“When Wolf Comes” John Pappas

Historical adventure, 1801. A survivor from an attack on a trade ship is sold as a slave to the Makah tribe of the Northwest Washington Coast. In a beautiful hostile land of people with strange spiritual ways he will become teacher and student, find friendship and even love, and realize escape comes in many guises, and survival is not always as simple as saving your own life.

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“When Wolf Comes” begins with Aiden doing what he does in much of the book….deliberating on his next move. Aiden has found himself far from home and does his best to be positive while also endeavoring to be useful. When the first ship comes Aiden’s spirits lift and life takes a new path. Like life can do, the path quickly shifts again and Aiden finds himself once more a slave. This time though, maybe being a slave is a step forward.

As Aiden finds his purpose within his masters tribe and culture his eye finds itself stuck on another slave. Neveah is a beautiful native woman who also turns out to be more than what she appears. Their relationship blooms slowly and it’s a real treat to see. 

Something that should be noted is how Pappas managed to embed a message of tolerance in his story. Aiden and the Makah are very different and those differences are stark at the beginning but as the story deepens those differences don’t seem so far apart and each culture melds together to find this new direction that I found fascinating. Aiden’s culture and knowledge was accepted (albeit with suspicion) and their culture became another piece of Aiden. This story has a message of oneness that resonates even now.

“When Wolf Comes” is well researched. Time and again I found myself lost in time and imagining the beauty of the northwest. The wonder of it’s people and their means of survival. I haven’t read much into this time period or the tribes that inhabited the northwest but Pappas leads the reader expertly through the complexities of both it’s cultural and natural wonders. Pappas has a real talent for cultivating a love in his readers that has at the very least encouraged me to learn more. I imagine that sentiment will spread through each new reader.

Squintanasis was a character that I really couldn’t get enough of. I would love to see him get his own book. I felt like there was more to tell and learn from this most stoic of men. He was mysterious and wise. He was shrewd but fair. I liked him immensely. He was a big part of what made this story bury itself so deep into my psych. 

Pappas depiction of battle is gory but not overly so. The horror is addressed but not dwelt upon. The significance is put more on how the community came together and their bond. I thought it was well written and well balanced.

I could go on for days about how much I enjoyed this story. I encourage you to hop in and lose yourself in the magic of the early 1800’s.

Absolute 5 star book.

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: When Wolf Comes | Series: N/A |  Author(s): John Pappas  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 5-8-2016 |Pages: 264 (Print) | ISBN: B01FEC6YM6 |Genre(s): Historical Fiction  |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-29-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

When Wolf Comes Cover

“The images conjured up by the Northwest Coast tribes is one of fierce people what with their dramatic masks, nose bones and complex ceremonies. This story takes you to the people beneath that image. It highlights their sense of community as well as their recognition of the changes being brought by traders. It tells of how they treat their “slaves”, their capacity for compassion and their lack of tolerance for wrongdoing.” – Amazon Reviewer

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“Naveed – Through My Eyes” John Heffernan

The explosion jolts him awake. He sits up, gasping for air, heart thumping.

Was the blast real? Perhaps it had only happened in his head, a bad dream. Demons of the dark, his father had called them. ‘Push them away. They’ll only poison your thoughts. Seek the light and they can’t hurt you.’

Naveed is sick of war – of the foreign powers and the Taliban, the warlords and the drug barons that together have torn Afghanistan apart. He’s had to grow up quickly to take care of his widowed mother and little sister, making what little money he can doing odd jobs and selling at the markets. When he adopts Nasera, a street dog with extraordinary abilities, he has a chance to help rebuild his country. But will a new friend’s betrayal crush his dreams of peace forever?

From the winter of war comes the spring of hope.

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     I found this book while browsing the kids chapter books at my local library. It was one of those books the librarians shelve cover out so it caught my eye rather quickly. I picked it up and after reading the summary decided it sounded like a book I should read and maybe later add to my kids homeschool reading list when they are the appropriate age. I often grab a chapter book along with the younger kids books and if they sound like something that would interest my four year old now, I read them to him. My four year old is much too young for this book but it’s absolutely a book I’ve added to our reading list for later years. 

“Naveed” offers two unique perspectives that, as an American, I don’t often get to see. An Australian solider and a young Afghan boy. Naveed may be a child but his struggles are anything but small. Naveed’s mother relies on him to provide for the family and Naveed works hard to do so. He also provides for his younger sister who, due to a bomb, has lost her legs. Naveed carries a heavy load of responsibilities but it’s clear that he carries them with love. Naveed’s love for his family is beautiful. He has known nothing but war and it’s touched every single piece of his young life.  

After a bomb took away his father and severely injured his sister, Naveed’s family lives in a hovel and their situation is precarious. The land lord is a bad man who has even worse friends and cares for no one but himself. He sets his eyes on Naveed’s mother and I held my breath with worry about Naveed’s family and how or if they would find a way out of that nasty man’s reach.

Naveed is adopted by Nasera (the dog) and his life takes on a whirlwind of change. By chance he meets Jake and opportunities open that he never thought possible. Naveed’s world is almost broken by a relative (whose really broken himself) and for a time, everything is thrown into chaos once again.

I want to talk about that chaos for just a minute. In the west, we are so quick to see a terrorist and dehumanize them. We don’t think of all the things that built up and turned this otherwise unassuming person into an extremist. Heffernan brings humanity back in this tale and gives us a look into what goes into the makings of a terrorist. It’s not harped upon but Heffernan gives us a window into a world I don’t think we discuss or even acknowledge nearly enough.

Kudo’s to John Heffernan for doing his part to put a very human face on a very ugly war. May his stories enrich our lives and encourage us to find peace with one another.

5 stars.

5 stars

The Technical Data:

Title: Naveed | Series: Through My Eyes |  Author(s): John Heffernan  |Publisher: Allen & Unwin / Publication Date: 9-1-2015 |Pages: 216 (Print) | ISBN: B00YVBQO8Q |Genre(s): Middle East / War / Historical Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-05-2017 |Source: Copy from library.

 

David Smith – Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

David Smith is a British author who has now published four works under the Troubador imprint. His first novel Searching For Amber has been described as “A powerful and notably memorable debut” with a review describing it as “masterly and confident” and another as “Extraordinary, poetic, enchanting, sublime”. In addition to writing, he is currently CFO of a blue chip UK public company and lives near the South Coast in England with his wife and three teenage children.

https://www.davidsmithauthor.blog

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David Smith — Guest Blog

My Inspirations for Letters to Strabo

Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

My first idea for Letters to Strabo came from the memory of a trip I made twenty years ago to Olana, the amazing Catskills home of the painter Frederic Edwin Church. It was a truly stunning experience. Both the exterior but more importantly the interior of this Moorish extravaganza produced a complete sensory overload that day that has stayed with me ever since. I’ve long wanted to write a love story that starts with a visit to this house by a young writer, but for ages I didn’t have a good starting point.

However, as I researched further, I discovered that the name the Churches chose for their hilltop home overlooking the Hudson was originally derived from a quotation contained in one of the first English translations of a Geography written by the first century BC Greek scholar Strabo: “Olane, one of the treasure-storehouses on the Araxes River, with a view both of a fertile valley and of Mount Ararat where Noah’s Ark is said to have come to rest.”  Frederic’s wife Isabella had given him a copy of this work for Christmas 1879. I confess I knew nothing about Strabo (Geography’s Herodotus) but my next discovery sealed my idea. I found that Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens to use his real name) made a visit to the Church’s just a few years after this and that Twain had referred to Strabo many times in his early successful work The Innocents Abroad. Furthermore, both Twain and the Churches had been touring the lands described by Strabo at almost exactly the same time but had never met. The die, as they say, was cast.

Twain was accompanied on his visit to Olana by his family and by Grace King, the southern novelist. Her description of his two elder daughters, Susy and Clara “More entrancing characters I have never met in my life” sparked me to research deeper into the story of these remarkable young ladies. Their loves, dreams and the personal tragedies they endured gave me the inspiration for the backstory of my heroine Eve.  Further research provided me with neat links to Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Peggy Guggenheim and Homer amongst others.

Letters to Strabo is therefore both a love story and a coming-of-age tale, set in the late 1970s that takes the form of a fictional odyssey recorded with disarming honesty by my protagonist, an innocent young American writer called Finn Black. His adventures, both funny and evocative, follow closely the itinerary taken by Twain on his own périplus around the Mediterranean a century earlier and are structured around the seventeen chapters of Strabo’s great work.  The amazing places Finn visits, the art and cultures he comes across and most importantly the people he meets are faithfully described by him for Eve, the Olana archivist, now his long-distance pen-pal. Eve’s replies, her Letters to Strabo as she calls them, however, not only reveal to Finn her own hopes and dreams but increasingly disturbing glimpses of a tragic past; a past that echoes that of Twain’s two daughters.

This proved a complex project and I greatly enjoyed the research but ultimately any novel must tell a story that captivates the reader. I therefore hope my story will both intrigue you and provide an opportunity for reflection on the doubts and dilemmas of youth. It’s deliberately rich, emotionally charged and at times intense, but also, I hope, ultimately spiritually uplifting and life-affirming. What else should a true love story be?

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Adam Finnegan Black, or ‘Finn’, an innocent young American who is insatiably curious about life, made a promise to his mother before she died: To find out what really happened to his father…

His ambition is to be a travel writer, like his heroes: Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and the ancient Greek ‘father of geography’, Strabo. His journey of discovery takes him through the radiant literary, cultural and picturesque landscape of the Mediterranean.

Following his heart and inspired by Letters to Strabo, written by his long-distance pen-pal Eve, Finn gradually learns more about himself but also about the woman he hopes will one day become his wife.

Funny, provocative, disarmingly honest, Finn’s story captures the excitement and mistakes of youthful energy and proves ultimately life-affirming in the emergence of new hope from personal tragedy.

Quite simply one of the best coming-of-age novels you will ever read: Letters to Strabo will appeal to lovers of literary fiction, good travel writing and the classic works of Ernest Hemingway.

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Book Review “Lives of the Spirits” John Pappas

1801-02 on the wild Pacific Northwest Coast: At the village of Ozette, the spirits have determined that Aidan and Neveah must be exiled for six months. They are sent south to winter with the rich Chinooks near the mouth of the Colombia River and look forward to a comfortable few months together in the big lodge of Chief Comcomly. They could not have imagined the horrors awaiting them as they paddle their big canoe into the most feared curse of the times. People are dying and Aidan is seized by fear for his pregnant wife. There is only one escape–upriver. Aidan manages to put a disparate group together, including Josiah, a Virginia slave who looks too much like his famous father and who Comcomly planned to burn to rid his people of the curse. The group of 10 embark on a 200 mile odyssey up Big River to the Land of She Who Watches, into an unforgiving landscape of violence, suspicion and even friendship. They begin to feel safe, until Neveah is taken by raiders led by the most feared criminal of the region. Aidan is told the vicious Lesheen may not ransom Neveah because he likes pregnant women. To save her Aidan must face his own inner demons and immerse himself ever deeper into a spirit realm he fears. But even that doesn’t prepare him for the final shock and only path of escape. The last challenge is inevitable–he must confront the real curse maker.

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I’d like to start this review with a quote from the book that I found both hilarious and profound in its wisdom.

“Tis often that a persons mouth broke his nose”

Aiden (Irish) is a man in his early twenties but his experiences paint him as a much older soul. I loved his respect for those with different cultures. I realize that a good portion of his interest was due to survival but I also felt Aiden took on a little piece of those identities. The friendships he makes and the love that he has for Neveah aren’t based on survival. His evolution and wisdom is part of what makes this story so compelling. He saw each person as a person and did all he could to do right by them. Aiden is a grade A guy and is now one of my favorite characters. 

The banter between him and Neveah is another one of my favorite parts of this book. Their relationship is beautiful. Their friends and lovers. They are what I think of when I imagine true love. Aiden was so considerate of her feelings throughout this entire book she is the center of everything that means anything to him. Aiden loves hard and his empathy is just another part of him that brings the reader deeper into the story. 

Pappas writing is passionate and it’s clear that each of his characters are deeply loved by him. I imagine him sitting at his computer with glistening tears when Neveah is captured and all that follows. I had to wipe away my fair share of tears and I felt so close to her after that. She’s still a bit mysterious but that event brings Neveah closer to the reader.

Pappas did amazing research for this book and it’s clear he wove history and fiction as close to as real as he could get. When I read novels like this, it’s important to me that the author stays close to what that time period was really like. I want to time travel to that time with your words. I want the people to look and act like they really would have. Pappas did an outstanding job. I came away feeling like I learned a lot and that’s exactly what I wanted.

I’ve put this book on my short list for paperback purchases. I’ve got a spot on my shelf waiting. 

5 stars!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: Lives of the Spirits | Series: N/A |  Author(s): John Pappas  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 3-6-2016 |Pages: 270 (Print) | ISBN:  B01CN3DQOI |Genre(s): Historical Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 4-22-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

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Born in Seattle to Irish, Scotch and Greek parents, at age nine John Pappas was launched on a ten year odyssey that took him to five states and the Territory of Alaska, where he began working construction and driving a truck at age fifteen. He has been a commercial fisherman, salesman, general contractor, tech writer, script writer, video producer and property manager and has loved stories from an early age. He’s written two technical books and dozens of articles and short stories.

As a teenager in the late 50’s he saw Cape Flattery for the first time from the deck of a 40 foot salmon troller. On that day in June he fell in love with the rugged Washington Coast and has spent many happy times there in boats and walking beach trails. This lead to an interest in the region’s early times and native culture, and the discovery of many obscure stories, such as the once-thriving village of Ozette. Some time later he wrote “When Wolf Comes,” based on true events and native legend, an adventure told through the eyes of a young Irishman’s epiphanous journey toward discovery and a woman’s love.

“That Dog Will Never Hunt,” written over a decade, is a dog book like no other. Twelve very different stories with a dog theme that pulls you into the times, places and hearts of real people and their dogs in surprising ways. From humorous to serious, hunters to best friends, set in contrasting places and situations.

Now available in Kindle (PC and Mac for Kindle, mobiles) is an expanded version of the popular “Aphrodite’s Food For The Gods,” a Greek cookbook that will offer the reader a window into an ethnic past with great authentic recipes, stories and thumbnails of a few Greek gods, plus some modern examples of how Greek cooking works with the different foods available in America and other countries.

JUST PUBLISHED: “Lives of the Spirits”, the sequel to “When Wolf Comes”, is now available exclusively on Amazon. I’ve been researching the Native part for some time, but there was more I wanted in this story and it’s finally done. Journey 200 miles up wild and treacherous Big River (Columbia) with Aidan, Neveah and the son Tom Jefferson wanted to exile forever. Please see the early reviews and also check the Editorial reviews on this many faceted adventure story. (Some of my readers have had difficulty placing reviews on Amazon so at their request I’ve placed them in “Editorial Reviews” which shoppers can access on the Review page by clicking More.

All reviews of books by John Pappas are posted on his site, orca11.com or johnanthonypappas.com

The Booklist – Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is my favorite genre. It’s the best of both worlds. The characters were/are real people and reading about them brings history alive in a way that textbooks just can’t. The fiction bit allows the author some room for speculation. It’s fun to see each authors take on the same historical characters. I think this genre keeps the past in the present and encourages people to look back and learn. It’s easy to forget the past when you don’t feel connected to it. Historical fiction allows it’s readers to connect with those long dead and breeds empathy for those who survived (or didn’t) some of the worst periods of our history. If we have no empathy for the horrors of the past are we bound to repeat them?

I hope you enjoy my selections! Never stop reading!

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Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

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For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

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In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

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The Glass Palace tells of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who creates an empire in the Burmese teak forest. During the British invasion of 1885, when soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, the woman whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her.

What is the What Cover

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What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children —the so-called Lost Boys—was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man.

Book list

Book Review “The Collector” Nora Roberts

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts comes a novel about a woman who needs nothing, a man who sees everything, and the web of deceit, greed and danger that brings them together—and could tear them apart…
 
When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one…
 
Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn’t capable of violence—against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Chalking up their intense attraction to the heat of the moment, Lila agrees to help Ash try to find out who murdered his brother and why. From the penthouses of Manhattan to grand Italian villas, their investigation draws them into a rarefied circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away and stolen; where what you possess is who you are; and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession…

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I want to kick this off by admitting that this book has been sitting on my shelf damn near all year long. My husband bought it for me earlier in the year when I was buried in my review pile. I’ve run my fingers over it’s cover at least 20 times wishing I had time to read it. Nora Roberts writes some pretty amazing books and I’ve been looking forward to (finally) reading “The Collector” for far too long. Considering I built up some serious anticipation for this book, I had to take a couple of days after reading it to decompress and make dang sure my review would be on the actual book and not my preconceived ideas of how it was going to go down. After decompression, this is what I’ve got.

The only character that I felt was close to fully fleshed out in “The Collector” was Lila. That’s not to say that she didn’t need some work. I thought I had a pretty good eye on who she was until Ash came into the picture. All the sudden, it was like Lila’s independent nature was squashed. She didn’t put up the fight I was expecting of her and it blurred who she was in my head.

I feel like Roberts should back almost all the way up with Ash. The “brooding artist” stereotype ruined him for me. I love his art and his steady side but found the few things I loved about him stomped on by his downright shitty behavior and inconsiderate nature. I could see that Roberts was trying to convince the readers that while brash, Ash cares about those around him but I’m not buying it. For the most part Ash acts like a douche and I don’t like him. I don’t think he is a good fit for anyone and feel that his behavior is abusive.

One of the main themes in this book is Obsession. The reader is hit with two forms. One slightly veiled in its intensity and the other’s is blatant and frightening. The veiled obsession still unsettles me. I felt the character exhibited some pretty frightening narcissistic traits that were passed off as bluntness. There is a big difference and I don’t like how this was passed off as a healthy relationship. 

The nefarious obsessor is blatant with his disregard for any life other than his own. I can see the distance Roberts tried to put between the “Obsessor’s” but felt that by only vilifying one she glossed over abuse in less obvious forms. Obsession is dangerous.

I love Lila’s profession and found it interesting to get a glimpse into that world. Roberts found a way to make house sitting seem exciting and I felt the job added nicely to who Lila was as a person. While having Gypsy tendencies, I felt Lila is also a very steady person. Someone to be trusted and cherished. Her kindness and thoughtfulness is so at odds with Ash’s domineering personality!

The book is well researched and the premise intriguing. I came away from the book with a mixed bag of emotion but ultimately enjoyed reading it. After serious consideration, I still feel like the book could stand to be reevaluated by the author. There is too much conflict for the romance to come across as anything other than abusive and I feel Roberts should consider this a bit further and consider who she really wants Ash to be.

3 stars.

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The Technical Data:

Title: The Collector | Series: N/A  |  Author(s): Nora Roberts  |Publisher:  Berkley / Publication Date: 4-15-2014 |Pages: 485 (Print) | ISBN:  B00FX7REI6 |Genre(s): Romance & Suspense |Language: English |Rating: 3 out of 5 |  Date Read: 11-27-2016 |Source: Copy from personal collection.

Book Review “Treachery and Truth” Katy Huth Jones

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Immersed in the historical background of the tenth century, this true tale of Good King Wenceslaus, as told by his faithful servant Poidevin, brings the reader into the Dark Ages. Fear grips the land of Bohemia as the faithful face betrayal and persecution under the reign of the pagan Duchess Dragomira. As she struggles for power with the rightful heir, Prince Vaclav, her foes forge alliances in secret despite the risk of discovery. Who will survive?

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“Treachery and Truth” is a Christian novella that explores the land of Bohemia and the fall of a beloved leader. Told through the eyes of Poidevin, the narrative can be sometimes cumbersome but has an innocence that I find myself divided over.

On one hand I understand why the story is simply told. Poidevin wouldn’t of been very educated and therefore wouldn’t understand the complexity of the plots swirling around him. On the other hand, his bleak beginnings and abusive new mistress would have required him to have some wit just to survive. Servants lived at the whim of their masters and would of needed to anticipate what their masters were needing or feeling. This leads me to feel like (while young in age) Poidevin would of been adept to tell this story in a bit more complex way.

While I agree that a lot of Pagan practices (like human sacrifice) are atrocious, I felt that by mainly focusing on this aspect of that religion the author was glossing over the intolerance Price Vaclav shows to the Pagans while at the same time condemning his mother for her intolerance for Christians. I found this narrative to be one sided and did real damage to an otherwise very interesting story. 

The imagery in this story is well done and  Jones did a fantastic amount of research to make this world come alive. I found it pretty accurate and am definitely impressed.

In conclusion, I felt the story was well written and researched but felt Jones damaged the likeability factor of Vaclav with his one sided tolerance. In such a short book the damage done by this could of been balanced with more information or further examination of Vaclav’s character. After reading I don’t feel the kinship I like to feel with a character. My suggestion would be to extend the story by adding more character building scenes and by shaping Poidevin as less ignorant and feeble. 

3 stars.

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The Technical Data:

Title: Treachery and Truth | Series: N/A  |  Author(s): Katy Huth Jones  |Publisher: Pauline Books & Media  / Publication Date: 1-1-2016 |Pages: 528 (Print) | ISBN:  978-0819875358 |Genre(s): Medieval Historical Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 3 out of 5 |  Date Read: 11-25-2016 |Source: Copy from author.

Guest Post: Thirty-Eight Nooses Hung From The Crossbeams / Andrew Joyce

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and fifty short stories comprised of his hitching adventures called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS (as yet unpublished), and his latest novel, YELLOW HAIR. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, MICK REILLY.

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My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Allie has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to talk about my latest, Yellow Hair.

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Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage depicted actually took place—from the first to the last. The historical figures that play a role in my story were real people and I used their real names. I conjured up my protagonist only to weave together the various events conveyed in my fact-based tale of fiction. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century. It is American history.

The inspiration for the book came to me when I was reading a short article and it made reference to the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862. It also mentioned that the outcome involved the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. That piqued my interest.

When I started my research into the incident, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was documenting the entire history of the Sioux, who are also known as the Dakota, vis-à-vis the relationship between them and the United States.

Because the book exists only because I read the phrase, “the largest mass execution in the history of the United States,” I’ll tell you a little about that. What follows is an extremely abbreviated version of events.

The Dakota signed their first treaty with the United States in 1805 when they sold a small portion of their land to the Americans for the purpose of building forts. It was right after the Louisiana Purchase and President Jefferson wanted a presence in the West. At the time, “the West” was anything on the western side of the Mississippi River.

In the treaty of 1805, the Dakota sold 100,000 acres to the Americans. The agreed-upon price was $2.00 per acre. But when the treaty came up before the Senate for ratification, the amount was changed to two cents per acre. That was to be a precursor for all future treaties with the Americans. There were subsequent treaties in 1815, 1825, 1832, 1837, and 1851, and basically the same thing happened with all those treaties.

In 1837, the Americans wanted an additional five million acres of Dakota land. Knowing it would be a hard sell after the way they failed to live up to the letter or spirit of the previous treaties, the government brought twenty-six Dakota chiefs to Washington to show them the might and majesty that was The United States of America.

The government proposed paying one million dollars for the acreage in installments over a twenty-year period. Part of the payment was to be in the form of farm equipment, medicine, and livestock. Intimidated, the Indians signed the treaty and went home. The United States immediately laid claim to the lands—the first payment did not arrive for a year.

The significance of the 1837 treaty lies in the fact that it was the first time “traders” were allowed to lay claim to the Indians’ payments without any proof that money was owed . . . and without consulting the Indians. Monies were subtracted from the imbursements and paid directly to the traders.

By 1851, the Americans wanted to purchase all of the Dakota’s remaining lands—twenty-five million acres. The Sioux did not want to sell, but were forced to do so with threats that the army could be sent in to take the land from them at the point of a gun if they refused the American’s offer.

“If we sell our land, where will we live?” asked the Dakota chief.

“We will set aside land for the Dakota only. It is called a reservation and it will be along both banks of the Minnesota River, twenty miles wide, ten on each side and seventy miles long. It will be yours until the grasses no longer grow,” answered the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

The Dakota were offered six cents an acre for land that was worth at least a dollar an acre. The payment would be stretched out over a twenty year period and was to be made in the form of gold coins. One year later, in 1852, the Americans took half the reservation, the seventy miles on the north side of the river. The Dakota were now reduced from a nation of fierce, independent people to a people dependent on hand-outs from the ones who stole not only their land, but also their dignity.

The Dakota were forced to buy their food from the traders who ran trading posts at the Indian Agency the U.S. Government had set up on the reservation. All year long the Dakota would charge what they needed. When the yearly payment for their land arrived, the traders would take what they said was owed them. Subsequently, there was very little gold left for the Dakota.

By 1862, the Dakota were starving. That year’s payment was months late in arriving because of the Civil War. The traders were afraid that because of the war there would be no payment that year and cut off the Dakota’s credit. The Indian Agent had the power to force the traders to release some of the food stocks, but refused when asked to do so by the Dakota.

After they had eaten their ponies and dogs, and their babies cried out in the night from hunger, the Dakota went to war against the United States of America.

They attacked the agency first and liberated the food stock from the warehouse, killing many white people who lived there. Then bands of braves set out to loot the farms in the surrounding countryside.

Many whites were killed in the ensuing weeks. However, not all of the Dakota went to war. Many stayed on the reservation and did not pick up arms against their white neighbors. Some saved the lives of white settlers. Still, over 700 hundred whites lost their lives before the rebellion was put down.

When the dust settled, all of the Dakota—including women and children, and those people who had saved settlers’ lives—were made prisoners of war.

Three hundred and ninety-six men were singled out to stand trial before a military commission. They were each tried separately in trials that lasted only minutes. In the end, three hundred and three men were sentenced to death.

Even though he was occupied with the war, President Lincoln got involved. He reviewed all three hundred and three cases and pardoned all but thirty-eight of the prisoners.

On a gray and overcast December morning in 1862, the scaffold stood high. Thirty-eight nooses hung from its crossbeams. The mechanism for springing the thirty-eight trap doors had been tested and retested until it worked perfectly. At exactly noon, a signal was given, a lever pulled, and the largest mass execution to ever take place in the United States of America became part of our history.

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Book Review “Hands Across The Sky” Andrew John Schmitz

synopsis

From the first page, Hands Across The Sky draws the reader into an intoxicating tale of mystery and hope, beautifully told.

When Ezra Quinn, a San Francisco techie, gets a call one Saturday morning, he has no idea that his life is about to change beyond his wildest imaginings. Quinn is offered a lucrative position in the Middle East in his field of wearable tech. A week later, he’s on a flight to Dubai.

In Dubai, Quinn meets beautiful, cosmopolitan Leila, who orients him both to his work and to the political complexities in the region. Though the Middle East is on fire, Leila drops a hint that there is another way … the way of the Open Hand.

Leila accompanies Quinn to Cairo, where he meets Alif Zahir, the passionate, intelligent official at the center of the operation. As Quinn begins working on the project, he starts to become suspicious. Is Alif Zahir really who he says he is? And is the project truly aimed at peace? Soon events will spiral out of control, and Ezra Quinn will find himself caught up in a web of violence and treason from which there seems no escape.

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I would like to start this review by quoting some of my favorite passages.

“However, it was also difficult to imagine that a single ancient woman in a tiny apartment alone with her cat could possess the key to the power they needed”

‘Let the story enter you and create its meaning there. Do not try to force the meaning on the story.”

“Hands Across The Sky” is filled with such beautiful imagery that each word is like a brush painting the scenes inside your mind. As the imagery settles, the emotions and senses with each scene settle on you in such an intimate way that it could almost be a memory.

There is power in this story and a pile of moral decisions to be made by the main characters. The suspense is built beautifully page by page until it all comes together for a powerful ending.

I really enjoyed Schmitz’s writing style. It’s apparent lots of research went into the writing of this novel. The details are pretty intimate and I can’t help but wonder if Schmitz has been to Egypt.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the telling by a variety of characters old fables. This brought a real authenticity that not many books have. The “Open Hand” ideology was beautiful.

Schmitz developed his characters expertly. It’s really a wonder all its own with how much he put into such a small book. I will be reading more from him in the future.

“Hands Across The Sky” was a profound book that speaks to my generation and I think will continue to speak to others as well. It’s world is our world. It’s problems our problems.

5 stars!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: Hands Across The Sky | Series:  N/A  |  Author(s):  Andrew John Schmitz |Publisher: Deep Theory Press / Publication Date: 10-28-2015 |Pages: 276 (Print) | ISBN: 978-0996827904  |Genre(s): Literature & Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 10-26-2016 |Source: Copy from Author

Book Review “The Virgin Queen’s Daughter” Ella March Chase

synopsis

In her sweeping historical debut, Ella March Chase explores a thrilling possibility: that the Tudor bloodline did not end with the Virgin Queen. As captivating now as it was more than four centuries ago, the reign of Elizabeth I—with its scandal, intrigue, and resilience—has sparked the imaginations of generations. 

Tucked away in the country estate of her beloved father, Lord Calverley, young Nell de Lacey feeds her hungry mind with philosophy, language, and studies of science. Her mother, once a devoted lady-in-waiting to Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, would rather her daughter stop dabbling in the grand affairs of men and instead prepare for her eventual duties as a wife. She knows all too well what menace lurks in royal courts.

But Nell’s heart yearns for something more, and a chance meeting with Princess Elizabeth, then a prisoner of the Tower of London, pushes her closer toward finding it. Now, years later, Nell’s chance arrives when she is summoned to serve as a lady-in-waiting to the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth. Nell is entranced by the splendor and pageantry of royal life, unaware of the danger and deception that swirls around the monarch and her courtiers.

But a lingering rumor about nine unaccounted for months in the Virgin Queen’s past reignites when the flame-haired Nell—a mirror image of Her Majesty both physically and intellectually—arrives at court. Quickly she catches the eye not only of the cunning Elizabeth, but of those who would see the queen fail. With strong evidence to connect Elizabeth to her newest maid of honor and the politics of England in turmoil, the truth could send Nell and those she loves to the Tower to join in the wretched fates of those who’ve gone before her.

Engrossing and enlightening, The Virgin Queen’s Daughter brings to life one of the greatest mysteries of one of the greatest monarchs. Ella March Chase’s vivid storytelling gives due credence to a daughter who might have been and a mother who never was.

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First lines: Ramblings of a madwoman might be deadly. The same words, spoken in sanity: treason. This truth I have discovered to my woe. Yet, imprisoned within my cell, I find it hard to discern the difference. 

“The Virgin Queen’s Daughter” was a whirlwind of intrigue, romance, and paranoia. Beginning to end this book is suspense defined. 

The Tudor family has always fascinated me. I’m sure that statement can be made for many. Their line is full of mystery and madness. The Tudors were well known for their intense mood changes and paranoia. Living in the same conditions, I can’t say that most would feel differently. Every person you meet could be plotting your murder and overthrowing your rule as they dance with you and ploy you with compliments.

It’s amazing that this is a debut novel. This book ranks, in my opinion, with historical fiction giants like Philippa Gregory and Alsion Weir.  I am now adding Chase to my list of favorites for this genre.

The idea that The Virgin Queen wasn’t a virgin at all and may possibly of had a child has been hotly debated for many years. I’m sure this will continue to be debated unless by some miracle evidence is found that solves the matter. Until then, it makes a fascinating point to speculate on.

I would like to say that Nell would of been an oddity of the time but I can’t help but wonder how many women were secretly learning like her without making it apparent. Any attention in those days could be deadly. 

I think that Chase has written the best tale of how that scenario would play out if it did, in fact, happen. I was hooked from page one and have added her to my Christmas list of books my husband should buy for me. 🙂

Absolute 5 star book!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: The Virgin Queen’s Daughter  | Series:  N/A  |  Author(s):  Ella March Chase |Publisher: Three Rivers Press / Publication Date: 12-29-2009 |Pages: 357 (Print) | ISBN:  978-0307451125 |Genre(s): Historical Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 9-29-2016 |Source: Copy from Library