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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Graphic Novel Review: 2012- The Final Prayer

Title: 2012- The Final Prayer
Author(s): R.M. Heske
Genre: Comic - Horror, Comic - Mature

After reading Heske Horror's Bone Chillers: Tales of Suburban Murder & Malice, I became an avid fan. So when I picked up my copy of 2012: Final Prayer, I was in heaven. Now that we are nearing the year 2010, people are looking toward the fated year of 2012 with more concern and pessimism. Movies, televisions shows full of Mayan and Nostradamus predictions, and books are picking up on the mass fear and trend of the world possibly ending in 2012. In most cases, these forms of media are either some or all of three things: fear inducing, prophetic, and cliché, which by their very nature ride the tide of a popular concern that will see to it that sales are made. It is tiresome and cookie cutter.

Heske Horror does it right. 2012: Final Prayer is neither cookie cutter nor cliché. A collection of comic book style stories written and drawn by different people and teams, 2012 fills you with shock, awe, foreboding, disgust, and fear. And yes, despite it, you may even laugh once or twice. The art styles are so different from one story to the next that the comic book is a true work of masterful art. Some stories, such as Final Choices or Hollow Victory, are stark and busy, and so chaotic and pretty that they really highlight the intense apocalyptic moment intended for depiction. Yet other stories like Veils are simple and poignant, and certainly no less perfectly rendered.

There are times when you will connect with stories and characters and then feel oddly disjointed by the surreal path some of them take because you are there with them. The impending sense of doom will get to you, sink into you so much so that you'll need air once you finish reading. Nightmares even may happen. And yet sometimes there are hints of hope and optimism that will confuse you as much as it sweetens you up and helps you accept the horrors all around and surely ahead. I think that is the way these stories should be instead of mere prophecies and warnings.

I love things that creep me out, but also make me go, "oh, that was just lovely." 2012 did just that. Underneath all of it was such a level of art and beauty that it could not be denied that even the grossest of moments were completely exhilarating. The cover itself speaks volumes of the quality of what it inside: horses of the apocalypse charging over a city with a little boy gazing at it from the distance in utter shock. I wish that they had not changed the cover from the edition I got. The innocence, the realism, the happiness, the horror, the acceptance, it's all there. The whole spectrum of how people deal, how they manage. It is all wonderfully rendered in black and white from cover to cover.

I remain a big fan and cannot wait to see what Heske Horror puts out next because I am going to be at the front of the line for a copy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blog Tour & Book Review: Deep Kiss of Winter (Immortals After Dark, #8) by Kresley Cole & Gena Showalter

Title: Deep Kiss of Winter
Series: Immortals After Dark
Book Number: 8
Author(s): Kresley Cole & Gena Showalter
Genre: Fiction- Paranormal Romance 
Finished: December 21, 2009

Comprised of two novels, Deep Kiss of Winter combines the talents of Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter in to a compelling, riveting two story novel full of romance and drama. In Cole's Untouchable, Murdoch Wroth will stop at nothing to claim Daniela the Ice Maiden -- the delicate Valkyrie who makes his heart beat for the first time in three hundred years. Yet the exquisite Danii is part ice fey, and her freezing skin can't be touched by anyone but her own kind without inflicting pain beyond measure. Soon desperate for closeness, in an agony of frustration, Murdoch and Danii will do anything to have each other. Together, can they find the key that will finally allow them to slake the overwhelming desire burning between them? In Showalter's Tempt Me Eternally, Aleaha Love can be anyone -- literally. With only skin-to-skin contact, she can change her appearance, assume any identity. Her newest identity switch has made her an AIR (alien investigation and removal) agent and sends her on a mission to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. Only she becomes the captured. Breean, a golden-skinned commander known for his iron will who is at once dangerous and soul-shatteringly seductive, threatens her new life. Because for the first time, Aleaha only wants to be herself.

Untouchable was my first experience with Kresley Cole. I am always a little hesitant, too, when authors add a lexicon or a glossary to their books when the book isn't a series. Yet, I dove into Untouchable with an open mind and a significant amount of interest in this world Cole had created. I rather liked the idea of there being a 'Lore' full of strange creatures and magical beings. Though, I have to say that I wish the book were a fantasy series, and not paranormal romance. I think the world, the creatures, and the premise was excellent, but the overdone romance elements takes away from the pure fantasy creativity behind it. Or maybe that is just my biased dislike of romance in general talking. Let me not make it seem as if I did not like the story, because I did! I thought it was excellent. The characters were great, the plot was amazing, and I just fell in love with the world Cole created, which is why I totally plan to read more of the Immortals After Dark series that the book is a part of. Cole's world seems complicated, but it breaks down into a few easy things. You have the Lore, which are these creatures. Within it are creatures such as Valkyrie, Vampires, Demons, and Icere. Vampires are on an eternal search for a Bride (I guess there are no female vampires out there looking for Grooms?), who will once again make his heart beat and his passion boil. Once he meets his bride, he is blooded to her. His longing for her is almost unbearable. 

Well, Murdoch the Sexy becomes blooded to a half ice fey, half Valkyrie woman he cannot touch because touch burns her cold skin. They can't do it, naturally, since his touching her would cause her a lot of pain and possible death. So, not only must they work together to overcome other preternatural creatures, but also learn how to surmount their difficult romance. I admit, I did get a little annoyed with how the storyline just moved from one thing to the next. There was this great build up about wars and vampire rivalries and then, out of nowhere, the book just moves on past them and says, "oh well, everything was fixed" and introduces all new plots. It was very disappointing and made me wonder why all the build up for a resolution we don't even get to experience? Showalter's story Tempt Me Eternally is part of her Alien Huntress series, though I have never read any of the other books in the series and walked into it sort of clueless as to Showalter at all. I have heard the name before since a few of my friends are fans of her other series', but I was a Showalter novice until this point. In the novel, Aleaha Love is a shapeshifter of sorts, but she cannot let anyone know for fear of her own life. This is romance, though, so a hot, hunky guy has to come in somewhere. And that guy is Breean, a Rakan, who imprisons Aleaha in the hope of using her for ransom in order to be allowed to live on Earth since they cannot return to their own home planet. It is only natural in the course of a romance plotline for the Rakan Breean and Aleaha to decide they like each other complete with the banter of two people who are opposites but eventually discover they are perfect for each other. Okay, so the endings of romance novels are very predictable. How often do the couple decide not to be together? Or that their differences are too insurmountable? Or hey, someone dies? Not often, and only in a series when there is lots of time to work everything out by the end to wrap up a happy ending. I like happy endings, I do. Which is why books like Deep Kiss of Winter are so fulfilling. You get what you want! No anti-climactic endings to make you walk away numb and disappointed. Though, of course, the nature of predictability gives very little in surprises. Which is why, of course, authors have to ultimately make up for this shortfall by creating good plots, great characters, and amazing stories. Cole and Showalter did. Excellent book!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blog Tour: A Blue and Gray Christmas (Ladies of Covington, #9) by Joan Medlicott

Title: A Blue and Gray Christmas 
Series: Ladies of Covington
Book Number: 9
Author: Joan Medlicott 
Genre: Fiction- Historical 
Finished: December 15, 2009

When a rusty old tin box is unearthed at the Covington Homestead, longtime housemates Grace, Amelia, and Hannah discover that it contains letters and diaries written by two Civil War soldiers, one Union and one Confederate. The friends are captivated by the drama revealed. The soldiers were found dying on a nearby battlefield by an old woman. She nursed them back to health, hiding them from bounty hunters seeking deserters. At the end of the war the men chose to stay in Covington, caring for their rescuer as she grew frail. But while their lives were rich, they still felt homesick and guilty for never contacting the families they'd left behind. Christmas is coming, and the letters inspire Amelia with a generous impulse. What if she and her friends were to find the two soldiers' descendants and invite them to Covington to meet? What better holiday gift could there be than the truth about these two heroic men and their dramatic shared fate? With little time left, the ladies spring into action to track down the men's families in Connecticut and the Carolinas, and to make preparations in Covington for their most memorable, most historic Christmas yet.

Three friends, Grace, Amelia, and Hannah, come across a box once buried full of the letters and diaries of two Civil War soliders: Tom from the South and John from the North. Both soldiers were injured during the war and ended up abandoning together, hiding deep in the Appalachian mountains that they made their home. Tom felt he had nothing to go back to and John chose to leave his wife and daughter to begin a new life. The letters the three women read and share with others express friendships, fears, loves, and the dramatic after-effects of war. John is left with severe post-traumatic stress, so he has to completely rebuild himself after the horrors of war he experienced. When Tom and John decided to stay in the mountains, they took on a new last name to begin their lives anew. When Grace, Amelia, and Hannah find the letters and learn about the break up of families, they decide together that it would be the perfect Christmas treat to reunite the families and share with them the letters and diaries of their long lost ancestors, believed to have been killed in the war. It is not an easy thing for the women to do, and they search through records and graveyards to find and connect people together. A lucky break happens when they meet a relative of John's, Milo, who came from the line descended from John's second marriage. The threads start coming together for the women, and it seems all too soon that they are going to get the Christmas they want. The best part of the book is the Civil War letters. Reading about the experiences and lives of Tom and John was very emotional for me. I chose to participate in the book's blog tour because I am a student of history and absolutely love a good historical fiction novel. The Civil War is in itself a very emotional war, so being able to read about it in such a personal way was very tender, sometimes sweet, sometimes painful. I felt especially bad for John who had such a hard time forgetting everything he'd seen and done. The intimacy of the letters really made me feel like I had connected with the two men on some level. Unfortunately, I felt that I connected very little with the story apart from the letters. While I enjoyed very much the progression of Tom and John's lives, I found some other aspects of the novel quite not to my liking. The story line moves along in a way that is not only too quick but entirely unbelievable. Everything just seems to fall into place and the initial roadblocks are obligatory. Something about the dialogue put me off, too. But what I disliked the most was that the book is full of unnecessary detail and lacks where there should be detail. We are given a paragraph about baking and the ingredients that go in and in what order, but the actual plot itself is rushed along. I would have liked a little less unnecessary dialogue and action and a little more that had actual substance or contributed to the plot. Nevertheless, it is a very sweet book. One of those quick rainy or snowy day reads that will leave you feeling warm inside at the end of it all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blog Tour & Book Review: Sins of the Flesh (Sin Hunters, #1) by Caridad Pi'eiro

Title: Sins of the Flesh
Series: Sin Hunters
Book Number: 1
Author: Caridad Pi'eiro
Genre: Fiction - Paranormal Romance 
Finished: November 19, 2009 

Catarina (Cat) Shaw is a famous and talented musician, her love of the cello as much a part of her as her body. When she finds out that she has a brain tumor that will kill her, she elects to take part in a radical gene therapy treatment. The results are not what she has expected. Cat has found that she possesses strange powers such as to be able to chameleon herself against her surroundings. She is stronger, faster, quicker to heal, and also has iridescent blood. When she escapes the medical facility that she is being kept in, private detective forces are hot on her tail with the order to collect her for the violent murder of one of the lab's doctors. Enter Mick Carrera, who has been hired to find Cat and bring her back. At first, he is startled to find out that she is not quite human. However, he has a sense of decency that transcends the rather rough job he does. Mick finds himself taking care of her, always cautious, yet at the same time wondering if Cat is really capable of what she is accused of. There is no mistake, though, that Cat is in danger. And if she is not guilty of the murder, why would they be accusing her? What is their goal? What else may they be engineering? And who really did kill the doctor and why? So much mystery begins to swirl around the two that we are pushed into a complex and layered plotline that moves fast and hard, with the action intense, the mystery solid, and the characters defined. Naturally, as a romance novel, this book has its fair share of hot and botheredness. I am always a bit annoyed when characters come to attraction so early. While I don't mean to negate the idea of love at sight, but I prefer that romance and passion come as part of a long running evolution of emotion rather than, "is this her in the picture? Hot. I want her intensely and with all of my being." See what I mean? So, I was kind of put off by that when it happened in this book, yet the author slowed it down from there and let it happen in due time. There was no rush. The romance was redeemed! And, naturally, as soon as the romance began, it was good. The scenes are smoking hot, guys, I mean it. This was my first taste of the paranormal of this brand. Usually the paranormal is about vampires or witches or some other sort of were/shifting creature. While Cat is part animal(s) and human, she is no shifter. This book is therefore more scientific, sort of "man playing God and this is what we get." I really enjoyed that this book had a scientific lean while not being too science fiction based, as that is not a genre I particularly like. All in all: good book, hot romance, non-standard characters that actually seem real and with depth, and an all around great mystery with tons of adventure.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog Tour: To Desire a Devil (Legend of the Four Soldiers, #4) by Elizabeth Hoyt

To Desire a Devil

About Elizabeth Hoyt Elizabeth Hoyt is a USA Today bestselling author of historical romance. She also writes deliciously fun contemporary romance under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in central Illinois with three untrained dogs, two angelic but bickering children, and one long-suffering husband. Please visit her websites for chapter excerpts, book extras, and author appearances: www.elizabethhoyt.com and www.juliaharper.com.

Reynaud St. Aubyn has spent the last seven years in hellish captivity. Now half mad with fever he bursts into his ancestral home and demands his due. Can this wild-looking man truly be the last earl's heir, thought murdered by Indians years ago? Beatrice Corning, the niece of the present earl, is a proper English miss. But she has a secret: No real man has ever excited her more than the handsome youth in the portrait in her uncle's home. Suddenly, that very man is here, in the flesh-and luring her into his bed. Only Beatrice can see past Reynaud's savagery to the noble man inside. For his part, Reynaud is drawn to this lovely lady, even as he is suspicious of her loyalty to her uncle. But can Beatrice's love tame a man who will stop at nothing to regain his title-even if it means sacrificing her innocence? To read an excerpt go here.

Title: To Desire a Devil
Series: Legend of the Four Devils
Book Number: 4
Genre: Fiction - Historical Romance 
Finished: November 10, 2009

The year is 1765, and the place England. The son of an earl and heir to the title Earl of Blanchard, Reynaud St. Aubyn, once a carefree youth, went to war where he was reportedly murdered by Indians in the American Colonies. After the death of his father and without Reynaud there to inherit, the title passed on to the Uncle of Beatrice Corning. Beatrice, protective of her kind and not-too-healthy uncle, as well as a great deal many others, are shocked when a haggard and sick looking Reynaud burst through the doors at tea demanding his father. It was almost too much to tell him of his father's death. With the heir of the title returned, Beatrice has no idea what will happen to her and her uncle. Beatrice's feelings are further complicated by her infatuation with a man she has only seen in a painting. This painting she is so fond of looking at is of Reynaud before he went off to fight. She cannot consolidate her feelings for the handsome young man in the picture to the disheveled and brutish rogue who now wants to reclaim his title and estate. Reynaud has a great many wounds that need healing. He suffered a great deal of horror while in captivity and suffers from trauma and flashbacks that put him always on his guard. As such, he is not an easy one to get close to and Beatrice, despite his threatening of her very livelihood, tries to help him. She wants to see him return to the smiling youth she is so familiar with via his painting. Others feel that Reynaud needs to be reaccelerated to aristocratic society. Feelings soon begin to grow between Beatrice and Reynaud. It seems she could be just what he needs to return to his old self. Of course, not everyone hopes for the best for them. There are others with invested interests in keeping Reynaud from regaining his title, which sweeps the pair up into political intrigue and danger. I generally liked the story, especially Reynaud and his dramatic story. I always like a man with a bit of a complex, I suppose. Beatrice is likable as far as female romance leads go, as they can all too often exhibit a cookie-cutter vapidity that I find puts me off of the romance genre as a whole. Though honestly, I feel that the romance aspect moved a little too fast and in a manner that wasn’t very realistic. It was just too easy and too forced. And when Reynaud proposed, the dialogue between the two was unbelievable and simple. I like things to be drawn out. There was something about the moment that rang as unbelievable to me. All in all, though, it was a fun read. The passion is hot and the romance is sweet. Ladies, Reynaud is one passionate man who knows how to work the body of a woman-- Beatrice, what a lucky woman! Dangerous and romantic at the same time, Reynaud can be as rough and demanding as gentle and smooth. And fortunately, there is a happy ending to be found, and I do so love happily ever after.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guest Post: Sacagawea: The Seduction of Mythology, the Paucity of Facts by Thad Carhart

Sacagawea: The Seduction of Mythology, the Paucity of Facts By Thad Carhart, Author of Across the Endless River

How much do we know for certain about the life of Sacagawea? The answer is: almost nothing. She was born "around 1788." She was abducted by the Hidatsa "when she was about 12." The date of her death is similarly uncertain: the prevailing view is that she died in 1812 at Fort Manuel Lisa on the Missouri, but others contend that she lived well into her 90s and died at the Wind River Reservation in 1884. Even the pronunciation and meaning of her name are still disputed, a reflection of the unknowable transliteration that both Clark and Lewis tried to capture in written syllables.

Lewis & Clark -- The Written Record Shapes All 
The most reliable primary documents that have come down to us concerning Sacagawea are, of course, the journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, through which she has entered the public imagination as an improbable but key player on the stage of American history. But even the journals, famed as they are, give us only fleeting glimpses of this young woman. She was one of Toussaint Charbonneau's several "squaws", a usage that covered everything from absolute servitude to common law marriage. In historical accounts, she is most frequently described as his "wife", but the fact remains that we have no way of knowing the human contours of their relationship. The instances of her mentions in the journals are themselves full of dramatic details: a difficult labor for her first child, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, born on February 11, 1805 in the bitter cold far-northern reaches of the Upper Missouri; her dire illness and near death in June of that year, when Lewis dosed her attentively from his meager medicine kit; her vote as an equal member of the expedition about the location of their winter camp once they reached the Pacific; her insistence at being allowed to accompany the party dispatched by Clark to the shore of the Pacific to investigate what meat might be recovered from a beached whale. All of these scenes have survived in the clear and dispassionate prose of the two captains, and while they offer tantalizing glimpses of how Sacagawea reacted under pressure, they of course come from the pens of those whose business it was to give the expedition shape in daily journals. While history is indeed written by the conquerors, perhaps here it would be more apt to say that history is first written by those who can write. How would she have described the captains? Nothing certain remains from Sacagawea's oral tradition, so the accounts of those whose language included an alphabet were bound to prevail

Sacagawea, Repository of Legends 
Even so, the degree to which the slender and infrequent mentions of Sacagawea in the Lewis & Clark journals have subsequently been weighed down with meaning is astounding. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, and gathering steam well into the twentieth, there developed an elaborate literature of wonder, almost of awe, around her being. She has come to represent resilience, courage, patience, loving motherhood, feminine independence . . . the list is virtually endless. It has been said that more images of her adorn public places than that of any other American woman. The latest iteration of her imagined likeness, the young mother bearing her papoose who graces the U.S. dollar coin, is as close as American culture is ever likely to come to an indigenous Madonna and Child. And yet most of this is pure fabrication, a projection of our own changing needs and perceptions of the past. I am reminded of the elaborate hagiography that has built up in France around Joan of Arc, just enough of it based on the startling and dramatic facts of her life to lay the groundwork for a complete mythology. In that sense, Lewis & Clark is our own founding myth, and the individual actors in its story assume the proportions of legend as we embroider the fragile facts we have with our own imaginings. Sacagawea dances around the edges of the narrative: innocent, strong, pure of heart, and ultimately unknowable, an undying receptacle for our dreams about both past and future. The beaten and abducted young squaw stands alongside the mother of a mixed-race son, the determined woman who saved Lewis & Clark from failure by bargaining for horses with the tribe from which she had been torn. Could any refracted image we fashion to express our hopes be more ambiguous, or more captivating?

©2009 Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River 
Author Bio- Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River, is a dual citizen of of the United States and Ireland. He lives in Paris with his wife, the photographer Simo Neri, and their two children. For more information please visit www.thadcarhart.com

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Guest Post: The Jewish Lady, The Black Man and the Road Trip by Carol Sue Gershman

First, I would like to apologize for not having this posted on the 18th as planned but my schedule was insane and I was simply unable to. But it is my immense pleasure to bring to you a blog post by Carol Sue Gershman, who is currently engaged in an online book tour for her novel The Jewish Lady, The Black Man and the Road Trip.

Guest Post 
Amongst girlfriends. I have been blessed with many good friends in my life. When I was in my thirties and forties I had five best girlfriends. I truly loved each of these ladies and they loved me. Each one thought that I was their best friend and to me they were all my best friends. I guess there was one that stood out more than the other and if they should read this, they would automatically say, "That was me." At other times in my life, such as my teenage years, I also had a group of wonderful girlfriends. These girlfriends were the ones I grew up with and I loved them all and they loved me. I am happy to say that two still remain my close friends but the others moved and we lost touch. Then there were the wonderful friends I had raising my kids; we shared our stories about bringing up babies and developed a social life around them. They knew my children and I knew theirs and the bond was strong. So where are all of these girlfriends now? I must admit that the majority of them have disappeared from my life and two, sadly, are deceased. Perhaps I am the cause of why they are no longer in my life. For example, one turned out to have a difficult life and manipulated me into being there for her during these times but excluding me from good times. It became an unpleasant friendship according to her terms. Another friend was the cheapest woman I ever met. She would not even treat herself to a glass of water and she had lots of money. It became discouraging as she sat in front of me with her mouth watering as I ordered dinner. In the beginning I would treat her, and then I realized I was only playing into her neurosis. She liked sitting with me but refused to order. The friendship broke up when she saw the man I was crazy about with another woman and told me. It devastated me at the time and found it not to be necessary for her to tell me. My best high school best friend disappeared as soon as we got married. When she came back it was thrilling, but no sooner did we connect, she would disappear again; and the same disappearance happened with my other best high school friend who I have not seen or heard from since high school. Now I have new friends and at 73 years old which is my age, I am lucky to connect with these terrific ladies. They have come to me in the last two years and each one is divine. One is my last boyfriend's prior lady, and the others I met at Mah Jongg. I stopped playing for thirty five years and now we are have come full circle. We have also connected on a different level and have become friends. We all have our individual lives but when we see each other we thoroughly enjoy one another and have fun. They are also wonderfully supportive of me as an author. So is this the way it is supposed to be? Is it me who has let them go or is it them that have let me go? Is it because we change over the years or is it because I have not been a good friend or accepting of their ways. I often thought how great it would be to bring all of my old friends together. Maybe we can all get in a circle and play what we used to play in grammar school. I don't like you because: But even told the truth, at this late date would we change or should I just be grateful for who I was and who they were at the time. Are relationships meant to last?
For more information about Carol Sue Gershman's blog tour here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Stewards of the Flame (The Hidden Flame, #2) by Sylvia Engdahl

About Sylvia Engdahl

Sylvia Engdahl is best known as the author of highly-acclaimed Young Adult science fiction novels, one of which was a Newbery Honor book and a finalist for the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year in the Rediscovery category. However, her trilogy Children of the Star, originally written for teens, was republished as adult SF, and she is now writing fiction only for adults. Engdahl is a strong advocate of space colonization and has maintained a widely-read space section of her website for many years. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, and currently works as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies. For more information about Sylvia Engdahl, visit her website here. If you would like to read up more about Stewards of the Flame, visit the book website here.

About Stewards of the Flame

When burned-out starship captain Jesse Sanders is seized by a dictatorial medical regime and detained on the colony planet Undine, he has no idea that he is about to be plunged into a bewildering new life that will involve ordeals and joys beyond anything he has ever imagined, as well as the love of a woman with powers that seem superhuman. Still less does he suspect that he must soon take responsibility for the lives of people he has come to care about and the preservation of their hopes for the future of humankind. This controversial novel winner of a bronze medal in the 2008 Independent Publisher (IPPY) book awards, deals with government-imposed health care, with end-of-life issues, and with the so-called paranormal powers of the human mind. Despite being set in the distant future on another world, it's not intended just for science fiction fans. Blogcritics said, "The story is compelling, and drew me in from the first few pages. . . . Stewards of the Flame is a thought-provoking novel that may make you question the authority and direction of modern Western medical practices. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading genre fiction with some substance to it."

Guest Post with Sylvia Engdahl

I've always had ideas about the future, and about humankind's relation to the universe, that I wanted very much to express. More often than not, my view of such issues contrasts with prevailing views. I'm inspired mainly by the wish to explore them, but I want to do it through the thoughts and feelings of characters who have to deal with them, rather than in the abstract. It's generally hard for me to think of events -- action -- through which the characters can confront them; I've come up with story ideas during only a few short periods of my life. But when I do get a plot idea, then I'm completely absorbed in the story until it is finished. I don't write, or even read, typical science fiction. My novels are not action/adventure stories, and they focus neither on strange environments nor on the details of hypothetical technologies. They're about characters portrayed like real people of today. Stewards of the Flame is set on a world colonized in the distant future by settlers from Earth. Its problems are more like today's problems, extended just a little beyond today's reality, than how the distant future will really be. But the story required a separate planet with a history of prior generations, and interstellar travel isn't going to occur for centuries considering that we're still dragging our feet on colonizing Mars, so I had no choice about its placement in time. In many ways the novel appeals more to readers of mainstream fiction than science fiction fans, but there is just no way to market a book about the future on another planet as mainstream; no matter what I say about it, it gets an SF genre label, making it hard for readers not looking for that genre to find. I hate the "genre" concept, but that's another topic. . . . I combined two issues I wanted to explore in fiction when writing Stewards of the Flame. In the first place, what might be the logical conclusion of today's trend toward government control of health care? My own feeling is that it could end in the takeover of the government (at least in a small colony) by medical authorities, depriving the citizens of their personal freedom. The people of the story live under what is essentially a dictatorship, but it wasn't imposed on the population by force -- they voted it in through misguided placement of health issues above all other values. The protagonists can't aim to overthrow it because it was established democratically, so they oppose it in another way, which involves the development of "paranormal" mind powers. I don't think of such powers as weird or supernatural. To me, they represent the future evolution of humankind. My view of the future is less pessimistic than the one common today, and I'm impatient with fiction that suggests we're not progressing. That, more than anything, impels me to create fiction of my own.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Review: The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th Century America by Paul E. Johnson & Sean Wilentz

Title: The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th Century America
Author: Paul E. Johnson Sean Wilentz
Genre: NonFiction - History
Finished: October 19, 2009

During The Second Great Awakening's religious revival of evangelicalism, Robert Matthews- the self-appointed prophet Matthias- was one of many to create and spread his own ultimately doomed religion, a patriarchal Kingdom of Truth in which Matthias sat at the head as the Father and redeemer. Matthias and his Kingdom were one of many religions developed and spread during the early 1800s, and many of Matthias' teachings were similar to those of other prophets and seers more successful in popularizing their messages. Yet Matthias and his group remained on the margins of society. Johnson and Wilentz want to explain not only the religion itself, but the reasons for its failure while other similar ones succeeded. The authors acknowledge that their main three sources are all biased for various reasons and were considered with this in mind. Accordingly, the sources, two books written about Matthias and the Kingdom and one pamphlet by Matthias' wife about his years before the Kingdom, must be weighted against one enough to derive something as close to the truth about the events. Other primary sources used are newspaper reports, personal narratives/memory, church records, indictment papers from Matthias' trial, and lectures. A lot of the background and contextual details are taken from various books, some of which Johnson and Wilentz wrote, and journal articles.

The rich and narrative style of the story helps it flow in a way that is interesting but informative. The two were able to create a story that read easy, that is fun to read and very enjoyable. The book is a snapshot of one religious group during the early 1800s that, though being the stuff of pure entertainment, has been all but forgotten. While the book is very isolated in its focus, it expands upon the world at the time by placing Matthias and his Kingdom in the context of their time period. Not only does the book show how the world around Matthias shaped his Kingdom, but how the Kingdom was part of the larger evolving world that it existed within. Though there were many other religions around this time in development, the bizarreness of the story of Matthias illuminates best the failures of religious revival as the others exemplify success, which allows for a more complete idea of the varied nature of 19th century American religion and society. However, the heavy use of sources that are admittedly very shaky and biased places a lot of the events into question. While no doubt everything written is based on fact and reality, and though the authors state that they have derived truth from contradicting and biased evidence to the best of their ability, there remains a matter of what is fact and exaggeration. The authors can never know what truth really is, they can only guess at it. Additionally, the book went off on tangents about people and rivalries that had no significance to the story. For example, the explanations of Matthias' brothers, and the story of the Stone and Folgers argument. They were fun to read, but ultimately had nothing to do with the story of Matthias and The Kingdom.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Guest Post: Roxanne Rhoads (Eternal Desire)

About Roxanne Rhoads

Story strumpet, tome loving tart, eccentric night owl...these are all words that can describe freelance writer and erotic romance author Roxanne Rhoads. When not fulfilling one the many roles being a wife and mother of three require, Roxanne's world revolves around words...reading them, writing them, editing them, and talking about them. In addition to writing her own stories she loves to read and review what others write. She operates a book review site, Fang-tastic Books, dedicated to her favorite type of book- anything paranormal. Her favorite genres are paranormal romance and urban fantasy but she'll read just about anything featuring vampires, ghosts, witches and whatnot. Roxanne writes everything from articles to web content as a freelance writer and poet. Her erotic and romance stories and poems have appeared in Playgirl Magazine, several print anthologies, in ebooks and on numerous Web sites including: JustusRoux.com, OystersandChocolate.com, TheEroticWoman.com, FortheGirls.com, AssociatedContent.com/roxanne, BareBackMag.com, LucreziaMagazine.com, and RuthiesClub.com She has several ebooks available through Eternal Press: Tasty Christmas Treats, Eternal Desire, the soon to be published Insatiable and 2 of her short paranormal erotic stories appear in the anthology Sexy Paranormal Bedtime Stories. All of these can be purchased in print at Amazon.com. Her story "The First Brick" appears in Lasting Lust: An Anthology of Kinky Couples in Love available at RavenousRomance.com A double shot of her paranormal erotica- Torrid Teasers Volume 59 is available through Whiskey Creek Press Torrid. When not reading or writing Roxanne loves to hang out with her family, craft, garden and search for unique vintage finds. You can visit her at www.roxannesrealm.blogspot.com and www.fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com.

About Eternal Desire


Liz Beth, a paranormal researcher, is haunted by the seductive vampire, Quillon, who may or may not be real. She arrives in New Orleans the week of Halloween to search for the elusive vampire of her dreams and instead encounters a handsome stranger, Christien, with whom she begins a passionate affair with. Soon she is torn between her dream lover and a flesh and blood man, both of whom are a mystery to her. The closer it gets to Halloween the wilder things become. LizBeth gets closer to the truth about Quillon while Christien has her under his own spell. Will all be revealed at the Vampyre Ball or will the masks stay in place? In New Orleans at Halloween anything is possible.

To read a blurb, go here. View the trailer:

The novella is scheduled to be released October 7, 2009 through EternalPress.ca. E-books can be purchased at EternalPress.ca, Fictionwise.com and BarnesandNoble.com Print copies can be purchased at Amazon.com

Guest Blog by Roxanne Rhoads

Dark Beauties By Roxanne

I guess I've always been attracted to the dark side, even when I was really young my favorite things were witchy, spooky and creepy. I can remember rushing home every day after to school to watch Scooby Doo my all time favorite cartoon. I laugh at my husband because he said he couldn’t watch Scooby when he was little because it scared him. He still isn't a big fan of scary movies either. Though he can handle going to all the crazy Halloween haunted houses when I can't. Weird. Anyway, I digress. When I was a child my bookshelves were lined with all kinds of creepy, spooky and scary ghost stories and kids books about Halloween and anything just a little supernatural. By the time I was 10 I was already reading Steven King and Dean Koontz. I loved watching Tales from the Darkside, Twilight Zone, and of course- reruns of The Munsters and The Addams Family. Morticia Addams and Lily Munster were idols of mine, dark, scary, beautiful. Especially the original Morticia (not so much Angelica Houston). Then later came Elvira- now there was a frightening figure of femininity that men everywhere lusted after. The "Otherness" portrayed by these women was always intensely sexual. Lily was a nurturing mother but like mother nature her sexuality was apparent. Morticia was always appeared so slinky and darkly beautiful, and the refreshing flirtation between her and Gomez is something to hope for in a relationship isn't it? And Elvira, well, she was just sex incarnate wasn’t she? Did you know that Lily and Herman Munster were the first television couple to actually appear in bed together and Morticia and Gomez were always sexy and flirtatious while all the other couples on television sit coms during that time period (1960s) had no apparent sex lives and were never seen in bed together. With television showing such bland lifestyles how could you not want dark sexiness in your world? For a little girl who dreamed of wild times and fantastic places emulating the dark beauties promised a much more interesting life. And now look at the popularity of paranormal erotica and paranormal erotic romance today. These books are flying off the shelves. A lot of people are catching on to the allure of the dark side of sex and I couldn't be more thrilled. For those fans of vampires and other supernatural sexiness I hope you'll like my new novella, Eternal Desire
Here's a quick blurb: Liz Beth, a paranormal researcher, is haunted by the seductive vampire, Quillon, who may or may not be real. She arrives in New Orleans the week of Halloween to search for the elusive vampire of her dreams and instead encounters a handsome stranger, Christien, with whom she begins a passionate affair with. Soon she is torn between her dream lover and a flesh and blood man, both of whom are a mystery to her. The closer it gets to Halloween the wilder things become. LizBeth gets closer to the truth about Quillon while Christien has her under his own spell. Will all be revealed at the Vampyre Ball or will the masks stay in place? In New Orleans at Halloween anything is possible. 
E-books can be purchased at EternalPress.ca, Fictionwise.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Print copies can be purchased at Amazon.com 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review: Hex in High Heels (Hex, #4) by Linda Wisdom

Title: Hex in High Heels
Series: Hex
Book Number: 4
Author: Linda Wisdom
Genre: Fiction - Paranormal Romance
Finished: October 13, 2009

Hex in High Heels was my introduction to the world of Linda Wisdom and Blair Fitzpatrick. Though it is book four in the series, I decided to start from book four and then see how the series struck me, if it was something I would be into. As it seems to be, the books are all loosely connected with the same characters reoccurring, but different ones taking the starring roles. So, though the series was new to me, I hoped that I wouldn't have to know too much about Blair and her life previously to enjoy Hex in High Heels. Blair Fitzpatrick is a witch who just so happens to run her own vintage store and has a thing for a were-collie carpenter named Jake Harrison. The drama is hot enough between the two of them as they work out mutual feelings for each other that could soon blossom into something more. Yet, it is never enough to simply have relationship drama. No. There is always more. Jake's family ad former pack come to town looking to buy some land from Blair and ease in close to. This pack is made up of wolves, far stronger than the mere collie that Jake becomes. The worst part is that the alpha of the pack is Jake's brother, working in tandem with their vicious mother, who wants him dead! Blair is as determined to keep Jake as the pack is to have him and see him dead. Good thing for the pair of them that Blair is as powerful a witch as she is. Does make it any easier that some trouble making elves are also causing Blair a considerable amount of distress. This book was a lot of fun, for sure. Throughout the story, even in times of drama and distress, the story was infused with humor. At the same time, the characters were not all lighthearted parody's of magical creatures and things. There was a really great balance to the story, to the drama versus the humor. I really liked Blair and rooted for her the whole time, though of course, we all know that the good guys generally win in the end. I did, however, feel like I may have gotten more out of the cameos made by other characters if I had read the previous novels. A few times, characters were brought in or things alluded to that I had no idea about and could only assume they happened in one of the previous books. Suffice to say I am going to put the other books on my wish list and get them one by one. If they are anything like Hex in High Heels, I know I am going to enjoy them immensely.

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Football is for Lovers by Robert Brooker & Kathleen O'Dougherty

About Robert Brooker & Kathleen O'Dougherty

Bob Brooker and Kaye O'Dougherty have been adventuring together for a lot of years now. They first met at a recording studio on 42nd Street. Yes, that 42nd Street. They recorded a commercial for E.J. Korvette's, who went out of business soon thereafter. Bob is an old saloon singer who, as Bobby Brookes, recorded for Victor and Capital back in the day. Kaye has trouble carrying a tune in a bucket. Nevertheless, over the years, as Brooker and O'Dougherty, the two have collaborated on a variety of theater projects, performing, writing, directing, managing, and producing. In keeping with the changing times, they have even created a cyber alter-ego named eBobb. Recently, Bob and Kaye both took long-overdue turns at being rather mature college kids. Kaye now holds a Bachelors Degree in the Humanities from St. Peter's College in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Bob was graduated magna cum laude from Montclair State University with a BA in Theater, and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. For more information: Footballforlovers.com, Blog

About Football is for Lovers

Can learning about football be sexy? According to Football is for Lovers, when it comes to your love life, football can be better than oysters. The good news is that Football is for Lovers makes the basics so . . . well, so basic that learning the game is easy as eating an ice cream cone. And just as much fun. With anecdotes, illustrations, and a lot of laughs, Football is for Lovers not only makes it easy to understand the game, but also shows you how to put an end to the TV clicker wars, improve your relationship, and spice up your love life. It just takes looking at the game of football a little bit differently. Then again, since Football is for Lovers contains references to football great Jerry Rice in a pink tutu, images of paintings by French artist Jean Dubuffet, an alert about the dangers of speaking Northeastern Mandarin, an explanation of the value of M & M's in a relationship, and a Burma Shave sign, to say it looks at football "a little bit differently" may be something of an understatement. But if your football-obsessed partner has been making you a 'football widow' from August NFL pre-season through the February Super-Bowl, thus convincing you that you hate football, this little book may be just the 'different look' you need to discover that, after all, Football really is for Lovers!

Guest Post by Robert Brooker & Kathleen O'Dougherty

When you hear that a shared cause can keep a relationship flourishing, more than likely what springs to mind is sharing Grand Things like stamping out global hunger, or achieving world peace. Sharing football is likely not to have made it into your top ten. But maybe football deserves a recount. And no: we're not just saying that because we wrote Football is for Lovers. Actually, it's more why we wrote Football is for Lovers. It occurred to us that many of you may not have made the connection between the condition of your relationship and the condition of the planet. Which brings us back to what we see as the key to a truly electric relationship: sharing. Sadly, we appear to be to the ill-manner born. From the time we're mere babes, we're pretty much gimme sort of guys. Ever see the frown on the face of a toddler when she's told she has to share her Tommy the Talking Truck with her playmate? Ah, but then we fall in love. And we realize "amazingly!" that we are actually seeing someone else as being at least as important to us as we are to ourselves!!! Wow!!! Better than that: it doesn't just feel good. It feels positively EUPHORIC!!! Egos melt. Suddenly, we want to give our dearly beloved the world!! Hey, he can have our Tommy the Talking Truck if he wants it. Because now we see – no, make that now we feel – how wonderful sharing can be. But we're willing to bet that you still don't see the connection between Tommy, football, and World Peace. Well, there is one. And since we're also betting that you're feeling just a bit skeptical along about now, we're bringing in the Big Guns: Vladimir Solovyov. Hey, with a name like that, you just gotta take him seriously, yes? Well, you should. He's considered to be one of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century. Vladimir said, ". . . sexual love is the highest flowering of individual life." Oh, that Vladimir! But more than that, he said that love is "the beginning of the embodiment of true ideal humanity." That is, Vladimir sees this human physical love of ours as the doorway to that true ideal humanity that really would feed the hungry and end all war. Didn't know you had it in you, did you?! Okay. So love is a heck of a lot more heavyweight than you thought it was. But still: why football? We say, why not? Isn't it a grand way to ease yourself into the bigger stuff? It can rev up all that sharing energy you'll need for those anti-war protests and collecting canned goods to send to Wall Street. Don't understand the game? If you're a little shaky on the fundamentals, Football is for Lovers will teach you all you need to know. Quick and easy. So let yourself go! Cheer! Hug! Roll around on the rug a little. The world is counting on you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review: Slave Country- American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South by Adam Rothman

Title: Slave Country- American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South
Author: Adam Rothman
Genre: NonFiction - History
Finished: October 12, 2009

As Rothman states in his introduction, "During the Republic, slavery's expansion in the Deep South emerged from contingent global forces, concrete policies pursued by governments, and countless small choices made by thousands of individuals in diverse stations of life." The question of why and how slavery expanded after the revolution has yet to be answered. Most Americans consider slavery an embarrassment and many feel it unrealistic to question why slavery was not abolished in a post-revolutionary time of independence and achievement. Rothman approaches those issues to explain why slavery was not abolished and why it expanded in the Republic. Rothman uses a variety of good primary source documents for his research and evidence: American State Papers; census and population data and statistics; newspapers; memorials; estate inventories; personal letters and papers; journals and memoirs; public documents and declarations; and legal documents such as petitions, laws, and affidavits. For secondary sources, Rothman consulted a number of journal articles, books, and dissertations that explore topics such as, but not limited to, the rationale of expansion, slaves and slavery, a biography on politicians and plantation owners, and international relations. They all contribute appropriately to the book, and all seem to be sound documents and sources. What I liked best about this book is that it is very complete in the information that it gives. Rothman approaches a complex topic, with many various factors, influences, and causes/effects, and gives readers an in-depth view of the expansion of slavery. Rather than be very broad and general, Rothman is full of detail and history to explain its rooting. He gives details and connects it all together in an intricate weave that is still easy to grasp and understand, and makes you understand the true complexity of slavery's expansion. What I feel hurt the book, though, is that there is a lot of dates jumping back and forth. As a result, I found it difficult to keep up with at times and had some difficulty keeping things within a proper mental timeline. Another is that he frequently inserts things happening with Native Americans and places them within the context of slavery, a few times finding rationales that are very loose. While it makes sense to evaluate the impact of Native American slaveholders, the book loses focus a few times when there is no direct or important correlation. If you have ever wanted to take a deeper look into slavery, to ask and then answer the question of how American culture, economy, and politics evolved in such a way as to encourage the institution of slavery, this will be a great book to read. So often we take slavery for granted in the sense that "it was here and it existed," but its origins are far more complex and layered, full of back and forth, supporters and dissenters, and part of a shifting nation that encouraged freedom while at the same time strengthening the bondage of others.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Elizabeth Chadwick (The Greatest Knight)

Welcome to Elizabeth Chadwick, who is here on blog tour to promote her book The Greatest Knight, which you can get in book stores now! It is my absolute pleasure to get to welcome her here today. She was kind enough to grant up here at Morbid Romantic a guest post. Enjoy!

Guest Post
Many thanks to Valorie for giving me air time on her blog! William Marshal, the charismatic star of The Greatest Knight is something of a paradox. He was an ordinary guy when he started out. He was born in the English county of Wiltshire in 1147AD. His father's fourth child, the product of a second marriage. There wasn't much left in the family coffers by way of inheritance by the time William came along. However, his father found an education in the military for him and the young man proved so skilled with lance and sword that he was soon earning a fortune on the tourney circuits of medieval Europe and his talents brought him to the attention of the King and Queen of England. He went on to serve in both their households. He was the tutor in chivalry to their eldest son and travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. On his return from his travels, he married a wealthy and beautiful heiress and turned his attention to raising a family and helping to steer England through some very troubled times indeed. William's career was stellar by the yardstick of any century, his tale a true one of rags to riches. When he died, his name was renowned throughout the known world. Slowly, through the accumulated dust and detritus of passing centuries, that name became forgotten, except by a few. His life story, written down within a few years of his death in a rhyming family history more than 19,000 lines long, was lost for seven centuries. It re-emerged among a pile of old manuscripts for sale in 19th century France where Historian Paul Meyer saw the poem and realised what a treasure he had rediscovered. He translated it into modern French, but it didn't have an audience beyond academic circles. William Marshal, the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, slept on, seldom noticed, his effigy earning the occasional passing glance from casual visitors to the Temple Church in London where he was buried with two of his sons. There were occasional disturbances. William was dug up and reburied just a few years after his death because Henry III wanted to expand the church, so although the effigy is there, no one is quite sure where William's bones actually lie, although somewhere in the fabric is a given. The church suffered bomb damage during World War II and the effigy was slightly damaged, but survived.

 A few years ago, however, there was a major change. Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code -- anyone not heard of it? The story takes the reader to the Temple church in London and mentions the effigies of four knights lying on the floor of the nave. Suddenly William's tomb was a place of pilgrimage! The first time I visited William at the Temple Church, there was only me and a lady from Australia, who was there visiting a different tomb. The following year, I was joined by an American couple who stood in front of the effigies of William and his eldest son, discussing whether or not one of them had been a crusader. I got into conversation with them and the wife said with a smile "You know why we are here don't you?" I shook my head. "The Da Vinci Code." At that point, the book had only just begun to make waves and the couple were part of the advance guard. I told them who William really was. When it came to my next pilgrimage a further year on, the Temple Church was by now packed with tourists embarked upon the "Da Vinci Code tour" and William and his sons were the centre of attention. There must be thousands of photo albums round the world featuring snapshots of proud visitors crouched beside the effigy of one of the greatest men England has ever produced, but all these people know is that he's one of their tick boxes on the Da Vinci Code experience. These days William and his sons have had to be protected from all the attention by rope barriers. There were none when I first went to pay my respects. I find it very fascinating. William was an unknown who became famous and then forgotten again. Now he's famous but anonymous. I am hoping that The Greatest Knight is going to change that state of affairs big-time! 

About the Author Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, A Place Beyond Courage, The Scarlet Lion, the Winter Mantle, and the Falcons of Montebard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: We Mean to be Counted by Elizabeth R. Varon

Title: We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia 
Author: Elizabeth R. Varon 
Genre: Nonfiction - History 
Finished: September 28, 2009

The historical consensus is that white women in the antebellum period were excluded from political participation. Varon argues that elite middle-class women were active in political participation, but they did not attempt to occupy the public sphere of men. Instead, women organized benevolent societies, worked as mediators, petitioned, volunteered, wrote, and attended public meetings. This book is not to show us women were always a cohesive force with a long-term goal of suffrage or equality, indeed not because Southern women were generally quite content with the social order. We Mean to be Counted merely rejects the premise that women were entirely excluded from politics by showing that, no, there were women involved. Whether 10 or 10,000, women still found a place for themselves and their talents. According to Varon, women were believed by their nature to be disinterested, moral forces of restraint and education for men and children. In occupying a public sphere through political activity, women were fulfilling the duties of their private sphere of motherhood and wifedom. Organizations such as girl schools and colonization societies were seen as perfect for the nature of a woman, and any political knowledge passed on to her through participation in parties such as the Whig party (Whig Womanhood) was only so that she could use her intelligence to form a patriotic family.

Initially also, Southern women were to act as sectional mediators between the North and South. As time went on, though, and slavery debates heated up, the concept of “Confederate motherhood, with its fervent belief in preserving the South as it was. Varon has written a well-rounded perspective on elite white antebellum women and their roles in politics, which she supports convincingly with her source usage. By refuting a popular and generalized claim that women were not politically active in this time, she contributes new information that is unique and important not only to southern history, but women's history and political science. The book is easy to read, flows coherently, and is made interesting by her inclusion of actual quotes and manuscript snippets. The only weakness to be found in this book is that it is absent anything related to women other than the elite class with the occasional middle-class woman thrown in and a small inclusion on African American women after the war. The book would have presented a more complete picture of women in the antebellum period if it included some information about lower class women. Though lacking influence, common women still would have had ideas and opinions political in nature and would have communicated them to one another by some means. It would seem by the evidence Varon gives that the political participation of women was very large in influence and widespread among the gender, but it must be taken into account that she is speaking of a portion of the female population, not just "white women" in general. The authority with which Varon speaks could be misleading in this way. Virginia was a unique state in the South, though, and by isolating it from the rest of the United States, we see just how much it was. This fact must be kept in mind while reading lest the mistake of made of assuming the entire south was like Virginia.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866 by Charles E. Rosenberg

Title: The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866
Author: Charles E. Rosenberg
Genre: Nonfiction - History
Finished: September 25, 2009

In the Republic era of America, people were assaulted daily by their own visions of success, failure, the expectations and weaknesses of a still developing concept of democracy, poverty, and illness. One such illness, Cholera, infected America three times during this period: 1832, 1849, and 1866. In America, "Cholera represented a constant and randomly reoccurring stimulus against which the varying reactions and systems of Americans could be judged" and it caused gradual changes in social attitudes, government, religious thought, and medicine as people tried to understand and cope with the disease. Historians have recently given little attention to defining and then writing about the social changes brought about by cholera, both as a process and its final result. It is part of history's recent interest in social aspects such as family and school, which medicine is a part of because the two are linked by everyday life concerns.

The Cholera Years is an interesting and easy to read the book. One of its strengths lies in its readability and in how it engages the reader through primary sources. Historical books that tell stories and relate true life accounts and words are more interesting than those that simply move from one fact to the next. Also, Rosenberg is very organized in his presentation of information. The sections, chopped up by cholera year, follow the same patterns as far as how information is addressed. As a result, though we are reading from one year to the next, the progressions of society and thought are easy to follow and connect together. It actually made more sense this way than if Rosenberg had approached the book topically, which would have jumped around and only confused. Unfortunately, as a weakness, Rosenberg is very repetitive. A lot of information and points are stressed repeatedly throughout the book, and in that way, it sort of loses focus a few times. Rosenberg gives an annotated bibliography at the end of his book, which lists aids, manuscripts, public documents, newspapers, printed medical documents, other printed material, and secondary sources consulted. He does make a note in his section on printed material other than medical literature that he has not listed all the documents consulted because they are too numerous, but instead listed those that are most interesting or relevant, which he also does with newspapers. The primary sources include such documents as hospital reports, newspapers, Board of Health and committee minutes, and religious sermons. As such, we are provided with a lot of "from the mouth" accounts of cholera to support the progressions in thought and practice that Rosenberg takes us through from one outbreak to the next. This book fits well into the genre of medical history, as well as cultural history because Cholera had a direct and distinct impact on life, the concept of a person, social equality, and medical care. You won't get the sort of copious gory details that medical history books are known for, which is a shame, but you will certainly come out of reading the book understanding a bit more how America evolved into the country it is now, and how something like one disease could shape a nation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Post & Excerpt: Sandy Lender (Choices Meant For Kings)

Today at Morbid Romantic, I bring to you Sandy Lender who is out touring her latest book Choices Meant for Kings. It is my pleasure to welcome her here! 

About Choices Meant For Kings 

Chariss is in danger. Her geasa is hampered by the effects of a friend’s marriage. The dashing Nigel Taiman hides something from her, yet demands she stay at his family’s estate where he and her wizard guardian intend to keep her safe. But the sorcerer Lord Drake and Julette The Betrayer know she’s there, and their monstrous army marches that way. When prophecies stack up to threaten an arrogant deity, Chariss must choose between the dragon that courts her and the ostracized kings of the Southlands for help. Evil stalks her at every turn and madness creeps over the goddess who guides her. Can an orphan-turned-Protector resist the dark side of her heritage? Or will she sacrifice all to keep her god-charge safe? 

Read an exclusive excerpt
As the soldier stepped toward him, Nigel reached out his arm and caught him by the neck. He slammed the captain against the far wall. He pinned him there with his body, leaning against the man as if he could crush the wind from him with his presence. He brought his face close to the soldier’s ear and spoke lowly, fiercely, so that no one could have overheard him. The menace and intent behind the words was as surprising to the captain as the words themselves. “I asked you to accompany [Chariss] on this journey tomorrow because I have faith in your sword, and until this moment I trusted you to keep your distance from her. Now, I find her down here at your side with a look upon your face that suggests more than you realize. So help me, Naegling, the only thing that stays my hand is how displeased she would be if she learned that I sliced you open.” “The look you see is merely my concern for her honor. Nothing more.” “I’m not a fool. And I’ll use every last piece of Arcana’s treasury to pay the prophets to justify my reasons for marrying that woman, so you can unconcern yourself with her honor.” Hrazon stepped off the staircase then and saw Nigel pressed against his guard. “I still believe you’re one of the best soldiers Arcana’s ever seen,” Nigel continued, “and I want you at her side for this journey, but, so help me, Naegling, she comes back alive and well and not confused in the least about her affections for me, or I will string you up from a tree in the orchard and attach your intestines to your horse’s saddle before I send it--” Hrazon cleared his throat. “Excuse me. Is there an issue here I should address?”
Strong Women Offer Courage, Inspiration By Fantasy Author Sandy Lender http:///www.authorsandylender.com
Good stories inspire readers. It only makes sense that good characters inspire readers, too. When those readers are little girls, young ladies, struggling women, older matriarchs seeking something they can’t pinpoint, etc., the good character should, in my opinion, be a strong female lead. When invited to post an article here as part of my current online book tour supporting Choices Meant for Kings, I was asked to comment on why I felt that strong female characters are important in fiction novels. I don’t just think they’re important--I think they’re valuable gems worth mining when selecting reading material. When I was younger, I read Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Montgomery, and, as I got into college, Maya Angelou, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and the list goes on. (If you want to read the original feminist writer, I encourage you to read Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, keeping in mind the 1848 society in which she lived and the conventions she rubbed against in making Mrs. Helen Graham the kick-butt heroine she is.) But having a strong feminine mind behind a strong female character doesn’t mean you have to push a feminist agenda. You could just be offering moral support, good values, a simple message, a heartfelt word of love for your fellow woman, a guide toward womanhood, etc. Women of any age can reach out to a fiction novel character for any number of lessons. As an author, I want those women to find a source of strength in the main character I’ve written. In the summer and fall of 2008, I faced some trials in my personal life that I don’t need to hash out here. A couple of life-altering events were just about wrapped up after many months of paperwork and court dates. A “newer” health event was in full swing so I was visiting a doctor’s office or treatment center almost daily. I felt run down and haggard. The release of my second novel was postponed again and again... You get the picture. A dear friend of mine named Laura Crawford (proprietor of Crawford Writing and Marketing in Minnesota) very kindly read one of my pity-party e-mails and wrote back some wonderful words of support. She pointed out that I’d created (in her estimation) the strongest female character in fantasy literature today. She told me that Chariss, the heroine in my Choices novels, wasn’t born out of thin air, but came from me. Therefore, some of Chariss’s strength was in me. I could beat everything I was going through. So, without realizing it, I had created a strong female character who could inspire me as well as my readers. It still makes me smile to think about it. And it strengthens my belief that women can look to fictional characters for courageous ideas, moments of inspiration, and, yes, strength. “Some days, you just want the dragon to win.” Sandy Lender will be stopping at other places along the net, so follow her tour for a chance to win a first edition, autographed, hard copy edition of the first book in the trilogy Choices Meant for Gods. All you have to do is comment here and on her other tour stops.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Guest Post: Michelle Moran (Cleopatra's Daughter, The Heretic Queen, & Nefertiti)

It is my distinct pleasure to bring to you today a guest post by Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter. I have no shame for my obvious envy of Michelle Moran-- she has seen things that I can at this point only dream of... The Mamertine, The House of Augustus, the original floor of the Senate... it's just too much to think about. For this reason, I am absolutely delighted to welcome Michelle Moran to Morbid Romantic to discuss her love of history since I also share a deep love for Ancient Rome and Egypt.

Guest Blog
For every novel I have written, I can look back and say that there has been a very specific moment of inspiration - usually in some exotic locale or inside a museum - where I’ve said, “Aha! That’s going to be the subject of my next novel.” I never began my writing career with the intention to write books about three different princesses in Egypt. In fact, I had no intention of writing about ancient Egypt at all until I participated in my first archaeological dig. During my sophomore year in college, I found myself sitting in Anthropology 101, and when the professor mentioned that she was looking for volunteers who would like to join a dig in Israel, I was one of the first students to sign up. When I got to Israel, however, all of my archaeological dreams were dashed (probably because they centered around Indiana Jones). There were no fedora wearing men, no cities carved into rock, and certainly no Ark of the Covenant. I was very disappointed. Not only would a fedora have seemed out of place, but I couldn’t even use the tiny brushes I had packed. Apparently, archaeology is more about digging big ditches with pickaxes rather than dusting off artifacts. And it had never occurred to me until then that in order to get to those artifacts, one had to dig deep into the earth. Volunteering on an archaeological dig was hot, it was sweaty, it was incredibly dirty, and when I look back on the experience through the rose-tinged glasses of time, I think, Wow, was it fantastic! Especially when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with the Egyptians. Looking at that scarab in the dirt, I began to wonder who had owned it, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey from their homeland to the fledgling country of Israel. On my flight back to America I stopped in Berlin, and with a newfound appreciation for Egyptology, I visited the museum where Nefertiti’s limestone bust was being housed. The graceful curve of Nefertiti’s neck, her arched brows, and the faintest hint of a smile were captivating to me. Who was this woman with her self-possessed gaze and stunning features? I wanted to know more about Nefertiti’s story, but when I began the research into her life, it proved incredibly difficult. She’d been a woman who’d inspired powerful emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago, and those who had despised her had attempted to erase her name from history. Yet even in the face of such ancient vengeance, some clues remained.

As a young girl Nefertiti had married a Pharaoh who was determined to erase the gods of Egypt and replace them with a sun-god he called Aten. It seemed that Nefertiti’s family allowed her to marry this impetuous king in the hopes that she would tame his wild ambitions. What happened instead, however, was that Nefertiti joined him in building his own capital of Amarna where they ruled together as god and goddess. But the alluring Nefertiti had a sister who seemed to keep her grounded, and in an image of her found in Amarna, the sister is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically praising the royal couple. From this image, and a wealth of other evidence, I tried to recreate the epic life of an Egyptian queen whose husband was to become known as the Heretic King.

Each novel I’ve written has had a similar moment of inspiration for me. In many ways, my second book, The Heretic Queen is a natural progression from Nefertiti. The narrator is orphaned Nefertari, who suffers terribly because of her relationship to the reviled "Heretic Queen". Despite the Heretic Queen's death a generation prior, Nefertari is still tainted by her relationship to Nefertiti, and when young Ramesses falls in love and wishes to marry her, it is a struggle not just against an angry court, but against the wishes of a rebellious people. But perhaps I would never have chosen to write on Nefertari at all if I hadn't seen her magnificent tomb. At one time, visiting her tomb was practically free, but today, a trip underground to see one of the most magnificent places on earth can cost upwards of five thousand dollars (yes, you read that right). If you want to share the cost and go with a group, the cost lowers to the bargain-basement price of about three thousand. As a guide told us of the phenomenal price, I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We had flown more than seven thousand miles, suffered the indignities of having to wear the same clothes for three days because of lost luggage... and really, what were the possibilities of our ever returning to Egypt again? There was only one choice. We paid the outrageous price, and I have never forgotten the experience. While breathing in some of the most expensive air in the world, I saw a tomb that wasn't just fit for a queen, but a goddess. In fact, Nefertari was only one of two (possibly three) queens ever deified in her lifetime, and as I gazed at the vibrant images on her tomb - jackals and bulls, cobras and gods - I knew that this wasn't just any woman, but a woman who had been loved fiercely when she was alive. Because I am a sucker for romances, particularly if those romances actually happened, I immediately wanted to know more about Nefertari and Ramesses the Great. So my next stop was the Hall of Mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There, resting beneath a heavy arc of glass, was the great Pharaoh himself. For a ninety-something year old man, he didn't look too bad. His short red hair was combed back neatly and his face seemed strangely peaceful in its three thousand year repose. I tried to imagine him as he'd been when he was young - strong, athletic, frighteningly rash and incredibly romantic. Buildings and poetry remain today as testaments to Ramesses's softer side, and in one of Ramesses's more famous poems he calls Nefertari "the one for whom the sun shines." His poetry to her can be found from Luxor to Abu Simbel, and it was my

It’s the moments like this that an historical fiction author lives for. And it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that my decision to write Cleopatra’s Daughter came on an underwater dive to see the submerged city of ancient Alexandria. Traveling has been enormously important in my career. My adventures end up inspiring not only what I’m currently writing, but what I’m going to write about in the future. For more information about Michelle Moran: Website Blog