04 March 2015

Review of The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

02_The Witch of Napoli Cover
* Copy courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours *

Blurb  
Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, erotic medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. 

When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. 
Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know – does the “Queen of Spirits” really have supernatural powers? Nigel Huxley is convinced she’s simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. 

The icy, aristocratic detective for England’s Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. The Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe. 

Praised by Kirkus Reviews as an “enchanting and graceful narrative” that absorbs readers from the very first page, The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter 19th century battle between science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.

My Review
The character of Alessandra Poverelli in The Witch of Napoli is based on the real life of Italian spiritualist medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), giving an extra dimension to this historical fantasy novel by Michael Schmicker.

The skepticism of the time and the battle between science and spirituality dominate the story and Allessandra and her young male companion Tomaso are likeable characters.

I was very interested in the physical toll the readings had on Alessandra and the identity (and meaning behind) one of the spirits Alessandra conjures, and would have liked to have explored this further. Instead the plot focussed on the 'burden of proof' Alessandra carried and the many scientists and spiritualists demanding her time to prove their own theories on the matter.

While the life and times of Eusapia Palladino no doubt make for a fascinating biography, I wasn't as captured by The Witch of Napoli as much as I hoped to be, and would have liked to find out more about her abilities and what she made of them. (By the way, for those seeking to read about witches, there is no witch in The Witch of Napoli, and the novel could just as easily have been called the Medium of Napoli).

Having said all of that, the most exciting part of participating in this tour (hosted by HFVBT) and reading and reviewing The Witch of Napoli, is the opportunity I have to interview the author Michael Schmicker. Michael Schmicker is a paranormal investigative journalist with tonnes of experience in the field, and the interview is well worth the read!

My rating = ***

Interview with author Michael Schmicker
I'll be interviewing Michael Schmicker here on Carpe Librum tomorrow, so stay tuned!

About the Author
03_Michael Schmicker Author
Author Michael Schmicker
Michael Schmicker is the co-author of The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People (St. Martin's Press) and The Witch of Napoli is his debut novel. 
Michael is an investigative journalist and nationally-known writer on the paranormal. He's been a featured guest on national broadcast radio talk shows and also shares his investigations through popular paranormal webcasts.
Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut, and worked as a freelance reporter in SE Asia for 3 years.
His interest in investigating the paranormal began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand where he first encountered a non-Western culture which readily accepts the reality of ghosts and spirits, reincarnation, psychics, mediums, divination and other persistently reported phenomena unexplainable by current science. 
He lives and writes in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a mountaintop overlooking Waikiki and Diamond Head. Connect with Michael Schmicker on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


The Witch of Napoli Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 16
 

Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past 

Tuesday, February 17 
Review at Book Babe 

Wednesday, February 18 
Review at 100 Pages a Day - Stephanie's Book Reviews 

Thursday, February 19 
Review & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream 
Interview at Books and Benches 

Saturday, February 21 
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary 

Sunday, February 22 
Review at Carole's Ramblings 

Monday, February 23 
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation 
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews 

Tuesday, February 24 
Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews 

Wednesday, February 25 
Review at Book Nerd 

Friday, February 27 
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books 

Saturday, February 28 
Spotlight at I Heart Reading 

Monday, March 2 
Review at A Book Drunkard 
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession 

Tuesday, March 3 
Review at Unshelfish 

Wednesday, March 4 
Review at Carpe Librum 

Thursday, March 5 
Interview at Carpe Librum 

Friday, March 6 
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict 

Monday, March 9 
Review at Just One More Chapter 

Tuesday, March 10 
Review at CelticLady's Reviews 

Wednesday, March 11 
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book 

Thursday, March 12 
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog 

Tuesday, March 17 
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book 

Wednesday, March 18 
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection 

Thursday, March 19 
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views 

Friday, March 20 Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

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26 February 2015

Review: The Fairytale Keeper (Book One in the Fairytale Keeper Series) | Andrea Cefalo

* Copy courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours *

It's a pleasure to join Author Andrea Cefalo as she tours with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Fairytale Keeper, from 16 February 13 March. The Fairytale Keeper is a young adult historical fairytale re-telling. Here's the blurb from the book.

Blurb
02_The Fairytale Keeper_CoverAdelaide’s mother, Katrina, was the finest storyteller in all of Airsbach, a borough in the great city of Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, that of Snow White. Snow White was a pet name Adelaide’s mother had given her. It was a name Adelaide hated, until now.

A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without last rites and the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s father obtains a secret funeral for his wife by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren. Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance. When Adelaide realizes that the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. 

Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life. Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairy tales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. The novel paints Medieval Cologne accurately and vividly. The story develops a set of dynamic characters, casting the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairy tales into believable medieval lives. Though historically set, The Fairytale Keeper brims with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for justice.

My Review
I love fairytale re-tellings, and when I saw the gorgeous cover for The Fairytale Keeper and heard it was an historical fairytale re-telling I couldn't wait to get reading.

I instantly fell in love with Adelaide and her father (a shoe-maker) and each time Adelaide helped her father with the shoe-making process I was transfixed. The tragedy of her mother's passing and cruel treatment by the priest at her funeral service really sets the scene for what is to follow and the period details throughout really added to my enjoyment. The references to fairytales were scattered throughout this YA novel, but I was surprised to find that my interest in the fairytale aspect completely fell away and I was just interested in Adelaide's story. The Fairytale Keeper was a quick and enjoyable read and really felt like a straight up YA historical fiction novel (which of course it is) but without the strong fairytale focus that you find in novels like Bitter Greens.

The Fairytale Keeper is the first in a series and thankfully didn't end on a cliffhanger (I hate that) but as soon as it finished I wondered what will happen to Adelaide in the next phase of her life. To find out though, I'll have to read The Countess' Captive, which I might just do! I just hope there's still some shoemaking in the next novel.

My rating = ****

About the author
01_Andrea Cefalo_Author
Author Andrea Cefalo
Besides being the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series, Andrea Cefalo is a self-proclaimed medievalist, hopeless bookworm, and social media junkie. She graduated with honors from Winthrop University in 2007 where she studied Medieval art history and children’s literature. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series—The Countess’ Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut in 2015 and 2016. She resides in Greenville, South Carolina—ever perched before her trusty laptop—with her husband and their two border collies. For more information please visit Andrea Cefalo's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

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The Fairytale Keeper Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 16 
Spotlight at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers 

Tuesday, February 17 
Review at Book Drunkard 

Wednesday, February 18 
Review at Bibliotica 
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book 

Thursday, February 19 
Review at Cheryl's Book Nook 

Friday, February 20 
Review at Back Porchervations 
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes 

Saturday, February 21 
Spotlight at I Heart Reading 

Monday, February 23 
Review at Bookish 

Wednesday, February 25 
Review at 100 Pages a Day - Stephanie's Book Reviews 

Thursday, February 26 
Review at Carpe Librum 

Friday, February 27 
Review at The Bookish Outsider 

Monday, March 2 
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews 

Tuesday, March 3 
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation 

Wednesday, March 4 
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch 
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books 

Friday, March 6 
Spotlight at What Is That Book About 

Monday, March 9 
Review at Shelf Full of Books 

Wednesday, March 11 
Review at Brooke Blogs 
Review at Boom Baby Reviews 

Thursday, March 12 
Review at A Leisure Moment 
Guest Post at Brooke Blogs 

Friday, March 13 
Review at Library Educated 
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Giveaway
To enter to win a Fairytale Keeper Clutch Purse & $25 Amazon Gift Card please complete the giveaway form below.
Clutch Purse Giveaway
* Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends at 11:59pm on March 13th. 
* You must be 18 or older to enter and only one entry per household. 
* All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
* Winner will be chosen via GLEAM on March 14th and notified via email. Winner has 48hrs to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 
* Please email Amy with any questions.

19 February 2015

Review: The Girl in the Photograph | Kate Riordan

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley for review *

The Girl in the Photograph is an atmospheric historical fiction novel by Kate Riordan that captured my interest from the very beginning.

Set in Fiercombe manor, this is the story of two women, Elizabeth in the 1890s and Alice in the 1930s and we hear from both women in the first person.

When Alice moves to Fiercombe Manor, she becomes interested and perhaps even obsessed with the life of Elizabeth, previous lady of the house. Alice starts to unravel Elizabeth's story, and discovers it's not too different from her own.

Both women feel oppressed by the social standards and expectations of the time in which they live; Alice by her mother and Elizabeth by her husband, giving the novel an almost gothic atmosphere.

Early comparisons to Kate Morton seem to follow every review of The Girl in the Photograph, and I have to agree. I'm a devoted fan of Australian author Kate Morton, and although Kate Riordan is a UK writer, The Girl in the Photograph, definitely feels as though it could have been written by Morton. The way in which Riordan splits her story into two time periods, with the character in the present (in this case the 1930s) pulling at threads of the past and feeling that the ghost of time and the essence of Elizabeth is never too far away is strongly reminiscent of Kate Morton's style.

Far from being critical of the similarities in style, I feel I've discovered a new favourite author to add to my list and I eagerly anticipate the next offering from Kate Riordan.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. If you're into combining music with your reading, then I suggest listening to Johnny Belinda or Hanging On by Active Child when reading this novel. They seem to go hand in hand.

15 February 2015

Review: The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash Series, Book 1 and Book 2 by V.N. Kelly-Clark and D.J. Kelly-Clark

* Copies from authors for review *

Dandelion (The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash Book 1) 

Dandelion is a delightful children's book written by V.N Kelly-Clark and illustrated by D.J. Kelly-Clark.

This Australian husband and wife team introduce young readers to Dandelion, a faery who doesn't like to brush her hair. Dandelion's hair is thick and white-blond and so tangled and knotted that she gets it caught all the time.

I'm sure all kids and parents can relate to Dandelion's fear of having her hair brushed or cut and her subsequent adventures.


Dandelion is a quick and easy read for bedtime, and my only regret is that I desperately wanted to see one last illustration of Dandelion at the end of the book.

Sugar Rush (The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash Book 2)

Sugar Rush is the second book in The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash series of e-books from husband and wife team V.N & D.J. Kelly-Clark. 

In this instalment, Ash (Dandelion's brother) finds himself in trouble after eating sweet treats that give him a sugar rush. This is no ordinary sugar rush though as sugar can make a faery's wings fall right off and Dandelion has forgotten to warn her brother.

Sugar Rush is longer and contains more illustrations than Dandelion, and the symptoms Ash experiences during the sugar rush are funny and clever at the same time.

Recommended reading age for both picture books is 3-7 years.

My ratings as follows:

Dandelion = ****

Sugar Rush = ***

Carpe Librum!

08 February 2015

Review: Inferno (Robert Langdon #4) by Dan Brown

I loved reading Dan Brown's latest action thriller Inferno and remain a loyal fan and firm advocate of the Robert Langdon series, of which Inferno is the fourth. 

This time Langdon is back in Europe and the bad guy is a transhumanist by the name of Zobrist. A genetic scientist, Zobrist believes that the overpopulation of the earth is ruining the planet and humans will be doomed unless the population is brought under control. How does he intend to do that? Plague of course! 

Zobrist (who is obsessed with Dante Alighieri's epic poem The Inferno), intends to release a plague and kill half of the worlds inhabitants in order to save the planet. Zobrist believes that after the plague ravaged Europe centuries ago, it gave rise to sweeping change, plenty of food and opportunities for survivors and the birth of the Renaissance. As an extension, Zobrist sees himself as the earth's saviour and his plague as a great sacrifice that will cement his name in history.

In order to stop this bioterrorism threat, Langdon needs to cut through Zobrist's references to Dante and The Inferno and find out where the plague will be released. In doing so, Langdon finds himself running through Florence and travelling through Venice to track down his quarry.

Dan Brown uses a familiar and well-worn plot structure that has been successful in the past and works again here. Having said that, I was pleased to find a little less symbology and code breaking and and an increased focus on literature, architecture and art (of which I adored). I had to stop reading countless times to look up various artworks, paintings, sculptures and buildings and let my mind explore Italian history just a little further. 

I also enjoyed learning about transhumanism, discovered a renewed interest to visit Venice and finally decided to try and read Dante's epic poem for myself; although I don't know how I will manage (stay tuned).

All in all, Dan Brown has delivered another ripping thriller, and if you can ignore the fact that Langdon never sleeps or showers, and seems to have perfect recall, you will enjoy this fourth instalment just fine. I'm giving it five stars just for the art, literature, science and architecture that constitute so much of Inferno; all of it real and accurate.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!


P.S. Word is that Tom Hanks is going to star in the film adaptation of Inferno in a movie to be released next year. Filming begins in April 2015 and I'll definitely be going to see it when it's released. Will you?

02 February 2015

Review: 1,339 QI (Quite Interesting) Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop | John Lloyd, John Mitchinson & James Harkin

1,339 QI (Quite Interesting) Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop is jam packed with funny, interesting and quirky facts that you'll want to read aloud to anyone within listening distance. 

There's a combination of facts that flow logically on from each other without being broken down into specific chapters (e.g. animals, human body, history etc) that made for a seamless, uninterrupted read.

I borrowed this book from the library and everyone who saw it in my living room couldn't resist picking it up and then reading out a snippet or two. Perfect!

Here are three of my favourite facts from the book:



It's impossible to hum while holding your nose. Page 76

Burning Mountain, Australia, is a natural coal fire that has been alight for 6,000 years. Page 146

A group of kittens is called a 'kindle.' Page 148

Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper is so high, and its lifts are so fast, that you can watch the sun set at ground level, travel to the roof and watch it set again. Page 225


1,339 QI (Quite Interesting) Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop is a brilliant coffee table book presented in a small hardback edition perfect for throwing in your bag and taking with you to pass the time.

Highly recommended for a variety of readers, young and old.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

30 January 2015

Winners of the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop 2015 Announced

Thanks to all those who entered my Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop this year, and thanks to Shelleyrae from Book'd Out for hosting this great bookish event. I enjoyed hopping around all the blogs and entering many of the giveaways, and had a record number of entries in my own giveaway, with 52 book lovers sharing their reading plans for Australia Day. 

There was a great variety of books from almost all genres, with representations from popular fiction, non fiction and the classics. Alas, there can only be two winners, so without further ado...

1st Prize
Congratulations to Catherine G, you've won a $25 gift voucher from Boomerang Books.

2nd Prize

Congratulations to Nat H, you've won a new print copy of The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster (thanks to Random House Australia).

As well as being announced here, winners will be notified by email today of their win.

Thanks for celebrating Australia Day with me via the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop and I hope we can do it all again next year.


'Til then, Carpe Librum!