Review: The Towers of Tuscany by Carol M. Cram

Carol M. Cram’s historical novel, The Towers of Tuscany, immerses her readers in an engrossing account of Italy’s medieval period in the 14th century. The main character, Sophia, is a talented painter who defies the rules of the land by disguising herself as a man in order to live out her artistic passion. Painting is taboo for women but she refuses to relinquish her dream. Besides the abundance of historical detail, the reader is privy to great description about the art of painting of the times.

Sophia’s way of thinking has been nurtured by her beloved father’s controlling nature, and she constantly refers to his teachings throughout the novel. Being under her father’s thumb has blocked her from emotional growth and she repeatedly takes decisions that have a negative impact on her and those around her. There is no character arc for Sophia—she remains stunted within the boundaries of her art.

As a reader I felt pretty jolted with the last part of the novel where the time period jumps a few hundred years and a brand new character is introduced.



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Review: The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

In Sarah McCoy’s novel, The Baker’s Daughter, you’ll find lots of historical data about the daily lives and fears of German women living during. You’ll also get an insight in how to operate a bakery when flour and sugar are almost nonexistent and only doled out by Nazi operators. Women are a commodity controlled by Nazi dogma and the fear of being punished by the ruling military. Elsie is a young girl working in her father’s bakery when an SS officer twice her age invites her to a Nazi party. A young Jewish boy comes to her rescue when another officer tries to assault her. Her sister Hazel is proud to support the Nazi regime by producing Aryan babies for the program. Her life takes an abrupt turn when one of her children is considered not worthy.

The story switches POV back and forth with Elsie in WW2 Germany, and then to Reba 60 years later in America. The more modern story deals with Reba’s concerns about her boyfriend and her job as a journalist. This type of writing device is difficult to pull off when the reader bonds with one character and not the other—as was my case.


Regardless of the structural difficulties, this is a poignant look at women’s roles in wartime Germany. The pastry recipes in the back of the novel are an added bonus.



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Review: Songs of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon deals with the African-American world of the early 1960’s. Milkman Dead is the first black baby to be born in Mercy Hospital. Pampered by the women in his family and his father, a slum landlord who thinks only of his wealth, he leaves home at 32 to find a buried treasure believed to belong to his grandfather. Instead, he finds himself immersed in a quest for self-discovery as he uncovers the secrets of his family history.

The story touches on several themes, the central one being racism and how it’s damage can continue to affect generations to come. The inequality existing between men and women is also a major theme. Wild and unusual behaviour in men is considered almost heroic while the same behaviour in women is seen as weak and abnormal.


The characters are well portrayed although I found Guitar too alienated from reality to be likeable—perhaps to present racism as being denatured no matter what side it sits on. I found the ending a little too quick and perhaps unfair, but that also could have something to do with the gratuitous violence associated with the main theme.




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Review: The Dolan Girls by S.R. Mallery

S.R. Mallery’s historical western, The Dolan Girls, gives us a colourful view of America’s wild west of the 1800’s. It was a time when cowboys and bandits were free to roam the countryside, women slept with a gun at a moment’s reach, and everyone lived by the motto ‘expect the unexpected’. Brothels and saloons were a necessary fixture in the unchartered towns, and Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley revered icons.


The characters are endearing—Minnie being my favourite—and the action is fast-paced. This is a highly enjoyable read. Looking forward to more from this talented writer.



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Review: Chikara by Robert Skimin

Robert Skimin’s historical novel, Chikara, is an epic family drama of the two great countries, America and Japan. It spans from 1905 through the 1980’s and covers the early American racism against the Japanese settlers of California, the anti-American sentiment in  Japan, the forced resettlement of Japanese people in American war camps, the bombing of Pearl Harbour as well of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. These historical events shape the characters’ dreams and ambitions, their lives and their spirit.

Sataro of the House of Hoshi, driven by his ancient samurai blood, has left his beloved Japan to seek his dream of power in America. His descendants will suffer the aftermath of his vision and as they too try to forge their own newer dream.


This a story that pays tribute to the Japanese Americans who persevered in the face of racism and established their cultural communities with hard work, honour and patience. Highly recommended historical reading!




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Most Indies shouldn’t ever publish. Well, most women shouldn’t have babies. #amwriting

That’s not a kneejerk yeah well you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny response.  Ask any writer, traditionally published or indie, our books are the children of our brains, and we’re protec…

Source: Most Indies shouldn’t ever publish. Well, most women shouldn’t have babies. #amwriting

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Review: Bride of New France by Suzanne Durocher

Bride of New France, Suzanne Durocher’s’ debut historical novel introduces us to the famous Filles du Roi, sent over to populate the French settlements along the St-Lawrence River of Canada in the late 1600’s. These women, either orphans, the destitute, criminals or prostitutes endured a perilous journey across the Atlantic ocean to marry—not the dukes nor high officials who live in comfort within the village walls—but the fur traders who expect their imported wives to settle the land single-handed at the mercy of the weather and dangers of the neighbouring enemy. Totally unprepared for the harsh Canadian winters and hardships of farming the wilderness, they must also deal with roving husbands who are more interested in the freedom of life in the woods than meeting their domestic responsibilities.

The main character, Laure Beauséjour, must give up her dream of being a seamstress in Paris and is exiled to New France where she eventually marries an older coureur des bois who leaves her to fend for herself in a rickety shack in the dead of winter where she almost dies of starvation. Laure must learn to reach out to others in order to survive these brutal conditions.


The characters could’ve been more developed. Laure is a self-centered young woman whose decisions throughout the story effects the lives of those around her. There is no growth at the end of the story, which, by the way, is a bit quick and concise. It is, with all its ups and downs in terms of plotting and character development, a very enjoyable read and one I would highly recommend for its detailed historical depiction of early New France.



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The Hard Truth About Publishing—What Writers & Readers NEED to Know

Great post for those who think writers can cover the rent with their royalties!!

Kristen Lamb's Blog


As we careen toward the New Year, many emerging writers have a goal to finally publish that novel and I hope you do! But the arts are kind of strange. We often get fixated on the creative side, without really understanding the business side of our business.

The publishing world is still in massive upheaval and it is a Digital Wild West. Old rules are falling away and new ones are emerging, but still? Knowledge is power.

In my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go into a LOT more detail and I highly recommend you get a copy if you don’t have one. I spend the first chapters of the book explaining how the various forms of publishing work so you can make an educated decision as you are building your brand.

All types of publishing have corresponding strengths and weaknesses and this is…

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Review: A Dangerous Game by Ken Follett

Follett’s novel, A Dangerous Fortune, deals with a major London bank at the end of the 19th century. The story starts at an exclusive Windfield School for boys where cruelty and treachery will seal the fate of a small group of boys. The story deals with several themes, but deceit is the most prevalent. Details of the drowning of a young boy, Peter Middleton, by his fellow student at a local quarry is kept secret for several decades. The characters involved never stray too far from the incident during the next 30 years as they either try to cover up or they attempt to find out the details of what really happened.The banking world is presented side by side with the poorer classes of society. The Prince of Wales appears at a posh party in one scene, while another scene depicts goings-on in a slummy brothel. Characters are also presented as being honest or deceitful, greedy or generous. They appeared a little stereotypical but the story was nevertheless a page-turner and a good read.










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