Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday 56: Week 38 - The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine from the book on my review list, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees:

His fishing rod was lodged between two rocks, bobbing gently with the current.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review of The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel

The River Kings' Road: A Novel of Ithelas
The blurb:
A thrilling new voice in fantasy makes an unforgettable debut with this "intriguingly twisted tale of treachery and magic" (New York Times bestselling author L.E. Modesitt, Jr.) Liane Merciel's The River Kings' Road takes us to a world of bitter enmity between kingdoms, divided loyalties between comrades, and an insidious magic that destroys everything it touches. . . .

The wounded maidservant thrust the knotted blankets at him; instinctively, Brys stepped forward and caught the bundle before it fell. Then he glimpsed what lay inside and nearly dropped it himself. There was a baby in the blankets. A baby with a tear-swollen face red and round as a midsummer plum. A baby he knew, even without seeing the lacquered medallion tucked into the swaddling -- a medallion far too heavy, on a chain far too cold for an infant who had not yet seen a year.

A fragile period of peace between the eternally warring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is shattered when a surprise massacre fueled by bloodmagic ravages the Landmyrne border village of Willowfield, killing its inhabitants --including a visiting Oakharne lord and his family -- and leaving behind a scene so grisly that even the carrion eaters avoid its desecrated earth. But the dead lord's infant heir has survived the carnage -- a discovery that entwines the destinies of Brys Tarnell, a mercenary who rescues the helpless and ailing babe, and who enlists a Langmyr peasant, a young mother herself, to nourish and nurture the child of her enemies as they travel a dark, perilous road. . . Odosse, the peasant woman whose only weapons are wit, courage, and her fierce maternal love -- and who risks everything she holds dear to protect her new charge. . . Sir Kelland, a divinely blessed Knight of the Sun, called upon to unmask the architects behind the slaughter and avert war between ancestral enemies. . . Bitharn, Kelland's companion on his journey, who conceals her lifelong love for the Knight behind her flawless archery skills -- and whose feelings may ultimately be Kelland's undoing. . . and Leferic, an Oakharne Lord's bitter youngest son, whose dark ambition fuel the most horrific acts of violence. As one infant's life hangs in the balance, so too does the fate of thousands, while deep in the forest, a Maimed Witch practices an evil bloodmagic that could doom them all. . . .

Liane Merciel's The River Kings' Road takes us to a kingdom similar to Medieval Europe in social structure, technological and economic development. The neighboring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr have a longstanding history of enmity and war.

When the story opens, the fragile peace between Oakharn and Langmyr is broken with the maasacre of a village and the assasination of an Oakharne lord and his family. By a stroke of luck, one mercenary that serves the dead lord survives. This mercenary, Brys Tarnell, notices a unique pattern in the attack and identifies the presence of unusual "bloodmagic". Brys stumbles across his lord's heir and undertakes to protect the child. Brys' aversion to black magic and his loyalty to his lord lead him down a dangerous path. Brys faces unbelievable odds and comes to rely upon the generous help of the peasant woman, Odosse, who cares for the orphaned babe along with her son. Brys and Odosse are unlikely heroes, but their courage and integrity throughout the struggle is worthy of the noblest heroes.

The River Kings' Road is an engaging fantasy adventure full of twists and turns, tests of loyalty and courage.

ISBN-10: 1439159114 - Hardcover $26.00
Publisher: Pocket (March 9, 2010), 400 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Liane Merciel makes her fiction debut with The River Kings' Road. She lives and practices law in Philadelphia, where she is at work on Heaven's Needle, the next novel in this new fantasy series.

Thank you so much to Sarah and Simon and Schuster for this review opportunity!

Book Review of The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage That Forever Changed The Fate of England by Susan Higginbotham

The Stolen Crown: The secret marriage that forever changed the fate of England

The blurb:
Trapped in the War of the Roses, one woman finds herself sister to the queen. Katherine Woodville's sister never gave her a choice. A happy girl of modest means, Kate hardly expected to become a maker of kings. But, when her sister impulsively marries King Edward IV in secret, Katherine's path is no longer hers to control.

Kate is matched with Harry Stafford, poised to be the richest duke in England. But his Lancastrian blood prevents him from gaining royal favor, and so he turns to the king's brother, Richard of Gloucester. Kate, wary of Richard's influence, cautions her beloved. But when at long last power comes courting, it cannot be stopped....

Though I love historical fiction and history, I don't have a strong grasp of the War of the Roses. There were moments with the different Henries in The Stolen Crown that I wished that knew more about this time period. Having said that, the book is friendly and accessible to those of us who have a minimum grasp of the key characters.

The story is told from the points of view of Kate Woodville and her husband Henry Stafford and begins at key points in their childhood. The early part of the book draws you in with the details of their young lives, their engaging personalities and the sheer importance of the events around them. Kate stumbles upon the wedding of her elder sister and the young King Edward IV. Harry finds himself duke and "playmates" with Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

However engaging the beginning of The Stolen Crown may be, I enjoyed the latter part of the story best. For once I got to know Kate's Woodville relatives, I couldn't help but like them. The intrigue, action and drama heightens as the War of the Roses develops - and reading about these events from the perspective of Kate and Harry gives the story an added emotional draw. I don't want to ruin your reading with spoilers but Susan Higginbotham uses foreshadowing to great advantage! If you enjoy historical fiction - do check out The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage That Forever Changed The Fate of England by Susan Higginbotham.

ISBN-10: 1402237669 - Paperback $14.99
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; 1 edition (March 1, 2010), 400 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Award-winning Susan Higginbotham's expertly researched historical fiction delights readers. Higginbotham has worked as an editor and an attorney, and she lives in Apex, North Carolina, with her family. Learn more about her at her website at

Thank you so much to Danielle and SourceBooks for this review opportunity!

Book Review of The Silver Eagle by Ben Kane

I'd like to thank Ben Kane and Keith at St. Martin's Press for the review copy of The Silver Eagle and for an extra copy for one lucky reader! I'd reviewed Ben Kane's debut novel, the first in the series, called The Forgotten Legion. After reading The Forgotten Legion, I jotted down the release date of the next in the series. I enjoyed it that much. If you'd like to read my review of The Forgotten Legion and Ben Kane's account of what it was like getting his debut novel to market, head here.

The Silver Eagle (Forgotten Legion Chronicles, #2)
The blurb:
Trapped in Parthia by Crassus's failed invasion, ten thousand legionaries are captured and marched to the edge of the known world - these men are the Forgotten Legion. Among them are Romulus, Brennus, and Tarquinius, all men with troubled pasts and good reason to hate Rome. Together the trio must face the savage tribes that surround them as well as the more treacherous enemies within the ranks of the legion itself.

The three friends' characters will be tested to the utter limit as they struggle to find a way back to Rome. Meanwhile, Fabiola, Romulus's twin sister, fights to survive and maintain hope in her brother's survival. Freed by her powerful lover but beset by enemies on all sides, she must travel to Gaul to find her lover, Caesar's right-hand man, where Vercingetorix threatens the life and the lives of all who rally around Caesar.

The Silver Eagle continues the interwoven stories of Ben Kane's debut novel, The Forgotten Legion. The series is set in the Roman Empire and its outskirts during the time of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, and Brutus. These historical figures play critical roles in Ben Kane's plots, but the lead protagonists are far from the seat of power. The heroes are largely taken from the conquered peoples and slaves of the Roman Empire.

We encounter the three close friends and legionaries of The Forgotten Legion again. The story continues after Crassus's failed invasion of Partha and these legionaries have been incorporated into the Parthan army. Tarquinius, the Etrucscan haruspex, is under increasing pressure by the Parthian commander Pacorus to read the future and help Parthia smash all opposition. As the Parthian troops face attacks from Scythians, Tarquinius's position becomes increasingly tenuous. Brennus, the famous gladiator and former slave from Gaul, struggles to keep up his spirit but antagonism from the Parthian troops and fellow legionaries constantly weigh him down. Brennus relies upon his friendship with Tarquinius and Romulus to keep him focused and motivated. Romulus, a former slave who proved himself to be a born warrior, dreams of returning to Rome and uniting his family. Romulus, Brennus, and Tarquinius are isolated and in danger - with no one to trust but each other, they must make the journey of thousands of miles.

Meanwhile, Fabiola, Romulus's beautiful twin sister, is established in Brutus's household. She's adapting to her life on her country estate when sudden violence erupts. Fabiola suddenly faces a struggle for her life and must rely on her wits, her beauty and the loyalty of those around her as she prepares to travel to Gaul to find Brutus and safety. I enjoy stories with where determined young people somehow brave all types of treachery and insurmountable odds and still somehow maintain a sense of honor. The key heroes in Ben Kane's The Silver Eagle and The Forgotten Legion have that quality and I find myself constantly rooting for Brennus, Tarquinius, Romulus, and Fabiola. Even Fabiola's Brutus is painted as an engaging and honorable man. The relationship between Fabiola and Brutus is much deeper in The Silver Eagle, which adds another interesting element to the novel.

Like The Forgotten Legion, The Silver Eagle is an engrossing story of loyalty, friendship, betrayal and love during historic and tumultuous times. Ben Kane anchors the story in much historic detail which gives The Silver Eagle an added layer of depth and complexity. I stayed up much of the night reading The Silver Eagle and highly recommend it! The third in the series, The Road to Rome, comes out in August!

ISBN-10: 0312536720 Hardcover $25.99
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 16, 2010), 480 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Ben Kane is the author of the critically acclaimed, The Forgotten Legion, and is at work on the concluding volume of this trilogy. He lives in England. Visit Ben Kane's website to learn more at

Bonus feature:

I had asked Ben about the research that he did for The Forgotten Legion and The Silver Eagle. Aside from knowing the military history in and out, he familiarized himself with life in Rome during 1 B.C., including the tools and implements of daily life. Including the weapons that Roman legionaries took to battle.

Here is a photo that he shared which depicts legionary equipment - the sword and shield of those time. To accompany the photo is Ben Kane's brief description. Enjoy!

BK: [Here is] a photo of two pieces of legionary equipment which were quite different to what most people think of when they imagine Rome. They are what was being used in the 1st C BC, however, and during the civil war which announced Caesar's rise to power.
The sword is the gladius hispaniensis, a much longer weapon than the Mainz or Pompeii type used in the 1st C AD, and which most people are used to from TV and films. (For this reason, I described the later one in my book, which I regret now!) It was adapted by the Romans from weapons used by the Spanish tribes they encountered when conquering the Iberian peninsula or possibly even when they were first fighting Carthage in the years 264-241 BC.
The scutum, or shield, is a curved, elongated oval shape rather than the classic curved rectangle most people are familiar with. It also has a spine running down the centre of the front.

And now - the giveaway portion! I am excited to offer the gently used advanced reader's copy of The Silver Eagle by Ben Kane. The contest is limited to the U.S. No P.O. Boxes please!. To enter, please email me at gaby317nyc at with your name, address, and either (1) your favorite historical novel and why you love it or (2) the time in history that you most love reading about and why. On the subject line please write : SILVER EAGLE. The most interesting answer wins! Giveaway ends on April 30 at noon.

Recent Releases: Silver Eagle by Ben Kane and The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

Things have been a bit crazy for me this last week or so balancing the duties at my self-managed condo, catching up on my continuing legal education credits, and other aspects of my life. I haven't been posting much over the last two weeks and I've missed you guys.

I did want to mention a few recently released books that I'd been very eagerly awaiting. These have been on my wishlist/advance purchase list ever since I'd read the debut author's first novel.

The Silver Eagle (Forgotten Legion Chronicles, #2)

Ben Kane's The Silver Eagle which follows the story of The Forgotten Legion came out on March 16, 2010. I'd discovered Ben Kane through the TLC Book Tour of The Forgotten Legion. If you haven't read the book yet and you enjoy novels about Ancient Rome filled with historical detail, intrigue, action, and stories of friendship, love and loyalty, I highly recommend it. You can read my review of The Forgotten Legion here. The Silver Eagle continues the story of the lead characters through key periods of Roman history. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of The Silver Eagle through Ben Kane and his publisher and started reading it immediately. Ben and St. Martin's Press have generously sponsored a copy for giveaway! I'll post my review of The Silver Eagle shortly along with the details for the giveaway!

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (The BuckShaw Chronicles, #2)

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag came out on March 9, 2010. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I loved the Alan Bradley's first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie with his 11-year old sleuth, Flavia de Luce.