June 25, 2012

Book Giveaway: THE BLACK SHARD

Thanks to the lovely Victoria Simcox, I have FOUR copies of her young adult fantasty novel The Black Shard to give away!  Three copies are e-books and one is a hard copy.  International friends are welcome!  The hard copy is available for U.S. residents only.

Be sure to leave your name and email address (or at least indicate that your email address may be found in your profile). NO EMAIL ADDRESS = NO ENTRY!

No P.O. boxes. No Military APOs.   The last day to enter the giveaway is Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

To read my review of The Black Shard  please go

For more information on author Victoria Simcox and her books, visit her website, Facebook page and Twitter.


Victoria was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She now lives in Western Washington with her husband, Russ and their three children, Toby, Kristina, and William. Her other family members are a Chihuahua, named Pipsy and two cats, named Frodo and Fritz. Besides being an author, Victoria is a home-schooling mother of twelve years and an elementary school art teacher of eleven years. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys managing her two older children's Celtic band. She also loves writing, reading, painting watercolors, hiking, good movies, and just simply hanging out with her family and friends.


June 15, 2012

Author Interview: BRANDY PURDY and a Giveaway

Today I am pleased to welcome Brandy Purdy, author of The Boleyn Wife, The Tudor Throne and the upcoming The Queen's Pleasure, to Psychotic State Book Reviews. 

Hi Brandy, welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews!  Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.  Let’s get right to it - - you have written three books (so far!) about the Tudor period.  Why the Tudor period?  What is it about the Tudor period that attracts you?

BP:  Well, to be honest, I didn’t intend to do so many Tudors, at least not all together in a row, it just kind of happened that way, but they’re a fascinating family, such vivid, larger than life, personalities, I think that’s why they’ve stood the test of time while other royal dynasties have been largely forgotten by the general public.
Your recent release, The Queen’s Pleasure, focuses on Amy Robsart Dudley, a lesser known player in the Elizabeth I saga.  What led you to select Amy to focus the novel on?

BP:  When I was nine or ten years old, shortly after a book of ghost stories sparked my interest in history, I read a book of unsolved mysteries that had a chapter about the mysterious death of Amy Robsart and I became intrigued. I wanted to know all I could about her. Every time I found a new book on historic mysteries or the Tudors I would search for Amy. But to my dismay I discovered very little is actually known about her. It just didn’t seem fair to me, that she seemed only to matter because of how she died, and the scandal and inconvenience it created for her husband and the Queen. Even in novels, the focus in usually on the more glamorous relationship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley and Amy is, as she was in life, relegated to a quiet country oblivion until her death thrusts her into the spotlight. I remember, even though I was just a child, telling me mother that if I ever wrote a book when I grew up I was going to try to bring Amy Robsart back to life and give her a voice.
Would you describe The Queen’s Pleasure as more of a romance, a romance gone wrong, a mystery or the tragedy of power?

BP:  I think it has elements of them all. I also consider it a portrait of a very manipulative man painted by the women in his life, the weaker Amy and the stronger Elizabeth, and how they deal with it.
If you could sit down and interview Amy Robsart Dudley, what one question would you want to ask her?

BP:  How close did I come to the inner, the emotional, truth?
I imagine a book taking place in Tudor England would require quite a bit of research.  How long did you research the period and events before you started writing?

BP:  Usually I have ten months to write a book and two months to rest. I tend to do at least two months research, though it generally overlaps with the writing, sometimes more, each book is different for me.
How long did The Queen’s Pleasure take to write?

BP:  About ten and a half months.
Do you feel more or less restricted when writing about actual people and events?

BP:  A bit of both actually, but overall probably less restricted. I like the challenge of getting into the head and heart of a historical figure who interests me, and trying to understand them better.
I noticed on your blog that you have written posts about Olive Thomas and Theda Bara, both movie stars of the 1910s and 1920s (and a time period that I am crazy obsessed with!)  Any chance that you will think about writing historical fiction in the early days of Hollywood?

BP:  I sincerely hope so, that would be a dream come true. I’ve been a classic movie fan since I was a child, I love silent movies, screwball comedies, the MGM musicals, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and the period extravaganzas like the 1938 version of “Marie Antoinette” with Norma Shearer. And I would love to write a novel about a silent screen star. I am a very visual person, and I love silent films, the challenge of conveying a story without words, it’s the opposite of what I do, I tell a story with words but without images for the reader to look at except, hopefully,  if I do it right, what my words create, like a movie playing inside their mind.
What path led you to becoming an author? 

BP:  I suppose it started with reading and then, ten years ago, after my mother died, a combination of an impulsive middle of the night decision to write a novel about Piers Gaveston and the need for a project to help me work through my grief and the changes her death brought about in my life.
What is the single best piece of advice you’ve received as an author that you would like to share?

BP:  When you’re rejected, your feelings are hurt, or you’re doubting yourself, always remember that it boils down to a matter of opinion, everything the critics, readers etc. says to you, whether good or bad, is simply their opinion. What one person hates, another loves, or can take or leave.
What is up next for author Brandy Purdy?

BP:  If all goes well, a novel about the Grey sisters (Lady Jane, Katherine, and Mary) sometime next year.
A few random questions . . .

If I was a character in Winnie the Pooh, I would be . . .
BP:  To be honest, I’m not familiar enough to say.

Structured routine or fly by the seat of your pants?  
BP:  A combination of the two.

My favorite guilty pleasure movie is . . .
BP:  Gone With The Wind

The thing I would like best about living in Tudor England would be . . .
BP:  The jewelry if I could afford it.

The fictional character I would most love to meet is . . .
BP:  That’s a tough one, I really don’t know

One fun thing about me most people don’t know is . . .
BP:  Every time I complete a new book I get a new jellyfish paperweight, they’re these beautiful heavy glass domes with a glass jellyfish sealed inside, they’re all hand made so no two are identical. I love sea creatures, but an aquarium would be too much for me to deal with, so this is one way I can indulge myself.

Lastly, what one word do you think best describes The Queen’s Pleasure?
BP:  Emotional

Thank you again, Brandy, for stopping by and taking the time to chat with me and my readers. I wish you the best of luck and greatest success with The Queen's Pleasure (known as A Court Affair in the U.K.) and look forward not only to your book on the Grey sisters but hope to see a book on old Hollywood!  

The Queen's Pleasure will be released on June 26, 2012 and can be preordered on Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Brandy Purdy, please visit her website at www.brandypurdy.com, you can also follow her, and her cat Tabby, via her blog at http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com or on Facebook as Brandy Purdy - Emily Purdy.

Now for the giveaway!  I have one copy of The Queen's Pleasure up for grabs.  To enter, leave a comment letting me know what your favorite historical period is.  Be sure to leave your name and email address (or at least indicate that your email address may be found in your profile). NO EMAIL ADDRESS = NO ENTRY!

No P.O. boxes.  No Military APOs.  This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  My apologies to my overseas friends.

The last day to enter the giveaway is June 30.

June 11, 2012

Book Review: THE QUEEN'S PLEASURE by Brandy Purdy

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.

Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen…

Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?—the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.

My Review

I am still a fairly new devotee of historical fiction and have read a few books centered in the Tudor era but this is the first book devoted to Queen Elizabeth I and, more especially, Amy Robsart Dudley, a figure much lesser known and written about in history. 

The Queen's Pleasure is really Amy's story, told from her point of view as a young maiden desperately in love with the dashing Robert Dudley, transitioning to a blushing bride and then an unwanted and unloved wife, callously tossed aside for ambition.  I loved Amy as presented in the book as much as I was frustrated with her - - although my frustration stems from Robert Dudley's shoddy treatment of her.  It was very powerful to see through my reader's eyes the slow tearing down of a sweet, beguiling young girl, made into a fearful and suspicious woman who trusted no one.  Even knowing her fate, I still hoped against hope that she would find happiness and the freedom she so richly deserved. 

Sections of the book are also devoted to Elizabeth I and I must admit that in the first chapter or so, outside the beginning of the book, I didn't like Elizabeth and thought her to be as cold and cunning as Robert Dudley himself.  However, further chapters showed a more humane and caring woman, a woman desperate to serve her country and learn from her mother's demise.  I found Elizabeth to be a bundle of contradictions - - guilt-ridden over her affair with Robert Dudley, but selfish enough to sustain the illicit relationship; claiming to love Robert while admitting that he was a scheming liar who betrayed his wife and, most horribly of all, that he may very well have murdered her or had her murdered.  Those contradictions made her a fascinating character, a steely, strong-willed woman who felt she could never marry just a man as she was already married to England.  

Amy and Elizabeth were really two sides of a similar, if not the same, coin.  Both were devoted in their own way to Robert Dudley, victims of his ambition.   Both wanted nothing more than to be perfect in their expected roles - - Amy as Lady Dudley, Robert's wife and Elizabeth as a ruler to surpass her father.  Both these women, as well as all others showcased in The Queen's Pleasure, are so vividly portrayed that I came away from this book feeling as though I had an inside track to Amy's thoughts and author Brandy Purdy took me to sixteenth century England as surely as if I had stepped into a time machine. 

The writing is inviting, intense and flawless, rich with the flavor of English country life as well as court life.  The political machinations, the tragedy to befall the Dudley family and the mystery surrounding Amy's death were weaved to captivating detail and the end result is a mesmerizing work of historical fiction that puts Brandy Purdy on my "must read" list. 

I would not hesitate to highly recommend The Queen's Pleasure.  It is what historical fiction should be. 

The Queen's Pleasure will be released on June 26, 2012 and can be preordered on Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link I will receive a small commission.

The Queen's Pleasure will be published in the U.K. under the title A Court Affair by Emily Purdy.   

About the author:

Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels The Confession of Piers Gaveston, The Boleyn Wife (The Tudor Wife), The Tudor Throne (Mary & Elizabeth, and The Queen's Pleasure (A Court Affair). An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website at www.brandypurdy.com, you can also follow her, and her cat Tabby, via her blog at http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com or on Facebook as Brandy Purdy - Emily Purdy.

For other stops on the tour: Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #QueensPleasureVirtualTour

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.  

With thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for including me on this blog tour!

June 8, 2012

Book Review: CITY OF DARKNESS by Kim Wright

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  City of Darkness takes place in 1888 London, where Jack the Ripper roams the streets with impunity and Scotland Yard seems helpless to stop him.

The science of forensics is in its infancy but a few detectives – Trevor Welles among them – recognize that they are dealing with a different sort of killer, a “modern criminal” who chooses his victims at random. If Jack is to be caught, he won’t be caught with Scotland Yard’s normal methods of deduction for there is no logic to this madness. The question is no longer “Why was the victim killed?” but rather “How was the victim killed?” For the first time in the history of detection, science is trumping deductive reasoning.

When a twist of fate puts Tr
evor in charge of the case, he hastily assembles Scotland Yard’s first forensics team: Davy Mabrey, the first bobby on the scene of the grisliest of the murders, whose working class common sense proves an invaluable asset, Rayley Abrams, a cautious intellectual whose future at the Yard is marginalized due to his Jewish heritage, Tom Bainbridge, a medical student with aristocratic connections and a secret drinking problem, and Emma Kelly, sister of the Ripper’s last victim who has a troubled past and a gift for linguistics. The team finds an unlikely ally in the form of Queen Victoria herself, who takes an unusual level of interest in the Ripper case and secretly funds the unit. But will they stop Jack in time to spare Leanna Bainbridge, the young heiress with whom Trevor has fallen madly and improbably in love?

My Review

For a bibliophile like me there is nothing so exciting as a book that causes my pulse to race,  gets me so deeply involved with the characters and the story that I stay up late and push my lunch hour to read, and generally am consumed.  City of Darkness was one of those books. 

How can I express how much I loved this book?  I am almost disappointed that I have read it and I don't have the delight of picking it up again for the first time and becoming a passive bystander to the London streets of 1888. 

Author Kim Wright has taken a string of famous unsolved murders - - what may be the first known serial killer and perhaps the most notorious unsolved crimes in history - - and applied a very swift and talented hand to them, to create a fascinating blend of historical fiction, mystery and intrigue.    She does a splendid job of capturing the grime, desolation and general depression of the Whitechapel streets inhabited by London's poorest, as well as a glaring disparity between the underprivileged and the well-to-do that reside only a short carriage ride away. 

While Leanna Bainbridge turned out to be a strong and willful heroine (very much unlike what proper Victorian ladies were to be) and I liked her very much, the heart of the story for me was carried by Trevor Welles.  He was quick and smart, without being pretentious, and determined to stop Jack the Ripper's reign of terror, regardless of his choice of victim.  He was a fascinating central character as he was not a dashing hero (you will find no Mr. Darcy here) and he had no serious romantic entanglements to add allure.  Yet his tenacity, his devotion to the job and foresight to move science to the forefront made me adore him. 

Another character I loved sharing the pages with was Aunt Gerry, most definitely an anomaly for the Victorian era, an eccentric spinster by choice who traveled to safari on her own and wasn't shy about speaking her mind.  She was such a bold and vivid character, I could see her in my mind and hear her speaking as I turned the pages. 

Ms. Wright pens villians with broad strokes and it's to her credit that I thoroughly disliked one or two characters with a passion!  

The forensic portions of the book were intense and very satisfying.  It was remarkable to read of the early crime-scene "investigations" which amounted to little more than washing the blood from the streets, identifying the victim and photographing the victim's eyes as it was believed then that the last images the deceased saw would be forever seared on their eyes and could be captured by camera.  Equally fun was to read of Trevor's ideas and suggestions, knowing how different crime detection would be in the next century. 

As a self-admitted true crime junkie, I always dive head first into books like City of Darkness but can also be very critical.  You will find no criticisms from me with regard to this book.  Ms. Wright stayed true to history and true to the facts of the actual Ripper cases.  She gave a real voice to the Ripper's last known victim, Mary Kelly, even allowing the reader to follow her into her world, complete with leering looks, exchanges of soup for skin and a love of reading.  She even gave Queen Victoria, notorious for her modesty, a cameo.

I did like how Ms. Wright wrapped the story up and I was pleased with the subject she named as the infamous killer - - a suspect that was mentioned in Scotland Yard's papers from the original investigation.  It was welcomed that she did not create a fictional character to take the heat but rather chose an actual person that she believed was likely the Ripper after her own research. 

If you like true crime, especially unsolved true crime, I guarantee you will enjoy City of Darkness.  If you are a fan of Victorian mysteries, look no further as this book will satisfy your craving.  I would not hesitate to recommend City of Darkness without reservation.  It is easily one of the best books I will read this year. 

I am thrilled that this is the first book in a new series called City of Mystery.  I anxiously await the next books in the series. 

Bravo, Kim Wright!

City of Darkness is available for purchase now at Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.  

June 7, 2012

Author Interview: KIM WRIGHT

Today I am pleased to welcome Kim Wright, author of Love in Mid Air and the newly released City of Darkness, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.  Welcome, Kim!

I recently finished your new historical mystery, City of Darkness.  It is one of the best books I will read this year - - I loved it!

KW:  Thanks so much, Lori.  I'm thrilled to hear you liked it!

It is a huge departure from your previous book, Love in Mid Air.  How did you decide to write not only a mystery but a historical themed mystery involving the infamous Jack the Ripper?

KW:  I've always had a fascination with Jack the Ripper and other true crime cases.  I remember once I was stuck in a beach house on a rainy weekend and I found a book in the bookcase that was written by a coroner.  It covered ten of the most famous crimes in history and told how they would use modern day forensics if the case occurred now - - and how they'd probably therefore be able to solve them.  One of the cases was the Ripper.  He left behind a ton of physical evidence but since they didn't have fingerprinting or blood typing in 1888, it was useless to the police.  I guess all that just stayed in my mind.

How much research went into writing a book focusing on 1888 London and the first forensics unit at Scotland Yard?

KW:  A fair amount.  The Internet makes it easy.  All of the Ripper victims in the novel are his real victims and those crime scenes are based exactly on the police reports.  The photographs were pretty hard to study and I literally had nightmares while writing the book.  I also studied the list of suspects that Scotland York did interview and strongly consider and of course I tried to recreate the realities of the Victorian Age.  The hardest part wasn't weaving in the facts, it was getting the language right.  I'm in a writing group so seven other people read the book chapter by chapter, line by line, patiently trying to help me avoid making the characters sound too modern - - while all the while making them modern enough to appeal to readers in 2012.

City of Darkness has a fantastic cast of characters.  Who was your favorite to write?

KW:  I love the villains, especially Leanna's brother Cecil.   His dialogue practically flew out of my fingertips, almost like I was channeling him.  I imagined him sounding like Scar in The Lion King.  You know, Jeremy Irons slowly drawling "Life is so much easier when you're surrounded by idiots."

Given that the Ripper murders have never officially been solved, did that make your job as a writer easier or more difficult?  Did you feel the need to identify the killer in City of Darkness or was it a natural progression to the story?

KW:  After leading my readers through 400 pages I felt I had to give them some sort of solution!  So I chose one of the real life suspects and built the ending around him.  I actually think he is the most likely, based on my research.  And I plan to bring this character back in a future book and give my new Scotland Yard forensics team one more shot at catching history's ultimate bad guy.

I understand that you decided to self-publish City of Darkness.   Could you share your journey to getting it self-published and why you chose that route?

KW:  It's no secret that publishing is in turmoil and one of the (many) ways this affects writers is that it takes longer than ever to get a book sold and out.  My agent and I were talking and he was estimating that it would be two years per book under the best of circumstances.  I was projecting a series and in my head I saw the arc of at least five books . . . and I'm 56 years old!  I did the math and decided I didn't want to turn the release dates over to a publisher and risk being 70 before the series wrapped up.  A desire to set a pace of a book about every nine months was a huge part of my decision. 

Self-publishing gives the author more control and freedom, I would imagine, as well as a bigger financial stake.  The biggest downside, though, must be marketing.  As a self-published author, how do you go about marketing your book?

KW:  The big thing you sacrifice as a self-published author is the chance to be in bookstores.  All of my sales for City of Darkness will be online.  But other than that, I have to say it's not that dissimilar to my experience of bringing out a book with a Big Six publisher.  Even if you have an agent, editor and publicist . . . a lot of the marketing falls to the writer these days.  A lot.  Social media plays a huge roll and so the writer is working with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. to get the word out and keep the book fresh on the minds of potential readers.  Fortunately I like that part of the job . . . but some writers I know are more reclusive and they really suffer with the marketing tasks. 

City of Darkness is the first book in a mystery series, is that correct?  Can you share with us future books in the series?

KW:     City of Light takes place in Paris on the eve of the Exposition Universale, which is widely hailed as the greatest World's Fair of all time - - it's the one which debuted the Eiffel Tower, the building of which plays a large role in the story.  The third book, City of Silence, will take place in St. Petersburg where Queen Victoria's favorite granddaughter, Alexandra, is about to marry the young czar, Nicholas.  Future books will be set in Buenos Aires and New York.  I envision sending my fledgling forensics team all over the world, solving cases at the request of the Queen.  The series is collectively called City of Mystery and if your readers want to be notified as future volumes become available they can email me at cityofmystery@gmail.com .

What led you to becoming an author?

KW:  I've always wanted to be a writer and never dreamed of doing anything else.  When I was a child I would fold several sheets of typing paper in half and write a "book" every Sunday afternoon, complete with crayon illustrations.  I wish my production was still that fast!

You have written both fiction and nonfiction.  What are the pros and cons to each?

KW:  I love both and will always write both.  Nonfiction gives you the chance to do lots of interviews and research, which I find incredibly fun.  But fiction lets you have more control over your subject matter.  I can pretty much take my characters wherever I want them to go.

What is the single best piece of advice you've received as an author that you would like to share?

KW:  The best advice I've ever received or passed along to other writers is this:  Don't isolate yourself.  I have lots of writer friends on Facebook and Twitter and in "real life" most of my friends are writers too.  We bounce ideas around, read and edit early drafts, and help each other with the technical sides of the job like finding an agent or marketing.  Most importantly, however, my writing friends keep me sane in the process.  A lot of writers are reclusive, as I said above.  They like to go to their cabin in the snowy woods and just write.  And I understand that - - there are times when I immerse myself in the work as well.  But a community of writers is such an important asset that I urge people to connect with others in their field as early in the process as they can.

I understand that your daughter is also an author.  Talent must run in the family!  What type of books does she write?  Any chance you might co-author a book?

KW:  My daughter Leigh Jenkins is also working on a series - - and, come to think of it, it's also about a man who has issues with women.  (I think I must stop here and explain that her father and my ex-husband is a very lovely man, and our subject matter is pure coincidence!)  Leigh has created an alternative history series called The Six Lives of Henry VIII in which she imagines how history would have been changed if just one thing had gone differently in each of Henry's six famous marriages.  She has always had a passion for the Tudors.  The first three books in the series - - Catherine the Inquisitor, Anne the Saint, and Jane the Spy - - are out on Amazon and she's working on Anne the Warrior now. 

As for collaboration . . . we edit each other's books and are in the same writing group so we're very involved in each other's process.  But I'm not sure we could ever co-author a book without killing each other!  We're too much alike. 

A few random questions . . .

The toppings I like on my pizza are . . . prosciutto, garlic and sundried tomatoes

The television show that is my guilty pleasure is . . . Chopped.  Or pretty much anything on the Food Channel

The book currently on my nightstand is . . . The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

The fictional character I would most love to meet is . . . Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

If I was a Super Hero I would be . . . Clairvoyant Girl, able to casually read the minds of strangers

Lastly, while one word do you think best describes City of Darkness?

KW:  Intense.

Thank you, Kim, for stopping by and taking the time to chat with me and my readers.  I wish you the best of luck and greatest success with City of Darkness and so look forward to the next books in the series! 

City of Darkness is available for purchase now at Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Kim Wright, please visit her Amazon page.

For more information on author Leigh Jenkins, please visit her Amazon page

Please stop by on Friday, June 8 for my review of the impossible-to-put-down City of Darkness!

Here is a question for you:  if you could write about any historical event, what would it be and why?  I love the idea Kim has, writing about famous unsolved crimes.  I also love Hollywood from the 1920s and 1930s so that would likely be my path.  What about you?