly recommend 'Virgin and the Crab' to all historical fiction lovers and especially to all who adore Elizabeth Tudor.  It's an exciting twist on Elizabeth's path to the throne.  Historically compelling and deliciously suspenseful! I'm looking forward to Robert's next novel!

Giveaway:  Win a print copy of Virgin and the Crab.  Open Internationally.  To enter, leave a comment telling me if you ARE or ARE NOT an admirer of Elizabeth I and why.  Include your email address so I can contact the winner.  Giveaway will end on Wednesday, May 16 at 11:59pm CST.  Good luck!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

TTBA Weekly News and Mailbox Monday

This feature was inspired by It's Monday! What are you reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and by The Sunday Salon.

I'm spending a lot of time over at Castle Macabre this week, as I'm hosting the Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon from over there this week.  You can still join us.  You're welcome to sign in for the read-a-thon all the way up until Friday night (11:59pm CST).  Go HERE and check it out.  Would love to have you join us!

What I'm reading for the read-a-thon:

My scary titles:
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
Decayed Etchings by Brandon Ford
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales

Other titles:
Bleak House by Dickens (playing read-a-long catch-up)
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (still trying to finish)
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (last 70 or so pages for TuesBookTalk)
Never Say Sorry by Rose Edmunds
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Tonight I'm going to work on catching up on A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin.  Going to burn the midnight oil!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is currently on tour. This month's host is Cindy's Love of Books.
BookBox: embed book widget, share book list
Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones...from Simon and Schuster

The Taker by Alma Katsu...from Wunderkind PR

As I mentioned during the 24 hour read-a-thon, I really hit the jackpot at this sale.  I nabbed a bunch of series books that I was missing copies of, not to mention snagging some other really great stand-alones!

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
The Raven by Peter Landesman
Bluebird, or the Invention of Happiness by Sheila Kohler
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Small Island by Andrea Levy
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
A Terrible Beauty by Graham Masterton
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (Seven Realms #1)
Shadowland by Alyson Noel (The Immortals, Book 3)
City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments, Book 2)
Frostbite by Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy, Book 2)
Specials by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies #3) I completed the set and they all match! Woot!
Burned by Ellen Hopkins (Burned #1)

My First Cat: Writers and Artists Remember

These two dvds were a dollar each! Brand new! Can you believe it?  And "1408" came with an audio book CD with three unfiltered tales from Stephen King's Blood and Smoke!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Independent Book Blogger Awards--Last Day to Vote

Today is the last day to vote in the Independent Book Blogger Awards on Goodreads.  A vote for me would be greatly appreciated or you can choose another of your favorites among the nominees.  If you do decide to vote for me, you can do so here:  or click the button in the left sidebar.  Thanks so much!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon...What I'm Reading, Updates, and Wrap-Up

Wrap Up and End of Event Survey
Well, as I was reading at 3:00am, I promptly fell asleep and just woke up a half hour ago.  So, another 24 hour read-a-thon fail.  Oh, well.  I had fun and that's all that counts.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  I didn't start reading until 5:30pm so I didn't really have a daunting hour, although obviously hour 21 must have been since I fell asleep.  =O)
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  Since I only worked on what book, and failed miserably, I would have to say no, although I find George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series to be very entertaining.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Nope.  I think it's perfect the way it is.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  The cheerleaders and mini-challenges
5. How many books did you read?  less than one
6. What were the names of the books you read?  58 pages of A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin Bleh!
7. Which book did you enjoy most?  Um, yeah...
8. Which did you enjoy least?  N/A
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? nope
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  Very likely.  You know what they say...If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  I will most likely be a reader again.  Until I master the art of the 24 hour read-a-thon, I don't think I'm qualified to take on any other role.

Thanks to everyone who was involved with organizing and running the read-a-thon.  Great job, as always!

If you're game for another read-a-thon, come join me for my week long Spring read-a-thon, the Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon.  It starts tomorrow at 12am CST and runs until next Sunday at 11:59pm CST.  I'm hosting at my other blog, Castle Macabre.  For full details and sign-up, go HERE.

Hour 19 mini-challenge--Theme Song hosted by Letters Inside Out

I picked "The River Sings" by Enya.  The type of music totally fits the theme of A Clash of Kings.  Majestic, mystical,, the scenes in the video really capture what I picture Westeros looks like (and, ironically, what it looks like in the "Game of Thrones" TV series)

Pause the music player in the right sidebar before listening

10:45 pm--I've been trying to read...honest.  But distractions abound.  Kids, husband, Scream 4, and now Saturday Night Live hosted by Daniel Radcliffe (seriously, how did I miss this the first time it was on?)  Anyhoo, here's my update and a lovely mini-challenge straight after.

Book:  A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (Book 2, A Song of Ice and Fire)
Start Page:  15
Finish:  (since starting) 53
Thoughts:  I LOVE this book! It's not boring AT all.  If you haven't picked up this series, you really must!
Blogs Visited:  five, including mini-challenges
Challenges:  eBook survey, first line quiz, library experience, rereading
Pages Read this Update:  38  bleh!
Actual Amount of Time Spent Reading:  so hard to gauge...about 4 hours, 15 min, with distractions, hence the sad page count  =O(
Actual Amount of Time Spent on other Read-a-Thon tasks:  1 hour

This rereading mini-challenge is hosted by The Bluestocking Society.  Since I'm not rereading anything during the read-a-thon, I will share some of my favorite rereads.

I've read this one four times.  Anne Rice is my favorite author and this was the first book of hers that I read.  Yes, I started the Vampire Chronicles with the third book.  This book never loses its allure for me.  Although I love all of her vampire books (even though I've only read up to Memnoch the Devil and Pandora of the new chronicles), and have reread them through The Tale of the Body Thief, this is the book that tells the history of her vampires.  Anyone who knows me, knows I love the history of everything! I know I will read this one again. 
I first read this when I was in elementary school and probably read it a few times back then.  I reread it again about ten or so years ago and it was as wonderful as I remembered.  I don't think I really need to explain the appeal of Little Women.  All I can say is that if you haven't read it (shocking!) you must.  This is another one I will reread again.

This one is a no-brainer for me.  Since I am such a Christmas fanatic, this is one that I have read more than once and will read over and over again.  Anyone who loves Christmas and Dickens will completely understand.  Heck, you don't even have to love Christmas.  It's just a wonderful tale of redemption that anyone can appreciate.
5:30 pm--Well, I'm hour and a half longer than I planned.  What a library sale! I hit the mother lode.  I was able to snag several series books that I was missing copies of.  What a thrill! Everything will be revealed in my Mailbox Monday post.  I'm off to see what's going on over at the Read-a-Thon site, pulling up Twitter, and getting my read on!

10:00am - Starting line...nope, did not get up at 7am, just as I predicted.  Here's my Introductory Questionnaire (see my reading plans and book list below):

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? 
Nashville, Tennessee
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
A Clash of Kings
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
sour neon gummie worms  =O)
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm a mom of two boys, an avid reader and book blogger, a writer working on my first novel, major cat lover, history buff, and Christmas fanatic
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I will probably try to focus more on the reading and less on mini-challenges, etc., if I can resist  =O)

I'm leaving at noon to go to the book sale and to lunch with my mom.  Hopefully, I'll be back by four at the latest.  I will be attempting to read in the car.


Yes, I know it's 2am and yes, I know my time zone's start time is 7am.  You know me...always living on the edge.  LOL! Anyway, I'm ready for the read-a-thon.  I have a few snacks lined up (trail mix, Slim Jims, Sour neon gummy worms, Diet Coke, and hot tea, of course).  Of course, as always happens every April during the read-a-thon, I have my Brentwood library sale (the big one that I CAN'T miss) so I will be MIA for a few hours.  I'm going to bed shortly and will attempt to get up at 7am and read a bit before I have to get ready to go.  Okay, so enough rambling.  Here's what I'm going to be reading:

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

  • My main objective will be to get caught up in A Clash of Kings as close as possible to what's going on in the Game of Thrones TV series.  I think I'm three or four episodes behind so I'm thinking I may have to read at least half of the book, or perhaps between a quarter to a half of it.
  • I will try to read a bit in Bleak House to catch up for Wallace's read-a-long
  • To break up the monotony, I have a couple of books of short stories.  Decayed Etchings by Brandon Ford and My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales
  • I will try to at least get started on Never Say Sorry by Rose Edmunds
Okay, off to bed.  See you in a few hours!


Friday, April 20, 2012

{Book Tour} Review--The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas

My thoughts:
I really liked this book.  I am so impressed by the historical fiction that is being written these days.  Pretty much every book is well-written and captivating and The Flower Reader is definitely up there with them.

This is the first novel I have read which features Mary, Queen of Scots.  I was not overly fond of her in this book.  I realize that this is an author's portrayal of her and may not be entirely factual, but Loupas is so good with her character development, I'm quite convinced that Mary may very well have been this sort of person.  Of course, royal personages were often impertinent due to their social standing, especially female rulers who always had to stay a step ahead of the men who would try to place them under their thumbs.  The behavior might very well have been a front to conceal weakness.  All this being said, I am very interested in reading more fiction featuring Mary in the future.

The main focus of the story is Marina Leslie of Granmuir, called by her nickname, Rinette.  Rinette was raised by Queen Mary's mother, Mary of Guise, and this fact leads to a rivalry between Mary and Rinette which manifests in Mary's ill treatment of Rinette after her mother's death.  Mary of Guise entrusted a precious object meant for her daughter only to Rinette and it is this action that is the center of the story.  There is much intrigue surrounding this object and Rinette is caught in the middle of it all.  After her husband is murdered, she is determined to find out who murdered him and to also hold on to her precious Granmuir.  Rinette is a strong woman who goes after what she wants and uses the object as a bargaining chip to that end.  Rinette is also a flower reader.  She can read 'prophecies' in the flowers.  This adds another interesting element to her character.  Is she really reading fortunes in the flowers or is it just her subconscious speaking to her?  At one point, she even questions this herself.

"I was never entirely sure whether what I heard was truly the flowers, or just my own secret thoughts and hopes and fears rising up out of my heart when I stilled myself to listen."

The Flower Reader is rich storytelling and its characters are real and interesting.  The historical details were obviously meticulously researched.  Throw in some intrigue and scandal and we have a book that will appeal to all readers, not only fans of historical fiction.  I look forward to future offerings from Ms. Loupas.

About the book:
In the sweeping new novel from the author of The Second Duchess, dangerous secrets lead a passionate young woman into a maze of murder and conspiracy as Mary, Queen of Scots, comes home to reign in a treacherously divided Scotland….

With her dying breath, Mary of Guise entrusts a silver casket to Rinette Leslie of Granmuir, who possesses the ancient gift of floromancy. Inside the casket, and meant only for the young Mary, Queen of Scots, are papers the old queen has painstakingly collected—the darkest secrets of every Scottish lord and explosive private prophecies prepared by Nostradamus. Rinette risks her life to keep the casket safe, but she makes a fatal mistake: she shows it to her beloved young husband. On the very day the young queen comes home, Rinette’s husband is brutally assassinated.

Devastated, Rinette demands justice from the queen before she will surrender the casket. Amid glittering masques and opulent weddings, courtly intrigues and Highland rebellions, the queen’s agents and Rinette herself search for the shadowy assassin. They are surrounded by ruthless men from all over Europe who will do anything to force Rinette to give up the casket—threatening her life, stripping her of her beloved castle by the sea, forcing her to marry a man she hates, and driving her from the man she has reluctantly grown to love. In the end, the flowers are all she can trust—and only the flowers will lead her safely home to Granmuir.

About the author:
Elizabeth Loupas lives near the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. She is presently a novelist, freelance writer and amateur historian. In other times and other places she has been a radio network vice president, a reference librarian, a business-to-business magazine editor, and a tutor in English literature.

One of her passions is the art and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites. This led her to the Rossettis and the Brownings, and the project nearest and dearest to her heart--her novel THE SECOND DUCHESS, based on Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess."

She hates housework, cold weather, and wearing shoes. She loves animals, gardens, and popcorn. Not surprisingly she lives in a state of happy barefoot chaos with her delightful and faintly bemused husband (the Broadcasting Legend), her herb garden, her popcorn popper, and two beagles.

Tour Schedule--visit other stops on the tour
Twitter Event Hashtag: #FlowerReaderVirtualTour
Visit Elizabeth Loupas - WEBSITE

Reading Challenges


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cat Thursday

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)

How about almost two weeks of sick days?  It's just lucky I'm not working right now.  =O(

This one is Alice, off and on, since Arya came into the picture.  Not that Alice was ever overly cuddly, but she definitely is saying this, or maybe cuddle Arya.  I say to her, "Well, Alice, if you would come over here and sit on my lap (etc.), I would cuddle you too."  Like she cares. =O)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TTBA Weekly News and Mailbox Monday

This feature was inspired by It's Monday! What are you reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and by The Sunday Salon.

I can't believe it has been three weeks since I posted a weekly news/mailbox monday post.  I was out of town a little over a week ago and I came back sick.  I've been sick for a week and a half and can't afford to go to the doctor.  Ugh! Just hoping it goes away on its own without need for antibiotics.

What's going on in my reading world....

The Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon over at Castle Macabre starts next Monday, the week of April 23 - 29, on the tail of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.  The decision was made through the poll I had up over at Castle Macabre to concentrate on the reading so there will be no mini-challenges this time.  However, there will be a giveaway at the end with a first, second, and third place for everyone who participates in the read-a-thon.  I've had a few prize donations from some generous authors and am still seeking  donations.  Authors looking to promote your books?  Contact me!  I also have a couple of bloggers holding giveaways as well.  For all the read-a-thon details and to sign-up, head over to this POST at Castle Macabre.  Sign-ups are open through Friday, 4/27, for those who only want to participate on the weekend.

Just another friendly reminder about my new challenge, A Non-Fiction Adventure?  I took the lead from the awesome creators of the Fill in the Gaps: 100 Project and The Classics Club and decided to create a similar challenge focusing on non-fiction books.  The fruition of this idea came to me as I was looking at my shelves of non-fiction books.  In my library of 3000+ books, non-fiction makes up about 1000+ of that total.  I focus so heavily on fiction I never take the time to squeeze in some non-fiction reads which I do love to read.  So I thought, why not follow the lead of those I mentioned above and create this challenge for the non-fiction genre.  I have created a dedicated blog for this challenge.  You can read all the details and sign-up HERE.  Would love for you to join me for this adventure!

What I've been reading....
Currently reading:
The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas (review coming Wednesday)
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Finished recently:
The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot (review)
The Dragon's Harp by Rachael Pruitt (review)
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (review)

I will list my upcoming reads for my Dewey's Read-a-Thon starting post and my read-a-thon post next Monday.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is currently on tour. This month's host is Cindy's Love of Books.
BookBox: embed book widget, share book list
Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham...from the author

Jumble Tales by Steve Morris...for Read 2 Review reading group for May

The Mongoliad: Book One by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E.D. deBirmingham, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, and Cooper Moo....from Klout Perks

AMAZON (associate earnings):
Famine by Graham Masterton
10 Days to Faster Reading by Abby Marks-Beale

A Halloween How-To: Costumes, Parties, Decorations, and Destinations by Lesley Bannatyne
Cassandra and Jane:  A Jane Austen Novel by Jill Pitkeathley
Faithful Place by Tana French
Nevermore by Harold Schechter
The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase
Soul by Tobsha Learner

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