Sunday 29 September 2019

Becoming Mama by Yvrose Telfort Ismael


Becoming Mama: How I Found Hope in Haiti's Rubble by Yvrose Telfort Ismael, with Craig Borlase
To be published by Harvest House Publishers on the 1st October 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When Yvrose fled her native Haiti for the United States, she couldn’t imagine she’d return. After suffering multiple miscarriages, she struggled to build a new life. In a desperate moment, she finally met Jesus—uttering her first “yes” to God. That one yes became many when she couldn’t forget the faces of the children she saw in a recurring dream. Finally, a trip to Haiti brought her dream to life when she became Mama to the many children left with no home after a catastrophic earthquake devastated the nation. Becoming Mama tells the incredible story of one woman who had the courage to lay everything aside in answer to God’s call.

You will be encouraged by God’s overwhelming faithfulness to Yvrose’s every yes to God, and learn you don’t have to sell everything or travel to far-off places to make a difference. All you need is an open heart ready to say yes to His call.


Becoming Mama is the inspirational memoir of a Haitian woman, Yvrose Ismael, who gave up her prosperous life in America in order to undertake a new role as a mother figure to dozens of underprivileged children in her native country. At the time of choosing this book from NetGalley I was intrigued by the idea of an American immigrant choosing to leave again as the majority of immigration memoirs I have read tended to focus on settling in America as an end goal. (In fact the only other similarly directional one I can recall is Unexpected America by Wanjiru Warama.)

Ismael begins her memoir in the midst of the massive January 2010 earthquake which wrecked much of Haiti. It's a terrifying event as seen through her words and the reality of actually having being there is beyond my imagination. To then not take such a disaster as one's cue to flee back to the relative safety of her American life seemed to me to be incredibly brave! Instead Ismael relies on her Christian faith to pick herself up, help as many other people as she can, and look to the future. I found her absolute belief in her religion quite difficult to comprehend because it is very different to the half-hearted Christianity of my childhood which never really took hold. Ismael talks openly about traumas in her teenage years and twenties which led her to follow a number of self-destructive paths before finding God and totally changing her life. Her stark honesty really drove home to me how much of a personal journey this woman has made.

Becoming Mama shows just how much of a positive difference one person can make to many lives if they really put their mind to it. Ismael  has perhaps gone to further extremes than most of us would like when it comes to renouncing personal belonging, but I think her self-reliance and openness to opportunity are a wonderful example. Ismael does pepper almost every sentence with her Christian faith, but I never felt that I was being hectored to join that. Instead I have come away from reading Becoming Mama with an immense respect for Ismael and her work. So much so that I would put this book forward as a We Need New Stories recommendation.


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by Shop Haiti in
Massachusetts, USA

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Wednesday 25 September 2019

A Woman of Firsts by Edna Adan Ismail


A Woman of Firsts by Edna Adan Ismail, with Wendy Holden
Published by HQ on the 8th August 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Imprisonment. Mutilation. Persecution.

Edna Adan Ismail endured it all – for the women of Africa.

Edna saw first-hand how poor healthcare, lack of education and ancient superstitions had devastating effects on Somaliland’s people, especially its women. When she suffered the trauma of FGM herself as a young girl at the bidding of her mother, Edna’s determination was set.

The first midwife to practise in Somaliland, Edna became a formidable teacher and campaigner for women’s health. As her country was swept up in its bloody fight for independence, Edna rose to become its First Lady and first female cabinet minister.

She built her own hospital, brick by brick, training future generations in what has been hailed as one of the Horn of Africa’s finest university hospitals

This is Edna’s truly remarkable story.



I first heard of Edna Adan Ismail through reading Half The Sky although I admit I had forgotten why her name looked familiar until she gave that book a mention in A Woman Of Firsts. Edna is a truly amazing and inspirational woman who has used every opportunity open to her throughout her life, and forced opportunities to open up when none were forthcoming due to her gender or her Somaliland nationality. I was reminded of Dr Hawa Abdi's similar struggles in neighbouring Somalia. As a Somaliland woman, Edna spent much of her early life being exactly the opposite of what her very conservative society expected from its female population. I loved how she portrays this clash to readers especially as her encouragement to continue being her natural self came from a desire to emulate her father, a doctor, and his willingness to allow his daughter firstly to be educated and then to actually have a job.

A Woman Of Firsts is written in an engaging style so I was able to learn a lot about Somaliland since its independence from Britain (and our subsequent poor treatment of our former Protectorate) without feeling like I was studying a history book. I loved glimpses of different places such as Borama and Hargeisa. Edna's is a story of amazing changes with extreme highs and lows. Coming from an influential family and marrying into another seems to have caused as many doors to close as to open, yet I loved how Edna repeatedly picked herself and carried on fighting for her patients. This is truly a story of dedication to duty. Now in her eighties and still working at the hospital she was finally able to build, I am in awe of Edna's energy and the legacy she will leave, both within Somaliland and much further afield, of changing attitudes towards women's health and maternity care.
I highly recommend A Woman Of Firsts as a We Need New Stories read.


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by Handmade By Alex Jane in
the United Kingdom

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Tuesday 24 September 2019

Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson


Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson
Published by Head Of Zeus in May 2014.

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Britain, 1911.

Strikes and riots erupt countrywide as the shadow of the Great War looms over Europe. But in one small corner of London, factory girl Nellie Clark's wages are all that keep her younger brothers and sister from starvation.

And, as the young women of Pearce Duff's custard factory watch their menfolk prepare to march off to war, Nellie is forced to make a difficult choice: between the family who depend upon her, and the man she loves...

Following Nellie and her struggle through the hardship of life in First World War London, Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts is an outstandingly moving novel full of tenderness and drama.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in December 2015.
I found Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts in the book exchange at Broadgate Farm CL campsite in Lancashire. It is set in a similar time period to We That Are Left, but instead of focusing on the upper classes experiences of the First World War, this novel examines the lives of working women in Bermondsey, London.

Nellie, a young Bermondsey woman is one of the 'custard tarts' of the title - a worker at a custard powder packing factory. The women work eleven hour days with scarcely a break for half the pay of male staff and the beginning of this novel shows their struggle for basic working rights and equitable pay. Mary Gibson has incorporated a lot of her grandmother's experiences into her book and its historical aspects feel genuine and well-researched throughout. As in the recent film, Suffragette, Nellie suffers ostracism from her family for 'daring' to cause trouble by striking and attending rallies. However a strong sense of community and sisterhood amongst the women wins the day and this is a repeated theme throughout the book.

A love triangle for Nellie's affections is used to show different aspects of Bermondsey life. I wasn't so convinced by this as it was pretty predictable and got very saccharine in places. The incredible hardships faced by Nellie and her family were fascinating to read about, but trivialised by their apparently simple overcoming. Anything can be surmounted by the putting on of the kettle and a brief 'all in it together' inspirational speech. Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts is an easy read which does give insights into women's lives in the 1910s, however it wasn't gritty and real enough for my tastes and I did find the writing too repetitive. The novel would be fine for a light holiday read, but I would have preferred stronger characterisations.


Etsy Find!
by Rebecca McConnachie in
Hitchin, England

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Monday 23 September 2019

Evangelista's Fan and Other Stories by Rose Tremain


Evangelista's Fan and Other Stories by Rose Tremain
First published in the UK by Sinclair-Stevenson in 1994.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In Rose Tremain's teasing and brilliant title story, Evangelista's Fan set in a disturbing dreamlike version of Regency London, a young italian clockmaker contrives a magical means, not only of repairing time, but also of unlocking the mechanism of sexual happiness. This collection demonstrates the enormous range of her talent and imagination. Here is history - Agincourt as seen by the herald who rides between the two camps - alongside such contemporary issues as mortgage debt and medical error. Here are stories set in Cornwall, Corsica, Nashville, Niagara and an unidentified city which conjures up any and every Western European capital. Here are the obstinate dreams of the old and the passionate struggles of the young; here is heartbreak and humour; and here, above all, is love in its many and varied forms.

This collection of eleven short stories by Rose Tremain is absolutely brilliant! Usually I find such collections can be somewhat hit and miss, but I think I can confidently say here that every story is a gem. I loved their dark tinges and mysteries as well as the variety of locations and characters. Tremain completely understands human nature so I felt connected to each of her utterly believable characters, even though I only had a limited time in which to get to know any of them before their story ended and another began.

My favourite stories were the Agincourt one where a Herald riding between the French Dauphin and the English King Henry is reminded of a similar ride, three years before, to see his beloved; The Unoccupied Room where a woman wakes up alone in an apartment which she soon realises is no longer hers; and Niagara where an elderly couple struggle to cope with the husband's increasing anger at the world.I did love all eleven stories so picking just three to highlight was tricky and I'm already wondering whether to change the choices! If you have been disappointed by short stories in the past then Evangelina's Fan and Other Stories will hopefully rekindle your enthusiasm for the genre, and if you're already a fan then this collection is a must read.


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by Steelman 24DE in
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Sunday 22 September 2019

Fate by Mary Corran


Fate by Mary Corran
First published by Millennium in March 1995. Republished by Endeavour Venture in October 2015.

One of my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Hope. Horror. Heartache. There’s a little of each fated for all of us…

Asher’s world is a small one, bound by the conventions forced upon its people by an oppressive invader. But not everyone is content with their lot… A number of rebellious and independent women have grouped together, struggling against the might of the Grey Men. Asher is fearless but often it is too late once she realises danger is near. 

Women have always been secondary citizens in Venture, but under their new rulers Venture’s menfolk too, and even the Oracle — the fantastic phenomenon at the centre of the city’s life — and its adherents are subjugated. Everyone will be forced to work harder and harder against injustice merely to pay the tithe that their ruthless oppressors demand. People are driven to terrible actions and suffer insurmountable struggles…

Asher is deeply suspicious of the Oracle but it still speaks and on Fair Day she is called to hear its message. Reluctantly she confronts her greatest fear — that the course of her life may have been mapped in stone — and a spectre from her past. But now, what she has always feared may present an unexpected chance to salvage her country’s future. 

Asher must learn to listen to her instinct and face her fears if she is to save herself and her friends. She strives to set a new precedent not only for herself but for women everywhere, running against the tide of opinion and daring to challenge the authorities. Yet great sacrifices are made if the world is to be changed for good…

Fate is a spellbinding fantasy tale about one woman’s chance to save her people from the darkest throes of oppression.


I featured Fate in a Books From The Backlog post in June last year, having bought it in November 2015 and not read it. Now, nearly four years after its purchase, I finally read this book and I did enjoy it! Despite its cover art, this is not a Red Riding Hood retelling, but rather a fantasy quest novel with a delightfully strong feminist slant. Our heroine, Asher, is living under a double oppression firstly within an occupied country and secondly from social conventions with have reduced women's roles in her society to either mothers or decorations. Asher's railing against both subjugations makes for a good story with a lot of oh-so-true observations on British society too. I did feel that Corran was a bit heavy handed with her philosophical arguments at times, and Asher's initial refusal to learn from her mistakes was exasperating although very believable. What I did like though was the way we saw her grow into her potential as her quest progressed.

I'm not a big reader of fantasy stories - which is the main reason why it took me so long to get started on this one. I did feel that Fate's main narrative went pretty much where I expected to, albeit in an interesting way, and I didn't like the city names - Fate, Omen, Venture, and especially the misspelled Kepesake. What's with that?! I did like Corran's writing style and could empathise with her characters. Perhaps the physical settings and world-building could have done with a little more refinement because I felt some were overdescribed with others not benefiting from enough attention. This could be my lack of fantasy-reading experience showing though with me not picking up on genre standards or tropes. Overall though, Fate is a fun adventure novel and I have no regrets about spending time in Asher's world. I'm not sure that I would pick up another of Corran's fantasy stories, but I have added her mental health memoir to my TBR.


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by Lisa Ferrante Studio in
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Saturday 21 September 2019

The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish + #FreeBook


The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle
Published in the UK by A. Maxwell in 1668.

One of my Classics Club Challenge reads

How I got this book:

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Blazing World is a utopian kingdom in another world (with different stars in the sky) that can be reached via the North Pole. A young woman enters this other world, becomes the empress of a society composed of various species of talking animals, and organizes an invasion back into her world complete with submarines towed by the "fish men" and the dropping of "fire stones" by the "bird men" to confound the enemies of her homeland, the Kingdom of Esfi.


If you read my Monster, She Wrote book review a few days ago you'll know that it inspired me to get reading some of the women speculative fiction and horror authors Kroger and Anderson presented. Their hint that I could find possibly the earliest female-authored scifi story still in existence for free online got me searching and it didn't take long to stumble across a transcribed copy of The Blazing World. By coincidence, we watched the Simon Schama History Of Britain episode about the downfall of King Charles I while I was in the midst of reading The Blazing World. The book was written within a couple of decades of the tumultuous English Civil Wars, mentioned by Cavendish in the story, and this really brought home to me just how long ago 350 years really is! And how different Cavendish's England was to mine.

I've given The Blazing World a 3 star rating which is unfair on pretty much every level. Had I read this story as a modern-day effort it would undoubtedly have been a DNF 1 star! The plot is bonkers and I have several problems with its ideas surrounding colonialism and tolerance. Characterisation is practically non-existent, explanations of the hows and whys of the new world are sorely lacking, and the interminable philosophical and scientific question and answer session goes beyond tedious. That said though, I could see how Cavendish was using those scientific discussions to poke fun at the scholars of her time. In an era when most women were not even allowed to be literate, this woman is not only openly engaging in the debates, but doing so in a published story. I understand too that this scifi-fantasy tale was published alongside a serious philosophical work of hers. I'm not sure if that still exists?

I did love Cavendish's insertion of herself as a leading player in the story though. Also wonderfully appealing is the premise of every woman being an Empress in her own inner world - one just has to imagine its structures and governance to one's own satisfaction! I am aware that I would probably have got a lot more out of reading The Blazing World if I had a greater knowledge and understanding of named men such as Plato and Hobbs. Cavendish was obviously very familiar with their works and seemed to expect a similar educational level from her readers. Its lack is to my detriment (and that is probably not going to change any time soon), but I am still delighted to have had the opportunity to read this ground breaking story. I am also grateful that science fiction writing has progressed dramatically in the intervening centuries!


Etsy Find!
by Minouette in
Toronto, Canada

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Thursday 19 September 2019

The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino


The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino
First published in Italian as Le Assaggiatrici by Feltrinelli in Italy in 2018. English language translation by Leah Janeczko published by HarperCollins on the 1st August 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads
I've linked up this post to September 2019 Foodies Read at Based On A True Story

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Inspired by the powerful true story of Margot Wölk, this is a heartbreaking and gripping historical novel for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.
Ten women are chosen.
Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?


I mistakenly thought, at first, that The Women At Hitler's Table was a nonfiction work. In reality it is well researched historical fiction based around the wartime experiences of Margot Wolk who was selected to be one of Hitler's food tasters for several years. The real life Margot kept this a secret for decades after the war had ended, only eventually breaking her silence at the age of ninety-six. Rosella Postorino has crafted this around Margot's story. I don't actually know how much of what I read was factual and how much imagined, but I appreciated that the story felt authentic throughout and I felt that Postorino had done a lot of research on life at Wolfsschanze. The Women At Hitler's Table allows us to learn about a formerly hidden aspect of World War Two. When recounting wartime history, women are often overlooked in favour of analysing battle strategies or telling soldiers' stories. Recently however novels such as How We Disappeared and histories such as Les Parisiennes have allowed me to view the war through a much wider lens.

I particularly liked how Postorino depicted the fraught relationships between Rosa and her husband's family, and between the ten women food tasters. Their views of the role are very different with some actively relishing the prospect of being so vital to Hitler's survival and others doing the work because their terror of the SS is greater than that of eating poisoned food. Another consideration was, of course, that by the time Hitler had moved to Wolfsschanze, many of the local villagers were practically starving. At least this job meant being fed so there would be one's rations could be shared amongst one's family.

I enjoyed reading this novel very much. In common with Good People, it poses uncomfortable questions to the reader about how we might act under similar circumstances so would make an interesting source for book club discussions. It is also a tense and exciting read with believable characters struggling to survive under increasingly dangerous circumstances. I would recommend The Women At Hitler's Table to readers of character-driven wartime fiction.


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by Magasin De Curios in
Torigni-sur-Vire, France

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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Killer In The Band by Lauren Carr + #Giveaway


Killer In The Band (A Lovers in Crime Mystery #3) by Lauren Carr
Published in America by Acorn Book Services in September 2016.

K for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge and a Book With A Vegan Character



It's a Summer of Love & Murder!

Joshua’s eldest son, Joshua Thornton Jr. (J.J.) has graduated at the top of his class from law school and returns home to spend the summer studying for the bar exam. However, to Joshua's and Cameron's shock and dismay, J.J. moves into the main house at Russell Ridge Farm and Orchards, the largest dairy farm in the Ohio Valley, in order to rekindle a romance with Suellen Russell, the one-time leader of a rock band, who is twice his age. Quickly, they learn that she has a deep dark secret.

The move brings long buried tensions between the father and son to the surface—not the least of which being J.J.'s inexplicable dislike for his stepmother Cameron. But when a brutal killer strikes, the Lovers in Crime must set all differences with Joshua's son aside to solve the crime before J.J. ends up in the cross-hairs of a murderer.


Killer In The Band is the third in Lauren Carr's Lovers In Crime series. In this story we see Cameron and Joshua investigating crimes from 1988, 1998 and the present day. I liked the cultural references to the earlier times, especially distinctive late-1980s fashion choices and hairstyles - most of which sound pretty atrocious now! There's a nod to the first Lover's In Crime novel, Dead On Ice, with the first body here also being discovered in a freezer although this time it's in a disused psychiatric hospital and lack of information results in the gruesome discovery becoming a cold case (an intended pun?). I initially thought Lauren would have her characters spend a lot of time in such a dark setting, but she doesn't overdo the obvious and instead we are swept into the present day.

Killer In The Band felt like a faster paced story than Real Murder. (which I'll be reviewing here soon. I am reading the books in the right order even though my blog posts indicate otherwise!) There are still a lot of characters, but I kept a better handle on them all this time. I did wonder though if I had forgotten characters such as Suellen and Clyde from a previous novel. It seemed as though I was expected to have already met them although I didn't recall having done so. This didn't impact on the narrative however and I enjoyed the horsey setting of Suellen's farm. For me Killer In The Band had quite a classic crime vibe to it. Amateur characters including Joshua's son and a blogger get deeply involved in the investigation and Cameron's gathering together of all the suspects for the denouement felt very Agatha Christie! The storylines tie in nicely together and I was satisfied with their conclusions. 



Meet the author:
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook ~ Instagram


Enter the Giveaway!  

One winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card
Open internationally across the Lovers In Crime blog tour posts until November 1st, 2019

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Etsy Find!
by Art By Shano in
Washington, USA

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Sunday 15 September 2019

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R Anderson


Monster, She Wrote The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson
Published by Quirk Books on the 17th September 2019.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Meet the women writers who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales, from Frankenstein to The Haunting of Hill House and beyond.

Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? If you know the astounding work of Shirley Jackson, whose novel The Haunting of Hill House was reinvented as a Netflix series, then try the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V. C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Colter, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). Curated reading lists point you to their most spine-chilling tales.

Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories.



I started reading Monster, She Wrote, with a pencil and notebook by my side thinking to jot down a few titles and authors that caught my attention. I would like to start this review by saying Do Not Do This! Within just a few chapters I had patted myself on the back for already having read Frankenstein and The Yellow Wallpaper, and having an Ann Radcliffe collected works downloaded since reading Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (note to self, Read the Radcliffes!). However I had also already blunted my pencil on a TBR of suffocating proportions and I wasn't even a quarter of the way through this book yet. If you truly want horror, the realisation of just how many important women authors I haven't read was terrifying!

I am, of course, partly joking here, but also partly serious. Monster, She Wrote is an excellent resource for horror and speculative fiction fans, and also for readers such as myself who want include as wide a variety of influences as I can. Nesrine Malik's We Need New Stories, which I recently reviewed, clarified my thoughts around how the stories we read and hear informs our social and cultural expectations. Monster, She Wrote is a perfect accompaniment because it shows me hundreds of stories already in existence. Perhaps we don't only need new stories, but to make sure that these older stories continue to exist and aren't forgotten.

Kroger and Anderson have done an excellent job in drawing this book together. At times the sheer number of books and authors they cross reference is bewildering, but it's also a superb statement of pride in the history of female authors in what are commonly mis-assumed to be male-dominated genres. I liked the progression through time from the 1600s to the present day and also the grouping of authors by genre where possible. The illustrations are a wonderful idea too. They are brilliantly evocative of classic horror themes. So I now have a real burst of enthusiasm for historic horror, a teetering TBR, and the kernel of an idea for a Monster, She Wrote reading challenge - I just need to make a list of every book Kroger and Anderson namecheck, and then read them!


Etsy Find!
by Onen Emporium in
Falmouth, England

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Saturday 14 September 2019

The Beltane Choice by Nancy Jardine + #Giveaway


The Beltane Choice (Celtic Fervour series #1) by Nancy Jardine
Published by Crooked Cat Publishing in August 2012.


Add The Beltane Choice to your Goodreads

AD 71 Northern Roman Britain

Lorcan of the Brigantes knows that unity of the northern tribes is essential when the Ancient Roman legions advance northwards to Brigantia. Yet, everything comes at a price. Using his captive, Nara, as a political bargain with the Selgovae comes with impossible stipulations. Battle at Whorl – Iron Age tribes against the Romans – is inevitable.

Will Nara have her Beltane choice?
The adventures of the Garrigill Clan begin…



I was intrigued by Nancy Jardine's Celtic Fervour series being set towards the beginning of the Roman occupation of Britannia. I haven't read any novels set in this period since Skin by Ilka Tampke, set three decades earlier, and it is a time of great social change across what would become Britain so ripe, I think, for a stirring historical fiction series. Jardine has researched and envisaged various tribal communities across the country. They have been intermittently at war with each other for generations, but now the Roman threat from the south can only successfully be countered if all these enemies can work together. With a lot of testosterone pride at stake, it seems unlikely that any proposal along these lines will be accepted by enough tribes. Added to be mix is a Romeo and Juliet-style narrative of potential lovers, Lorcan and Nara, being thwarted by their families each being the leaders of different tribes.

I enjoyed Jardine's portrayal of late Iron Age life and the landscapes through which our travelling - and sparring - protagonists pass. As she says in an epilogue essay, archaeology is constantly changing our understanding of how these people lived, but I felt I got authentic and honest descriptions from The Beltane Choice. I admit I am not particularly a romance reader so the breathy bickering between our potential partners did start to grate on me after a while. I always believed in the progression of their relationship though and the political manoeuvres were certainly convincing. If anything, I felt that The Beltane Choice could have done with being a longer novel! At times I wanted to know more of the background and minutiae. I already have the next book in the series awaiting reading though so I may discover more there and I look forward to returning to Iron Age Britain soon.



Meet the author
Nancy Jardine writes historical fiction; time-travel historical adventure; contemporary mystery thrillers; and romantic comedy. She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where life is never quiet or boring since she regularly child minds her young grandchildren who happen to be her next-door neighbours. Her garden is often creatively managed by them, though she does all the work! Her husband is a fantastic purveyor of coffee and tea…excellent food and wine! (Restorative, of course)

A member of the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland; Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Independent Alliance of Authors, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

Author links: 
Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon


And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win x1 signed paperback of The Beltane Choice to one UK winner and x1 kindle copy worldwide
Open internationally until the 19th September 2019.

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*Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.






Etsy Find!

by Celt Smith in
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Thursday 12 September 2019

The Healer's Daughters by Jay Amberg + #Giveaway


The Healer's Daughters by Jay Amberg
Published in America by Amika Press in on the 17th July 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads and my 2010s read for the 2019-20 Decade Challenge



A terrorist bombing in Bergama, Turkey kills twenty-three people including three children. Modern Bergama is built on the site of ancient Pergamon, a city whose art and wealth and culture rivaled Athens. It was also the home of the Aesklepion, the world’s greatest healing center, and the birthplace of Galen, the Roman Empire’s most famous doctor.

Tuğçe Iskan, a Turkish Ministry investigator, finds evidence that links the terrorism to a powerful criminal family and to Galen’s life and Pergamon’s lost treasures. But Iskan is alone, an outcast in the Ministry because she is honest, diligent, and a woman.

As Iskan delves more deeply into the heinous attack, she needs allies outside the Ministry. She must turn to Özlem Boroğlu, a local archeologist, and Boroğlu’s daughter Elif, an artist with an affinity for ancient Aegean goddesses. Can these three women defeat ISIL terrorists, criminal oligarchs, and corrupt officials? Can they even survive?



The Healer's Daughters is a compelling thriller which takes place around an ancient archaeological site, Bergama in Turkey. I was initially concerned that the story might veer too far towards the Indiana Jones adventure trope, but Amberg avoids such obvious pitfalls and, instead, delivers a complex and scarily plausible tale. The novel begins with a glimpse back to life in ancient Pergamon which helped me to understand the importance of what in the present day is hidden under the hills surrounding Bergama. There are only a few of these flashbacks so this isn't a dual timeline novel. Most of the story takes place in the present day where ISIL terrorist attacks are used as a cover for the looting of ancient graves with any discovered artefacts being sold on the black market to wealthy overseas collectors.

Amberg obviously has a great love for Turkey and Turkish culture. I appreciated the authenticity of minor details throughout the story such as the social rituals of serving tea and the importance of a shared cigarette break! The novel has a large cast so it took a while for all the characters to develop distinctive voices, but I generally felt as though each one was acting in a genuine way. I could always understand their motivations. Insights into the Boroglu family allowed me to see how the mother and daughter were in many ways very similar even though they had chosen different life paths. I liked the strong family resemblance in behaviour. I did feel as though The Healer's Daughters was as much a battle of the sexes novel as anything else. Certainly the greedy characters bent on pillaging the historic sites for personal gain seemed to be all male, whereas the characters for whom I found myself rooting were predominantly female.

This novel is an exciting thriller and I was pleased that Amberg didn't attempt to stretch credulity beyond what is believable within the context of this story. I thought The Healer's Daughters was a more gripping tale for its believability and I liked Amberg took the trouble to show the longterm pain and anguish of people directly affected by terrorist attacks. The Healer's Daughters has an emotional depth that appealed to me as a reader because I could empathise strongly with characters such as Elif, Ozlem and Tugce. I enjoyed this novel and would happily pick up more of Jay Amberg's work.



Meet the author:

Jay Amberg is the author of twelve books. He received a BA from Georgetown University and a PhD from Northwestern University. He has taught high school and college students since 1972. His latest book, The Healer’s Daughters, is now available from Amika Press. Amberg has also published Bone Box, Cycle, America’s Fool, Whale Song, and compiled 52 Poems for Men. Prior to Amika Press, Amberg published thriller novels Doubloon (Forge), Blackbird Singing (Forge) and Deep Gold (Warner Books). Among his books on teaching are School Smarts and The Study Skills Handbook, published by Good Year. Amberg wrote The Creative Writing Handbook (Good Year) with Mark Henry Larson and Verbal Review and Workbook for the SAT (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) with Bob Boone.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!  

Win one of five print copies (USA & Canada); or one of 15 ebooks (international) of The Healer's Daughters. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card (anywhere Amazon will ship.) (21 winners)
Open internationally until the 27th September 2019

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Etsy Find!
by Aneris Art in
Barcelona, Spain

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