28 March 2015

Review: The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas

The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas cover
The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas is a dual narrative full of mystery, secrets and ghosts. Serena starts work as a nanny in a mansion in Victorian London looking after a smart and charming little girl, but not everything is as it seems.

Meanwhile, in the 1890s, an infatuation becomes a dark obsession with repercussions that will last a lifetime.

I've read a few dual narrative novels lately, and while The Room Beyond was an enjoyable read, it didn't stand out from the crowd. 

What I will remember from this novel though was the library at 36 Marguerite Avenue; a library which leapt from the page and one I'd love to visit.

The Room Beyond is a ghostly gothic novel, the twists and turns were enjoyable, but it's not a novel I'll be raving about in weeks to come. (Gorgeous cover though, don't you think?)

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
24 March 2015

Wild Wood Blog Tour: Review and Interview with Posie Graeme-Evans

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review *


Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding in 1981, all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motorbike.

In a London hospital, temporarily unable to speak, she uses her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never seen, people from another time - a castle, a man in medieval armour. And a woman’s face.

Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.

So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, one that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord and passed down to the noble Dieudonné family, a clan honored and burdened with the task of protecting England’s dangerous northern border in the fourteenth century. Jesse holds the key to the castle’s many secrets and its connection to the mystical legend of the Lady of the Forest.

Somehow Hundredfield, with its history of darkness and light, of bloody battles won and lost, will help Jesse find her true lineage. In a world where the tales of old are just a heartbeat away, there are no accidents. There is only fate.

My Review

Wild Wood is a dual narrative that draws you in from the very beginning and I was entranced by the hulking presence and history of Hundredfield; located on the Scottish borderlands. Jesse is the key to the past and her narrative in the 1980s is read alongside that of Bayard, a male character in the 1300s. I'll readily admit that I didn't want to leave Bayard's chapters at all, and each time I had to leave for one of Jesse's chapters I cried out nooooo in my head. I wanted to stay with this battle-hardened warrior and was desperate to find out what was going to happen to him, his brother Maugris and strange, mute wife.

My interest in Jesse's part of the tale steadily crept up on me and I couldn't wait for the story to meet in the middle so to speak. I love to read novels by authors who believe that the past bleeds into the present, and Posie definitely belongs to this category; as does fellow Australian author Kate Morton, and recently discovered author Kate Riordan.

By the time I finished reading Wild Wood, I felt as though I'd wandered some of the rooms of Hundredfield but was hungry for more. I particularly wanted to know more about the character of Hawise. 

Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to interview Australian author Posie Graeme-Evans below and put all of these questions - and more - to her, so please enjoy!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

Interview with Posie Graeme-Evans

Hi Posie, and thanks for joining me here at Carpe Librum. It’s such a pleasure to host you here today. Having successfully published five books, with your sixth Wild Wood out this month, I think many readers would like to know where you do most of your writing. Do you prefer a chaotic and free-flowing writing environment or a clean desk approach?
Hmmm. Good question, Tracey : ) I used to think I could write anywhere – and, if pushed, probably can, but now I have a real writers office for the very first time in my working life so this is where I like to write. It’s a converted dairy building on a hill, and Andrew (my husband) rebuilt it from being a smelly old shed  - when we first saw the place, 200 chooks were in residence - to a civilized room with windows on all sides and lovely views. It’s my book-doona. Doesn’t mean it’s tidy all the time, though! I have periodic frenzies where I chuck everything out, clean everything beautifully, then go through the rubbish because I’ve lost all my notes!

Posie's writing desk; where the magic happens

Posie's office (above) is a converted dairy

Can you tell us about the research you undertook to write Wild Wood? What is some of the more unusual resource material you've consulted in your writing career?
I research by walking the story-ground. I think long training in making TV drama has taught me that – pictures first, words second (yes, odd for a writer.) So, that generally means physically going to where I think the story, as it develops, is set. I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like (going to the UK where my books seem, mostly, to be set is expensive!) but, hand on heart, it makes such a big difference to just stand there and look, and smell and feel and… be. As a writer, I think the stories find me, not the other way around…

Also, because my novels are set in the past, a roll-call of eccentric and unusual buildings I’ve stayed in on the research trail ticks the box marked “unusual resource material”. 

Monkton Old Hall Pembroke - a priory guesthouse 
run by the Benedictines for pilgrims on the way to 
the shrine of St David. Haunted! Believe me!
Try a haunted Priory Guesthouse – C11th Monkton Old Hall in Pembroke (and yes, I, personally know it’s haunted.) Or, a fortified tower house in the Scottish Borders for Wild Wood; the Castle of Park taught me all about right-handed spiral stone staircases, for instance. Right-handed? Yep. Built so that a right-handed man with a sword in his hand had room to swing the blade as he descended on his assailants coming up (and who therefore had no fighting room). 

Then there’s the Bath Tower at Caernarfon Castle on the Menai Straits in Wales. Another ancient place, C12th this time, but I slept in a crenelated bedroom at the top of the tower with arrow loops set in the 2m thick walls. And why is it called the “Bath Tower”? Apparently because there were public baths for the soldiers in the basement – a “stew” in the terms of those days (medieval people often went to public baths) – and it was also a place where the women who followed the garrison and the castle workmen plied their trade. The neighbours wouldn’t have liked that!

What was the hardest part of writing Wild Wood?
Having faith I could blend a legendary character into ancient & current events and amongst people who needed to feel real. And, writing half the book in the first person voice of a C14th warrior! That was tough, and fascinating. I hope some of my male readers will let me know if I’ve got there : )

Hawise is a very minor character in Wild Wood who has a very brief scene just over halfway through the novel and I’m desperate to know more about her. What can you tell us? 
Ah… I loved Hawise as soon as she turned up; in fact, you could build a whole story around her I think. She came to me out of that ancient tradition of wise-women who need to live apart from town-dwellers because they’re so different to “normal” people (who often fear them as a result.) I think, though, that Hawise had managed to pass for “normal”, sort-of, for years and years and years, except there’s that tricky little aspect to her that she does not appear to age. And, the way she’s written, she could indeed just be a bit of an outsider and nothing more. BUT, I really think she serves the Lady of the Forest and always has. There. Said enough : ) 

I'd love to read an entire book about Hawise! I’ve noticed in many photographs and interviews that you’re quite fond of wearing scarves and pashminas. I love scarves too, and as a book lover I’m always on the lookout for scarves with text as part of the pattern/design. I was wondering if you collect them, and if you have a particular favourite?
Author Posie Graeme-Evans in her office
You’re right about the scarves, Tracey! Don’t consciously collect them, however they have built up rather over the years – and they tend to mirror my mood, or I’ve bought them at a significant time. For instance, the one I’m wearing in the picture (above) taken in my office today bought in a tiny shop in Lyndoch in SA when we had actually – and at last! – rolled production on “McLeods”. I think it’s quite refreshingly nutty  and it was my present to myself after keeping the faith for 8 years as the network debated if the series would, or would not go ahead. 

Given your great success in Australian TV (McLeods Daughters and Hi-5, just to name two), what’s your first love now do you think, writing and books or television?
Aaargh! Chose between two children? Hard to do…
I had thought, after McLeods finished, that I just wanted to write full time; before, books had always come second to TV and fitted into the cracks and downtime of my production life. But, last year as I was finishing Wild Wood, I had an idea for a series and it began to badger me. Just one of those things. And now I’m developing it to shoot in New Zealand. 

It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before (and I can’t tell you what it is!) but if we get through this current phase of script development (and its not called “Development Hell” for nothing) we might just have a fighting chance of getting into production. Or not. Never can tell with TV – it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there’s never, ever any guarantee of success. 

What’s your secret reading pleasure?
I like reading fact more than fiction : )

I’m happiest when…? 
There’s a storm outside, the fire is lighted in the dairy, I’ve got fresh coffee and a cat or two on the chair or the couch and… I’m writing! On second thought, me and Andrew in a warm car driving through a snow storm on a road we’ve never seen before. Preferably in Scotland.

My beverage of choice is…?
In winter? A big and bloody red wine in front of a fire at night. Ah, but summer…. A  crisp Prosecco does me, outside on the deck, looking at the view as the light fades

Do you have a favourite bookshop in Tasmania? If so, what makes it special? 
Genuinely hard to pick favourites because there are a few I love here. Fullers, in Hobart, is lovely. It’s a genuine ‘temple of the book’ with a charming café too. And the State Theatre bookshop, in North Hobart is lovely as well – and there’s a great café next door! (yes, but really: buy a book, have a coffee; they’re inseparable for me : ) But then, I can’t ignore the Hobart Bookshop in the square behind Salamanca Place – amongst the galleries and the, yes, cafes. And, our local Dymocks right in the centre of town. They’ve always been such wonderful supporters of my books and really, really know their stock so well… Please don’t make me choose : )
Posie is enjoying 
The Edge of the World 
by Michael Pye 
this month

What are you reading at the moment? (Do you prefer paper copies, e-books or combination of both?) 
E-books when I’m travelling, but paper everywhere else. And, at the moment, reading a great, great book called, The Edge of the World – How the North Sea Made Us What We Are by Michael Pye. Just gorgeous, in every way. And beside The Edge of the World is just a stack of other books. A yummy, yummy prospect.

What's next? Is it true there’s going to be a sequel to Wild Wood? I really hope so, but what can you tell us? 
A sequel to Wild Wood? Blimey. Hadn’t really though of that but… will now : )
Meanwhile I’ve begun writing The Outer Sea, that will be set in Wales, or Cornwall or Ireland (that’s why we stayed at Monkton Old Hall this January just past.) Too early to talk about it though. I’m superstitious!

Anything else you'd like to add?  
Just my thanks to you, Tracey. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. Stimulating!!

Thanks so much Posie, I really appreciate your time and wish you continued success. I’ll be looking forward to The Outer Sea
I’m delighted and thrilled to feel so supported, Tracey : ) 

18 March 2015

Review: The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen King book cover
The Shining by Stephen King hardly needs an introduction at all. Most readers have either read the book, seen the movie or at least know the premise behind this thriller from the storytelling master of the page, Stephen King.

Being such a fan of Stephen King's works, I thought it was about time I read his 1977 classic and I wasn't disappointed. I won't bother re-hashing the well-known plot, except to say that young Danny and the chef-come-mentor Hallorann were my favourite characters.

The decline of Danny's father in the Overlook Hotel was convincing and creepy, although my favourite scene from the movie - where it is revealed that instead of writing his play, Jack has been writing the phrase 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy' over and over again on his typewriter - is not in the original novel. 

Reading The Shining has renewed my interest in the movie and I hope to watch it again soon. I have a copy of the sequel released in 2013, Doctor Sleep and look forward to finding out what became of Danny and his psychic gifts or the ability to shine.

So, have you read The Shining, and/or watched Stanley Kubrick's movie The Shining? Which did you prefer?

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

N.B. This book counts towards my participation in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2015.
10 March 2015

Review: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan

Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan book cover
Ajax Penumbra 1969 is the prequel to Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan; a book I instantly fell in love with in 2012 and gave five stars to in my review.

In this novella, we find out how Ajax Penumbra came to discover the 24 hour bookstore in San Francisco and become employed there.

Having such love for Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, I had high hopes for Ajax Penumbra 1969 and was desperately looking forward to reading Mr Penumbra's back story so to speak.

I did get the back story, but admittedly I was left wanting more. Sloan takes us up to the point where Mr Penumbra is working at the book store, but not when he learns about the real purpose of the store.

Instead of leaving me satisfied, I finished this novella desiring more. Mr Penumbra's work as an Apprentice Acquisitions Officer at Galvanic College Library was absolutely fascinating, and I'd happily read an entire novel about his work there and the work done by colleagues before him.  Here's why.
"Armitage explains that Galvanic's library contains more one-of-a-kind, untranslatable, and/or inexplicable volumes than any other collection on earth. In the second session, he sends you down into the stacks. There are books made from silver and bone. There are books with blood on their pages, figuratively and literally. There are books made of feathers; books cloaked in jade; books that ring like bells when you pull them off the shelf; books that glow in the dark." Page 13
What a library! And Ajax Penumbra is an Apprentice Acquisitions Officer here, tasked with tracking down rare books, sometimes taking years to locate a single tome. It was during the pursuit of a rare book that Mr Penumbra discovered the 24 hour bookstore and in many ways, this was an even more interesting premise than that behind Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

I have to know more, argh!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
05 March 2015

Interview with Michael Schmicker, author of The Witch of Napoli

Thanks for joining me at Carpe Librum Michael as part of your blog tour with HFVBT. I’d like to start our interview by asking when your personal interest in Italian Spiritualist medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918) first began? (For those who don’t know, Palladino is the inspiration behind the main character in The Witch of Napoli).
Author Michael Schmicker

We first met in a library. I was researching the scientific evidence for psychokinesis (the ability of the mind to move or affect objects – to levitate a table, for instance), and stumbled across the famous “Feilding Report.” It describes a series of sittings England’s Society for Psychical Research (SPR) conducted with Palladino in Naples in 1908. Palladino was in her mid-fifties, and had been sparring with skeptical scientists for two decades. She had been caught cheating multiple times, yet she also produced some of her most amazing psychokinetic feats under extremely strict scientific controls. The SPR had declared her a fraud; continental scientists disagreed. They forced the SPR to give her one last chance to demonstrate her psychokinetic powers. She won that dramatic showdown, thumbing her nose one last time at skeptics.
Eusapia Palladino

Eusapia knocked me off my feet. The Italians say when you fall hard for a woman at first sight, you’re struck by a colpo di fulmine – a lightning bolt. She was fiery-tempered, amorous, vulgar, confident – in a Victorian age where respectable women were insipid saints on a pedestal, stunted socially, sexually, intellectually, economically. She allowed strange men to sit with her in a darkened room holding her hands and knees (“proper” women would have fainted, or thrown themselves off a precipice if caught in that situation). She flirted and teased her male sitters, argued loudly, slapped an aristocrat who insulted her country, flew at men who accused her of cheating (even when she did). Yet she was also extremely kind and generous to anyone in trouble, loved animals, gave to beggars. Her heart was large. I thought she’d make a hell of a heroine for a novel – and a Hollywood movie. I’ve finally got the novel done. Next up, getting in the door at 20th Century Fox. A guy can dream, right?

What can you tell me about the title for The Witch of Napoli, because she wasn’t really a witch was she?
The real-life Eusapia wasn’t a witch. She didn’t cast spells, mix potions, or put curses on people. She was simply a medium – a woman who talks to the dead (perhaps). But she could also levitate tables, make objects fly through the air, and perform other spooky feats Christianity associates with devils and witches, so the title works. It took me a while to come up with it. I started with “Séance” – it’s short, and easy to remember, but it’s a bit tricky to spell when you’re typing a search in Amazon books. So I changed the title to “Queen of Spirits” – “queen” is a popular title word in the historical fiction genre, especially with older female readers. But several friends argued the word “spirits” suggested alcohol – was it the biography of a celebrated mixologist? I caved in and finally came up with “The Witch of Naples” – the word “witch” has cachet, especially with younger female readers. Then someone reminded me there’s a Naples, Florida too. So to distinguish the two, and keep the title which I loved, I opted for a little Continental flair, spelling the city like the Italians do. Ecco! as the Italians say: There you have it.

I read that your interest in the paranormal began when you were in Thailand working as a Peace Corps Volunteer; did you see something there that made you a believer?
I was open-minded about the paranormal before I got there. Heretical hypotheses about the nature of reality don’t frighten me – I majored in philosophy in college, taking mind-stretching courses like epistemology (what is truth?) and ontology (what is reality?). In ontology class my freshman year, the professor read us a wonderful poem called Chuang Tzu and the Butterfly written by the well-known Chinese poet Li Po. In it, Chuang Tzu falls asleep and dreams he is a butterfly. When he awakes, he asks himself the question, “Am I a man who dreamed I was a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly dreaming I am a man?” Think about it for a minute. How do you scientifically prove you’re not the latter?

After college I became a journalist (Microsoft and Colgate-Palmolive aren’t looking to hire Aristotles). I knew how to ask questions and write clearly, and worked as a crime reporter for a year before joining Peace Corps in 1969. I taught English at a Buddhist monastery school in Bangkok, and moonlighted after hours for the Bangkok World newspaper, slipping up to Laos and Cambodia on weekends to cover the Vietnam war and penning feature stories for the Sunday magazine.

One week, I decided to interview a famous Thai fortune-teller, Khun Mae. She turned out to be a warm, friendly lady in her 70s. Khun Mae dressed old style – the way Thai women did before Western culture redefined beauty. She sat bare-breasted on the linoleum floor, her shriveled boobs resting on her kneecaps, her skirt tucked between her legs, her grey hair cut butch like a man’s. The few teeth left in her mouth were black from chewing betel nut, and she spit the juice into an empty condensed milk can clutched in her gnarled hand. I remember she had this wonderful laugh. Her father had served as a court astrologer to Siamese royalty in his day, and he had passed on his occult knowledge to her. After we exchanged a traditional wai greeting, and I sat down on the linoleum floor beside her, Khun Mae asked me my birthdate (Feb 26), my day of birth (Friday), my time of birth (not sure), and added 543 years to my life (Thailand doesn’t use Anno Domini; in their calendar, Buddha’s birth marks year one). Then she pulled out a little grey school slate and started chalking down Thai numbers and odd symbols. When she finished, she blew my mind with a series of remarkably accurate statements about my life before Thailand, and what would happen in the future. Somewhere in a trunk, I still have a copy of the notes I made that day.

What an amazing experience! I also read that you've never seen a ghost yourself but have you witnessed or experienced any other paranormal phenomenon? 
Khun Mae was my most dramatic personal brush with the “paranormal,” though I frequently experience a lot of Jungian synchronicity in my life. 

What compels you to investigate the paranormal?Journalistic curiosity. Besides, it’s a lot of fun! Whenever people find out I write about the paranormal, they pull me aside and whisper, sotto voce, “I’ve never told anyone this before, but....” then proceed to tell me about seeing their grandmother’s ghost, or experiencing a chilling premonition that came true, or recalling the time a dowser with a forked stick found water on their neighbor’s farm. When they’re finished, they add, “But please don’t tell anybody what I told you.” That’s sad. Why are we so ashamed to share these stories? These puzzling phenomena continue to be seen, felt, experienced and reported by people of all ages, races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds; in every country on earth; often in forms and manifestations unchanged since mankind started recording them four thousand years ago. Ridicule doesn’t make them disappear; education doesn’t make them disappear; the immense technological achievements and intellectual prestige of modern science cannot eradicate belief in them. Perhaps it’s time we seriously, open-mindedly examine the best evidence for these “impossible” phenomena.

We seem to have more and more books and TV shows based on paranormal and supernatural themes, and running parallel to that are significant leaps in scientific discovery. As a published and experienced investigative journalist in the field, what trends do you see in terms of people believing in the paranormal?Reputable pollsters like Gallup have found that the majority of the American public accepts the reality of one or more paranormal phenomena. I’m not sure what Aussie polls show, but I think acceptance will increase as 21st century science slowly extricates itself from its mental cage of 19th century philosophical materialism. The implications of quantum physics are astonishing in terms of what it suggests about the true nature of “reality.” The impossible suddenly becomes possible – even probable.

Do you prefer to buy your books online, from a physical bookshop or borrow them from a library?
Andy Carpenter designed
this book cover for
Michael Schmicker

A bookstore, if I can find one. I love cover art, and hate squinting at a 2-inch jpeg on Amazon. At a bookstore, you can pull a paperback off the shelf, plop down in a chair with a cup of coffee, and admire the art full-size. Writers sometimes get so caught up in their prose that they forget buyers do judge a book by its cover. The book-reading experience starts with art, not words. Andy Carpenter in New York City did The Witch of Napoli. He's done covers for a half-dozen New York Times best-sellers, including Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit, Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, Caleb Carr's The Alienist, and even art directed LL Cool J's Platinum Workout. He was worth every penny. 

When you have time to read for pleasure, what are some of your favourite books/authors?
One of Michael's
favourite books
I’m a product of my education and era, so my reading leans more classic than contemporary – Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Washington Irving, George Orwell, Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Ray Bradbury, H.L. Mencken, E.B. White, David McCullough...I read a ton of non-fiction, particularly history. Historical fiction? Two favorites which pop to mind are Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, because it’s so intellectually rich; and George Orwell's Burmese Days, because I spent five formative years of my life in Southeast Asia. A close third would be Autumn of the Patriarch, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I wish I had his talent.

What is your secret indulgence?Dark chocolate, 72% cacao – though it’s hardly a secret. My wife and son know I’m addicted.

What's next? What are you working on at the moment?I may follow up The Witch of Napoli with a small Kindle companion book called The Real Witch of Napoli. Many readers have emailed me wanting to know more about Eusapia Palladino, and what was fact vs. fiction in the novel. The short biography might also include a quick summary of the scientific evidence for psychokinesis. But first I have to make sure the Witch flies off the shelves. We’re planning a fun, séance-themed book party in New York in May.

Anything else you'd like to add?Two things, Tracey. First and foremost, my sincere thanks to you for giving me the opportunity to talk with your readers. Bloggers and reviewers like yourself make it possible for new writers to find their audience. Without your help, books die. 

Second, where can I find an outfitter for my dream adventure Down Under – driving a Land Rover across the outback from Alice Springs to Kalgoorlie? I’m serious.

Thanks for your time and kind words Michael. If anyone reading this interview can help Michael with his outback trip, please comment below. Thanks!
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 *

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.