Archive for the ‘Fiction-Historical’ Category

Title: “The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel”

Author: Maureen Lindley

Format: Papberack

Number of Pages: 304

ISBN: 978-1596917033

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Date of Publication: September 1, 2009

2 stars: Falls short of expectations


The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel: A Novel 


I wanted to like this book. The title is catchy, the cover art looks great. But the subject matter just didn’t work. Eastern Jewel is a Chinese princess who ends up being sent to a Japanese family. Eastern Jewel quickly learns to love all things Japanese and to be blunt, has sex with anything that moves.

I found the main character to be repulsive. She essentially did nothing with her life, except have sex. While one could argue that she did as she pleased, I still was turned off by it. There were mentions of several ‘relationships’ that she was in, but they were certainly not healthy relationships.

The redeeming factors of this novel…. there were some brilliant descriptions. The author does have a gift with words. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that was not enough to save this book. I recently read a review saying that this was a poor imitation of “Memoirs of a Geisha”. It certainly does pale in comparison.

Buy this book on amazon here.


Missed my last review?  It was QUICK REVIEW: “ALEXANDER & ALESTRIA” BY SHAN SA


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Title: “Alexander & Alestria”

Author: Shan Sa

Format: Hardcover

Number of Pages: 256

ISBN: 978-0061543548

Publisher: Harper

Date of Publication: July 22, 2008

1 star: Alexander the what???

Alexander and Alestria: A Novel


This is just a quick review, but I had to post it while it was on my mind.  Anyone who has seen my library knows that I am a huge fan of Alexander the Great.  I’ve read numerous nonfiction books about him, and anyone who knows me knows that I do not usually care for nonfiction.  I also of course read any historical fiction about Alexander that I can get my hands on.  So when I came across this book, I had to read it!

And wow was it bad.  The blurb says that his father Philip of Macedon abused him.  Okay I can see that, but in this book, Philip wants to have sex with him.  Weird.  But even if you can swallow that (many books portray Philip as having sex with anything that moves), the main problem is Alexander himself.  The author describes Alexander as wanting to be a girl…. Dresses, makeup, the works. 

Alexander is a huge wimp.  And it goes on and on and on.  Frankly I couldn’t finish this.  I just could not get into it.  This was the man that conquered most of the known world?  I don’t think so.  If you’re a fan of Alexander the Great, I would definitely not recommend this.

But maybe it’s just me! I have a crush on Alexander, that’ s obvious.  So those of you who don’t, maybe you’ll be able to get into the girly-Alexander.  If so, check out Shan Sa’s novel.

Buy it at amazon.

Missed my last post?  It was Review: “The Aviary Gate” by Katie Hickman

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(Ignoring the fact that I haven’t been blogging for awhile…..) Okay so there’s been discussion about when the best time to post reviews of an ARC.  Some say it’s best to have them posted either before or right when the book is published.  I think that’s a good strategy.  So then I feel guilty if I don’t review books before their publication date, especially if I’ve had them for a bit. 

But then I thought… well it could also be helpful for reviews to pop up awhile after the book’s been published.  Basically the buzz about it has passed, and my review serves as a reminder that the book still exists- and if you haven’t bought it already then maybe you should.   



Title: “The Aviary Gate”

Author: Katie Hickman

Format: Hardcover

Number of Pages: 352

ISBN: 978-1596914759

Publisher: Bloomsbury, USA

Date of Publication: May 27, 2008

3.5/4 stars: A journey into the past

A Novel



I can’t seem to stop talking about cover art!  I guess I really do judge a book by it’s cover!  The cover for “The Aviary Gate” is beautiful.  According to the book jacket, it’s Leila (1892) by Frank Dicksee.  (His work is truly gorgeous!  Look here for a some of his other paintings.)  The art is fitting since part of the story takes place in a harem in the sixteenth century.  But then I stumbled upon “The Guilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther” by Rebecca Kohn (in my search for Biblical historical fiction after reading “The Triumph of Deborah”- see my review here).  The jacket art for Kohn’s book,  although a bit more red than pink and zoomed in a bit, is clearly the same art.  I certainly recognized it immediately.  Kohn’s book was published by Penguin in 2005 (currently at bargain price on Amazon right now, so I just snagged it!), and while it has been a few years, you would think somebody would have thought twice about using the same cover art so soon.

 A Novel of Queen Esther

That aside, let’s move onto the story, or two stories as the case may be.  The book alternates between present day Elizabeth, and Celia in the sixteenth century.  Many found the present day story to pale in comparison to the sixteenth century bits.  At times I felt the same way, while at others I looked forward to Elizabeth’s story.  In either case, it seemed as though each part could stand on its own.  It was as though the two stories were written separately and then spliced together to allow the two time periods to alternate throughout the final book.

I had a bit of trouble reading this.  In the beginning, I was hooked.  I couldn’t put it down.  However, real life intervened and I was forced to stop reading it for awhile.  When I got back to it- it was like the magic was gone.  I couldn’t get back into it.  The dialogue was boring, the characters flat.  I had forgotten who everyone was and what they were doing.  It didn’t help that I wasn’t too pleased with the way it ended.  But…. all that said- I think overall it’s a good read.  It did take me awhile to write this review though.  I had to ‘digest’ the story, if that makes sense? 

So if this comes off wishy-washy, I apologize.  The story had it’s ups and downs.  But I would recommend it.  However if you do start reading, try to read it all at once, or at least don’t start reading and then not pick it up for a couple of weeks!  Reading it all in one sitting will allow you to delve into the story, becoming entranced by the characters and especially the imagery- which no matter how you feel about the story and plot- is simply beautiful.


Buy it at Amazon

Missed my last post?  It was Review: “Dead and Gone” by Charlaine Harris

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Title: “Two Brothers: One North, One South”
Author: David H. Jones
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-0979689857
Publisher: Staghorn Press
Date of Publication: September 1, 2008— Available now!

Two Brothers - One North, One South

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“Moonlight glimmered on the distant capitol dome and cast long shadows from the gothic towers and battlements of the Smithsonian Institute. To the west, the partially completed shaft of the Washington Monument appeared like a giant white chimney protruding from the dark landscape. Between these edificeswere fields filled with temporary streets and wooden buildings. Bathed in the dim light was a city transforming itself from a military bastion consumed by the business of war to a city intent on governing the once-again United States.”

(“Two Brothers: One North, One South” pg 7)


I have to say that I love the opening paragraph above.  Sometimes when I go back to reread a book and I’m looking for a few good lines to use in my review, I have to look for quite awhile.  In this case, it’s the first thing you read- and they’re perfect.  As I mentioned in one of my recent reviews about another author, this is what Creative Writing teachers strive to pull from you.  The imagery is fantastic.  You can picture the capitol!  Or perhaps it’s even those first two words- “Moonlight glimmered“– a perfect descriptive hook.

The story itself is pretty good.  The title is pretty self explanatory, it’s the story of two brothers during the American Civil War.  I’ve not read much historical fiction set during this time.  The only thing that comes to mind is Ann Rinaldi’s “The Last Silk Dress“, but that is a completely different type of book (still good though!).  “Two Brothers….” is based upon acutal historical events which is what I think really makes it work.  As you can see from my interview below with the author, he did a tremendous amount of research- and I think it really shows in the story.  (Not that I would know differently, as my knowledge in this area is lacking… but I’ll take his word for it that most of the details and dates and such are historically accurate!)

What I liked most about this book is that it didn’t read like a boring history book.  I’ve come across so many historical fiction novels that put too much emphasis on history and not enough on fiction.  They attempt to write nonfiction disguised as fiction.  In this case, “Two Brothers…” is the perfect balance.  There’s action and dialogue.  The history is there, but you can tell that you’re reading fiction.  Hopefully you understand what I mean!

I would indeed recommend this to anyone looking for historical fiction set during or around the American Civil War.  For that matter, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good story!  Thanks to David H. Jones and Trish from TLC tours.  See below for my interview with David, and for details on how to win your own copy of this book.


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David H. Jones has graciously agreed to allow me to interview him! Welcome David, and thank you for joining us today.

Q. I love the cover art, the split uniform showing the uniforms for both the North and the South. It works extremely well with the story. I’m always interested in how much influence an author has over the cover art. So my question is are you pleased with the cover, and were you directly involved in the process of choosing an image?

A. I share your delight with the “Two Brothers” cover art for its great appearance and the fact that it clearly depicts the story within. The amount of influence an author has on cover art and interior layout depends on the publisher. I was directly involved with developing the concept and working with the designer, The DesignWorksGroup, but I’m aware of other circumstances where the publisher has total control over the decision making process and the author is not consulted. After several discussions with Charles Brock, a principal of The DesignWorks Group, I received three presentations and chose the one that evolved into the final design approved by all parties. As it was important that the uniforms be absolutely correct, exact reproductions were purchased and used in the photography, then donated to Pamplin Historical Park for its interpretative program.

Q. From the jacket I can see that you’re a “lifelong student of the Civil War”. What first interested you about the civil war? What’s kept you so focused and interested on it, as opposed to say, the American Revolutionary War?

A. American history is my passion, all phases of it, from the first colonization to more recent times. However, the Civil War has special meaning to me as my father told stories during my childhood that he heard from his grandfather, personally linking me to the horrendous event that wrought our nation from a loose collection of states. My dad lived a long and good life, and I knew him well. He knew his maternal grandfather, Jacob Eckes, who served as a private in the 10th West Virginia Infantry. Thus, as a 68-year old man, I knew people, who knew people, who fought in the American Civil War, proving that it happened not so very long ago.

Q. What did you hope to accomplish by sharing “Two Brothers…” with the world?

A. Great question! I found the Prentiss brothers story while researching my ancestor’s regiments in past wars. My great great grandfather James Touchstone served in the 6th Maryland Infantry with Clifton Prentiss. Fascinated by the story, I compiled voluminous notes over three years of research and determined that it was the quintessential story of the Civil War. It was clearly a story that needed to be told! What I hope to accomplish is recognition by readers of Walt Whitman’s conclusion–that the soldiers of both sides were American patriots and that their stories must not be forgotten.

Q. How has your life changed since you wrote “Two Brothers…”, and do you have any plans for writing another novel sometime in the future?
A. The research phase and subsequent book tours have included a number of trips back East (we live in California) to Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, and Petersburg–all places that are among our favorites to visit. Next week we are doing a book signing at the Museum and Visitor Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park. We have visited the graves of all of the main characters and many sites where important events in the book took place. Dian and I were honored to unveil the new Veterans Administration gravestones for the Prentiss brothers at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where they’re buried side by side. These have all been great departures from our typical routine and things that we have thoroughly enjoyed.
The next writing project–that’s another great question. A memoir of a 6th Maryland officer which describes in great detail his experiences throughout the war has recently come to light. If permission to publish can be achieved, I may write a history of the 6th Regiment of Maryland Infantry, or a new novel, based on this journal. Time will tell.

Q. This kind of goes along with the previous question, but what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A. Dian and I enjoy travel and spending time with family and friends. I’m also still actively involved in business.

Q. Let’s finish with my usual bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Finally, what are you reading right now and why?

A. I like both fiction and non-fiction. On a recent trip to Florida I read the novel “Down River” by John Hart and enjoyed it very much. My favorite book of all time is “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry. Presently, I’m about one-third into the just released “Now The Drum of War: Walt Whitman and his Brothers in the Civil War” by Robert Roper. It’s excellent and provides great insight into Whitman’s Civil War experiences.


A big thank you to David for joining us. I’m sure my readers enjoyed our interview as much as I did. Don’t forget to check out David’s Blog here!

Giveaway details: David as well as Trish from TLC tours have sent me an extra copy of “Two Brothers: One North, One South” for me to giveaway to one lucky commenter. The book is even autographed! If you’d like to win it, comment on this post telling me about your favorite Civil War book. If you don’t have one, tell me why you want to read this one. You have until the end of the month, November 31rst, and like my other contests, this is open to anyone- not just the US and Canada. For an extra entry, you can blog about this contest, but make sure to tell me about it!


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Current Giveaway: “Violet in Private” by Melissa Walker- ends 10/31/08


Title: The Lost Diary of Don Juan”

Author: Douglas Carlton Abrams

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 336

ISBN: 978-1416532521

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Date of Publication: (Reprint) July 1, 2008

3 stars: Okay, but not my thing


A Novel



 “I looked at her smiling face, and her black hair, disheveled by our earlier desire.  Her clear brown eyes reflected the flames of the candles that encircled the altar of her bed.  How could I refuse her?”

(The Lost Diary of Don Juan pg 3)


“The Lost Diary of Don Juan” by Douglas Carlton Abrams is the story of Don Juan, a man raised by nuns who has to flee after having an affair with one of them.  He’s guided by a Marquis who teaches him ‘swordplay and seduction’.  Don Juan is essentially a libertine or a Casanova- a lover of all women.  The story is a bit predictable, in that of course he will eventually fall in love (real love) with one woman.

It’s meant to be a diary, although there are very few moments when you will be able to tell.  Each entry is certainly not started, “Dear Diary.”  There’s plenty of dialogue along with the action, so really it just seems to be a story told in the past tense. 

I couldn’t help but think, as I read, that certain parts of the book simply made me think of Zorro.  Specifically the Marquis guiding Don Juan- it just made me picture (the somewhat-recent movie verion of) Anthony Hopkins molding Antonio Banderas into the new Zorro!  I also found little love for the womanizing Don Juan.  Despite the author’s goal to display Don Juan’s ‘love’ of all women, all I could see was Don Juan’s ‘lust’ for all women.  

Those who enjoy Spanish historical fiction may enjoy this story, or perhaps those who enjoy romance.  I couldn’t really get into it though which is why it’s only getting three stars from me.  If you’d like to get your hands on a copy, you’re in luck.  I’m giving away a copy to one commenter.  Simply leave me a comment telling me your favorite historical fiction or romance book and author.  For another entry, blog about this contest and tell me about it.  The winner will be picked randomly October 31rst (the same day my current giveaway ends).  And as usual this contest is open to anyone.

Visit the author at www.DouglasCarltonAbrams.com or www.LostDiaryofDonJuan.com.


Missed my last post?  It was SOME CONFUSION

Missed my last review?  It was REVIEW: “SWORD” BY DA CHEN

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Hey guys.  I know I’m ridiculously behind on comments, visititing other blogs, challenges, and the like.  It’s been a busy week with VBS and a bunch of other stuff!  Here’s another one of those poor books that had no reviews on LT:

Title: “World Mythology” (2nd edition)
Editor: Donna Rosesnberg
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 584
ISBN: 978-0844257679
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
Date of Publication: January 11, 1994
4 stars:
Mythology for beginners


World Mythology

I had to buy this for my college mythology class. It’s a nice enough text, with many stories from many different cultures. Before each culture, we learn a little about the people and how their stories came about, which I thought helped me understand the stories more. My personal favorites were the Egyptian myths and the Greek myths, of which there were many. It also includes classics like ‘King Arthur’, ‘Beowulf’, and ‘The Illiad’. It was interesting to note the similarities and differences between the cultures and their stories, many of which were being created at the same time years ago- but many miles apart.

As for the flaws this book has, there is one major one. While I’m sure the translators translated to the best of their ability, if I had to read “flooded their hearts” one more time, I think I would scream. Okay I get it, they’re happy, filled with joy, ecstatic, delighted…. but really? “Flooded”? So maybe that was the literal translation, but couldn’t the editors have changed it a few times so that the readers didn’t die from the repetition?

Overall I would recommend this book, especially if you’re interested in mythology. Just be aware that there are many different interpretations of myths, and the ones that are in this book may not be the most well known. Additionally I’m not sure if they cut out some parts because they knew this would be a school text. If you know the story of Osiris and Isis, you know that there was one piece of his body that a fish ate… that part of the myth isn’t in this book– I guess because they deemed it unappropriate? There is a newer edition out however, which isn’t exactly better than this one. At the very least, I had hoped they didn’t use the word “flooded” so much in that one… But sadly not so.  The new version is the same, with some additional stories included like: “Esfandyar”, “Chi Li”, “Jason and the Golden Fleece” among others.  (If you need the newer version for class, you could still get away with buying the cheaper 2nd edition and then just copying certain stories from a fellow classmate’s book.  The newer is $43 with this one being around $13!)


Missed my last post?  It was “ABERRATIONS” BY PENELOPE PRZEKOP.

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My second book in the ARC Challenge:

Title: “The Triumph of Deborah

Author: Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 362

ISBN: 978-0452289062

Publisher: Plume

Date of Publication: February 26, 2008

4 stars:  I couldn’t put it down!


 Cover Image 


“Two women were standing on high places, shielding their eyes from the blazing sun with their hands, peering into the distance in search of the messengers from the battlefield.  Each knew that her life depended on the outcome of the battle; but their lives depended on opposite results.” (“The Triumph of Deborah” pg 3)

I received “The Triumph of Deborah” by Eva Etzioni-Halvey not too long ago and stuck it on top of my pile of ARCs.  It sat next to my bed for a few days.  One night I did some serious reading, and finished my LT May book (“The New Yorkers“- my review here).  It was late, lol, or early depending on the way you look at it.  “The Triumph of Deborah” caught my eye.  I figured I’d pick it up and read a couple or pages, or maybe the first chapter, just to get a feel for it.  I was rather tired.  Well folks, I didn’t stop at a few pages.  I didn’t stop at the end of the first chapter, or even at the end of the next one.  I read all 362 pages at once. 

If you’ve read some of my reviews, you know that I love historical fiction.  I’m ashamed to admit that I never really considered reading Biblical historical fiction until recently.  (Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” is on by TBR list)  I’m not sure why I never tried it.  It’s not because of the religious aspect, as I love reading about all different types.  In any case, I’m glad I picked up this book, and will certainly be on the look out for more in the same genre.   

As I mention in the interview below, I was hooked from the very beginning!  It’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a book that grabbed me like that.  I very much enjoyed the story.  The stories of three different women are told, each for at least several pages, and I was never confused as to whose point of view I was reading (in this case: Deborah, Nogah, and Asherah, and at times Barak).  I found myself sympathizing with one of them, and then entirely changing my mind and agreeing with another.  All three of the women were very strong characters, with Nogah being the most timid– but I think that worked for her.  As for the man, Barak, even with all his womanizing he still managed to be oddly attractive.  I could see why these women were drawn to him.

So would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  The good far outweigh the bad.  The only problems I had with it, were at times I felt that the dialogue was a bit stiff; but that could just be because I’m unused to reading stories in that time period.  I also felt there were a few places where modern phrases were used, like ‘a cranky child whose toy had been taken away’ that didn’t sit well for this time period.  It was just something that didn’t work for me.  Both of these things were the reason I gave four stars instead of five.  In any case, the story is amazing.  Read “The Triumph of Deborah“.  You won’t be disappointed.  See below for my interview and giveaway.

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Hello all, my guest today is Eva Etzioni-Halevy.  Her new book “The Triumph of Deborah” has recently been released and she was kind enough to grant me an interview with her. 

Q. I’ve not read your previous work, but after finishing “The Triumph of Deborah” I definitely will. “The Song of Hannah” and “The Garden of Ruth“… I’ve noticed that all three have a common theme, a sort of Biblical historical fiction. What made you decide to start writing about women in these ancient times?

A.  It so happened that rather late in life I began reading the Bible on my own and I was fascinated by it. What enthralled me was that it is full of the most DRAMATIC and the most TRAUMATIC stories about people who lived in ancient times, thousands of years ago, and yet are so similar to us in their psychological makeup, in their hopes and anxieties and desires and in the way they relate to each other.

I was fascinated in particular by biblical-historical women, because I found so many astonishing similarities between them and present day women in general, and myself in particular.

I began to identify with them so strongly that I felt as if I were part of them and they were part of me.

In the Bible they are usually side characters. So decided I to move them to the center of the stage and turn the spotlight on them and amplify their voices so that they could be heard loud and clear across the generations.

In this way I was also hoping to emphasize the feminine part of the Bible.

So I began writing about them, stories of love, betrayal and redemption through more love and friendship, novels for light entertainment, with twisting plots, page-turners, as they have been often referred to, which can be enjoyed also by people who have no connection at all to the Bible, and which are yet totally faithful to the text of the Bible.

In my novels there are no deviations at all from the scripture, only additions. The original biblical stories are short and where they leave gaps, I fill them out with my imagination and identification, and the feeling that I was really there and witnessed what happened.

Q. Your opening lines grabbed me and hooked me, which of course I assume was your goal! The idea of two women waiting for battle, and hoping for opposite results…. I know that some authors continuously rework first chapters. Were these always your beginning lines, and did you always plan on having the story start here?

A. Actually the opening lines grabbed me as well, and they sort of set the scene for the rest of the book, so I saw no reason to change them. I wanted to show that there was a conflict between the Israelites and the Canaanites and on both sides there were human beings, particularly very human women, who were anxious about themselves and their loved ones.

In more general terms, my first book THE SONG OF HANNAH, changed quite a bit as I was writing it and came out completely different from what I intended it to be at the beginning.

But THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH, being my third book, I already had it in my mind pretty much from the beginning, and there we’re no major changes as I went along, either in the first chapter or anywhere else.

Q: Most stories that have love triangles only have two women with one man. What made you decide to have three women revolving around Barak?

A. I did not actually plan it that way because I wanted it to be a “quadrangle” , it was just part of the logic of the plot.

But looking back on it in retrospect, I am happy that it worked out that way, because as you say most stories have triangles and having a quadrangle, makes this story different and perhaps more original. I believe that THE cardinal sin for any author is to be trite and tread well-trodden ground yet again, so if this form helped me beware of this trap, it is a distinct advantage.

Q. Did you decide before you started writing who would end up with Barak, or did it come to you as you were telling the story?

A. As I said, in this case I had it all in my mind before. And the same also in my second novel THE GARDEN OF RUTH.

But in my first novel, THE SONG OF HANNAH, the heroines of the novel played an incredible trick on me, and in the middle of writing the novel they turned around on me and did precisely the opposite from what I intended them to do initially.

So each book unfolded in its own way.

Q. From the title, one may assume that the entire story is about Deborah, however I was pleasantly surprised to read about the other women throughout the book. Deborah is such a fascinating character, is that why you made her the title character?

A. I am happy that you liked the other women in the story as well. Because I identified with them a lot and felt that they were an integral part of the story.

I chose Deborah as the title character for two reasons. First, because she is such a prominent and fascinating character in the Bible, in fact THE most prominent woman in the Old Testament of the Bible.
She is sort of a super leader and deeply adored by the people.

The second reason is that she is the most influential character in the novel as well. She makes things happen, pulls the strings behind the scenes, even when she is not physically there. She is the one who leads the nation to war, and then also to peace. And the novel is also a tribute to her wisdom and foresight and power.

Q. And now just a few bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. I love reading historical and biblical novels. I don’t have one favorite author, and as to what is my favorite book, well it is, perhaps not surprisingly, the greatest bestseller ever, the Bible.

This is what I am reading now, not only because it is an incredibly amazing book, but also because I derive inspiration from it for my next (also not surprisingly) biblical novel, about a lady named Tamar, daughter of King David.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that my novels are available at bookstores and if they are not there they can be ordered. They can also be ordered online from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and the like.

 It certainly is!  I know I’ll be be ordering mine shortly 🙂  Again thanks so much for stopping by and answering a few questions!

Click here to order “The Garden of Ruth”, and here for “The Song of Hannah”. 

ATTENTION: As for “The Triumph of Deborah“, Eva has generously sent me a copy to giveaway to one lucky person!  Simply comment on this post, telling me why you’d like to read this book.  (Don’t just say “Pick me please!”  Make an effort!)  Link to this post (and tell me about it) for a second entry.  You have until 9:00pm EST on 6/21 to do so, and I’ll randomly pick a winner on 6/22.

Cover Image          Cover Image



 Thanks to Eva Etzioni-Halevy  and Barry Elad.


Missed the post before this one?  It was TUESDAY THINGERS.

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Title: “A Murder in Macedon: A Mystery of Alexander the Great”

Author: Anna Apostolou

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 272

ISBN: 978-0312967925

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Date of Publication: November 15, 1985

4 stars: Whodunnit?

A Murder in Macedon

Anna Apostolou (Also known as Paul C. Doherty) has asked a fantastic question. While we know it was the disgruntled Pausanias who killed the one eyed King Philip II of Macedon, we don’t know exactly who pulled the strings of his killer. Was it the wicked Queen Olympias- his scheming ex-wife and mother of Alexander? Or was it his heir- the cocky young Prince Alexander himself? Could it have been his sworn enemy- the powerful King Darius of Persia? Who gained the most from King Philip’s death? Anna Apostolou creates a brother and sister team, Jewish twins Miriam and Simeon, (close friends of Alexander) to work on solving the mystery. Alexander insists he has nothing to do with it, and instructs Miriam to find out for him.

While some have complained that boorish, womanizing, King Philip isn’t even killed until sixty pages into the book, I found this refreshing. By then, I had actually grown to like Philip. This itself was amazing, because I’ve disliked him in every other historical fiction featuring Alexander the Great that I’ve read. I was also glad to see Alexander’s, often overlooked, half brother Arrhidaeus continuously throughout the story. (The half-wit later known to some as Philip III of Macedon did actually rule for a short time after Alexander the Great’s death.) I applaud how the author left clues along the way, and allowed Miriam to figure out what happened, but still GREATLY surprised me in the end with what was discovered by Miriam. I never even saw it coming! Anna Apostolou’s answer is fascinating- and seems exactly like something that would have happened. Very clever indeed!

I’m looking forward to the next story about Alexander the Great and his friends Miriam and Simeon- A Murder in Thebes (St. Martin’s Minotaur Mysteries). Not everything is tied up nicely. I want to know what will happen to Olympias. Will she continue to scheme? Will Alexander’s newly returned companions support him on his future campaigns? Does anything come of Miriam’s affection for Alexander, and what does Simeon think of it? (Four stars only because I was very put off by the first chapter of the story.  I’m glad that I worked through it because everything else was great!)

Historical fiction about Alexander the Great that I also recommend: The Alexander the Great trilogy by Mary Renault Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, Funeral Games; Melissa Scott’s historical fiction about Alexander the Great turning towards Rome A Choice of Destinies; and Judith Tarr’s Alexander the Great historical fiction told from an Egyptian point of view Lord of the Two Lands.


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Title: “The Virtues of War”

Author: Steven Pressfield

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 368

ISBN: 978-0553382051

Publisher: Bantam

Date of Publication: September 27, 2005

3 stars: 4 stars for the battles, 2 stars for the story

A Novel of Alexander the Great

Steven Pressfield’s novel is listed as historical fiction, and I suppose that it is. However, there is virtually no plot. The whole story is fight after fight- which to some may seem interesting, but I found it boring. Don’t get me wrong, the descriptions are incredible, and it seems as if we are actually at the scene of the battle. Steven Pressfield is obviously a talented writer. I enjoy reading about battles, just not an entire book about them. But I didn’t feel any emotions. I wasn’t excited at the victory, and found myself skimming pages just to see if there would be anything of interest later on in the chapters.

Alexander the Great is undeniably one of the greatest generals who ever lived, and obviously war was a large part of his life. But this story- didn’t make me go “Wow”. If you’re only interested in battles, then you’ll probably like this book. But if you’re like me, and you want a plot along with the battles, look elsewhere.

I’d recommend Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy: Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, and Funeral Games; or A Choice of Destinies by Melissa Scott; or Lord of the Two Landsby Judith Tarr; or even A Murder in Macedonby Anna Apostolou aka P.C. Doherty. All of these books are historical fiction about Alexander the Great. They all have battles, but they also are about his life, his companions (friends/enemies), and his emotions.


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Title: “Lord of the Two Lands”

Author: Judith Tarr

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 416

ISBN: 978-0812520781

Publisher: Tor

Date of Publication: January 15, 1994

4 stars: Alexander the Great told from an Egyptian point of view

Lord of the Two Lands


Judith Tarr tells a story which is rich with description, and she refreshingly tells it from an Egyptian point of view. There are too many historical fictions told from the Greek or Macedonian or even Persian point of view. An Egyptian perspective is quite fascinating. Meriamon, a priestess, (and the daughter of a Pharaoh) is the main character. We read of her journey, why she must meet Alexander the Great, and how she helps and guides him to his goals. Since I have a great interest in Alexander the Great, I was afraid that the story would deal mainly with Meriamon and Egypt, and not enough with Alexander. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Meriamon’s story is greatly intertwined with Alexander’s. Also, I was also glad to see that Judith Tarr acknowledged Alexander’s close relationship with his good friend Hephaistion, who is often overlooked.

Some of my thoughts on the story: While you don’t have to know Egyptian history to read this book, I’m sure it would help. I’m not familiar with many Egyptian gods other than Ra and Anubis, and found myself struggling a bit; also, part of the book is romance- Meriamon falling in love with one of Alexander’s close soldiers- and it is done in such a way that it is quite believable. There are one or two love scenes- very short- but they kind of pop out of nowhere (–my reason for giving it four stars). Also, the book switches from Meriamon’s point of view to other characters’ point of view, so be sure to pay attention or it will become confusing.

I felt that Judith Tarr had a very good grasp on Alexander’s character. He was an amazing general and strategist, but he also did some foolish things (as everyone does). Overall, I’d recommend this story. If you’d like to read more historical fiction concerning Alexander the Great, I’d recommend Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy: Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, and Funeral Games. I also just finished Melissa Scott’s A Choice of Destinies and would recommend that as well.

Just a note: Judith Tarr has written another story which deals with Alexander the Great (“Queen of the Amazons”) but it is not a sequel to this story.  Each can stand alone.  Also, another Alexander the Great story will be released soon called “Bringing Down the Sun”, but this too stands alone.

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Title: “A Choice of Destinies”

Author: Melissa Scott

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages:

ISBN: 978-0671655631

Publisher: Baen

Date of Publication: June 1, 1986

4 stars: What if Alexander had…?


Melissa Scott has created an amazing book here. Historical fiction concerning Alexander the Great has recently captured my attention and I have been eagerly devouring anything to do with the subject. This book, unlike the previous ones I’ve read, takes Alexander on a different route. What if Alexander skipped India? What if he went towards Rome? What if he had an heir before he started his journey? All of these questions and more create an interesting and exciting story.

I would definitely recommend this story. I thought Melissa Scott captured Alexander the Great’s character very well. Hephaistion also plays a large part, and even Bagoas is mentioned. I’ve never thought about what Rome would do if Alexander came calling, and the author has written a very plausible theory.

Again, I recommend this story. If you’re interested in other historical fiction concerning Alexander the Great, I recommend Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy: Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, and Funeral Games. I also just finished Lord of the Two Landsby Judith Tarr and would recommend that if you’d like to see Alexander from an Egyptian point of view.

I’d also like to note that I was a bit put off by the cover art showing what looks like outer space. The majority of this story takes place in Alexander’s time period. There are a few short chapters (only a few pages long) which are spread throughout the book, and take place far in the future; they deal with what is left with Alexander’s empire. Not something I particularly cared for (which is why this book got four stars), but they did not take much away from my enjoying the story.


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“The Legend of Lady Ilena” by Patricia Malone

4 stars: The Legend of Lady Ilena

I wasn’t expecting much after paying only $5.50 for this book, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Early teens will probably enjoy this the most.  The story is set in 500 A.D. Scotland. It starts with her father on his deathbed, and his last words to Ilena start a journey to find out where she comes from and who she really is. She encounters several obstacles along the way, and makes a few friends. In the end she has to decide whether she will stay and fight, or go back to the only home she has ever known. Overall its a good story, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel (“Lady Ilena: Way of the Warrior”.)

If you enjoy this, you’ll probably also enjoy “The Edge on the Sword”by Rebecca Tingle, “An Earthly Knight”by Janet Mcnaughton, and a favorite of mine- “Crown Duel” by Sherwood Smith.

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Title: “Wideacre: A Novel”

Author: Philippa Gregory

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 665

ISBN: 978-0743249294

Publisher: Touchstone

Date of Publication: July 2, 2003

3 stars: Not my favorite Philippa Gregory Novel

A Novel

After reading “The Other Boleyn Girl“, I hurried to buy more of Philippa Gregory’s work. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Virgin’s Lover” and “The Queen’s Fool: A Novel“, but when it came to this book– I wasn’t as satisfied.

The first in a trilogy (next is: “The Favored Child : A Novel“, followed by “Meridon“), the story is about a woman named Beatrice Lacey. Her father raised her as if she were a boy. She knows the land and the people who work it, much better than her younger, sickly brother Harry. However it is Harry who will inherit- not Beatrice.  (If you haven’t read anything about the book, the next paragraph contains spoilers; however these details are clearly listed in Amazon’s summary.)

Sadly, she will do anything to end up mistress of Wideacre. She helps plan her father’s death, and ends up seducing her own brother. This is where I was most turned off. Beatrice ends up having two children, both of them fathered by Harry. I’m afraid I just couldn’t get over that, and it ended up ruining the story for me.

If you can get around the incest, I suppose it is an interesting read. With Phillipa Gregory writing it, it must be! In any case, I wasn’t interested enough to pick up the next two in the series.  Although, if you would like to try other Gregory novels, I definitely recommend the Tudor trilogy (mentioned above).

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