My interview over at The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively is HERE

Purchase my book Images of America: Detroit Lakes HERE

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My First Blogger Award!!

Thank you to Every Last Page for picking me to receive this award!!
If you have received this award:

1.Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award
2.Share 7 things about yourself
3.Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic.
4.Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award. 
Seven things about me:
1. I use to work as a Land Surveyor Technician
2. Now I am a Legal Administrative Assistant
3. I have two cats: Jack O'Neil and Mimi LaRue
4. I love camping and fishing
5. I am a Dallas Cowboy fan
6. I love to cook
7. My favorite movie/book is Wizard of Oz

Here are the 15 blogs I've discovered:
11. Bites

Friday, July 30, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway: Mitchell James Kaplan

This week I was able to interview Mitchell James Kaplan, author of By Fire, By Water (my review). If you haven't had a chance to read this great book or if it looks interesting please read the interview and comment below and you could win my own personal copy! Contest will start today and end on August 6th. See my contest rules here. The winner will be announced shortly after. And without further ado, here is my interview with Mr. Kaplan!

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

That's a very big question, so with your indulgence I'll narrow it. Since adolescence, I've always felt I was an "artist"-a person who would never be able to hold a regular job for very long because there were issues to explore and express that seemed more important than merely making a living. It is an affliction. Not just for me, of course. There are so many people out there who are crippled in this way. That's why I have respect for every writer, every musician or painter or sculptor. I identify with them and their struggle. That's also why I don't believe in the concept of literary criticism, except as a necessary means of promotion of works of literature. Every work of art is valid if it is sincere.

By Fire, By Water2. Can you tell us about By Fire, By Water and why you wrote it?

I wrote it for two reasons, one historical and one philosophical. In terms of history, I wanted to put Christopher Columbus's first voyage of discovery in its context. The period is so rich, so meaningful, and yet his voyage is taught in such a shallow, superficial way, as if it were an isolated event. It seemed to me Columbus was sailing away from a world that was destroying itself, toward hope for a better world. I am not only talking about his personal motivation, but about what his voyage meant and still means.

Philosophically, I wanted to show that even people with good intentions can become enemies and do great harm. Sometimes, perhaps often, people who hurt other people are not driven by hatred or envy, but by misguided love.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges you face writing By Fire, By Water?

Oh, there were many challenges. Sometimes you'll write something effective, but then you realize the focus is off. You've focused on the wrong character or set of events, and you have to rewrite the whole passage - maybe three pages, maybe a hundred or more - looking at the scene or scenes from a different angle. Sometimes you have to cut your favorite passages because they don't work in context. When the words are enchanting, it's so hard to erase them! Sometimes you have to reorganize scenes to ensure the structure is as effective as possible. Then you have to check for consistency, proper sequence of events, character development...The book was always in flux, I was constantly adjusting, cutting, rearranging. Trying to hold all the details in my mind and make sure the dots connected on the page. I described the process as "struggling with a bear."

4. Who was the hardest character to write?

My protagonist, Luis de Stantangel, was the most difficult character to write because he is quite complex and he changes over the course of the story. In fact, the heart of the story, for me, is how and why he changes. Other characters like Columbus, Isabella, Torquemada, Pedro Gutierrez, Medina Celi came easily to me. They just flowed out of my pen, as it were.

5. What was your favorite part of the writing process?

The point at which things finally started to gel. I started to have the feeling that I had represented a real world, that my characters were real people who were speaking through me, rather than my creations.

6. What is coming up next for you?

I'm working on a book about early proto-Christianity and early modern Judaism. How and why did these two sibling faiths (in fact, originally two sects of one faith) start to see each other as enemies in the first century? Another period full of love, struggle, faith, and violence...

To learn more about Mitchell James Kaplan please visit his website:
He can also be found on Twitter!

Since this was my very first interview I am going give one lucky person my copy of By Fire, By Water Contest ends August 6th!
To be entered please leave a comment below! 
Remember to leave your email address or if you don't feel comfortable doing that, please email me with CONTEST in the subject line. US residents only. Thanks.

For extra entries, please do the following:
+1 for being a blog follower
+1 for tweeting it (leave link)
+1 adding contest to your blog (leave link)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: July 30-August 2

Book Blogger Hop

Its time again for Book Blogger Hop!! So hop on over to Crazy-for-Books, sign the linky, and grab the logo!!

Jen's questions this week is: What is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?

This was extremely hard (as I am sure it was for everyone) because I have discovered tons of new authors this year. Off the top of my head the books that stuck with me were Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson series) and Michelle Moran (Nefertiti).

Review: By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
Publisher: Other Press; May 18, 2010
Type of Book: Historical Fiction
Subject Matter: Spanish Inquisition
List Price: $15.95 
ISBN-10: 1590513525
By Fire, By Water
From Other Press website:
Luis de Santangel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomas de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend's demise brings the violence close to home, Santangel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands. But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santangel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he'd lost...the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santangel can help him.
Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.

My Review:
Kaplan's purpose in this book was to tell the story about a society destroying itself due to intolerance, prior to the discovery of a New World. To bring this point across, Kaplan uses Luis de Santangel, a converso and royal chancellor of Aragon and Judith Midgal, aunt of Columbus' official translator Luis de Torres. Santangel witnesses first hand the destruction that the Inquisition brings with the death of his brother. Unfortunately he becomes a suspect in the murder of the Chief Inquisitor of Zaragoza. With the King's help he is freed. Judith loses her brother and his wife. Because of this she must learn to support herself and her nephew which is extremely hard for a Jew, especially a woman. During the rise of the Spanish Inquisition, Christopher Columbus continues to petition the crown to fund his exploration of the New World. Santangel is key in this because of his relationship with the King. Kaplan uses these characters to show the strength, perseverance and courage needed to survive such turbulent times.

To accurately depict this time in history, Kaplan studied paintings, medieval books, manuscripts and spoke with specialists. He traveled to Spain and all over Europe. This dedicated research is shown throughout the book. The descriptions of places and people are vivid and real. You feel the love, hate, fear, paranoia, and sadness. It was like an emotional roller coaster that I couldn't get off!!

My Thoughts:
This book has really opened my eyes to the persecution of Jews during the 15th century in Spain. I did not know much about the Inquisition before but now I am eager to learn more. The story moves quickly and you get caught up in it! The devastation that the Inquisition brought to these families is just unbelievable and the methods of torture used is just horrifying! This book is incredibly well written and I cannot wait to see what Kaplan will be publishing next!

My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
This book was compliments of the author. It has in no way influenced my review. My opinions are my own.

For more about Mitchell James Kaplan, please visit his website:

Also be looking for my upcoming interview with Mitchell James Kaplan 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WWW Wednesday (July 28, 2010)

WWW Wednesday is a weekly event hosted Should Be Reading. To play just answer the following:

1. What are your currently reading
2. What did you recently finish reading
3. What do you think you will read next

Evermore: The Immortals

By Fire, By Water
Look for my review to be posted tomorrow!!

FanglandThe Dark: New Ghost Stories
I am debating between the two books. Anyone have a suggestion as to which one??

Waiting on Wednesday: A Secret Kept

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating! To participate sign up here!!

My WoW this week is:

A Secret KeptA Secret Kept
by Tatiana de Rosnay
Publication Date: September 14, 2010

From Amazon: 
This stunning new novel from Tatiana de Rosnay, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Sarah’s Key, plumbs the depths of complex family relationships and the power of a past secret to change everything in the present.
It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood.  Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach.  It had been too long, Antoine thought, since they’d returned to the island—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased.  But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer.  When, on the drive home to Paris, she finally summons the courage to reveal what she knows to Antoine, her emotions overcome her and she loses control of the car.
Recovering from the accident in a nearby hospital, Mélanie tries to recall what caused her to crash.  Antoine encounters an unexpected ally: sexy, streetwise Angèle, a mortician who will teach him new meanings for the words life, love and death.  Suddenly, however, the past comes swinging back at both siblings, burdened with a dark truth about their mother, Clarisse.  
Trapped in the wake of a shocking family secret shrouded by taboo, Antoine must confront his past and also his troubled relationships with his own children.  How well does he really know his mother, his children, even himself?  Suddenly fragile on all fronts as a son, a husband, a brother and a father, Antoine Rey will learn the truth about his family and himself the hard way. By turns thrilling, seductive and destructive, with a lingering effect that is bittersweet and redeeming, A Secret Kept is the story of a modern family, the invisible ties that hold it together, and the impact it has throughout life.

I loved Sarah's Key and hope this is just as good!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Teaser Tuesday (July 27, 2010)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two "teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title and author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!

My Teasers:
Mending Places (The New Heights Series #1)
A door opened down the hall and, moments later, a woman appeared. She avoided Natalie's eyes as she slipped out the door. Natalie watched her scurry down the walk and wondered if the woman's marriage had ended. Had her husband left her? Was he involved with another woman? The cloud of perfume she'd left behind carried no clues. (page 121, "Mending Places" by Denise Hunter)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Top 5 Sundays (#1)

Top 5 Sundays is a new weekly feature hosted by Larissa over at Larissa's Bookish Life

1 - Write a post listing your TOP 5 choices within the theme Larissa chooses (or was chosen on a poll) for the week.
2 - Mention this Blog on the post and link back to it.
3 - Fell free to use the Feature's image (there is a smaller size version of it below)
4 - After you've finished your post, add you link (of the post, not your blog's main page) to the Mr.Linky at the end of that week's post on Larissa's page.

This week's theme is Childhood & Early Teenage Years Books. My Top 5 is:

5. Fear Street series by R.L.Stine
The New Girl (Fear Street, No. 1)

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker

3. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set

2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty (Unabridged Classics)

1. Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Annotated Wizard of Oz (Centennial Edition)

In My Mailbox: July 25, 2010

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. Anyone can participate in IMM and you are not limited to only sharing books that arrive via your mailbox. You can also share books that you've bought or books that you've gotten at the library. If interested please click the link above and sign up!

From Mitchell James Kaplan I received his book By Fire, By Water for review.

I downloaded the following on my Kindle:

Mozart's Blood  by Louise Marley
The Wicked House of Rohan by Anne Stuart
Mixed Bags (Carter House Girls, Book 1) by Melody Carlson
Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2) by Melody Carlson
Beyond the Reflection's Edge (Echoes from the Edge) by Bryan Davis
Eternity's Edge (Echoes from the Edge) by Bryan Davis
From Barnes and Noble's excellent summer clearance sale I bought the following:

Chasing Silver by Jamie Craig
Into the Darkness (Dark Realm, Book 1) by Delilah Devlin
Whispered Lies (Bureau of American Defense Agency) by Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love
Blood Memories by Barb Hendee
Lord of Bones (BLOODANGEL) by Justine Musk
Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution by James Tipton
Antony and Cleopatra: A Novel (Masters of Rome) by Colleen McCullough
The Uncrowned Queen: A Novel by Posie Graeme-Evans
A Secret Alchemy: A Novel (P.S.) by Emma Darwin
Elizabeth: The Golden Age by Tasha Alexander
Figures in Silk: A Novel by Vanora Bennett