Monday, May 15, 2017

THE HIDDEN THREAD by Liz Trenow (Review & Giveaway)


Published by Sourcebooks, May 1st 2017
Trade Paperback, ISBN: 9781492637516
Historical Fiction


The Hidden Thread is a breathtaking novel about the intricate craft of silk and the heartbreak of forbidden love.

When Anna Butterfield's mother dies, she's sent to live with her uncle, a silk merchant in London, to make a good match and provide for her father and sister. There, she meets Henri, a French immigrant and apprentice hoping to become a master weaver. But Henri, born into a lower class, becomes embroiled in the silk riots that break out as weavers protest for a fair wage.

New York Times bestselling author Liz Trenow weaves a luminous tale of class struggle and star-crossed love.


I found the approach of the book to be compelling and comprehensive: the narrative scope of the book transcends the romantic angle of a star-crossed love between two characters (Anna and Henri) born into different classes and divided by several degrees of financial resources and social power. With a lovely narrative blend of facts and fiction, Trenow ushers the readers into a broader context of class and gender prejudice loosely based on the historical setting of the 1760s Spitalfields silk riots and inspired to the real life of silk designer Anna Maria Garthwaite. Resounding with echoes of the “social novel” made popular by Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, and Victor Hugo, to name a few, Trenow’s dramatization of real characters and events is rooted in history, but  like on the warp threads of Henri Vendôme’s loom, the author interweaves her own threads of colorful silk and adds the whimsical touch of her imaginative speculation.



Buy Links


Liz Trenow is a former BBC and newspaper journalist, now working freelance. She is also the author of The Last Telegram. Liz Trenow's family have been silk weavers for nearly three hundred years, and the company is one of only three still operating in the UK today, weaving for top-end fashion houses and royal commissions.
It is this remarkable silk heritage that has inspired many of Liz's four novels, including the most recent The Hidden Thread.

Connect with Liz: Website | Twitter | Facebook


The Publisher is offering 3 finished copies of The Hidden Thread. The giveaway is open to  US residents  only. Follow the Rafflecopter link for a chance to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 6, 2017

MYSTERY AT MANATEE KEY by Nancy Stewart (Book Blast)

We welcome Nancy Stewart's MYSTERY AT MANATEE KEY Book Blast today!

Author: Nancy Stewart
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
Pages: 36
Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Bella and Britt love to explore along the beach and at more remote places like Manatee Key as well.  It is there that they discover a manatee smuggling ring. 

The manatees have already been netted, so the girls must act fast!  But a kidnapper snatches Bella, hustling her into their hideout.  When Britt sneaks a look in the window, she discovers that the ranger is being held, too.  Now it’s up to Britt.  But what can a single girl do?

Mystery at Manatee Key is available at Amazon


Book Excerpt:
A dark animal circled slowly in the shallow water of Manatee Key. Walking closer, Bella whispered. “A baby manatee. And it has a patch of white near its snout.” Britt frowned. “But where’s the mother? It must be hungry. We should tell the ranger.”
“Yeah,” Bella said. “This one’s too young to be without her mom. Let’s go.”
The friends worked their way through the jungle-like brush back to their bicycles. Britt took the lead. “It’s really hot, but we gotta make time.” 
After a twenty minute ride down dusty paths leading to the main road in their coastal town, they reached the ranger station. “It’s quiet in here today,” Bella said.
 The ranger’s assistant glanced up from his reading. “Hi, girls. Can I help you?”
“We need to see the ranger and report an orphaned manatee,” Bella said.
He frowned. “She hasn’t come in today, and that’s not like her. I’ve called her phones. Nobody answered. And no one’s seen her. Have you by any chance?”
“No,” they answered at the same time.
 “Well, it’s a mystery,” he said. “I won’t call the police yet. But I’m getting worried. Now, about that manatee. Can you take me to it?”
 “Sure,” Britt said. “If you can bring us back to town. We rode our bikes here.” He nodded. “Of course.”

Nancy Stewart has been an elementary school teacher and a professor of education.  Having lived in London for ten years, she was a consultant to the University of Cambridge. She is the author of the Bella and Britt series picture books and the authorized biography of Katrina Simpkins, a young girl whose life was forever changed by Winter, the dolphin (Guardian Angel Publishing.)  Her writing of One Pelican at a Time was featured on the PBS special, GulfWatch in 2011.  Nancy’s YA-LGBT novel will be published by Interlude Press autumn of 2017.  She is a member of the Rate Your Story organization as a critique judge.



About the Author

Nancy Stewart has been an elementary school teacher and a professor of education.  Having lived in London for ten years, she was a consultant to the University of Cambridge. She is the author of the Bella and Britt series picture books and the authorized biography of Katrina Simpkins, a young girl whose life was forever changed by Winter, the dolphin (Guardian Angel Publishing.)  Her writing of One Pelican at a Time was featured on the PBS special, GulfWatch in 2011.  Nancy’s YA-LGBT novel will be published by Interlude Press autumn of 2017.  She is a member of the Rate Your Story organization as a critique judge.



Friday, February 10, 2017

LOVE...BY THE BOOK: Valentine's Day Book Picks

In her "intuitive's guide to finding and keeping love", I See Your Soul Mate (St.  Martin's Press, 2012, Amazon), life coach Sue Frederick claims that there are no outside circumstances that can keep us from finding true love: love is the energy we swim in, the fabric of our divine universe, the very essence of our DNA. "Heartbreak and loneliness occur not because of what anyone else has done to you, not because you're unattractive, and not because there aren't enough single people your age," says Frederick, "only YOU stand in your way." We experience pain and loneliness when we forget our life mission and stop embracing the person we came here to be. It's when we walk on the life path we were meant for that our chances to find true love enhance dramatically, and the best way to cross paths with The Right One is reclaiming our True Self.

Whether your approach to love and life is a fatalistic one (my 'other half' is somewhere out there and if I can't find  him/her I'll be doomed to eternal unhappiness), or you believe in your ability to control your life and to find happiness in yourself rather than in that one person the universe has supposedly intended  for you (because nobody can 'complete' us but ourselves; there is a multiplicity of people and experiences that can help us achieve that inner wholeness and chances are one of them will suit us and our life circumstances better than anyone or anything else), this time of the year inevitably turns into a wake-up call, nudging us to wonder if, when, where, and how we can attract fulfilling love relationships back in our lives.

Harper Collins is offering a few ebook deals for this Valentine's Day week, in the self-help, relationship guide category. Grab these offers before they expire: they may help you turn your love life around and certainly won't hurt your wallet.

Here they are:

The Soulmate Secret will show you how to take control of your romantic  destiny by using the Law of Attraction. Finding true love is possible for anyone at any age if you are willing to prepare yourself, on all levels, to become a magnet for love. Arielle Ford knows this from experience. She used the techniques in this book to bring her soul mate into her life at age forty-four. They were engaged three weeks later.

"This wonderful Universe of ours  is set up to deliver to us people and experiences that are consistent with our personal belief systems. If you don't believe you will ever find "The One", then guess what? You get to be probably won't. If, however, you learn to believe that The One is not only out there but is also looking for you, then you open the door for true love to enter."

"Every moment of every day, we are sending out energetic signals that are felt by the people around us. This explains why a desperate person draws to himself or herself more desperation, while a person who is already fulfilled becomes a magnet for greater fulfillment. If we want to attract life partners who are happy, passionate, and empowered, we must first seek to generate this feelings within ourselves."

Are you intrigued yet?  The e-book is available for only $ 1.99.


Love. We want it. We need it. We pay it homage with songs and poems and great works of art. And when we lose it, there's no pain as intense or excruciating. As the editor of a column about love for the New York Times, Daniel Jones reads thousands of stories about people's intimate relationships. In Love Illuminated, he teases apart this mystifying emotion that thrills, crushes, and sustains—with the help of 50,000 strangers.

Here's a little teaser for you:

"Relationships challenge everyone, but why does desire drive some to benevolence and others to corrosive megalomania? [...] In love, as in life, it’s the questions that count. After all, love is about curiosity, not certainty. It’s about tossing oneself overboard into the wild seas, not remaining safely on deck. So slip into your wet suit and mask and oxygen tank, and take my hand. Oh, and grab a pair of those rubber nose plugs to keep the salt water from shooting up your nostrils on impact. It’s a big drop, and we’re going in."

You can purchase the Kindle edition for $ 1.99.

Love always,

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pointy Hats and Magic Spells: A Mina's Bookshelf Halloween Treat

Quite a few of us will be parading down the streets with flowing black robes and wide-brimmed black hats this coming Halloween, but do we even know where the stereotype of the pointy-hatted crone comes from? How did the simple garment become a social code for witchcraft?  While the disconcerting truth about the association of brooms and witches is now validated by all sorts of researches (and hardly leaves any room for guessing), the origin of the conic shaped hat as one of the key identifiers of a sorceress is still dubious and open to interpretation.
The visual representation of witches wearing tapering caps is peculiar to American and Western European (specifically British Isles) folklore. There is no depiction of witches wearing funnel-shaped caps in either medieval icons or 16th century woodcuts: the first often showed them naked and bare-headed, the latter portrayed them outfitted in common bonnets and scarves. We have to wait until the 1700s when traditional street songs, postcards, and chapbooks from England and Colonial America introduced the pointed hat as the evocative mark of black magic and spell casting.
The stereotype caught on and the Victorian era, with its popular collections of myths, legends, and ghost stories, fueled the association of crowned headgears and evil. The reason? There might be a few, more or less plausible. According to legends, witches in Medieval England were forced to wear  Church-steeple-shaped caps there were supposed to invoke God's grace. Equally weak is the theory maintaining that pointed hats were the visual representation of the Cone of Power used by witches during pagan rituals.
(Mrs Salesbury with her Grandchildren Edward and Elizabeth Bagot, c. 1676, by John Michael Wright)
Much more probable are the explanations offered by Gary Jensen in his The Path Of The Devil: Early Modern Witch Hunts. Jensen claims that the witches' pointy hats were modeled on the Jewish horned skullcaps already in use during the Middle Ages as a way of stigmatizing first-time sorcery offenders in public. The hat controversy was also connected to the 17th and 18th century growing popularity of the Quaker religious movement in England and American Colonies. It doesn't surprise that both groups (Jews and Quakers) were marginalized and frequently charged with religious blasphemy from the beginning of their rise. They represented a social, political, and economic challenge to the Puritan order—and what better way to eradicate enemies of the establishment than demonizing them and associating them with heresy and witchcraft? The fact that there were several women among the early Quaker ministers just helped the Church of England's campaign of religious persecution.
On a lighter and much sweeter note, 'Witches Hats' make 'spook-tacular' Halloween treats. Try them with Hershey Kisses or ice cream cones (filled either with chocolate mousse or M&Ms),  on an upside down fudge striped cookie, a cup cake, or an Oreo cookie. Deliciously creepy and so easy to prepare: no baking required. Happy Halloween!

Monday, June 20, 2016

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman (A Review)

My Review

"Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good."

It's official. I have developed a 'literary crush' on Neil Gaiman. He had me at Coraline. After reading The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, I am spellbound for eternity. He is a wizard storyteller and, like in The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, I follow at his heels to the sound of his voice, mesmerized by the lyrical quality of his effortless prose, entranced by the intimate perspective and mournful tones of a bookish and nameless seven-year-old narrator.

In occasion of a funeral service, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood hometown in Sussex. Nothing in the English countryside looks like he remembered—his old house long gone. But as he drives down the narrow lane that connects his childhood home to a farmhouse at the end of the road, faded memories come back to him: an unlikely family of three kind women (the eleven-year-old Lettie, her mother Ginnie, and her grandmother Old Mrs. Hempstock) living on that farm, the duck pond his 'strange' friend Lettie claimed was an ocean that stretched from forever to forever and yet small enough to fit in a bucket, and the bizarre and incomprehensible events that unfolded forty years earlier on the edge of that land "where the barriers between life and death were thin".

Part dark fairytale, part myth, Gaiman's narrative texture appeals to our primal self, our unstructured and buried 'child soul'. His highly imaginative tale is a powerful and moving metaphor of the distance existing between two different dimensions, two separate worlds: childhood and adulthood. Self-absorbed and distracted, grown-ups are deaf to their children's fears and insecurities, oblivious to the undeniable fact that while outside they are big, powerful and thoughtless, "inside they are really children wrapped in adult bodies, like children's books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations."
As in Coraline, Gaiman's popular fantasy novella published in 2002 and adapted into a stop-motion picture (Focus Features 2009), in The Ocean At The End Of The Lane adults seem to be, once again, unhelpful and clueless, blind to the hidden and true essence of reality, completely unable to empathize with their kids' uneasiness and struggles. "Adults follow paths. Children explore", our nameless young narrator (Gaiman's alter-ego or Everyman of a morality play, intentionally devoid, by the author, of any mark of individuality) acutely observes. While choosing to never step off the beaten path, grown-ups miss all the patterns, the gates, and the backways hiding beyond the real. To a child's heart, instead, with its refined sensitivity and innate curiosity, this big and complicated world becomes simple and easy to grasp,  enjoyable in its small joys even when greater things crumble down.

Of those 'greater things', hidden and sinister truths, our protagonist will become fully aware under the wise guidance and selfless protection of the Hampstock women, wonderful and timeless creatures, Maiden, Mother, and Crone (triple deity common to several pagan traditions), archetype of maternal warmth and symbol of an ancient matriarchal society.

My verdict: brilliant and enchanting, an absolute gem. My rating: 5 stars plus the moon and the ocean.
About the book

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Coming of Age
Format: Ebook/Paperback/Hardcover/Audio

UK National Book Awards 2013 “Book of the Year”
“Fantasy of the very best.”— Wall Street Journal

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.
“[Gaiman’s] mind is a dark fathomless ocean, and every time I sink into it, this world fades, replaced by one far more terrible and beautiful in which I will happily drown.” —New York Times Book Review

About the author

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College. Visit his website at
Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr
Tour Schedule

Tuesday, June 21 – Book reviewed at Stormy Nights Reviewing and Bloggin’
Book reviewed at Mina’s Bookshelf
Book reviewed at Leigh Anderson Romance
Wednesday, June 22 – Book reviewed at The Mystery Tavern
Thursday, June 23 – Book reviewed at Books for Books
Friday, June 24 – Book reviewed at AMD on Software
Monday, June 27 – Book reviewed at The Reading Queen
Tuesday, June 28 – Book reviewed at Doing Some Reading
Thursday, June 30 – Book reviewed at Comfy Reading
Friday, July 1 – Book reviewed at Shannon’s Book Blog
Book reviewed at Her Book Thoughts
Monday, July 4 – Book reviewed at I’m Shelf-ish
Tuesday, July 5 – Book reviewed at Chapter by Chapter
Wednesday, July 6 – Book reviewed at Reading Reality
Thursday, July 7 – Book reviewed at Latte Night Reviews
Monday, July 11 – Book reviewed at Torre de Babel
Tuesday, July 12 – Book reviewed at I Can Has Books
Book reviewed at The Book Bag
Book reviewed at Whispering Stories
Wednesday, July 13 – Book reviewed at Queen of All She Reads
Thursday, July 14 – Book reviewed at Rhi Reading
Friday, July 15 – Book reviewed at Blooming With Books
Monday, July 18 – Book reviewed at Southeast by Midwest
Tuesday, July 19 – Book reviewed at Svetlana Reads
Wednesday, July 20 – Book reviewed at Bound 4 Escape
Thursday, July 21 – Book reviewed at 100 Pages a Day
Friday, July 22 – Book reviewed at Natural Bri
Book reviewed at Bound 4 Escape
Saturday, July 23 – Book reviewed at Becky on Books
Monday, July 25 – Book reviewed at Book Bite Reviews
Thursday, July 28 – Book reviewed at Deal Sharing Aunt
Friday, July 29 – Book reviewed at I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Book reviewed at WTF Are You Reading
Saturday, July 30 – Book reviewed at Worth Getting in Bed For
Book reviewed at Chicks with Books
Book reviewed at Live Love Books Blog
Sunday, July 31 – Book reviewed at Cover 2 Cover
Book reviewed at Reads and Reviews
Book reviewed at Toot’s Book Reviews
Book reviewed at Books Are Love
Book reviewed at Chosen By You Book Club