Sunday, November 21, 2010



(Published by Amazon encore)

This is one of those novels that takes literary license with history. If I were teaching English (especially American Literature) or American History, I would assign this book to my students. The novel is based in historical fact but the author gives Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War a heart beat and breath sounds.

You might be deceived by the title of the novel and believe it is about John Wilkes Boothe, but you would be mistaken! This is a very different plot and a very different assassin!

We see how Abraham Lincoln might have been. We are taken inside conversations with generals during the Civil War and we hear them discuss the war. Lincoln is made so human in this novel.

We are introduced to a very heroic figure who is assigned to protect Lincoln, Colonel Charles P. Rook. The Rook character is a composite of several real people. He serves the roles of protector, detective and soldier.

This novel gets a standing ovation and a "BRAVO!" from this reader. I was captivated.



(Published by The Vendome Press)

This book is so fascinating I could hardly put it down! The story reads like a novel, but it is a well-researched biography of one of the most fascinating men in history, Michelangelo Buonarroti. This book shadows the sculptor and painter for the first 33 years of his long life.

I had no idea that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were competitors and contemporaries. Can you imagine that these two "supermen" lived at the same time? They were as famous as any rock star or celebrity in their day.

We are taken inside the action through Michelangelo's own words in his letters and his autobiography. We see the incredible violence of the time. If you didn't like a political rival, just kill him! The Medici's and the Borgia's are incredibly interesting. The Borgia's hired da Vinci to make war machines for them.

The famous statue of David was actually started by another sculptor and the thin piece of Carrera marble lay in a field until Michelangelo received the commission to finish the statue. He left the top of the head unfinished. Why?

John T. Spike is a fascinating writer and historian. You can see my interview with him on the TIME WARNER CABLE TEXAS CHANNEL on the TIME WARNER TEXAS NETWORK. Just look for CONVERSATIONS CAFE. The show is carried in 10 separate markets across the state of Texas. It is also a VOD (Video On Demand) offering in all of the markets, so you can see us when you want to!



(Published by OBSIDIAN MYSTERY, an imprint of the Penguin Group)

This is the latest in the mystery a' la Mode series featuring Tallulah Jones. I enjoy Wendy's work. This is a "cozy mystery", but with enough plot to keep the reader interested and turning pages. I like to escape and a book like this one lets me dive head first into "small town Texas."

Tallulah "Tally" Jones is the owner of an ice cream parlor, Remember The A' La Mode, in Dalliance, Texas. A small town by any one's description. Tally finds herself with dead bodies and a love life that's as complicated as a homicide investigation.

In the latest novel, Tally's niece, Alice stumbles upon the body of a graduate student during the annual Honor's Day festivities. Suspicion immediately falls on a female English professor, Emily Cowper, but the body count continues to rise and it's a double dip of murder!

Wendy also uses some delightful recipes in the novels. She is a real ice cream lover and the recipes are given in the book. I think I will try a couple and let you know how I do!

Click here to hear the interview with Wendy Lyn Watson.


The C.H.I.L.D. Game Plan

(Published by REP 1 Publishing Group)

Parenting doesn't come with an instruction manual. How many times have you thought that and heard other parents say those words? This book may not be an "instruction manual," but it is a helpful guide for parents to give structure to the lives of their children. The book discusses five crucial concepts:

C - Competition
H - Heart
I - Intelligence
L - Life Force
D - Destiny

Through the use of ideas, examples and personal stories taken from a variety of celebrities, historical figures and sports figures, the book gives parents illustrations of how the concepts have worked in the lives of successful people.

To hear my interview with Bruce Tollner, click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The Sixth Surrender

(Published by PLUME, an imprint of the Penguin Group)

Siege, storm, surprise, suborning ... they say there are five means of gaining access to a well-guarded citadel. There is a sixth one ... surrender.

I always enjoy a well-research historical novel. The back room maneuvering, the person who isn't who he seems to be, the intrigue, the travel back in time, I love all of it.

This novel begins in the final days of one of the most wonderful female characters in British history, Alienor of Aquitaine, the queen duchess and mother of kings, Richard, the Lion Heart and John Plantagenet.

The queen duchess launches a deadly dynastic chess game to safeguard the crowns of Normandy and England for her last surviving son, John. Caught in the middle is Sister Eustace, Alienor's young scribe, who must decide between her beloved home and an unthinkable marriage to a ruthless, handsome mercenary, Guerin de Lasalle.

Sister Eustace, born Lady Juliana, the last of the de Charnais line, is educated, and humble. There is a singular purpose that drives her, to possess her rightful home, the viscounty of Tillieres. Juliana is extremely innocent and prays for a man to marry who will be honorable, kind and literate. Instead, she is tricked by Alienor into marrying the dashing, handsome, worldly though landless mercenary Guerin de Lasalle. The couple enter into the marriage with one common goal, to end the marriage as soon as possible!

The novel is fascinating as it unfolds the story before the reader. The historical accuracy of the novel makes it hard to tell fact from fiction so deftly does the writer weave together the tale. There are villains and heros, but sometimes, depending on which side you are on, it's difficult to tell the difference.


An Impartial Witness
A Bess Crawford Mystery

by Charles Todd

(Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins)

I do enjoy the twists and turns of a good mystery! I also love to play "Sherlock Holmes" to see if I can figure out who-done-it before the author tells me.

This novel is a period novel set in World War I. Bess Crawford is a battlefield nurse who nurses wounded British soldiers on the battlefields of France. Due to a simple coincidence of being in the right place at the wrong moment, she finds herself in the midst of a murder and intrigue.

Bess witnesses a tearful farewell in a train station between a soldier and a woman. Did she recognize the woman as the wife of one of her burn patients from France? Who was the man? Why was he so cold to the woman?

If you enjoy the English mystery novel, you will enjoy this one written by the mother and son writing team who call themselves "Charles Todd!"

Listen to my interview with Caroline and Charles Todd.



The Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life
(Published by New World Library)

I love this book. It's absolutely filled to the brim with ideas and information.

The book includes a writing topic or prompt for every day of the year that opens the door to the creative process and leads the way to better writing. But that's only one way to use this terrific book. Teachers could use the ideas for their English students as a way to create a creative writing journal by giving them one idea or prompt each day.

There is a section titled The Writing Life: Writers and Their Day Jobs (pp 150151). I particularly liked this section because it gives famous writers a feel of reality. I like to say it gives them "a heartbeat and breath sounds." Students would love the "gossip" section, The Writing Life: Quirks and Idiosyncrasies (pp167-168)! I know I did!

Why not use the ideas in your book club as a way to view and discuss a novel?

Ah, so many possibilities! If you have any interest in writing, you must pick up this book. It's wonderful and so is Judy Reeves.

To listen to my interview with her, click here.