Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review & Giveaway of Ben Kane's Spartacus

Ben Kane has had considerable success with his earlier series set in Ancient Rome.  Recall  The Forgotten Legion Trilogy?  Kane takes us back to Ancient Rome in his latest novel, Spartacus.

The novel opens with Spartacus's return to his old home in Thrace after years of serving as an auxiliary in the Roman legion.  Instead of the warm reunion that he'd hoped for, Spartacus discovers that his family had suffered in his absence.  In fact, his home has changed much in his absence and Spartacus finds himself trying to curb the excesses of his king.  In a stroke of the most awful luck, Spartacus finds that his interference is not appreciated and that his life has been sold to a Roman trader/ludus operator.

In this deadly new home, Spartacus must rely on his soldiering skills and instincts. We are happy to discover that Spartacus has a natural ability and considerable training

Once again, the skills that kept Spartacus alive in the legions serve him well in this new arena.  But he must learn to navigate the murky politics in the ludus's gladiator pits from the dominant gladiators to the jealousies and petty tyrannies of the ludus's workers.   It doesn't help Spartacus's odds that he is paired with Ariadne, a beautiful Dionysian priestess - and Ariadne's beauty brings another level of danger.  Fortunately, Spartacus is a natural leader and tactician.  As he handles the dangers and intrigue of the Roman ludus, he finds a way to freedom for himself, his fellow slaves, and those he loves.  Kane's telling of the story is full of drama, intrigue, betrayals, loyalty and love.  I very much enjoyed the combination of a life lived to the lees and Spartacus' struggle to find freedom for himself and his fellow slaves.

Hardcover - ISBN-10: 1250001161 $26.99
Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012), 480 pages.
Review copy provided by the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours

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Monday, June 25, 2012

A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder by Karen Spears Zacharias

The blurb:
Investigative journalist and author Karen Spears Zacharias never anticipated she would become one of the characters involved in a high profile murder.  But when she reconnects with a young woman named Sarah, who lived in the Zarcharias home at one time and was treated like family, Karen discovers that something unspeakable has happened to Sarah's daughter, Karly.

Compelled to consider her own culpability in this tragic case, Karen pieces together what happened to Karly through court documents, investigators' interviews, and interviews with friends, family, law enforcement officers, and key witnesses.  As the terrible story unfolds, the hard question emerges for everyone involved, indeed all of us:  Why was no cry raised to protect Karly?

A Silence of Mockingbirds is a strange mix of nonfiction that reads much like a mystery of sorts.   As Zarcharias shares the story, I was struck by how little people knew of the abuse that Karly was going through.  The many signs are easy to pinpoint after the fact and Zacharias's kept me wondering what signs were visible, noticed, and what actions the adults in her life were taking.  When you're not looking for abuse, it's hard to see it.  It was heartbreaking to read Karly's reaction to the treatment and how she was internalizing the abuse. 

A Silence of Mockingbirds left me much more sensitive to child abuse. It's a heartbreaking story and very well told.

ISBN-10: 159692375X - Hardcover $25.00
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing; 1 edition (April 1, 2012), 325 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc.

About the Author:
Karen Spears Zacharias has been featured on Huffington Post and CNN.  Her commentary has appeared in the New York Times and on NPR.  Karen blogs at and teaches journalism at Central Washington University.  She wrote this book while serving as writer-in-residence at the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, Fairhope, Alabama.  Karen divides her time between the Columbia River in Oregon and Mobile Bay in Alabama.