Review: The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

Please join me in saying Happy Book Birthday to Alyson Richman's The Secret of Clouds! I'm reading it now and about halfway through. It's a great read and very sweet story.


The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

Publication Date: February 19, 2019 | Penguin/Berkley

Genre: Women's Fiction

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother's love, a teacher's promise, and a child's heart.....

Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri's boundless curiosity and unique wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life. And she'll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her — until she needs that strength the most......

A novel that will make readers examine what it means to live life with a full heart.

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

A teacher's love for her student is masterfully told in this sweet and emotional read, The Secret of Clouds.

The book is set mainly in 1999 as the Y2K madness was happening, but for a short while the story goes back to the mid-80s in Kiev as Richman tells the story of Yuri's parents and how they came to move to the US after the disaster at Chernobyl.

In the present storyline, we follow Maggie, who has left her corporate job to follow her dream of becoming a teacher. She is now teaching sixth grade and is asked to help tutor Yuri, who is unable to attend school due to his heart defect. It's slow going at first as Maggie tries to drag Yuri out of his shell, but they soon bond over baseball. I absolutely loved the Mets references! I married a New Yorker so I'm a Mets fan by marriage and our boys love them too. In fact, my 6-year-old wore his Mets hat to school today for "hat day".

The Secret of Clouds is a fantastic tribute to teachers and shows how a child can affect our lives just as much as we affect theirs.

I've been reading quite a few dark and gritty reads lately so this was a welcome change. It was an easy read and I devoured it in a few sittings. This was my first read by Richman (*gasp*) but it won't be my last!

"And yet, I knew that so many languages of love existed. Some forms, however, were more obvious than others. But if you took a step back sometimes, you could find it in the most unlikely places. And the discovery of it was often the greatest reward."

Praise for The Secret of Clouds

“Alyson Richman is known for her stunning historical fiction (The Lost Wife is being made into a movie as we speak!), but her first foray into a contemporary story will make you forget about the past…. The Secret of Clouds is a moving story about the power of one person to change our lives.”―PopSugar

“[A] devastating novel…bolstered by Richman’s perspective on how teachers and students can learn from each other, resulting in a heartening tale.”―Publishers Weekly

“Richman writes a captivating…contemporary novel of making unexpected friendships and living life to its fullest. For fans of Marie Bostwick and Karen White.”―Library Journal

“With lyrical writing and a compelling story…this book is tailor-made for book groups.”—Booklist

“Long renowned as a master of historical fiction, Alyson Richman spreads her wings and soars with the contemporary story…The Secret of Clouds is an unforgettable gift.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

“A story of family bonds, heartbreak, healing and hope—one that reminds us it is not how long we live but how well we live that matters most. The tenderly written ending will bring you to tears, but in the best possible way.”—Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

“A tender, captivating, and ultimately satisfying story about the emotional gifts exchanged between a caring teacher and a student in need. Thank you, Alyson Richman, for another heartrending tale.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Exquisite and haunting. Richman writes with the soul of a poet, and her captivating new novel enchants while tugging ever so gently at the heart. Her story stands as a reminder to never take any day for granted.”—Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece

"Alyson Richman weaves an emotionally rich story of love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit. The Secrets of Clouds will soar off the page and into your heart."—Jamie Brenner, national bestselling author of The Husband Hour

"Alyson Richman captures the gift of love—for family, and those who feel like family—with her pen dipped first in truth, then crystalline tenderness, and finally compassion. The Secret of Clouds immersed me in the world of a teacher’s caring, an immigrant family’s heroism, and a child’s courage. Richman writes like a dream."—Randy Susan Meyers, internationally bestselling author of The Widow of Wall Street

“In her new novel, Alyson Richman weaves storytelling magic with an extraordinary cast of characters: a compassionate young teacher, a precocious but ailing student, and an immigrant couple with a uniquely tragic past. Readers have come to expect Richman’s luscious prose and vivid details, but in The Secret of Clouds, she delivers even more – I was thoroughly captivated by this deeply personal tale of perseverance, acceptance, and the heart’s capacity for love.”—Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble


About the Author

Alyson Richman is the author of six historical novels including "The Mask Carver's Son," "The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango)," The Last Van Gogh," and three international bestsellers: "The Lost Wife.," "The Garden of Letters" and "The Velvet Hours." Her books have been translated into 20 languages. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Happy Book Birthday, The Secret of Clouds!

Please join me in saying Happy Book Birthday to Alyson Richman's The Secret of Clouds! I'm reading it now and about halfway through. It's a great read and very sweet story.


The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

Publication Date: February 19, 2019 | Penguin/Berkley

Genre: Women's Fiction

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother's love, a teacher's promise, and a child's heart.....

Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri's boundless curiosity and unique wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life. And she'll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her — until she needs that strength the most......

A novel that will make readers examine what it means to live life with a full heart.

Praise for The Secret of Clouds

“Alyson Richman is known for her stunning historical fiction (The Lost Wife is being made into a movie as we speak!), but her first foray into a contemporary story will make you forget about the past…. The Secret of Clouds is a moving story about the power of one person to change our lives.”―PopSugar

“[A] devastating novel…bolstered by Richman’s perspective on how teachers and students can learn from each other, resulting in a heartening tale.”―Publishers Weekly

“Richman writes a captivating…contemporary novel of making unexpected friendships and living life to its fullest. For fans of Marie Bostwick and Karen White.”―Library Journal

“With lyrical writing and a compelling story…this book is tailor-made for book groups.”—Booklist

“Long renowned as a master of historical fiction, Alyson Richman spreads her wings and soars with the contemporary story…The Secret of Clouds is an unforgettable gift.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

“A story of family bonds, heartbreak, healing and hope—one that reminds us it is not how long we live but how well we live that matters most. The tenderly written ending will bring you to tears, but in the best possible way.”—Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

“A tender, captivating, and ultimately satisfying story about the emotional gifts exchanged between a caring teacher and a student in need. Thank you, Alyson Richman, for another heartrending tale.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Exquisite and haunting. Richman writes with the soul of a poet, and her captivating new novel enchants while tugging ever so gently at the heart. Her story stands as a reminder to never take any day for granted.”—Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece

"Alyson Richman weaves an emotionally rich story of love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit. The Secrets of Clouds will soar off the page and into your heart."—Jamie Brenner, national bestselling author of The Husband Hour

"Alyson Richman captures the gift of love—for family, and those who feel like family—with her pen dipped first in truth, then crystalline tenderness, and finally compassion. The Secret of Clouds immersed me in the world of a teacher’s caring, an immigrant family’s heroism, and a child’s courage. Richman writes like a dream."—Randy Susan Meyers, internationally bestselling author of The Widow of Wall Street

“In her new novel, Alyson Richman weaves storytelling magic with an extraordinary cast of characters: a compassionate young teacher, a precocious but ailing student, and an immigrant couple with a uniquely tragic past. Readers have come to expect Richman’s luscious prose and vivid details, but in The Secret of Clouds, she delivers even more – I was thoroughly captivated by this deeply personal tale of perseverance, acceptance, and the heart’s capacity for love.”—Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble


About the Author

Alyson Richman is the author of six historical novels including "The Mask Carver's Son," "The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango)," The Last Van Gogh," and three international bestsellers: "The Lost Wife.," "The Garden of Letters" and "The Velvet Hours." Her books have been translated into 20 languages. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Review & Giveaway: Temptation Rag: A Novel by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard


Temptation Rag: A Novel by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

Publication Date: December 3, 2018
Belle Epoque Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 308 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


From the author of The Beauty Doctor, Finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2017 AZ Literary Awards, and a Medallion Honoree of the Book Readers Appreciation Group.

Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the talented young Mike Bernard, an aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But after their secret liaison is discovered, neither is prepared for the far-reaching consequences that will haunt them for decades. As Mike abandons serious music to ruthlessly defend his hard-won title, Ragtime King of the World, May struggles to find her voice as an artist and a woman. It is not until years after their youthful romance, when they cross paths again, that they must finally confront the truth about themselves and each other. But is it too late?

The world of ragtime is the backdrop for a remarkable story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness. From vaudeville’s greatest stars to the geniuses of early African American musical theater, an unforgettable cast of real-life characters populates this richly-fictionalized historical saga.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters | IndieBound


Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ragtime comes alive in Bernard's Temptation Rag: A Novel!

Temptation Rag follows the lives of May Convery, a socialite who dreams of becoming a poet, and Mike Bernard, a determined musician who eventually becomes the Ragtime King of the World, and their relationship over the course of decades. We also get POVs from the supporting cast of characters so that the readers get a rounded view of the their lives, the times and most importantly, the music.

I haven't read any books set during this time or featuring the Ragtime music scene so I found all it quite fascinating. Bernard has a great way of setting the scene and making the reader feel like they are really there.

In addition to the music, Temptation Rag touches on the racial tensions of the time, and the plight of women as they fight for their rights. It's a story of passion, grit, ambition, love, and hope. It was an intriguing read that I highly recommend!

Praise for Temptation Rag

"Fascinating real-life characters make Temptation Rag an emotional and page-turning story of passion, ambition, and desire." - Megan Chance, bestselling author of Bone River and Inamorata

"Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard captures the style of the ragtime era. Music, art and culture spring from every page of this delightfully artistic work." - Readers' Favorite Book Review, 5 stars

"Terrific historical research and deft writing provide a striking portrait of racial and gender inequality in the ragtime era. An unforgettable and deeply human story." - Frederic Tulsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

"Ms. Bernard weaves her knowledge of music with true historical characters and fictionalized ones into a syncopated symphony of human drama." -Kathryn Wood, author of Sea Snow: the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse

"A gripping page-turner that has romance, history and music. A smart retelling of history through multiple points of view." - SA Examiner Book Review

About the Author

Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is an award-winning author of historical fiction. Her novel The Beauty Doctor is a suspenseful tale that takes place in the early days of cosmetic surgery—when the world of medicine was a bit like the Wild West and beauty doctors were the newest breed of outlaw. Temptation Rag: A Novel immerses readers in the bawdy atmosphere of vaudeville and early twentieth-century African American musical theater in a story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness.

Elizabeth currently lives in Arizona with her husband and their much-loved and very spoiled black Lab.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 18
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 19
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, February 20
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Friday, February 22
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages

Saturday, February 23
Guest Post at The Chocolate Lady's Book Reviews

Monday, February 25
Review at Peppermint Ph.D.

Tuesday, February 26
Excerpt at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, February 27
Interview at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 1
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Monday, March 4
Review at Macsbooks

Wednesday, March 6
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Friday, March 8
Excerpt at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, March 12
Review at Reader then Blogger

Friday, March 15
Review at Coffee and Ink

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away copies of Bernard's other novel, The Beauty Doctor. One paperback and two eBooks are up for grabs. To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US 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.

Temptation Rag


Review & Giveaway: A Guardian of Slaves by Naomi Finley

A Guardian of Slaves by Naomi Finley

Publication Date: January 30, 2019
Huntson Press Inc.
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction


Willow Hendricks is now the Lady of Livingston. She manages this plantation with her father and best friend Whitney Barry. The two women continue her parents’ secret abolitionist mission. They use the family’s ships and estates to transport escaped slaves along the channels to freedom. Willow’s love for Bowden Armstrong is as strong as ever, but she is not ready to marry and have a family because of her attention to these noble pursuits. Torn by her love for him, can their bond survive his reluctance to support her efforts with the Underground Railroad?

Meanwhile, whispers among the quarters sing praises of a mysterious man in the swamps helping slaves escape. He is called the Guardian. They believe he will save them from brutal slave catchers and deliver them to the promised land. Masked bandits roam the countryside, but the Guardian and the criminals evade capture. A series of accidents and mysterious disappearances raise alarm throughout the region. Who can Willow and Whitney trust? One false move or slip could endanger the lives of everyone they love and bring ruin to the Livingston Plantation.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can call me a Naomi Finley fangirl now, friends! I've been wanting to read her since she released A Slave of Shadows and I'm so glad that I finally did. A Guardian of Slaves was a fascinating read!

I hadn't had the chance to read the first book in the series, A Slave of Shadows, yet. But it didn't take away from my enjoyment of this follow up. In fact, I want to read the first book even more now to see what I missed!

Willow is now running the Livingston Plantation after her father Charles is killed, and she continues to help slaves escape to freedom with the help of her uncle and her friend, Whitney. Willow is a fierce abolitionist but forced to pretend otherwise so that the town people don't catch on to her real mission.

The story is told with multiple POVs, which I enjoyed. It was interesting to hear the story from their eyes, as well as Willow's.

There is plenty of mystery in this one to keep the reader guessing. Who is the Guardian and who is he working with? Who killed Charles Hendricks? What secrets are buried in Charles' journals? Who is the new mysterious neighbor?

As the subject matter deals with slavery, you know going in that it's going to be difficult to read about. I feel like Naomi did a great job with being true to the history of that time yet not overwhelming the reader. There were some tough scenes to read and sometimes some harsh language, but nothing that turned me off from the story.

While I adored Willow, it was Whitney that stole the scenes for me. She was funny and full of sass and I loved it!

Now, excuse me while I run off to start A Slave of Shadows!


About the Author

Naomi lives in Northern Alberta. Her love for travel means her suitcase is always on standby while she awaits her next plane ticket and adventure. Her love for history and the Deep South is driven by the several years she spent as a child living in a Tennessee plantation house. She comes from a family of six sisters. She married her high school sweetheart and has two teenage children and two dogs named Ginger and Snaps.

Creativity and passion are the focus of her life. Apart from writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, throwing lavish dinner parties, movies, health, and fitness.

For more information, please visit Naomi Finley's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Friday, February 15
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 19
Feature at Maiden of the Pages

Wednesday, February 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Feature at Christine's Book Corner

Thursday, February 21
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Friday, February 22
Excerpt at Random Things Through My Letterbox

Monday, February 25
Review at Macsbooks

Tuesday, February 26
Excerpt at Among the Reads

Wednesday, February 27
Feature at Cover To Cover Cafe

Thursday, February 28
Feature at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Monday, March 4
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, March 6
Feature at Old Timey Books

Thursday, March 7
Feature at What Is That Book About

Friday, March 8
Review at Coffee and Ink

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving a paperback copy of A Guardian of Slaves! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US 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.

A Guardian of Slaves


Review: Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter


Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter

Publication Date: February 21, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 339 Pages

Series: Bootleggers’ Chronicles Series, Book One
Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime/Women's Fiction


In a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…

Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie Barnes doesn’t have much left. After the death of her husband, she finds herself all alone to care for her young son and look after their rundown house. As if that weren’t bad enough, Prohibition has turned her neighborhood into a bootlegger’s playground. To keep the shoddy roof over their heads, she has no choice but to take on boarders with questionable ties…

When her son’s friend disappears, Maggie suspects the worst. And local politicians and police don’t seem to have any interest in an investigation. With a child’s life on the line, Maggie takes the case and risks angering the enemy living right under her nose…

Maggie’s one advantage may be her new found friend: the ghost of a Victorian-era cop. With his help, can she find justice in a lawless city?

Innocence Lost is the first novel in the Bootleggers’ Chronicles, a series of historical fiction tales. If you like headstrong heroines, Prohibition-era criminal underworlds, and just a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Sherilyn Decter’s gripping tale.

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

"Philadelphia has not yet lost its soul. It's still the early days of Prohibition. Sure, you can see that rot around the edges of beginning to creep in, but people, for the most part, are enjoying the thrill of being lawmakers."

Prohibition has been going on for about 4 years and bootleggers run the city of Philadelphia. Maggie is a single mother living alone with her son at a time where that was frowned upon. Despite her parent's pleas to return home after losing her husband, Maggie is determined to stay independent.

When one of her young son's friends goes missing Maggie is drawn into the case with the help of a the ghost of a long dead policeman. I liked how Maggie came out of her shell more as the novel progresses. She moves past her prejudices and misgivings and integrates herself more into the community. I enjoy watching a character evolve like that. She also overcomes her apprehension with working with a ghost and becomes quite the detective herself!

"I realize that it is unorthodox. But here we sit, a woman and a ghost and, if I join the investigation, I don't know which of us would shock people more. Surely you see that the whole situation is unorthodox."

Fast paced and intriguing, I was immediately drawn into the novel and by the time I looked up I was already halfway through the book! I finished the second half in one sitting too. That's how hard it was to put down. Maggie and Frank are a great team!

I greatly enjoyed my time in the world created by Sherilyn Decter and can't wait for the next book in the series, Tasting the Apple. I highly recommend Innocence Lost!

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Sherilyn Decter is a writer, researcher, and lover of historical fiction. Her work is set in the Roaring Twenties and if you like feisty and determined heroines, complex cover-ups, Prohibition stories about criminal underworlds, police and political corruption, then you’re going to love Sherilyn’s grand gangster tales.

For more information, please visit Sherilyn Decter's website. You can also find her on FacebookInstagram, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Blog Tour Schedule

Friday, February 15
Review at Passages to the Past
Excerpt at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Saturday, February 16
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Excerpt at Bookish Rantings
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Sunday, February 17
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages
Guest Post at Jennifer Silverwood's Blog

Monday, February 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Excerpt at Old Timey Books
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, February 19
Review at Peppermint Ph.D.
Review at Reader then Blogger

Wednesday, February 20
Interview at The Old Shelter
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, February 21
Review at Macsbooks
Review at The Old Shelter
Interview at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Friday, February 22
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at CelticLady's Reviews
Excerpt at Spellbound by History

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two prize packs of a copy of the book, a set of Paper Dolls, and a Jazz Age Fashion Coloring Book! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 22nd. 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.

Innocence Lost


Interview with Laura Matthias Bendoly, author of The Peddler of Wisdom

Please help me welcome author Laura Matthias Bendoly to the blog today! Laura is currently on blog tour for The Peddler of Wisdom and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me! I hope you enjoy!

You can check out my review of The Peddler of Wisdom here, and don't forget to enter our giveaway below for an eBook or Apothecary soap!


Hello Laura and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about The Peddler of Wisdom!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I am an Indiana native but I lived the longest in Georgia, where I set my second novel, Laerka – a Savannah mermaid tale retelling. My current home is in a northern neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. My life as a writer started as an undergraduate, but I was always a reader. Even before I became an avid reader, I was an inventor of worlds. I had my own archaeological dig for a while as an eleven-year-old, for example. I unearthed a few gallons of pottery remains near an old church yard, and I considered myself the next Indiana Jones. I also was a great lover of mythology and folktale, certain that I would be the kid who would find a fairy glen in my back yard or a back door to Narnia. I did an MFA in writing during my twenties, but then I took a long break (finding paid work, having children) and took a big dare of writing a full novel after my second child. That manuscript became The Estate, my mystery set in Scotland.

What inspired you to write The Peddler of Wisdom?

I spent a year in France as a college sophomore. Though I was at a college in France’s northwest, and not in Provence, where I set Peddler, I went to that region often enough to recognize its allure. Provence’s combination of Roman ruins, Christian mythology (the cult of Mary Magdalene, in particular), Gypsy horse culture, wine-making, art, flower growing, natural dying, and fruit cultivation is unparalleled. Also the abundance of one-time autonomous ducal regions makes the province particularly useful to an author who requires an isolated community as the setting. Provence was self-governed for centuries after the fall of the Roman empire, and its attitude remains very independent, not requiring the oversight of Paris or the greater French Republic, in a sense. My character, Irène, is a person of this same spirit. She doesn’t answer to a higher authority, really. She considers the healing trade to be her master, and also the mountains, where she finds her medicinal ingredients. The highest authority though is her combination Christian God/pagan goddess spirit, who regularly speaks to her and gives advice.

What research did you undertake when writing The Peddler of Wisdom?

I spent six years researching and writing Peddler. In a way, I have never stopped researching the book, since I find the subject of early medicine extremely interesting. Women did participate in the sciences during the 17th century. However, they did so informally. They rarely received the tax status of ‘physician’ and were almost never allowed to attend university to acquire a degree in medicine. However, women, especially wives, were expected to grow healing gardens as a matter of course. Those who were literate and whose gardens and kitchens were sufficiently large sometimes kept journals or recipe books. These ladies became some of Europe’s earliest female pharmacists, though they’d never have called themselves that. I spent many months reading accounts of German, French, Italian and English women who took care of their families and nearby communities with the herbs they grew and the healing powders they prepared and documented in pharmacopeia – pharmacy manuals that now reside at Europe’s leading research libraries.

As well as studying the work of informal lady medics, I examined alchemy books, Renaissance star charts, anatomy illustrations from Muslim Spain, numerous pages of Catrina Sforza’s treatise on cosmetics, accounts of Tudor women’s homemade makeup, and sixteenth-century culinary books. I studied maps and battlegrounds from six nations, I read a shelfful of French folktales and corresponded with curators, historians, tourism experts, alchemy practitioners, and rare book collectors in France, England, Canada, and Scotland.

What would you like readers to take away from reading The Peddler of Wisdom?

I hope that after spending time with The Peddler of Wisdom that readers will consider what’s in their own garden. How they might help their neighbor with a small task, and, also, consider how to be kind to the earth around them which gives them such an abundance of gifts. I hope, too, that some will consider researching a little-known person who might have contributed in a small way to a great mission – to the liberating of a community, perhaps. But also to the healing of some small rift. Small slights can grow, on occasion, to centuries of war. But if we try to salve the small wounds, great things can come, and our group dynamic can resist strains from distress and illness, pain and embarrassment. Irene simply reached out to her neighbors, often without payment, to say I care. I can help you. Just let me in to talk to you. You don’t have to take my advice, but you need to hear that I care. Sometimes, that makes so much difference. It can even save a life. You don’t have to be a Queen Elizabeth or a Catherine di Medici to matter in the greater scheme, in The History of mankind. You just have to care and touch a life, in a small way, regularly. Doing this is what knits the world together.

What was your favorite scene to write?

The scene of the fireflies was a great one. So was the scene when Durande, Irene and Noisette go up the mountain to visit Zahara’s source. I was taken on that hike with them and just watched them chasing butterflies.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

My scenes in mine tunnels required a lot of re-writing. I haven’t been to a salt mine, in person. I have been inside a lot of caves – most of them the spelunking type. I have also been to a few gold mines in Georgia. The Blue Ridge Mountains are famous for gold. There are salt mines in Switzerland and Austria, and Peddler’s fictional village is at the border of Switzerland/France/Italy. I sort of moved an existing area of salt deposit slightly west for this novel. There are some detailed vintage photographs of salt mines at several on line catalogs that I visited, as well as virtual mines you can travel along on line. From these photographs and web galleries, I made my underground descriptions. When an author doesn’t have a publisher’s advance, she has to make do with published or Internet sources.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t. I avoided it for years. It sounded just so hard, so time consuming, and involved constant re-work, re-invention, and rejection. So, I did six other jobs first. I was never satisfied with those jobs, however, and came back to writing. Now I can’t do anything else.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

Lists! I write a lot of them. I write lists on paper, on emails, in texts, on the backs of envelopes, on bookmarks. I also collect and merge emails into long (crazy long) Word files and then try to extract sentences out of them. This is often the way stories begin for me – as conversations between myself and an informant, or as Q and A with myself. Example: “Why would there be no market at the village, Monsieur LaPaille?” “Because the village was too small. We went to St. Etienne for market when the roads were clear. But only in the spring. There was too much snow in winter.” “I see. Note to self. No winter market. Make the plot take place in the summer – market required for villager meetups/conversation/commerce.”

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

How to turn a phrase differently …. How to describe an experience in a way I have never done before or in a way no other writer has done before. This is a challenge I will probably never achieve to my satisfaction. I dread that idea that I’m writing the same book every time, or the same sentence!

Another challenge – remaining sufficiently interested in my subject. If it’s a subject I have imagined, I often don’t have enough details to remain engaged long term. As a novel takes me several years, I HAVE to stay involved with my protagonist, or at least with a problem she is wrapped up in. My Laerka protagonist, Stella, who was an invented person, like Irène, stayed interesting for me during the four/five years of writing that novel because of her location. The city of Savannah is so endlessly fascinating, with such a history and so many fabulous corners and secrets and bayous and marshes, that even when Stella’s conversation got a little stale, I found some old washed up boat to talk about, or a weird bit of driftwood. And, bing, I’m into it again, and, hopefully, my writing stays fresh.

Who are your writing inspirations?

There’s a lot! I get ideas from old maps, historic paintings, landscape photography, collectible objects, peoples’ handwriting, journals, illustrations, recipes, travel writing, tourist sketches, other people’s lists, stamps, vintage prints, costumes, old books, community/rural museums, garden tools, museum catalogs, wine, perfume, flowers, regional trees, old date books/agendas and calendars.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Beowulf.

What is the last historical novel you read?

Manhattan Beach.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I am the only freckled person in my family. I don’t care for beets. I would like to visit Russia – when they’re done shooting down passenger planes.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I love being surprised by details from history. There’s a lot an author can pluck from her imagination and experience, but beyond that, you either have to interview others for your details or go to the library. I confess I prefer the library. You don’t have to ask permission to write the detail down or get an attorney to represent you. If it’s in the historic record, you get to keep it! For your own use! Of course, you should use that detail wisely. I loved finding out, for example, that the best Renaissance feast involved stuffed meats. Literally – the chef at a wealthy manor house would prepare for his lord a duck stuffed into a swan stuffed into a boar stuffed into a steer. And then he covered all that with pasty in the shape of a castle. I’m not making this up.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I love the ancients. Madeline Miller’s Greek myth retellings are fabulous. I also enjoy the folklore of the British Isles. There’s an Irish mystery writer I love, Erin Hart, who uses Ireland’s bog people and the flora and fauna of the island’s wild landscape just beautifully. The Middle Ages are a constant source of interest for me, especially as they are so hard to research. I loved Ken Follet’s treatment of this time period. In terms of more recent historical fiction, Carlos Luis Zafon is brilliant in his capturing of 1930s Spain, as is Tennessee author Amy Green, famous for the Great Depression-era Long Man and Blood Root.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I like to sit near a window with a view. Right now I’m on the couch overlooking the neighborhood ravine – a shallow gorge with a creek running through. Today the ravine has a new dusting of snow, so it’s very clean and white with the outline of every branch visible. It’s cold and leafless but quite and very beautiful.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I'm revising an old manuscript featuring a Gypsy family on the lam in the Midwest. And I'm collecting boarding school stories from the 1950s. I'd like to write a novel about that period, especially for my mom, herself a boarder during that decade.

That sounds fascinating! Thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us today. I loved The Peddler of Wisdom!


The Peddler of Wisdom by Laura Matthias Bendoly

Publication Date: December 18, 2018
eBook & Paperback; 425 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


In the borderlands of the village Les Échelles, giants sleep and werewolves howl. Travelers must cross deep gorges to pay visit. The only strangers are treasure-hunters seeking the riches of Zahara, a drowned Crusader bride. She planted the nearby woods with rich botanicals, now the healing herbs of Irène Guéri, apothecary in these parts. When a cruel invader storms the village he brings along his shy, though brilliant alchemist, Joaquíno Durande. Will Irene join forces with this scholar, risking her profession and her neighbors’ trust, or flee to the valley? Enormous decisions await, and great danger as friends, neighbors, and even the tools of Irene’s workshop rise, enchanted, into the fray of war.

"Put together a hidden Medieval village, a widowed healer who tries to overthrow a murderous invader, and a possible-- if dangerous-- romance, and you have The Peddler of Wisdom, add to this Laura Matthias Bendoly's spritely style and a complex world where no one can be trusted, and you will be sucked into this tale as swiftly and completely as I was. Read it." - Sonia Gernes, ProfessorEmerita, University of Notre Dame, author of What You Hear in the Dark, New and Selected Poems

"An exciting plot, vivid characters and a clearly imagined 17th-century France. A rich tapestry of folklore, tarot, and alchemy." - Maureen Boulton, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto and Professor Emeritus of French, Dept. of Romance Languages University of Notre Dame

Available on Amazon


About the Author

Though I grew up in northern Indiana, most of my work takes place elsewhere. My characters are slightly offbeat eccentrics. They wear Goth clothes and invent secret passwords. They make friends with outsiders and from those fringes my heroines gain their strength. Though these protagonists don't have supernatural powers, they absorb a kind of magic from those they help and gather as friends. This is so with hero Stella Delaney, whose mission to save a trafficked foreign girl gains strength from the powers of a mysterious Gullah woman. So is it the case with Eileen Morgan, whose trip to Scotland wraps her in a world of ghosts and a deadly struggle for entitlement between a wealthy land-owning family and their one-time vassals, now barely hanging on.

I write about the places I have seen as an outsider but in which I could see myself in another life...a boat guide along one of the Georgia marshes, a shepherd in the Scottish lowlands, a craftswoman in Cornwall, in Western Great Britain, or a healer in rural Southern France. Will I ever be that woman? Only if I write myself there, and I love to bring new readers along.

I live in Columbus Ohio with my family.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 4
Excerpt at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, February 5
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, February 6
Excerpt at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Thursday, February 7
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, February 8
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Sunday, February 10
Excerpt at Old Timey Books

Tuesday, February 12
Review at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, February 13
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 14
Review at Coffee and Ink

Friday, February 15
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of The Peddler of Wisdom! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US 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 Peddler of Wisdom


Review: The Peddler of Wisdom by Laura Matthias Bendoly


The Peddler of Wisdom by Laura Matthias Bendoly

Publication Date: December 18, 2018
eBook & Paperback; 425 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


In the borderlands of the village Les Échelles, giants sleep and werewolves howl. Travelers must cross deep gorges to pay visit. The only strangers are treasure-hunters seeking the riches of Zahara, a drowned Crusader bride. She planted the nearby woods with rich botanicals, now the healing herbs of Irène Guéri, apothecary in these parts. When a cruel invader storms the village he brings along his shy, though brilliant alchemist, Joaquíno Durande. Will Irene join forces with this scholar, risking her profession and her neighbors’ trust, or flee to the valley? Enormous decisions await, and great danger as friends, neighbors, and even the tools of Irene’s workshop rise, enchanted, into the fray of war.

"Put together a hidden Medieval village, a widowed healer who tries to overthrow a murderous invader, and a possible-- if dangerous-- romance, and you have The Peddler of Wisdom, add to this Laura Matthias Bendoly's spritely style and a complex world where no one can be trusted, and you will be sucked into this tale as swiftly and completely as I was. Read it." - Sonia Gernes, ProfessorEmerita, University of Notre Dame, author of What You Hear in the Dark, New and Selected Poems

"An exciting plot, vivid characters and a clearly imagined 17th-century France. A rich tapestry of folklore, tarot, and alchemy." - Maureen Boulton, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto and Professor Emeritus of French, Dept. of Romance Languages University of Notre Dame

Available on Amazon


Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Massive book hangover alert! I stayed up way past my bedtime last night so that I could finish this amazing book! I thought 2018 was a great year of reading but 2019 is like...hold my beer!

The Peddler of Wisdom is an incredible work of historical fiction/fantasy. While I was intrigued with the synopsis I hadn't read Laura Bendoly before and whenever you read a book from a new author there's always a little anxiety there. Well, I needn't have worried. Bendoly is a master storyteller and I was blown away by The Peddler of Wisdom.

Irene Gueri, called the Lady of Wisdom, lives in the small Provencal hamlet of Les Eschelles. She is the town's apothecary and healer, and occasionally reads Tarot cards, but most people in the village shun her because they blame her for the plague that recently visited their town and killed their family members. She lives quietly until one day a stranger shows up on her land. Not long after invaders come to the village, blows up their bridge, and murders their leader. Soon townspeople are being kidnapped or tortured, and the invaders ravage the town. Irene becomes close with the new Duke's alchemist - the stranger that was lost on her land - and partners with him to help the people of the village.

As the story progresses the danger and action increase and Irene has to decide if she will run from them or stay and join the resistance. I must say, this was an engrossing read. I was immediately drawn to the novel within the first few pages and stayed engaged for the entire read. The pacing is great and makes it easy to fly through the pages.

Bendoly also provides a Historic Note at the end of the book and provides the sources she used while researching and writing the novel. It's clear that Bendoly did her research!

I highly recommend The Peddler of Wisdom and I look forward to move from Laura Matthias Bendoly. I have an interview with her that will be live tomorrow and I hope you will stop by to check it out!

About the Author

Though I grew up in northern Indiana, most of my work takes place elsewhere. My characters are slightly offbeat eccentrics. They wear Goth clothes and invent secret passwords. They make friends with outsiders and from those fringes my heroines gain their strength. Though these protagonists don't have supernatural powers, they absorb a kind of magic from those they help and gather as friends. This is so with hero Stella Delaney, whose mission to save a trafficked foreign girl gains strength from the powers of a mysterious Gullah woman. So is it the case with Eileen Morgan, whose trip to Scotland wraps her in a world of ghosts and a deadly struggle for entitlement between a wealthy land-owning family and their one-time vassals, now barely hanging on.

I write about the places I have seen as an outsider but in which I could see myself in another life...a boat guide along one of the Georgia marshes, a shepherd in the Scottish lowlands, a craftswoman in Cornwall, in Western Great Britain, or a healer in rural Southern France. Will I ever be that woman? Only if I write myself there, and I love to bring new readers along.

I live in Columbus Ohio with my family.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 4
Excerpt at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, February 5
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, February 6
Excerpt at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Thursday, February 7
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, February 8
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Sunday, February 10
Excerpt at Old Timey Books

Tuesday, February 12
Review at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, February 13
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 14
Review at Coffee and Ink

Friday, February 15
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of The Peddler of Wisdom! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US 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 Peddler of Wisdom


Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly


Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Ballantine Books

The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline's mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker's treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov's. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre's who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

'Men may leave, but books will always remain true."

I've been wanting to read Martha Hall Kelly ever since The Lilac Girls was released and the reading community went crazy over it. So when I received the email from Suzy asking to host this blog tour, I did a little happy dance and immediately signed on! I am so glad that I did!

Lost Roses is based on the true story of Eliza Ferriday, the mother of Caroline Ferriday who is featured in The Lilac Girls. In Lost Roses, we follow three women - Eliza, her close friend and cousin to the Russian tsar Nicolas II, Sofya, and Varinka, who works for Sofya and takes care of her son.

With Sofya's story we are witness to the danger that the aristocracy is in from the the Bolshevik Revolution. Protests and violence are rampant, and the family are trying to plan an escape out of Russia.

Eliza is from a prosperous family and lives on Long Island. She becomes passionate about the "White Russian" women -- Russian aristocrats who were driven out by the Bolsheviks and are now in America, with no money or resources.

Varinka, a young, poor Russian woman who lives with her mother who is a fortune teller. She is hired by Sofya's family and is charged with taking care of her young son.

The author notes that she traveled from Russia to Southampton in New York, and Paris to research for the book and it's apparent to the reader that a lot of work went into writing this novel, yet it's not heavy handed with history. I loved that as readers we get to see the events take place through three different points of view. I feel like it gave a well-rounded view of what happened. 

With impeccable writing, fascinating and strong women, and enough danger and action to keep me turning the pages, I absolutely loved Lost Roses!

Lost Roses is the perfect example and masterful historical fiction. I can't wait for more from Martha Hall Kelly! Now I'm off to read The Lilac Girls 😍

About The Author


Martha is a native New Englander who lives in Connecticut and Martha's Vineyard. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years, raised three wonderful children who are now mostly out of the nest and Lilac Girls is her first novel. She has been hard at work on the prequel to Lilac Girls, Lost Roses, which features Caroline's mother Eliza Ferriday and her fight to save a group of Russian women, former aristocrats who lost everything in the Russian Revolution.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


Bloggers on Tour

January 14th- Prose and Palate https://instagram.com/prose_and_palate

January 14th -Jennifer Tar Heel Reader http://www.jennifertarheelreader.com/

January 15th- Sue’s Booking Agency https://m.facebook.com/groups/1977460229183119

January 17th– Nerdy Book Nurse https://instagram.com/nerdybooknurse

January 18th- Marisa Gothie https://www.instagram.com/marisagbooks

January 20th- Sweet Honey And Brei https://instagram.com/sweethoneyandbrei

January 21st- BookWorm Mommy of 3 https://instagram.com/bookwormmommyof3

January 24th – Lindas Book Obsession https://www.facebook.com/lindasbookobsession/

January 25th – Hollys Dressed To Read https://instagram.com/hollysdressedtoread

January 29th – Midwest Ladies Who Lit http://www.mwladieswholit.wordpress.com/

February 4th- Reading With Champagne https://www.instagram.com/readingwithchampagne

February 7th– Sue Roberts http://girl-who-reads.com

February 10th –Audio Killed The Bookmark https://audiokilledthebookmark.com/

February 13th- RW Book Club Goodreads https://www.instagram.com/rwbookclubgoodreads

February 15th – Hemy’s Book Club https://instagram.com/hemysbookclub

February 16th- Courtney Turns The Page https://www.instagram.com/courtturnsthepage

February 19th – In Literary Love https://m.facebook.com/groups/665323023647679

February 22nd-Really Into This https://instagram.com/reallyintothis

February 25th- Thoughts On This ‘N That https://writeoncindy.wordpress.com

February 27th- The Book Club Mom https://instagram.com/thebookclubmom

March 1st– One More Paige https://instagram.com/one_more_paige


Martha Hall Kelly will be touring for Lost Roses. Check out the schedule below to see if she's coming to a bookstore near you!

Review: The Hourglass by Liz Heron



The Hourglass by Liz Heron

Publication Date: October 25, 2018
Unbound
eBook & Paperback; 276 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Spring 2000. Paul Geddes visits Venice to research the fin-de-siècle opera singer, Esme Maguire, seeking out a cache of papers held by Eva Forrest, the widow of a collector. What he reads begins in the 1680s, moving through the city's later history of Enlightenment and Revolution, describing a life stretched beyond human possibilities.

She travels across Europe to sing in Regency London and Edinburgh, then Belle Epoque Paris, always returning to Venice, its shadows and its luminosity, its changes and its permanence.

What would it be like to live for nearly 300 years, as an exceptional being who must renew herself time after time, as those she has loved age and die? Could this story be grounded in reality or be merely the product of an ageing woman's delusion, as Paul suspects.

Warily, Eva and Paul fall in love, their tentative emotions bringing them closer until, on a trip to the Dolomites, Eva's past catches up with her.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐

Well, this was certainly a unique and intriguing read! I love books that feature artists - probably because I don't have an artistic bone in my body and those that do are fascinating to me. Add in a dual story-line and a woman whose life spans 300 years and I'm there! Per the author, The Hourglass was inspired by Janacek’s opera The Makropulos Case, in which a singer lives for nearly 300 years.

"I do not tire of life, but sometimes I tire of being endlessly remade."

Heron has a unique way of writing that took me a little bit to get into, but once I did it had a great flow to it and I found it compelling.

Paul Geddes is a lover of Opera and has been fascinated with Opera singer, Esme Maguire, since reading an article about her. He reaches out to Eva Forrest who has more information on Esme. As the story progresses we follow Paul, on his quest for more of Esme's story, and his relationship with Eva. Switching between Paul's story we also hear from Esme herself as she narrates her life, her loves, her relationships, and how she reinvents herself over the span of her very long life. As she reinvents herself (changing her name every time, but always with the initials E.M.), traveling to different countries to start anew, the readers are taken on an international virtual tour of the most beautiful places in the world, and witness to some of the most important events in history. I must say, that part was my favorite.

If you're looking for an out-of-the-box historical novel, I recommend The Hourglass. Thanks to Anne Cater for allowing me to host the blog tour!

About the Author


Liz Heron grew up in Scotland and studied at Glasgow University. After living in Paris, Madrid and Venice, she embarked on freelance life in London, contributing arts and literary journalism to Spare Rib, The New Statesman, The Listener, The Village Voice, New Society, The Guardian and many other publications. Her literary translations from French and Italian range from Georges Bataille and Giorgio Agamben to the novels of Paola Capriolo. Her own books include Truth, Dare or Promise, a compilation of essays on childhood, and Streets of Desire, an anthology of women’s 20th-century writing on the world’s great cities, both published by Virago, as was her short-story collection, A Red River (1996).

Liz began researching her novel, The Hourglass, during her second spell of life in Venice.

Her website is lizheron.co.uk. She writes a blog, mainly on film: lizheron.wordpress.com.

Review: We Shall See the Sky Sparkling by Susana Aikin


We Shall See the Sky Sparkling
by Susana Aikin

Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Kensington Publishing Corporation
Paperback & eBook; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


Set in London and Russia at the turn of the century, Susana Aikin's debut introduces a vibrant young woman determined to defy convention and shape an extraordinary future.

Like other well-bred young women in Edwardian England, Lily Throop is expected to think of little beyond marriage and motherhood. Passionate about the stage, Lily has very different ambitions. To her father's dismay, she secures an apprenticeship at London's famous Imperial Theatre. Soon, her talent and beauty bring coveted roles and devoted admirers. Yet to most of society, the line between actress and harlot is whisper-thin. With her reputation threatened by her mentor's vicious betrayal, Lily flees to St. Petersburg with an acting troupe--leaving her first love behind.

Life in Russia is as exhilarating as it is difficult. The streets rumble with talk of revolution, and Lily is drawn into an affair with Sergei, a Count with fervent revolutionary ideals. Following Sergei when he is banished to Vladivostok, Lily struggles to find her role in an increasingly dangerous world. And as Russian tensions with Japan erupt into war, only fortitude and single-mindedness can steer her to freedom and safety at last.

With its sweeping backdrop and evocative details, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling explores a fascinating period in history through the eyes of a strong-willed, singular heroine, in a moving story of love and resilience.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

In this beautifully written novel, author Susana Aikin takes readers to the theater stages of London and Russia. Based on the story of the author's grandaunt, the fodder of family folklore, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling tells the brave and tragic tale of Lily Alexander Throop.

Lily was an exceptional woman, in my opinion. She defied expectations, societal norms, and her parent's wishes to leave home and become an actress. I can't imagine the courage that it takes to stand up for what you believe in, and then go for it full-force. Yes, she made some mistakes along the way, but who doesn't while trying to find their way in life?

My absolute favorite part of the novel was how Aikin included actual letters written by Lily to her brother and sister-in-law, and peppered them throughout the book. I thought that was a fabulous touch and made the novel that much more authentic. My other favorite was when Lily was in Russia. It was soooo fascinating!

This gorgeous novel kept me up to the wee hours of the morning! I just couldn't put it down and had to know how it would all end. I found Aikin's writing to be spectacular, and I can't wait for more for her in the future. Aikin did a wonderful job of bringing her ancestor's story to life and I am so glad that I got to know more about Lily.

I highly recommend We Shall See the Sky Sparkling! You will love it!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound


Praise

"Aikin’s novel is expertly plotted and rife with historical details in both its English and Russian settings, making for a rich story of the prejudices women faced at the turn of the 20th century and how the class disparity in Russia ignited the flame of revolution." - Publishers Weekly

"Beginning and ending with letters written to her family, this novel has the feel of a serial drama. Readers of Pam Jenoff and Eva Stachniak will appreciate the strong-willed and artistically driven female character who finds her own way through difficult times." - Library Journal

". . . vivid and compelling - an exceptional woman on an extraordinary journey . . ." ~ Livi Michael, Author of War of the Roses Trilogy

"Against the dramatic backdrops of a Russia on the brink of revolution and the colorful lives backstage of the London theatre circuit, Susana Aikin has created a feisty Edwardian protagonist whose trajectory still resonates with the predicament of women working in the arts today." ~ Sara Alexander, Under a Sardinian Sky and Four Hundred and Forty Steps to the Sea

"We Shall See the Sky Sparkling kept me up at night until blurry eyed, cheering Lily on through all her wild adventures, until she becomes one of those rare heroines, a mature independent woman to admire." ~ Melissa Burch, Author of My Journey Through War and Peace

"Susana Aikin's directorial eye is much in evidence in this sweeping saga. Her attention to period detail transports the reader on a filmic journey that is both astonishing and tragic. We Shall See the Sky Sparkling is a powerful meditation on the sacrifices women have made in pursuit of their dreams - sadly, as relevant in the early 21st century as a hundred years ago." ~ Helen Steadman, Best-selling Author of Widdershins and Sunwise

"We Shall See the Sky Sparkling is a vivid, thoroughly absorbing account of one woman's struggle to break from the rigid roles her social class and time period. Drawing from her family's history and a series of fascinating letters, Aikin crafts a marvelous tale of adventure, rebellion, and romance, on a captivating journey from the theaters of Edwardian London to tumultuous St. Petersburg and beyond. Lily shines as a heroine of uncommon strength--her struggle to protect and foster her independence , even as she navigates through great loves and treacherous times, is to be relished and remembered." ~ Suzanne Nelson, Author of Serendipity Footsteps

About the Author

Born in Spain of an English father and a Spanish mother, Susana Aikin is a writer and a filmmaker who has lived and worked in New York City since 1982. She was educated in both England and Spain; studied law at the University of Madrid, and later Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. In 1986 she started her own independent film production company, Starfish Productions, producing and directing documentary films that won her multiple awards, including an American Film Institute grant, a Rockefeller Fellowship, and an Emmy Award in 1997. She started writing fiction full time in 2010. She has two sons and now lives between Brooklyn and the mountains north of Madrid.

For more information, visit Susana Aikin's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, February 6
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 7
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Friday, February 8
Feature at What Is That Book About

Saturday, February 9
Feature at Broken Teepee

Monday, February 11
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, February 12
Review & Guest Post at Clarissa Reads it All

Thursday, February 14
Feature at Queen of Random

Friday, February 15
Review at A Bookish Affair
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books, and Coffee Pots

Saturday, February 16
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, February 18
Review at Diana_bibliophile

Tuesday, February 19
Guest Post at Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, February 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, February 21
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, February 22
Feature at Maiden of the Pages

Monday, February 25
Review at Comet Readings

Tuesday, February 26
Feature at Christine's Book Corner

Wednesday, February 27
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, February 28
Review at Oh, the Books She Will Read

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of We Shall See the Sky Sparkling! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US 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.

We Shall See the Sky Sparkling


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