Saturday, January 26, 2013

FREE BOOK giveaway and review of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie JR

     Wow! Talk about breaking the mold. This is the most unconventional book I've ever read. There are no chapters, no “quotations”, and some pages only have one paragraph or one sentence.  However, I ended up liking it in spite of all the weirdness. The writer is very passionate and even though it was told in an odd storytelling kind of way, it was grabbing. 
     The character Ron reminded me of Ernest Hemingway. Ron is a writer, a drunk, and bitter about love. The story jumps around a lot but the one invariable is Ron’s obsession over Emma; his high school sweetheart who came back into his life. Their love relationship is a little “Fifty Shades of Grey.”     
     At times things are very emotional, especially the stories about Ron’s father dying of cancer. It really broke my heart. Ron’s theories of Singularity were so random it became a comic relief.  Ron makes some really bad decisions in life. At one point I was cringing and warning Ron, “Don’t tell her! Don’t do it!” He didn't listen to me; I wanted to smack him in the head. In complete heartbreak Ron decides to end his life.
      The last half becomes a fast and intriguing read. Even though the randomness continues jumping around, I no longer noticed. An unusually story, presented in an unusual way, equals entertaining.

      Here's your chance to win your very own copy of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles. Please make a comment below, add your email address so I can inform you if you won. A winner will be randomly picked on January 31st 2013 at midnight.

The book trailer made me laugh; it’s why I decided to review the book.

This book was giving to me by the publisher for an honest review, I received no compensation other than the book. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

I joined the HF reading challenge and I'm hoping to be a Ancient History Reader!

2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge announce that they will be hosting the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge in 2013.

The challenge will run in the same way as it has over the last couple of years that we have hosted the challenge. The only thing that has changed is the names of the categories.

Here are the details:

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:
  • everyone can participate, even those who don't have a blog (you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish)
  • add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review)
  • any kind of historical fiction is accepted (HF fantasy, HF young adult,...)
During these following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels: 

20th century reader - 2 books
Victorian reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History -25+ books

To join the challenge you only need to make a post about it. The challenge runs from 1 January to 31 December 2013.

We look forward to having you join us in reading and enjoying the best in historical fiction over the next year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Teaser


I received an ARC from Viking Books of "Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles" by Ron Currie, JR 

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 (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Share your Tuesday Teaser and post them here or post on your blog and share the link on here. 

Here is my Tuesday Teaser:

“When she settled back down onto her towel our eyes lingered for a beat, two, and then we got back to work. I looked up a few minutes later and saw that Jerry had flipped to a fresh page in his notebook, where he’d started a somewhat abstract sketch of a chestnut-haired beauty in a black bathing suit walking forever away, toward the water.”

Watch this great book trailer of an author interview from the book character. I thought this was funny and it's what made me want to read the book.

There will be a free book giveaway for "Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles." My review is coming and on the review blog I will have the free book giveaway.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review of Heartless by Jaimey Grant

Leandra Harcourt marries a tall dark stranger because she has been abandoned by her step family after her father passes away. She has no where to go. Her husband is mysterious and sexy but doesn't take the marriage vows very serious when he leaves her to attend to business after only being married 2 days.
The Duke of Derringer, or as some call him Heartless married Leandra because she is the first woman he meets after he finds out he needs to marry to save his inheritance.  Leandra Harcourt is nothing like his other mistresses, she is plan with glasses. He's intrigued as he learns he married someone he can't just bully around. She learns there is much more to the man than just being cruel.
This is a wonderful love story, but not only do you get romanced by a Duke, many questions arise. First, what really happened in the death of the Duke's mom and why has it made him so heartless. Now that the Duke inherited his money, who is out to kill him? Will they stop at the Duke? Or by marrying Leandra has he put her life in jeopardy? In the end, things turn deadly. You are holding your breath wondering how it will all turn out. It's a great story of romance and mystery.

To purchase

Connect with Jaimey 

Jaimey also creates book covers. Check out

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review of Death Before Compline by Sharan Newman

I had the great pleasure of attending a book event at Poisoned Pen with Sharan Newman talking about her new book Death Before Compline.  Each short story had plenty of mystery and intrigue...A GREAT READ!

Death Before Compline is a collection of short stories that go along with the full length novels Sharan Newman wrote over the years. A 12th century girl Catherine Levendeur makes up most of the short stories. She is a 12th century Nancy Drew, always running into some kind of trouble, always a murder she is determined to solve. Catherine is a fun witty character to read about. I thoroughly enjoyed Sharan Newman's writing and attention to detail. You could really imagine yourself in the 12th century. I have to admit as much I enjoyed Catherine, I fell in love with Solomon's stories which took up the last two short stories. He is extremely likable and smart. I'm now intrigued to read all of Sharan Newman's novels and get to know these characters even better. This is the first book published by Bagwyn books and if this is any indication of what they will be offering, I'm eagerly awaiting the other books they publish.

To order this great book go to:
Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and author. She took her Master’s degree in Medieval Literature at Michigan State University and then did her doctoral work at the University of California at Santa Barbara in Medieval Studies, specializing in twelfth-century France.

She is a member of the Medieval Academy and the Medieval Association of the Pacific. Newman has done research at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique France Meridionale et Espagne at the University of Toulouse and the Institute for Jewish History at the University of Trier, as well as many departmental archives.

More information about Bagwyn books

Monday, January 14, 2013

ACMRS is a great organization for history lovers.

My day job, when I'm not writing, I work for a small publishing company Geode Press. Right now I'm promoting a new series on Zenobia. A true historical figure in the 3rd century. She was a warrior and queen and challenged Rome. 

I love finding new organizations, especial ones that help study history. I wish I would have found them a bit sooner to take advantage of the entire FEARLESS FEMALES program. I’m hoping for future programs like this, and even though they focus on Medieval and Renaissance I hope to see if Zenobia can participate; They don’t get anymore fearless than Zenobia. 

ACMRS (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies) ACMRS is the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. A research center representing Arizona's three public universities: ASU, U of A, and NAU.

How past civilizations handled the challenges of disease, societal upheavals, class distinctions, climate changes – are all part of our common “Human” experience, regardless of the century. We can avoid disastrous, unproductive mistakes by studying these societies and create better solutions for our world today.

·         FEARLESS FEMALES: AUDACIOUS AND FEISTY WOMEN OF THE MIDDLE AGES AND RENAISSANCE: An immensely popular program that highlights women of the Middle Ages and Renaissance who refused to be silenced by society, convention and regulations of their times to succeed in finding their own paths. Not only does this program explore those feisty women in Europe, but extends to areas seldom discussed – China, Latin America and beyond. Each presentation is led by a noted scholar in the field HOWEVER, is tailored for the general audience. These presentations are for those of us who crave more knowledge about this incredible era but are not academics or scholars. Attendees are invited and encouraged to ask questions of the scholar and able to mix and mingle with those who are similarly interested in this time period. For more information and future presentations, please visit our Public Programs page

Attention teachers! Want to have a great way to reach your students while studying history? They have a medieval class and it looks like they are working on having a traveling classroom where they can come to you. For more information OR donate to help this program grow contact:

Not only does ACMRS have great programs for the public but they just started a publishing company BAGWYN BOOKS. Attention all my writer friends check out their submission requirements and see if they are a good fit for you.

·         BAGWYN BOOKS: A new imprint of ACMRS to publish historical fiction centered in the medieval and Renaissance periods. Bagwyn Books is dedicated to publishing well-researched historical fiction novels for young adults (ages 14+) to adult readers. SUBMISSIONS WELCOMED. Bagwyn Books invites the submission of proposals for book-length fiction manuscripts from new, emerging, and established authors. Consideration will only be given to works centering on or connected to the medieval and Renaissance periods (400 C.E. to 1700 C.E.). Please see submission guidelines for additional information.

Like ACMRS on Facebook

“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” - Sir Winston Churchill

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The continued interview with Lorrisa Julianus

Queen Zenobia played by Lorrisa Julianus
copyright Photography by Michelle Ho

Are you working on any current projects other than Zenobia the musical?

She’s my obsession and left room for little else last summer, especially with so many actors to sew costumes for! But I’m very open to whatever experiences and opportunities come into my sphere in 2013. One of my dreams is to be an on-camera host for History Channel documentaries or travelogues ala Rick Steves.

Where did you get your training?

I graduated with a Film/Theatre B.A. from Columbia College Chicago at age 17 in 2003. I continue to train and work with Chicago’s best acting and voice coaches.

In how many films you have performed up till now?

A ton of shorts, and a small amount of feature films as those are hard to finance and not many are shot in Chicago as compared to short films, commercials, and industrials. My latest feature was “The Dream Play,” which won several awards on the film fest circuit.

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a theater play?

Significantly different, and there are many theories on a proper approach. There are basic rules with film that stage actors have to get accustomed to, some of which have to do with limiting movement and having careful control of where one’s eyeline is directed. Not to mention the need to project one’s voice onstage and not on film.

Which has been your favorite character that you have performed?

My favorite stage role was Judas in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. It was set in a post-apocalyptic world and director Michael Fudala was very open-minded with gender casting. He let me interpret Judas as Jesus’ sullen bodyguard filled with unrequited love. It was a blast. Gave a whole new meaning to kiss of betrayal!

What has been your biggest achievement in the field of acting?

My most notable credits at the moment include lead motion capture acting (roles of Sonya, Mileena, Shiva, Kitana, and others) for the last two Mortal Kombat videogames, lead acting for several other WB fighting games, and an appearance on “The Bold & the Beautiful.” Horror film fans might remember me as Countess Bathory in the reality show for After Dark Films that they added on their 2008 DVD releases.

What do you prefer theater acting or movie acting?

Film is a passion of mine and always has been. I do theatre for the camaraderie, discipline, and because the opportunities are far more abundant. Film acting can be harder as you can’t BS the camera! But to me there’s nothing more exciting than the experience of being on set.

Who is your favorite actor/actress that inspires you?

That’s a tough one. Growing up, my favorites were Patrick Stewart and classics like Yul Brynner, Greta Garbo, Danny Kaye, and George Sanders. I developed an obsession with silent films in high school and remember being taken aback when a fellow driver’s ed student had no idea who Rudolph Valentino was! Nowadays, the actors whose performances I admire most include Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman, Edward Norton, Liam Neeson, Robert Downey, Jr., and Glenn Close.

What kind of roles have you performed throughout your career? What kind of roles do you prefer?

Villains, always! They get to have so much fun! After that, anything historical is my favorite. I also have a soft spot for superheroes and love being one in Mortal Kombat and the other WB fighter games. I have a strength in accents and dialects, and enjoy using those for character development. As much as I get cast as the Eastern European femme fatale (and truly enjoy it), bimbo roles are my strong suit in improv comedy. Jokes can be found in almost anything and daffy ditzes can get away with saying anything onstage! I’m sure I’ll miss being the silly one onstage as Zenobia.

Thanks to Lorrisa Julianus for a great interview. Her talent amazes me, and doesn't she make a beautiful Zenobia?!

Don't miss your chance to see Lorrisa play in Zenobia the musical in Bolingbrook, Illinois August / September 2013 at the Theatre on the Hill, for more information go to

For more information about Lorrisa go to her website 

Scott Bovaird as Danathus & Lorrisa Julianus as Zenobia
copyright Photography by Michelle Ho

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I interviewed the talented Lorrisa Julianus who will be playing Zenobia in the musical this summer in Bolingbrook, Illinois.

Matt Grotto & Lorrisa Julianus
copyright Photography by Craig J. Engel

Check out the promotional video of Zenobia the musical:

Lorrisa, thanks for letting me interview you; I love to meet other Zenobia fans. I am very excited to see you play Zenobia in the musical at the Bolingbrook, Illinois Theater on the Hill, coming out summer of 2013!

Thank you, Julie! I'm so glad you found our promotional video online. I look forward to seeing you at the show and to reading Russ' book series about our favorite lady.

What first got you interested in Zenobia?

I have been obsessed with the ancient world since I was six years old and would watch Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments over and over. I met Zenobia in a book about historical heroines when I was 14. She stood out to me because the book described her as 14 when she became queen and married Odaenathus, the king of Palmyra. What stuck with me was the particular version of her history that this book related--that after her defeat, she was spared by Emperor Aurelian and married a senator. From that moment I wanted to write a musical about her, but it took me until 2010 to find my amazing composing partner, Angela Salvaggione.

You wrote the play and lyrics, how long did it take you to write it?

I wrote character ideas years ago but began writing in earnest in the fall of 2010. First reading with a group of theatre folk was April 2012. The tweaks and improvements never really end, and I’m sure we’ll be making adjustments right up to opening night.

Where did you get your ideas while writing the play?

That’s the hardest question to answer! Nobel-prize winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz has indirectly influenced my writing for the last fourteen years, along with classics like Ben-Hur (the film) and The Robe (the book). The villainess Diana was inspired by real-life women who have delivered identical lines. (Lord, I hope they don’t expect royalties!) My husband Craig was the first one to read the script and gave very helpful ideas that established the early relationship between Zenobia and her first love, Alexander. Significant credit is also due to Angela, who actively composed the music while I wrote the book, and was a great partner in fine-tuning lyrics and developing song concepts. Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt, composed by Stephen Schwartz, has been a favorite film musical of mine since 1998, as are many Disney musicals. Likewise, humor, romance, intrigue, and universal mythologies are all important parts of Zenobia the musical. It is decidedly PG-13, however. The violence and cruelty of Zenobia’s world is juxtaposed with the power of love and the human spirit, even beyond the grave. Lastly, I incorporated themes from the front page of the newspaper (back when those still were printed), such as the entitlement of the “one percent”. In an eerie echo of the self-obsessed aristocrats in my musical, Newsweek had a fascinating 2012 article about the privileged class of modern Syria partying while Damascus literally burns.

Not only are you a great actress but you also are an artist; How did you get started in that? Where can someone see your work?

I’ve been sketching portraits for years but began painting seriously during the recession of 2009. Caravaggio and Michelangelo are my idols, and I’ve been an art history enthusiast for years. I gravitate to the human form as subject, and began showing at galleries and winning awards rather quickly. My work has been at the Brigantine Gallery of Downers Grove, the Hinsdale Gallery, Balmain Art & Antiques of Nassau, Bahamas, and many libraries throughout Chicagoland. Best way to see my portfolio is to check out my Facebook page, “The Art of Lorrisa Julianus, ‘Embrace the Night.’”

How did you get involved in Acting?

We couldn’t afford to see theatre when I was growing up, but my actor uncle managed to get us comp tickets to his performances and that’s when my love affair with acting and playwrighting began.

How many plays have you done so far?

I really have no idea. A lot!

I know the play comes out summer of 2013; are exact dates set? And how does one get tickets?

It looks like we’ll be doing a free show as part of Bolingbrook’s Jubilee, a huge town fest in mid-August. We’ll be kicking off the weekend’s events with our premiere Thursday, August 16th. Seating is outdoor and unlimited; we are expecting up to 1,000 people, as that was the average attendance for last year’s free summer concerts at the same venue. We will also run as a ticketed show Labor Day weekend (far better chances for good seats); check back at closer to show dates.

Scott Bovaird as Danathus & Lorrisa Julianus as Zenobia
copyright Photography by Michelle Ho

The Interview will continue on Tuesday, Check back for more inside information on Lorrisa Julianus.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Book Review of Drawn by Marie Lamba

A great read of a teenagers struggling to fit in; an unusual romance with paranormal aspect; and time travel to the War of the Roses. It's Stephenie Meyer's Twilight meets the Cousins' War series by Phillipa Gregory. 

Young Adult book review but a great read for all ages. Check out my book review at