Monday, November 30, 2009

Virtual Blog Tour-Shades of Gray with Jessica James

Virtual Blog Tour Kick Off

It is with my great pleasure and my sincere honor to be able to present an interview with Jessica James, author of Shades of Gray for this Virtual Blog Tour. I read and reviewed Shades of Gray over a year ago and it has since become one of my favorite Civil War historical fiction novels. I voted it one of my top ten reads for 2008 and I have just re-read it.

Enraptured by the romantic duet of Andrea and Alex I am captivated by this Civil War couple. Once again, their dueling discourse is so amusing to read it is unforgettable. The dialog flows naturally, their voices so real, charming, witty and brilliantly written by Ms. James.

I had a chance to talk to Jessica James about Shades of Gray and I wanted to share the interview with you. Please make sure you check out her awesome blog Life in the Past Lane. If you love history and historical fiction, this is a place you won't want to miss.


First, can you update us on what has been happening with Shades of Gray.

Sure. After your review in April of 2008, Shades went on to win two Best Regional Fiction awards and was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2008 Book of the Year in the Romance category. In 2009, it was a finalist in the 2009 HOLT Medallion Contest for Best Southern Theme, and it has twice hit #1 on Amazon in the romance/historical/U.S. category, temporarily overtaking Gone with the Wind. I’ve been really blessed with its success.

1. Why did you chose to write historical fiction and what do you want readers to take away from your books?
I’ve always been intrigued by stories of the past – especially the Victorian era when honor and integrity were such an integral part of our society. I hope readers leave Shades of Gray with the feeling they’ve read a great love story, rather than just a Civil War story, but I also hope the themes of faith, duty and honor resonate with them, and that they gain a better understanding of the emotional cost of the war.

2. Who are your literary heroes and why?
I like the strong, silent, mysterious type so Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo comes to mind as well as Sir Percy Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Blakeney really epitomizes the mysterious element because the reader is led to believe he is a coward and a fop, when in reality he is risking his neck every night.

3. If you could meet any famous person in history, who would it be?
That’s an easy one. The main character in Shades of Gray is patterned after Confederate Colonel John Mosby, who was definitely the strong, silent type. He also had that mysterious quality about him that I find intriguing.

4. Favorite comment from a reader.
I don’t know if you remember, but the final line in your review last year was “Honestly, you will not sleep.” Since then I’ve received numerous comments from readers who say they didn’t finish Shades until the wee hours of the morning – and then had to go to work. Keeping readers up all night reading or thinking about the characters is one complaint that always makes me smile – and I can’t help but think, “well Wisteria warned them.”

5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working on your book?”
Reading would be the number one thing, followed by gardening. (For me that means planting something in the fall and then when it comes up the next spring deciding I don’t like it there and moving it). I also enjoy traveling, the beach, and horseback riding when I can. Lately I’ve been creating press releases for other authors, which is really fun because of the variety of topics. Even though it’s writing, it’s a nice diversion because I’m learning about nanotechnology and the CIA (for crime/thriller authors) instead of historical facts.

I hope you enjoyed the interview with Jessica James. I have to grab some sleep tonight since once again I stayed up late reading this novel, even though I knew the ending... I couldn't put it down.

As part of this Virtual Blog Tour, please leave a comment to be entered into the raffle for this memorable "Basket of Goodies" that includes, T-Shirt, Pack of 5 Shades of Gray/Justus Greeting Cards,CD: Homespun Songs of the C.S.A. by Bobby Horton,Romantic Rose Stationary, Pack of Votive Candles and Southern Magnolia Handmade Virginia Soap, Virginia Grown Shopping Bag and Faux Roses. Along with your comments please leave your email so that if you are the lucky winner on the tour, we will contact you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Salon, Blog Kick-off Event Starts Monday

The Sunday

Shades of Gray Blog Tour Begins Tomorrow!

Tomorrow I will be kicking off the Virtual Blog Tour for Shades of Gray by Jessica James. This is a very exciting event and I will be sharing my interview with the author about her highly successful historical fiction novel of the Civil War in Virginia. Please take a look at this exciting trailer from Jessica James Blog, Life in the Past Lane.

Hope to see you all there!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Turkey for Thanksgiving, by Eve Bunting

One of my favorite Thanksgiving stories by Eve Bunting tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Moose who are having a feast for the holidays and have invited all their friends. Everything is perfect as they look at the set table except one thing. They don't have a turkey for Thanksgiving. Mr. Moose sets out to solve the problem, promising to bring back a turkey for Mrs. Moose. As the story continues Mr. Moose goes to find a turkey and picks up all his friends along the way, Porcupine, Sheep, Mr. and Mrs. Goat. When they finally find turkey, he is terrified with fear, too fat to fly. Diane De Groat captures turkey's sentiments with humor and clarity.

The surprise ending for turkey will make you chuckle. When I read this in school to my K-5 class, they love this book. Even when they already know the ending. It bound to become a classic that will be read again and again.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving story? Do you remember a favorite from your childhood?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review-The Saint and the Fasting Girl

Anna Richenda, iUniverse, 2009, $19.95, hb, 332pp, 9781440132414

The Saint and the Fasting Girl takes place during the reign of Henry VIII when the religious order of the time turned tempestuous as he broke ties with Rome and formed the Church of England. The tale begins at the Saint Isela nunnery, in the northern part of England. The nuns who live there believe in the miracle of Saint Isela, as do the many pilgrims who flock to the site for healing. Sister Georgia, the prioress, is the Bearer who keeps Isela’s sacred relic, a stone amulet. Her mission is to protect the relic and the Chooser for the future return of Isela.

As Henry’s court dictates authority, the evil archbishiop Philip SeVerde imposes his mandates and demand the nuns’ submission to him. Georgia is boldly defiant and with feisty gaul, stands up to his demands. After a short-lived reprieve when the nunnery appears safe, the archbishop returns and decimates the priory. He is triumphant in his battle, yet Sister Georgia and her fellow nuns escape to the country to hide. They are constantly on the move fearing capture.

The journey to freedom and recovery of the relic of Saint Isela is a tortuous and brutal path for Georgia and her women. She must endure horrific pain, beatings, and demoralization from both physical and sexual abuse. They fight for survival throughout the story with an unexpected turn of events that shapes a twist to the ending.

Richenda’s writing excellence is shown in her realism and specificity for detail. Her depiction of torture and punishment common during the period provides no cover up. With precision and clarity, she inspires odorous fumes that waft off the pages to arouse stomach churning. There are many characters who provide support to the story, but Georgia clearly will remain a favorite as the resolute and courageous heroine.

Anna Richenda’s novel is a beautiful, well-researched mystifying tale of endurance, hope, and love.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Salon, November 22, 2009-Houri, by Mehrdad Balali

The Sunday

I remember when the news came that the Shah of Iran had been deposed and the Muslim leader Khomeini was in control. I remember vivid photos of the people, their dress, their appearance and their way of life shattered. Strict adherence to Islamic Law was to replace whatever came before. No exceptions. I remember thinking, What would it be like to live their? The author has brought us a "witness" to help us gain a better understanding about Iran in his fascinating novel, Houri.


by Mehrdad Balali
The Permanent Press
December 2009
303 pp.
ISBN-10: 1579621775
ISBN-13: 978-1579621773

When you begin to read Houri, you are descending into Iranian airspace through the voice of Shahed, a man returning to his homeland on the third anniversary of his fathers death. His name means “witness” and through his eyes, Mehrdad Balali allows you to see his country juxtaposed in a time warp of culture. Shahed left Iran as a youth, running away to America. His father died in 1979, but this pilgrimage takes him back to a Post-Revolutionary Iran, a new world for Shahed. He steps out of the plane into a strikingly different climate upon his return. There is evidence of subjugation and authoritarian rule everywhere. The obvious, bearded men and veiled women. The more subtle changes would only be noticed by a “witness” from the past, missing landmarks, renamed streets, businesses that have vanished.

As a child, Shahed hated his father and often prayed for him to die. His father led a sybaritic life, always seeking pleasure and excitement at times while his family suffered. He chased money and women that led to bitter memories for Shahed. He believes his father’s death was timely for him as the “fun and joy were being clubbed to death in Iran.”

Shahed is returning now to seek closure, perhaps find the answer to his questions and come to understand his father. Shahed experiences the tyranny and oppression under Khomeini and his reaction is surprising as he yearns for his father. “Suddenly, I began to miss him, the man I’d so intently avoided when he was alive. ......The past looked happy, alive and romantic, and the present had the sour taste of a hangover.”

Houri is absorbing and offers a panoramic vision of a country not always defined with such clarity and perspective. With a keen sense of his audience the author creates the character of Shahed as his voice. This allows for his ability to travel back in time and across continents adding his personal experiences to enhance and add valuable details.
A reflective, emotional and ironic story that shouldn’t be missed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review--Once a Witch, by Carolyn MacCullough

Once a Witch
by Carolyn MacCullough
Clarion Books
September 2009

I received this ARC from The Picnic Basket. I read through it quickly and can only imagine how eagerly YA readers will embrace this novel once they pass the word around. My niece will be getting my copy and I know her head will be stuck behind the cover, hunkered in her bedroom for a night. It is marketed for the Age 12+ market, but adults looking for a unique plot written by a creatively inquisitive author will enjoy a peek at this too. I loved it and would not be surprised to hear MacCullough plans a sequel. Here is my review/comments that were posted on The Picnic Basket blog.


It would be too obvious a word choice to say I was spellbound by the story and characters of Carolyn MacCullough’s coming of age story. However, spellbound in an enchanting pleasant way accurately describes my reading of Once a Witch. It is a spicy blend of sorcery, mystery and just enough of a romantic attraction to keep sparks flying.

Tamsin Green is an odd seemingly Talentless misfit of a witch growing up in an extended family of witches who all have interesting powers. At birth, her grandmother foretold that Tamsin would have great power such as the family had never seen. So, as the years pass it is with much surprise that Tamsin exhibits no talent at all. With great disappointment Tamsin grows up lacking any signs of Talent. She lives in the shadows of her sister Rowena’s grace and glory. One day mistaken identity provides Tamsin the opportunity to prove her value. She accepts a challenge that takes her beyond her corporeal capabilities.

The story evolved around a question the author asked herself about the character Tamsin. What would it be like to be born into a magical family with no magical talent?

MacCullough wondered: “How would she cope in a family like that? What kind of person would that make her be? Her story and her thought process provide young writers with a unique perspective as she provides the scaffold for the story. Further fun can be found at her sites and

Once a Witch, inspires the reader to examine the unique talent, unique beauty that is often untapped, hidden or unrealized within ourselves. I would highly recommend this novel for middle and high school age students.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, a True-Life Novel

Half Broke Horses
A True-Life Novel
by Jeannette Walls
October 2009, 272 p.

Walls is shaping up to be one of this decades most fascinating storytellers. The adventures of her family in The Glass Castle were mesmerizing and truly an unforgettable read. With a pen that glows with brilliance, her writing in Half Broke Horses is bedazzling. In her words, this is the true life novel of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith who died when she was eight. Half Broke Horses portrays her grandmother’s life told through all of the many stories she heard as a child.

The novel is told in first person from the point of view of her grandmother. The opening chapter begins, “Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” However, no matter what trouble faced Lily Casey Smith, she would have the intelligence, the determination, the answers and always the faith in herself that she would survive.

As the story opens, faced with the onslaught of a flash-flood, Lily has presence of mind to gather her two siblings together and hoists them into a cottonwood tree, where they hang on precariously during a harrowing overnight until the morning. Lily is ten and when her mother sees her three children coming home the following morning, she praises the Lord, the guardian angels and her constant prayer for saving the three.

Lily is perturbed and says to her dad, “There weren’t no guardian angel, Dad.” She knows their survival had nothing to do with prayer and she is quick to explain it was her vigilant fight to save her brother and sister that kept them alive. Lily is a realist, and she believes there was no guardian Angel up in that tree. It was Lily Casey Smith, one tough kid, who was up in the tree making the right decisions.

One other time early in the book, Walls relates a story about her grandmother, when she was fifteen and accepts a job as a teacher. Lily has no degree in teaching, but has enough education to satisfy the school district’s needs. The town is over five hundred miles away, but Lily needs a job. Lily must make the journey on her horse Patches to Red Lake, Arizona, by herself and so she sets out on her trip with a fearless, spunky spirit of adventure.

Walls novel is a touching honest portrait of an idiosyncratically warm and loving grandmother, mother and wife who was raised on the wild side of nature. She was in my opinion “a hoot”. You will love this woman and come to understand that there is absolutely nothing in life that could stand in her way when she sets her mind to it.

Half Broke Horses is an inspirational memoir, and true life-novel that will make you chuckle, weep and simply savor like a warm cup of tea. The greatest challenge in this book I found was not being able to put it down. With my predilection for Jeannette Walls’ writing I eagerly anticipate future releases as my cup of tea is getting cold.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank a Veteran Today

There are so many moving videos available appropriate to honor our Veterans. I wanted to thank our service men and women today with this touching clip I found on You Tube. Thank you for your courageous service, words just don't seem to be enough. May angels watch over you always.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Salon, November 1, 2009

The Sunday

Happy Sunday Salon to everyone!!

For all of you baseball fans, I hope you are enjoying the World Series. I just loved this pic of the First Lady that was taken at the first game of the series at Yankee Stadium. I know she is a fan...but who is she routing for I wonder?

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween and enjoyed the extra hour of sleep. I just love when we turn the clocks back in the fall. I love the extra daylight in the morning. I thought I would have an extra hour to sleep this morning, but silly me. My four rooing greyhounds had other plans and their internal clock was still set on yesterday's time.
So, here I am at 7:00AM writing Sunday Salon.

I have missed everyone and missed reading your blogs. I feel much better and hope things are turning around for me. I have been reading quite a lot and have several reviews to post. I will be writing those in the coming days.

If you didn't catch my previous post on White Mary, I have to tell you this book is a real page turner and one I highly recommend.

This week I finished reading:

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley. I had to struggle to keep picking up this book. I just couldn't identify with the main character. I had no empathy for her. All I kept thinking was "Who cares?"

I finished Half Broke Horses (A True Life Novel) by Jeannette Walls in one day. All I can say is, I would drop everything I had to do to read a story by this author. Walls is such a superb storyteller! If you read The Glass Castle(I loved it), you will love Half Broke Horses!

Currently Reading:
I'm reading No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer.
E-Book---The Wife's Tale from Hachette Book Group.

What is everyone reading? I'll stop by in a while. Enjoy your week.