Saturday, August 25, 2012

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Monday, July 9, 2012

The Red Chamber

Today's choice in new books is a little heavier reading. But I love Chinese culture and am always interested to read Chinese history. So here is my review of Pauline Chen's new book, "The Red Chamber" available on Amazon on July 10th.

"The Red Chamber" is based on the 18th century China’s classic novel, “Dreams of the Red Chamber.” Author, Pauline Chen has taken some of the original characters from the book to weave an intriguing tale of life in the opulent women’s quarters of a privileged Beijing family of that era. The story follows the lives of three strong women who forge a friendship in a world where they are at the mercy, not only of their husbands, but their older female relatives as well.

For anyone wishing to understand Chinese culture and history of that period, this is a fascinating story. However, it is not an easy read. To begin with, there are so many characters in the family compound that it was necessary to have a glossary to keep them all straight. In addition, a family tree gives the main members of the Jia family, and how they are related. 

The novel is not a page-turner and with the culture being so unique, it takes time to absorb this book fully. However, it is well written and I enjoyed savoring it over a period of time. If Chinese culture and history is of interest to you, it’s a great read.

 My only complaint is that the story is told in present tense, which is something I personally don’t like. But that’s just me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Cozy Mystery for Pool Side or the Beach

Whether it’s beside a pool in summer or in front of a crackling fire in the winter, there is nothing better than relaxing with a cozy mystery. When you add great food and wonderful gardens to the plot, you have a novel that’s bound to please. ‘Nice murder’ as my best friend calls it.

“The Azalea Assault” is the first of a new series set in Roanoke, Virginia and written by Alyse Carlson under the banner of the Garden Society Mysteries. Camellia Harris or Cam as she prefers to be called is the public relations manager for the Roanoke Garden Society. She scores big time when she manages to get renowned photographer, Jean-Jacques Georges to agree to shoot a spread for a national gardening magazine story featuring some of the city’s most renowned gardens.

Jean-Jacques turns out to be a total jerk-face, so no one is surprised when he gets himself killed, but it becomes a tragedy for Cam when the police arrest her sister’s husband for the murder. Being in public relations, Cam has a nose for news, but when she starts asking too many questions and her main suspect is also murdered, she begins to wonder if she could be next in line.

There’s lots of smart, saucy dialogue to pique the interest, and enough red herrings to distract the most observant wanabee detective from guessing, right up to last few pages. This is a fun read for gardeners, foodies, or cozy fans in general.

Personally, I can hardly wait for the next flower in the alphabet, “The Begonia Bribe.” 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Some Reviews for "The Daughter"

Happy to say that my book is receiving some very nice  reviews on Here are the two latest:

Ms. Kales reached back in time and used some history to write a wonderful story. The Silk Weaver's Daughter, a tale for adults of all ages, allows the reader to feel the joy and anguish of the Huguenots during the difficult days of their upheaval. Religious coercion forces many to leave their beloved country and find a new life. Although the characters are driven to action by their beliefs, this book is really a love story; a story of people under duress; a story of how their strength and fortitude allow them to survive. Okay Ms Kales we're hooked, where's the sequel.

One of the nicest things about the book was the care the author put in to researching it. It kept it believable and interesting, and a bit educational. Enjoyable characters who grow through the story. The conflicts are not long and drawn out, but it adds a bit of refreshment from the current need to have one major crisis after another. It was a pleasurable read, something that leaves the reader satisfied -- there is some interesting history that allows for a little enlightenment of the time period and good, realistic characters that you can feel for. A good way to relax and enjoy.

It's very satisfying to write a book and realize that at least a portion of the public like your story. Of course, one always realizes that not everyone will and that is a chance you take as an author. You rather put yourself out there for criticism and you definitely have to develop a thick skin.
But so far, I'm very happy for the response I've had. My target audience is history lovers and I will keep writing for them.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Recommending A Great New Historical Novel

The story of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, and their struggle to unite the various parts of Spain into one country is legendary; and C.W. Gortner's amazing version, written in the first person POV of the queen herself, makes for a first class historical novel, "The Queen's Vow."

Gortner's writing in this epic novel is magnificent. I had previously read his "The Tudor Secret" which I liked very much, but he has grown as a writer since that fine book. Even minor characters come magnificently alive under the author's skilled hand. His descriptions of that hot, sere land are outstanding.

According to Gortner's version, Ferdinand and Isabella are a true love match. They are only teen agers when they marry, but together they face campaigns to conquer first, the Portuguese encroachment on their lands, and later the Moslems who controlled much of Spain's coastline. Although we despair some of the results of their choices, still the reader can sympathize with every momentous decision the young couple and their advisors are forced to make.

Ferdinand is portrayed as a fearless yet compassionate leader and Isabella a beautiful, enlightened woman centuries ahead of her time in many ways. Admittedly, though, the novel ends before she begins her infamous persecution of Jews and non-Catholics. But there are hints given as to why she may have thought it necessary.

To me, this novel puts Gortner right up there with Philippa Gregory and Ken Follett.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Remember Momma


This is a repeat of a previous blog, but it applies just as much this year.

Moms tend to get special recognition in the month of May; although they definitely deserve it all year long. While my mother passed away 25 years ago, there is hardly a week goes by that I don’t think about some of the wonderful times we had together. The fact that she was a teacher gave her a special understanding about children, I think. During my teen years, many of my girlfriends would come over to our house to ask my mother questions about things they were reluctant to speak to their own parents about. In those days, mothers didn’t need to work as much as they do today, so she was always there with milk and cookies and good advice.

She was a very spiritual woman and a firm believer in the Bible. She taught me to love and respect our Creator. Even so, she had a wonderful sense of humour and could see the fun in almost any situation. 

By the time I married, my mother was a widow, so my husband and I built a house on half of her one acre of land. We lived next door to each for the next twenty years. It was a wonderful arrangement and she never overstayed her welcome or came between my husband and me. In fact, if she happened to be at our place when he drove in from work, she would “sneak” out the back door before he came in the front. “I don’t want him to get tired of me,” she would say.

I remember early in our marriage, when I was particularly angry with him about something, I went over to her house for a cup of tea. When I started to complain about him, she was displeased. “You are fortunate to have such a man,” she stated. “And I don’t EVER want to hear another word against him.” She never did.

In her later years, my mother loved to travel. She had no qualms about going off on her own and even undertook a three-week tour to the orient all by herself. By the time she turned eighty, however, I started to worry about her traipsing around the world alone, and my husband suggested that I go with her on a few trips.

She was born in Scotland but left when she was ten years old and had never been back to her homeland. We went together and what a joy it was to see her delight as we walked down the High Street of her small village with her pointing out where everything should be. It was amazing that in the seventy years since she left, very little had changed. 

She lived to be 85 and, because we were right next door, never had to leave her own house. I’ve always been glad that I gave her that privilege. In the spring of 1986, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live. I wanted to be the one to look after her so I resigned from my job as a tour planner and moved into her house. We were together until the week before she died when she needed more care than I could give.

I’m so happy that I had all those wonderful years with my mother and I’m very grateful that she gave me the odd spanking when I needed discipline. I learned obedience and respect; things that are sadly lacking in many young people today. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Besides marketing my novel, "The Silk Weaver's Daughter" and writing my new book, most weeks I set aside time to read the new novels Amazon sends me for reviewing. Here is my review of one of the latest. It's a story about the daughter of Russian's mad monk, Rasputin, "Enchantments" by historian, Kathryn Harrison. It's strange that while the book gets glowing review form many professional reviewers such as "O Magazine," "New York Times," and "Bookpage;" the reviews from the general public and some Amazon Vine Reviewers are not that good. In fact, out of 40 reviewers, only 5 gave it 5 stars. I personally didn't like it that much and give it 3 out of 5 stars. Nevertheless, if you love literary writing and mysticism, you may like the novel. -- "Enchantments"

"Although I had read Robert K. Massie’s novel “Nicholas and Alexandra,” I hadn’t remembered that the so-called “Mad Monk of Russia,” Grigori Rasputin had a family. His two daughters, Varya and Mary (Masha) were living with him in St. Petersburg when he was dramatically murdered in 1916.


After his death, the two girls are quickly spirited away and taken to live at the Tsar’s family home in the country, Tsarskoe Selo. The Empress somehow mistakenly believes that Masha has the same healing powers as her father. After the royal family is taken to Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains and summarily murdered, Masha manages to escape to Germany and later to North America, where she works as a dancer and later in a circus. She died in 1977.

In this clearly literary work, the first person narrative of Masha is a mixture of fact, mysticism, and allegory, and includes flashbacks to the mad monk’s life. It was often difficult to figure out where the facts left off and fantasy began. One example is the description of the accession of Tsar Nicolas. Somehow, according to Masha, the devil worked his way into the proceedings.

Although the author’s lyrical style is beautifully poetic, I found the book often tedious to read and I kept looking to see how many pages were left. There were many times when I put it down with the thought that I just can’t wade through this anymore. The best-drawn and most interesting character in the book is the young, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolayevich. He appears to have a much better grasp of what is happening to his country than his father did; and the book leads one to believe that, had he lived to rule, he might have saved Russia from its disastrous fall to communism.

As interested as I am in Russian history and especially in those last years of the Romanov family, I found this book a real chore to read."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Cover Story or Judging a Book

Once a novel is finished and has been edited and edited and re-edited, the next step for the self-published author is to select a suitable cover. The cover is extremely important as a sales and marketing tool, and is such a significant step that it generally requires a professional eye. I was fortunate enough to have a good writing friend who is also a gifted graphic artist.

All along, I had a very clear picture of what my heroine, Louise Gurnee, looked like. For months, I kept my eyes open, searching for just the right picture that would personify her. The day I saw the stock photo below of a lovely, 17th century girl holding a rose, I knew I had found my heroine. Fortunately, for me, I was able to buy the rights to the picture to use on as many books as I could sell. The model’s face held the perfect beautiful, but sulky look that personified Louise at the time her father tells her she cannot marry the antagonist, Marc Garneau. The rose was a metaphor for the love the two shared.

As perfect as the model was, the background was not quite right. I wanted it also to portray the families’ sojourn in La Rochelle, where startling events take place before they leave France forever. My graphic friend, Jeff Fielder, knew exactly how to combine two pictures for the effect I required, as well as exactly what font we should use for the printing. Putting together everything created the exact mood I was looking for, and the exact image I wanted my cover to project. To look at more of his exciting works, his website is

Of course, the old cliché states that you can judge a book by its cover, and in the case of my novel, I certainly hope that is true. My story is about a beautiful young girl, a little selfish, as young people are apt to be, who matures into a gorgeous, selfless woman over the period of the book. And perhaps the underlying message is that love and faith can triumph over adversity.

In case you would like to know a little more about the story and the plotline, I have just received this lovely review from author, Anita Davidson on the Historical Novel Review Website. Here is the link:  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Great Review of "The Silk Weaver's Daughter"

Every writer longs for a good review of their work. But reading is very subjective, so one person could love it while the next guy, not so much. Fortunately for me, this reviewer of "The Silk Weaver's Daughter" is English and very interested in the time period the book is set in. Here is the link to her lovely review of my novel.

Thanks to Anita Davison: author of "Duking Days Rebellion"

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Journey to Publication

I suppose, if you follow this blog once in awhile, you might be wondering what has happened to me. I have to admit that I haven't been away; but I have been heavily involved in publishing my debut novel, "The Silk Weaver's Daughter." And, as I discovered, it takes a lot of time and energy. A little over a year ago, I decided to 'bite the bullet' and go the self-publishing route. The market-place has changed and self-publishing no longer is looked down upon. Also my target audience fit the self-publishing market better.

I had already been told by book agents that a historical fiction novel about 'love, loyalty, and faith' was probably not going to be picked up by the large New York publishing companies. So I decided to take the route that hundreds of 'would be' authors have already pioneered with a surprising amount of success. 

It takes a lot of work as one becomes his own editor, publisher and marketer, but it's an interesting route and I will be discussing my particular journey to publication in the next couple of installments. 

In the meantime, if you like to see my interview with Amazon Vine Reviewer, Ana Mardol, here is the link:  Just scroll down to her post on Wednesday, February 29th.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Excerpt from "The Silk Weaver's Daughter"


Southwestern France
July 1685
 “That’s not Guilliame. Who can it be?” the old woman exclaimed to her husband. She stopped eating as the pounding of horses' hooves and the harsh voices of men in the courtyard alerted them to visitors.
 “Voila,” they heard one of them yell. “This is the place.”
 Her voice shook as her hands clutched at her breast. “Lucien! Do you think they have discovered us?” 
            “I don’t know how, Mathilde,” he whispered. “Unless we have been betrayed.”
            Monsieur and Madame Garneau had waited all evening for their guest to arrive. Once the sun disappeared behind gray-pink clouds in the western sky, and he failed to appear, they decided to start their evening meal. In spite of their disappointment, they bowed their heads, thankful to God for their blessings. The small garden plot they cultivated thrived and the few animals they nurtured grew fat and healthy. There were worshippers still brave enough to come to the secret meetings they held in their humble farmhouse outside the town of Lusignan. All had seemed well.
            Now, there was a crash, as several armed men broke down the door and barged into the room. They wore the uniforms of the dragoons authorized by King Louis XIV to round up the disobedient clergy. Mathilde screamed as a soldier grabbed her by her long, braided hair and hauled her outside. With great courage, but flagging strength, the old man tried to resist. They soon subdued him and dragged him towards a wagon positioned under a large oak tree.
“You had a choice,” the dragoon captain snapped. “The authorities warned all you Huguenot pastors to leave the country. You would have been wise to obey.”
            Another of the men forced the aged couple to stand on the wagon. He looped ropes around their necks and tied the other ends to one of the strongest branches. Lucien cried out to his God, but a dragoon stuffed a wad of cloth into his mouth. Madame Garneau whimpered; her lips moved in prayer.
            The dragoon whipped the horses, causing them to bolt. As the wagon lurched forward, the pastor and his wife hung suspended in the air. They thrashed wildly for a few minutes. Then, as their life forces ebbed away, they were still. For a moment, an eerie hush prevailed, broken only by the creaking of the ropes, as the bodies swayed in the slight evening breeze. Even the soldiers were silent.
            “Well, those heretics are taken care of,” the captain finally muttered.
            “What about their animals?” one of the men asked.
            “Leave them. Burn them with the buildings. Let this be a lesson to all who would defy the King.”
            Departing the horrendous scene, they failed to notice the middle-aged man, cringing with fear and despair, hidden in a small grove of firs.

 The Huguenot Family

“It is nowhere forbidden to laugh or to eat one's fill or gain new possessions or enjoy oneself with musical instruments or drink wine."

Jean Calvin

 Chapter 1
   One Week Later    
Forty miles southeast of La Rochelle, in western France, a small Huguenot village sat half- hidden in a valley. One narrow track passed by some insignificant farms, then dropped down to the center of the settlement consisting of a few small shops and a neglected chateau. For several hundred years, the hamlet had been there—encircled by lush woodlands of oak and beech. However, its isolation had not saved it from the terrors of the last century. Nor would it again should trouble arise.
            Once beyond the town site, the lane climbed a slight slope, crossed a bridge over a meandering river, and terminated at the most prosperous-looking farm in the area. Located behind two stone buildings, were a vineyard; a substantial orchard; and fields of grain that continued to the edge of the surrounding forest.
            The owner, Pierre Garneau, stepped out of his house into the morning sunlight. He surveyed the familiar surroundings as he had done almost every day since his youth. Always, he marvelled at the beauty of it. How blessed I am, he thought. One of God’s Elect, for sure.
 No ordinary farmer, Monsieur Garneau was a master silk weaver, a trade that brought him an excellent livelihood and made him a relatively wealthy man. Nevertheless, rumours circulating the countryside worried him. It seemed that King Louis, the Sun King, wished to rid himself of every Huguenot in the land. They had been a thorn in the side of his Catholic cohorts for over one hundred years. The Edict of Nantes established by King Henry in 1598 had given some protection, but now Louis wanted it revoked, and the Protestants gone.
Pierre, serving as the village consul or mayor, reported to the Catholic seigneur in the nearest town five miles away. Word often filtered through to him about problems Huguenots experienced with the King’s dragoons in other parts of France. Fortunately, up until now, Father Leger had been lenient towards the Calvinists in his area. What changes this new decree might make to both Pierre and his villagers did not bear speculation on such a perfect morning.
            On this day, life in his hidden valley appeared idyllic. The sun’s rays came streaming through the verdant growth, and filled the cobbled courtyard with a warm glow. Scents and sounds of early summer enveloped him; the sweet aroma of the roses growing up the whitewashed walls; the bird songs as tiny lovers warbled to each other; the buzz of bees seeking sweetness in the honeysuckle vines. In spite of his tranquil surroundings, this gossip about the king’s plans seemed ominous to him; like storm clouds gathering in an evening sky. If it proved to be true, the life of every Huguenot in France could change in an instant.
            And how could I ever leave this valley, he thought?
            Behind him, noise generated in the kitchen signified a flurry of activity. The family had finished breakfast, and the preparations for guests coming from La Rochelle had begun. His second daughter, Catherine, stood at the table peeling vegetables for the feast. Claudine, his wife, kneaded dough for fresh bread to go into the bake oven, while Suzette, their maid, basted the lamb roasting on a spit in the great fireplace. Even his small, four-year-old daughter, Jeanette sat on the floor zealously shelling peas. Through the open door, savoury aromas of garlic and rosemary emanated from the room.
            He gazed over at the river winding through their farm to where his oldest daughter sat on a large, flat rock, a pensive expression on her face. Lovely like her mother, Louise had the same oval face with a small, straight nose; golden-blonde hair; and dreamy, grey-green eyes. He treasured her dearly. However, she presented another problem.
 She spends too much time in a world of dreams and fantasy, he reflected. Is this natural in a girl of almost seventeen? She should be in there helping with the preparations, but there she sits, most likely thinking of Marc. He sighed in frustration. 
            The son of Jacques Garneau—his cousin and best friend—was not at all what Pierre wanted in a husband for Louise. Marc had far too worldly an outlook for a devout Huguenot. Moreover, like his father he was a travelling merchant. Pierre did not want his beautiful daughter marrying a man who ventured away from home two or three years at a time. Too much temptation, he believed.
 Now, Jacques and his family were coming for a visit, and Pierre determined he would keep those two apart as much as possible during their stay.
* *  
             Louise loved to sit and dream by the lazy river. Knowing they would be extremely busy this morning, she had arisen early to have a little time to herself. Only the day before, she heard the rumours about the king’s intentions and they worried her. She remembered that her cousin, Marc had once told her of past Huguenot troubles.
 Now, looking at the ruined chateau, she shivered, reflecting on the atrocities it had seen. When they were children, she and her younger brother, Jean Guy, went with Marc to explore the abandoned building. Five years her senior and very self-assured, he had explained to them what had happened at the chateau. How, years before, a group of Catholics determined to take over the town from the Huguenots, killed both their grandfathers there.
 Marc’s father was one of the prominent and wealthy merchants of La Rochelle. His travels had taken him all over the world, and his sons were extremely well educated. Marc’s schooling had been first in a monastery and then the University in Paris.
            Thoughts of her cousin always made her heart beat faster. He was a twenty-two year old man now, and along with his father had just returned to France from a trading journey in the Americas. During that time, there was not a night went by she did not dream of him. They were second cousins, so the relationship allowed for marriage. Certainly, both his parents and her mother would agree to such a union. However, she was concerned that her father did not seem as enchanted with the young merchant as the rest of them.
             I fear he isn’t serious enough, and much too adventurous for Papa’s taste, she admitted to herself.
            Hearing the kitchen door open, her attention turned to her father standing in the morning sunlight. Like all the Garneau men, he was agreeable to look at, with a tanned skin, bright blue eyes, and shoulder-length, black hair that shone like polished ebony. He was far more serious than his lively cousins. Nevertheless, she loved him deeply. He was strict, but always fair and kind. She knew he would die before he would let any harm befall them.
            She watched with affection as he surveyed his surroundings, almost knowing what he was thinking. After a short time, he looked over at her, waved a ‘good morning’, and went into the kitchen for a few moments. Emerging with two pewter mugs full of hot coffee—the last of their precious supply Uncle Jacques renewed each visit—he approached and smiled at her. 
            “Bonjour, ma fille,” he greeted her, handing over one of the beakers. “Maman and the others have started the preparations for tonight’s meal. I expect you’d better go in and help them. You seem so preoccupied sitting here, though. Is something troubling you, child?”
            “Yes, I know I must help. But in the village, I’ve heard the rumours about King Louis’ plans and they worry me. Why do the Catholics hate us so much, Papa? What started all this anyway?”
 With a sigh, he put a comforting arm around her shoulders. “You don’t remember the history of our people? Did we really neglect such important events in your lessons?”
“I can’t recall learning about it.”
“Yes, well, perhaps I thought it best forgotten since we were supposed to be protected by the Edict. It’s far too complicated a subject to go into in any depth just now. I can tell you, however, it began a long time ago. Something Catherine de Medici started over one hundred years ago. You’ve studied about Henri of Navarre and the wicked Catherine?”
“Yes,” she replied.
 “Well Henry, who was the heir to the throne then, was marrying Catherine’s daughter, and Catherine had an intense fear of all Huguenots. They had a great deal of political power in those days. Once she was in the royal family, she instigated a huge slaughter. So many of our people were killed, they called it the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. Henri wasn’t happy about it and when he came to the throne, he instituted the Edict of Nantes that stopped the persecution of our people for many years.”
            “Do you really think King Louis would dare to cancel such an edict then?”
            “He has the power. If he wants to do it, there’s no one who could stop him.”
            “Then what would happen to us? Will you become a Catholic?”
            “Become a Catholic? Never. Under no circumstance, could I do that.” Her father’s expression became even more serious than usual. “I didn’t want to tell you this yet, and I’d rather you don’t mention it to the other children. However, being the oldest perhaps you should know. It’s possible we may have to leave France.”
              “Leave France?” Her heart sank. “Papa, where would we go?”
            “I’m not sure, Louise, and I don’t want you fretting about it today. There’s too much work to do with your uncle’s family coming. Now we must think of our guests and Maman does need help with the dinner. In any event perhaps it won’t happen—perhaps the king won‘t change anything.”
            “Oh, why is everything so unpredictable?”  
            “Unpredictable? No, my child, right now it may seem so to us. Nevertheless all things are preordained—we have little control—so we must accept our destiny. Nevertheless, to please God, we must also work hard. Then we’re assured of our reward.”
            “Why, Papa? If it’s all arranged anyhow, why should we have to work hard? Sometimes predestination doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”
            Gulping down the coffee, she stood. Then without waiting for an answer, she flounced into the house.
* *
            “Louise,” her mother scolded. “Whatever have you been doing? Dreaming again, while we are so busy? Did you eat anything at all? Jean Guy and Claude have gone to the manufactory to make room for the bundles of thread Uncle Jacques will be bringing. I need you to get water for me. Now on with you, girl. There’s no time to waste.”
            With a sigh, she bestowed a light kiss on her mother‘s cheek, then picked up the buckets and headed for the well.

Now available from

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Enter on Goodreads to Win "The Silk Weaver's Daughter"


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        The Silk Weaver's Daughter by Elizabeth Kales



          The Silk Weaver's Daughter


          by Elizabeth Kales



            Giveaway ends January 31, 2012.


            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




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