Saturday, December 19, 2015

Book Blast: "The Edge of Lost" by Kristina McMorris

02_The Edge of LostThe Edge of Lost
by Kristina McMorris


Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Kensington Books
Trade Paperback, 340 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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From New York Times bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes an ambitious and heartrending story of immigrants, deception, and second chances.

On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | POWELL'S | INDIEBOUND




Advance Praise


“Kristina McMorris evokes such a strong sense of place that to open her books feels less like reading and more like traveling. Her absorbing new novel..[is an] epic, deeply felt tale of struggle and second chances… a transporting piece of historical fiction.” — BookPage

“McMorris’ gripping immigrant saga sweeps from Dublin to New York, through Prohibition and vaudeville, from New York to San Francisco and Alcatraz. It is a young man’s battle with hardship and tragedy, but it is also a portrait of America during a turbulent time and a quest that ends in triumph. Readers will be caught up in this well-told story.” — RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

“Compelling, resonant and deeply moving, The Edge of Lost is an absorbing tale of deceit and self-deception, survival and second chances, the ties that bind and the lure of the unknown.” — Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

“The story will grab your heart on page one and won’t let go until the end—and if you’re like me, not even then. I absolutely love this book, and so will you.” — Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants

“A beautifully told story about a young man’s journey through adversity and loss with an exhilarating ending that I couldn’t put down and stayed up well past my bedtime to finish.” — Charles Belfoure, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Architect

“In The Edge of Lost Kristina McMorris takes us on a thrilling ride . . . I found myself thoroughly immersed in her richly evocative settings, just as I was captivated by the pure humanity of her characters as they struggled for redemption. This book is a wonderful read!” — David R. Gillham, New York Times bestselling author of City of Women

“The Edge of Lost takes readers on an enthralling journey . . . right up to a tense, edge-of-your-seat ending that left me breathless. An absorbing, addictive read.” — Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Violet Grant

“With prose as lyrical as the music woven through its narrative, and boasting impeccably observed historical details, The Edge of Lost is a thoroughly mesmerizing novel. I adore everything that Kristina McMorris writes and this book is no exception.” — Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Somewhere in France

About the Author03_Kristina McMorris


Kristina McMorris is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and the recipient of more than twenty national literary awards, as well as a nomination for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, RWA’s RITA® Award, and a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her works of fiction have been published by Kensington Books, Penguin Random House, and HarperCollins. The Edge of Lost is her fourth novel, following the widely praised Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and The Pieces We Keep, in addition to her novellas in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central.

Prior to her writing career, Kristina hosted weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, and has been named one of Portland's "40 Under 40" by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in Oregon, where she is working on her next novel. For more, visit www.KristinaMcMorris.com. You can also follow Kristina on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule


Monday, December 14
The Maiden's Court
Passages to the Past

Tuesday, December 15
A Literary Vacation
CelticLady's Reviews
What Is That Book About

Wednesday, December 16
Reading Is My SuperPower
Svetlana's Reads and Views

Thursday, December 17
Unshelfish
A Book Geek
With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Friday, December 18
The Lit Bitch
The Reading Queen

Saturday, December 19
Book Nerd
Beth's Book Nook Blog
So Many Books, So Little Time

Sunday, December 20
Let Them Read Books
Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Monday, December 21
Boom Baby Reviews

Giveaway


To win a signed copy of The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway starts at 12:01am EST on December 14th and ends at 11:59pm EST on December 21st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US and Canada ONLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Edge of Lost Book Blast Giveaway


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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mini Reviews (12)

I really need to catch up on NetGalley reviews so all of the mini-reviews this week are from NetGalley.



I really wanted to love this one but I just ended up feeling disappointed. It wasn't a bad story but I just didn't love the characters.  I actually liked Henry of Navarre the best out of everyone.  Margot was supposed to be really tough (and at times she was) but other times she was just kind of pathetic.  She let the Duc de Guise use her and just fell all over herself to make him happy when he was a self-centered jerk.  It was just kind of painful to watch.  It wasn't a bad book (I enjoyed the historical aspects of it) but it could have been so much better. 3 stars.



 
This was an interesting read.  I really liked how it was split into different characters' perspectives so you can get a little more background about each person in the story.  I found The Guest Room to be pretty riveting and it kept me interested from page 1.  I will say that some of the characters (Phillip, Spencer, etc) are completely disgusting, immature pigs and at times, their behavior made me want to throw the book across the room.  The ending was a huge surprise and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  Overall, a decent read.  3 stars.
 
 
 

I love this series and now I love Connor!  He has always been a fun secondary character but he is now one of my favorites.  He was such a sweet guy and I felt so bad that Jessica was always kind of hard on him.  I understand she has issues but she really put Connor through the wringer sometimes.  Like all of the previous books, everything works out in the end and it wound up being a super sweet book.  I really don't want this series to end! 4 stars.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Blast and Giveaway: "Decorum" by Kaaren Christopherson


02_Decorum




Decorum: A Novel by Kaaren Christopherson



Publication Date: March 31, 2015


Kensington Publishing Corp.


Foramts: eBook, Paperback, Audio


Pages: 425




Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance




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Kaaren Christopherson's brilliantly observed novel captures the glamour and grit of one of the world's most dazzling cities during one of its most tumultuous eras--as seen through the eyes of a singularly captivating heroine...

In 1890s New York, beautiful, wealthy Francesca Lund is an intriguing prospect for worthy suitors and fortune hunters alike. Recently orphaned, she copes by working with the poor in the city's settlement movement. But a young woman of means can't shun society for long, and Francesca's long-standing acquaintance with dashing Edmund Tracey eventually leads to engagement. Yet her sheltered upbringing doesn't blind her to the indiscretions of the well-to-do...

Among the fashionable circle that gathers around her there are mistresses, scandals, and gentlemen of ruthless ambition. And there is Connor O'Casey--an entirely new kind of New Yorker. A self-made millionaire of Irish stock, Connor wants more than riches. He wants to create a legacy in the form of a luxury Madison Avenue hotel--and he wants Francesca by his side as he does it. In a quest that will take her from impeccable Manhattan salons to the wild Canadian Rockies, Francesca must choose not only between two vastly different men, but between convention and her own emerging self-reliance.


Rules Of Decorum


A gentleman should not be presented to a lady without her permission being previously asked and granted. This formality is not necessary between men alone; but, still, you should not present any one, even at his own request, to another, unless you are quite well assured that the acquaintance will be agreeable to the latter.

If you wish to avoid the company of any one that has been properly introduced, satisfy your own mind that your reasons are correct; and then let no inducement cause you to shrink from treating him with respect, at the same time shunning his company. No gentleman will thus be able either to blame or mistake you.

The mode in which the avowal of love should be made, must of course, depend upon circumstances. It would be impossible to indicate the style in which the matter should be told... Let it, however, be taken as a rule that an interview is best; but let it be remembered that all rules have exceptions...




Praise


“A story of discovery, entitlement and love.” – Northern Virginia Magazine

“Remarkable in its similarities to the work of Edith Wharton. The reader feels drawn into a world of glamour, glitz, and supreme hypocrisy. Everything is permissible as long as one does not get caught. It is a drama of manners and the stakes are high—one misstep could mean social oblivion…[Decorum] will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those who enjoy period novels such as Age of Innocence and The Portrait of a Lady.” – The Historical Novel Society

“Beautiful heiress Francesca Lund must figure out how to assert her ideas within the confines of 1890’s New York high society.” – Library Journal

“Reminiscent of Washington Square but with a more modern heroine, Decorum illuminates the dark world beneath New York society. Christopherson incorporates a clever mystery and populates the novel with a large cast of characters.” - RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars


About the Author


03_Kaaren ChristophersonKaaren Christopherson is the author of Decorum—a novel about Gilded Age New York—that began taking form in 1999 during a course on writing historical fiction. From that moment, Connor O’Casey (who had been rattling around in her brain for months) finally appeared one night and said, “All right, woman. Here I am. What are you going to do about my story?” So she began to put his words on paper, and he hasn’t kept quiet since. Soon Francesca, Blanche, Tracey, Vinnie, and the rest of the characters began arguing, gossiping, loving, and forming themselves into Kaaren’s first novel.

Kaaren has had a professional career writing and editing for over 30 years and is a senior editor for an international development nonprofit organization in Washington, DC.

She has written fiction since her school days, story poems, children’s books, historical fiction, and time travel, and continues to be active in writer’s groups and writing workshops. In addition to her career as a writer, Kaaren was the owner of a decorative painting business. She loves to travel and prowl through historical sites, galleries, and museums. She is active in several churches in DC and in her local Northern Virginia community, where she shares her home with feline brothers, Archie and Sammy.

A Michigan native, Kaaren received her BA in history and art and her MA in educational administration from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

For more information visit Kaaren Christopherson's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule


Sunday, November 15 Seize the Words: Books in Review
Tuesday, November 17 The Reading Queen
Thursday, November 19 A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 23 Kinx's Book Nook
Wednesday, December 2 Brooke Blogs
Saturday, December 5 Room With Books
Monday, December 7 The Absurd Book Nerd
Tuesday, December 8 A Literary Vacation & The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, December 9 CelticLady's Reviews
Thursday, December 10 Book Nerd & Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, December 11 To Read, Or Not to Read
Sunday, December 13 The Maiden's Court
Monday, December 14 100 Pages a Day & Boom Baby Reviews
Tuesday, December 15 So Many Books, So Little Time
Wednesday, December 16 What Is That Book About
Thursday, December 17 With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Friday, December 18 Queen of All She Reads


Giveaway


To win a Paperback or AudioBook of Decorum please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway starts at 12:01am EST on November 15th and ends at 11:59pm EST on December 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Decorum Book Blast


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Friday, December 4, 2015

Quick Review: "The Dream of the City" by Andres Vidal



From Goodreads:  Amid the changes of the modernist movement in twentieth-century Barcelona, a miraculous encounter brings two families together. The lovely Laura Jufresa, daughter of a wealthy goldsmith and one of the most prominent artisans in the city, dreams of going to Rome to learn how to make the most avant-garde jewelry of her time. Dimas Navarros, part of a humble and hardworking but poor family, searches for enchantment in Barcelona. The entwinement of these two lives and the metropolis in which they must thrive will forever change their fates.

Centered around the construction of Antoni Gaudí’s phantasmagoric Sagrada Família and the pull it has on each character, The Dream of the City is both a historical imagining and a vibrant vision of the shapes and people that bring Barcelona to life.


My Thoughts:  The Dream of the City is an interesting look at a turbulent period in Spain"s history.  through his characters, Mr Vidal shows the class divide in Barcelona and the struggles of the poor.  His descriptions of Dimas' life and that of his family were compelling and it was fascinating to see how different his life and upbringing was compared to Laura.

I always enjoy reading about art so I really enjoyed reading about the construction of the Sagrada Familia cathedral as well as the jewelry making that Laura was apart of.  The descriptions of the different aspects of the cathedral's design were amazing and made it easy to visualize what was being built.  I also enjoyed the descriptions of Laura's jewelry designs and how she designed her pieces in such a way that they related to the cathedral.  Also, the descriptions of Barcelona were wonderful and really brought the city to life.

The characters were unique and such a depth to them, especially Dimas.  There were times where I wanted to hate him but I just couldn't.  I was sad that there wasn't more about Juan's father in the story.  He was the first character the reader meets and then he was just kind of relegated to a lesser role.  

I know this is a galley but I will say that I hope someone edits this book again before it's published.  There were a lot of spelling/grammar issues as well as some translation issues.  It didn't make the book unreadable but it was distracting.  Overall, I would say that The Dream of the City was an enjoyable read.  3 stars.


I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: "In The Shadow of the Storm" by Anna Belfrage


Synopsis:  England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down, and fate is a fickle mistress, favouring first one, then the other.

Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but at present Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and the baron, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.

Kit de Courcy has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. What will Adam do when he finds out he has been duped?

Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Sir Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.
In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his baron, his king, and his wife.

My Thoughts:  It's no secret that I love Anna Belfrage's books but I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed In the Shadow of the Storm.  Ms. Belfrage took an incredibly tumultuous period in history, mixed in a passionate romance and the result was an incredible story.

Characters:  Kit is awesome!  I wasn't so sure of her at the very beginning but once she got her wits about her, she was a force to be reckoned with.  She was not afraid to say what was on her mind nor was she afraid to fight hard for what she wanted.  Her husband, Adam, was so tough but also so vulnerable.  He had so many layers and it is interesting to get to know him more throughout the course of the story.  I also really loved Mabel; I know she is kind of a secondary character but her 'no nonsense' attitude and good sense endeared her to me.

For the most part, I loved all the characters with a few exceptions.  I don't know how she does it but Ms. Belfrage writes some nasty villains.  Hugh Despenser is the epitome of evil and just completely awful.  Throughout the story, I just kept wondering what horrible thing he was going to do next.  Adam's brother, Guy, was also pretty despicable and there was no love lost between the two brothers.  And though I wouldn't characterize him as a villain per say, I do have to mention Pembroke.  There were things to dislike about him but he seemed to be a good man at heart and I felt like there was a lot more to him than meets the eye.  I wouldn't mind seeing him again in future books.

Romance:  The romance between Adam and Kit is wonderful.  They were the perfect match for each other and and I just loved them together.  Theirs was a love story for the ages (as cheesy as that sounds).  Despite its unique beginning, they really built a solid marriage based on a passionate love for each other.

Story:  I found the historical aspects to be fascinating.  I have read books set in this period before and have enjoyed them but In the Shadow of the Storm really piqued my interest and made me want to learn more about this era.  While there is a pretty strong romance aspect to the story, there is also a very detailed look at a very tumultuous time in England's history and I think Ms. Belfrage did an excellent job of melding the two together.

Overall, In the Shadow of the Storm is a story will suck you in from the very first page and refuse to let go.  I can't even think of one bad thing to say about it! I look forward to seeing what the rest of the series will be like.  4 stars.


I received a copy of this book from the author/HFBVT in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

 
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, will be published in the autumn of 2015.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.





Wednesday, December 2, 2015

November Wrap Up

I'm so not ready for December to be here!  Work is extremely busy in December and that combined with all the holiday festivities, shopping, etc., makes for a really crazy month!  Because things are so busy, this is going to be a quick and dirty post.

November was a great reading month for me; I read 11 books!  I am now at 95 books read for the year and my goal is 100 so I'm only 5 books away.  I don't know how much time I will have for reading this month so I'm glad that I only have to read 5. 

Here are my November numbers:
-11 books read
   -2 non-fiction
   -7 historical fiction
   -3 review books
   -3 library books
   -0 books I own
   -6 ebooks

Here are the books I read:

1.) One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore 
2.) The Dream of the City by Andres Vidal - 3 stars (review will post on 12/4)
3.) Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison - 3 Stars
4.) The Lake House by Kate Morton - 4 stars
5.) The Christmas Token by Shanna Hatfield - 4 stars
6.) The Christmas Calamity by Shanna Hatfield - 4 stars
7.) Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson - 4 stars
8.) The Christmas Vow by Shanna Hatfield - 4 stars
9.) Degrees of Inequality by Ann L. Mullen - 3 stars
10.) The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian - 3 stars
11.) In the Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage - 4 stars (review will post on 12/3)

What did you read in November?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Excerpt from 'The Dream of the City" by Andres Vidal




02_The Dream of the CityThe Dream of the City
by Andrés Vidal


Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Open Road Integrated Media
eBook; 557 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Part love story, part chronicle of the modernist years of Barcelona and a society about to change irrevocably, The Dream of the City is an homage to the genius of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)—an exciting historical novel in which we tour the most bohemian parts of Barcelona.

In Barcelona, at the beginning of the 20th century, the destinies of two families, the Jufresas and the Navarros, converge: Francesc Jufresa is the head of the bourgeois family which runs the most renowned goldsmith workshop in the city. His daughter, the beautiful Laura, rejects the limited future of a housewife and mother to work with the brilliant Gaudí on the sculptures for the Sagrada Familia. Juan is the head of the Navarros, a poor family whose members must work hard to survive. Dimas, the first born, embodies his father’s hopes and resents the dangerous and ill-paying work of a streetcar mechanic. When the independent Laura and the ambitious Dimas meet, the encounter will change their lives forever.

AMAZON (KINDLE) | BARNES & NOBLE (NOOK)


About the Author03_Andres Vidal


Andrés Vidal is the pseudonym of Marius Molla. He is the author of two other novels that were successes in Spain: Inheriting the Earth (2010) and The Dream (2012). By training the author is an industrial engineer in Barcelona. Follow Andres Vidal on Facebook.

Blog Tour Schedule


Tuesday, November 24
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, November 25
Excerpt at To Read, or Not to Read

Friday, November 27
Excerpt & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Monday, November 30
Review at Beth's Book Nook

Tuesday, December 1
Excerpt at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, December 3
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, December 4
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, December 7
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Monday, December 21
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at Just One More Chapter

04_The Dream of the City_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL
CHAPTER 1

Ten years later, the big city, darkened with shadows, passed again before Juan de Navarro's eyes. It was a winter evening in 1914 and the streetlights of the main streets downtown glimmered like fireflies above the cement. Streetcar line 46 was moving toward Horta. The pedestrians were indifferent to the machine that would shoot off the occasional spark. Juan found it impossible to look away from the passing landscape; how it had changed in recent years. In the meantime, the streetcar continued gliding over the iron tracks almost without a rattle. That day, the first of March, was coming to a close, with little light remaining on the horizon where the beautiful, jagged massif of Collserola rose up. Juan remembered then the Sundays in the past when he used to go up there, amid the smooth, slanting limestone and the cane apple trees, to enjoy a picnic in the countryside and the glorious view the location offered. When his family was normal, of course.

A boy with his hands in his pockets and a beret covering the better part of his head smiled at him. Juan returned the gesture with his one still-useful hand. Soon he would arrive at the ancient town of San Martín de Provensals, now a part of Barcelona thanks to the plan thought up by Ildefons Cerdà the century before. When Juan began to think of all the changes he'd seen, he couldn't help but feel that his life was turning in the opposite direction; while the city seemed to know no limits to its growth, he felt smaller and smaller all the time. Since Carmela had left him twenty years back, his life had been in constant collapse.

After passing the intersection of the Avenida Argüelles and Calle Valencia, Juan stood up. Despite his tall stature, it was hard for him to make his way through the people, who were so tightly packed in the streetcar that the cold could scarcely penetrate inside. The ticket taker looked at him askance before his eyes came to rest on a boy who was pressing the fifteen cents for the ticket into his hand. Juan knew very well that the man disapproved of the free access that the veteran drivers conceded him, but he didn't put up a fight.

He approached the conductor's post to say good-bye. Carles had been his coworker until the accident and was also one of the most strident voices among those who clamored for him to receive a pension. Though it never did arrive, at least he could travel for free on the lines where his old friends were in charge.

"See you tomorrow, Carles. And thanks," Juan said, raising his corduroy cap. He uncovered a nest of chestnut hair with a glimmering bald spot at its center.

"See you later, Juan. Tell your son not to come in late. Things are getting rough down in the bays and he doesn't want to end up looking bad."

"I'll tell him, for his sake and mine," he answered.

Dimas was still working in the repair shop. The idea that his son might lose his job gave Juan an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. While he got lost in these thoughts, his hand caused the coins in his pocket to jingle: six reales he'd been paid in Doña Inmaculada's textile store. From time to time, friends from the neighborhood would send Juan on little errands that served more to keep Juan feeling useful than to earn him money. It had been a while since he'd mentioned these chores to his son. The boy saw it as taking alms, and he wasn't exactly wrong: That day, Juan had made one and a half pesetas carrying packages up and down through the city nearly the entire day, a pittance compared to what he'd made as a conductor ten years back. Moreover, if he did make it to the end of the month, it was only because he didn't pay for the streetcar. No one would hire a man with only one good arm, and his chance for a job was even less with the flood of immigrants constantly flowing into the City of Counts. Juan resigned himself to what the present offered, and that was better than nothing.

With worry accompanying his steps, Juan descended from the streetcar. The stop had been inaugurated only recently, just beside the Sagrada Familia, perennially under construction. His other son, the eight-year-old Guillermo, went to school nearby. When he looked up, he saw the church scaffolding was empty: the workers had already gone home. At that moment he couldn't help but solicit a bit of help from that supreme being who dwelled between the incomplete towers driving into the sky. Juan left behind the vacant lot that surrounded the future basilica and walked along the Calle de Mallorca until he crossed the Calle Igualdad. That was where he lived.

He began his trek up to the top floor, his breathing heavy. At fifty-two years of age, his weary legs couldn't hold up the way they had when he and Carmela first arrived in the city. It had been impossible to make a living in his village, and they had emigrated together. Back home, people spoke of the wonders of Barcelona; they said it was full of opportunities, and it was true that he'd found work as soon as he got there. The misfortunes would come later: The city, like a riled beast, had revealed its ruthless claws.

The wooden steps now creaked beneath his threadbare shoes. There weren't many floors to climb, only four, but Juan had to stop and rest a moment on each landing to catch his breath.
"Father!" Guillermo exclaimed from the hallway. He ran to Juan when he heard the door of their tiny apartment — just two barely furnished rooms — open.

Juan took off his cap and jacket and left them on the rack at the entrance. He kissed Guillermo and asked after Dimas.

"He's in his room," Guillermo said, referring to the bedroom the two brothers shared. "He just got home."

The boy wasn't really Juan's; he belonged to his brother, Raúl, who had suffered the worst consequences of the Tragic Week in 1909. His wife, Georgina, the one the boy owed his blond hair and blue eyes to, had gone along with Raúl during the wave of protests against the conservative government of Antonio Maura between July 26 and August 2. Once again, it had been the poorest of the poor who were called upon to maintain control of the Moroccan Protectorate in the Second Rif War. The war had been a folly of the Spanish administration, still stinging from the loss of Cuba and the Philippines only a few years before.

Men and women raised barricades and faced off against the ruling powers in the streets of Barcelona. The Catholic Church was also affected: convents, churches, and schools were burned to the ground by the hands of an enraged populace. Martial law and a state of war were declared inside the city.
The conflict ended after a fierce repression: more than eighty were dead, nearly two hundred were sent into exile, and seventy life sentences were meted out. The unions and the secular schools were closed down indefinitely. The iron hand tightened its grip on the working class and the more liberal sectors of society.

To Juan, it seemed like it was only yesterday that he'd gone to the police station to pick up Guillermo, then only three, his cheeks red with mourning. From that moment on, the boy had no one but him and Dimas.

"Help me make dinner," said Juan. "That way you can tell me how your day at school went."

Guillermo agreed with a smile and took his place beside him in front of the charcoal stove. Juan didn't want to bother Dimas; he thought he must be very tired from work. He would let them know when he was ready.

With the remaining potatoes and carrots from the pantry, father and son made a soup to be accompanied with a large loaf of bread. Guillermo talked continuously about the lessons he'd been taught that day by Father Flotats and Juan poured the broth into the bowls — with great effort he had learned to get by with his left hand. The little one said he had been the first in the class to be able to add four rows of numbers and that they had given him a prize for his good handwriting. Juan congratulated him. Guillermo's intelligence was nothing new; Juan had watched the boy grow and seen his intelligence flourish much faster than any other child his age. His passion and curiosity reminded Juan of Guillermo's father, Raúl, whose bright-eyed, nonconformist temperament had impelled him to fight for the rights of the working class. How Juan missed his little brother, who had decided to follow in his footsteps and escape the poverty of the village.

"Go get Dimas while I finish setting the table," he told the boy, who obeyed without complaint.
Juan listened to the boy's knuckles rapping the door while he put the spoons and glasses out in the living room. Since Carmela had left them, he had always been the one in charge of cooking and keeping the house in order.

He heard the door closing and sat down at the square table. The tall, wiry shadow of his elder son followed Guillermo. Juan didn't know how he did it, but the boy was the only one capable of touching Dimas's tender side; Dimas was distant with everyone else. When Juan saw his son's angular face, he knew the dinner wouldn't be a calm one. Dimas sat down, forming a triangle with the other two. Juan closed his eyes and gave thanks to God for the food they were about to eat. Only Guillermo said "Amen," while Dimas rolled up his sleeves and began to eat with savor.

With his spoon sunk in the broth, Juan ventured a comment about what his former coworker had said to him in the streetcar.

"Carles tells me things aren't good around there. Is it true?" he asked, a bit unsettled.

Dimas squeezed his lips together. He knew Carles was an old friend of his father's from work, and if they had run into each other, it was because Juan had been out running his goddamned errands. Juan saw the tension in his son's face, but the latter restrained himself, nodding curtly and continuing with the conversation.

"Was there ever a time when they went well?" Dimas asked wearily.
"When I was working ..."
 Dimas interrupted him. He spoke with a heavy voice, a bit louder now.
 
"When you were working, they were already bad. If not, why is your brother dead?" Juan glanced sideways at Guillermo, who went on eating without reacting. "The difference is, you never complained, everything seemed fine to you. ... But it's not! We work more than eleven hours a day and they pay us in scraps." Dimas turned back to his plate, hoping to calm himself down. He carried on with a somewhat calmer tone: "I'm twenty-eight now and I've been working myself to the bone since I was fourteen. And we only have enough for this." He raised his spoon with a sliver of carrot floating inside. "Guillermo is smart and he could go far if he studied, but since we don't have a spare cent to our names, he won't be able to take the examinations for the university, and he'll end up in the bay with me, breaking his back every day to be able to eat potatoes for the rest of his life."

"I won't work in the bays," the boy interrupted, with a convinced air. "Father Flotats says I can be whatever I want to be. So don't worry, I won't go to work with you."

Dimas looked at his brother and fell silent, seeing his face full of innocence. He ruffled his already unkempt hair and answered: "You're right. Sometimes I talk nonsense."

"So it could be you're a little dumb, don't you think?" the child said with a roguish smile, leaving Dimas no option but to smile back.

"A little bit, he is," Juan added, jovial now as well. And he cut a large slice of bread for each of them and considered the argument ended.

Guillermo was right, his father thought. Dimas wasn't a bad kid, but he was fed up. For years Juan had tried to instill in his son the virtues of respect, love of hard work, and the importance of a steady job, and though he knew without a doubt that these principles had stuck, he often noticed that the young man seemed to live in a permanent state of dissatisfaction. It reminded him of how he was as a young man, when he refused to stick it out in the village and ignored the protests of his family, rebelling at the thought of carrying on with his existence in that hovel far from any progress or opportunity to prosper.

But now everything was different, or that's what Juan believed. In his eyes, Dimas had never known real hunger, real misery, and maybe he didn't appreciate what he had.
Regardless, it was undeniable was that he found his son's perennial dissatisfaction discomfiting. It reminded him of Raúl, and he was afraid that Dimas would one day follow in his brother's footsteps and do something crazy, ending up as Raúl did . Keeping the smile on his face, Juan grasped his spoon more forcefully. He refused to think that something bad could occur that would disturb the security of their already fragile home.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Spotlight: "Castles, Customs, and Kings"

02_by Castles, Customs, & Kings (Vol II)


Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors (Volume 2)
Publication Date: September 30, 2015
Madison Street Publishing
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook; 598 Pages

Genre: History

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An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain's castles, customs, and kings.

Visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog & Facebook page.

"Thoroughly enjoyable and diverse...leisure reading for any history fan." - Elizabeth Chadwick, on Castles, Customs, and Kings (Volume 1)


AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | KOBO



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Review at A Chick Who Reads
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Spotlight at So Many Books, So Little Time

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Review at Broken Teepee

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Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

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Review at Bookish
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Spotlight at Passages to the Past

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Review at Impressions In Ink
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Blast: "The Persian Woman" by Thomas Booker

02_The Persian WomanPublication Date: September 2, 2015
Circle B Publishing LLC
eBook; 229 Pages

Genre: Literary/Mystery/Thriller

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A tough Navy SEAL and a beautiful Persian woman clash before working together to confront a ferocious common enemy. It is a tale of jihad, terror, and forbidden love. A Jeffrey Quinn novel.

“I stayed up late reading this book a second time. I read it first for the intriguing story and the second time for the wonderful language. Mr. Booker has crafted a timely and compelling story filled with a cast of characters from the slimy to the sublime. I would like to have a friend like the main character, Jeffrey Quinn . . . a man with a past and his own demons . . . honest . . . loyal . . . .” -Rebecca K. McWhorter (5 Star Amazon Review)


AMAZON US | AMAZON UK


About the Author


03_Thomas BookerSoldier of fortune Thomas Booker has traveled widely in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. He currently is helping to build a children’s clinic in South East Asia. He resides in Texas.


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