Monday, November 23, 2020

Book Feature: THE SHADE UNDER THE MANGO TREE by Evy Journey



Evy Journey
Sojourner Books
Contemporary Fiction

After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home in California and Hawaii where she grew up. An adventure in which she can also make some difference. She ends up in place where she gets more than she bargained for.

Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it. But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his life.

Months later, they meet at a bookstore where Luna works and which Lucien frequents. Fascinated by his stories and his adventurous spirit, Luna volunteers for the Peace Corps. Assigned to Cambodia, she lives with a family whose parents are survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide forty years earlier. What she goes through in a rural rice-growing village defies anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?

Amazon →

Evy Journey, SPR (Self Publishing Review) Independent Woman Author awardee, is a writer, a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse who, wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.

She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.


Sunday, November 22, 2020


Tagai Tarutin
Silverwood Books
Medieval Romance

Hellalyle and Hildebrand, were drawn into a relationship engineered by those same unseen forces who had selected her bodyguard; their purpose, to thwart the devil, incarnate in Prinz Paulus, in its attempts to kill the princess.

A downs-syndrome girl of mysterious origins, named Ethla, emerges out of the wildwood. She is taken care of by Princess Hellalyle. and plays a crucial part in the narrative.

The king, while away, learns of the developing relationship between his daughter and the leader of her bodyguard, and feels betrayed by the English knight, and so dispatches his champions – his seven sons, and Paulus – to arrest, and execute Hildebrand, and confine Hellalyle until the king`s return.

The eleven, remaining protectors of the princess, leave the kingdom, believing their contract has been nullified by Thorstiens edict, leaving Hildebrand alone to face Hellalyle`s brothers and step-brother. The Englishman takes the fight to his adversaries, and slaughters all the unfortunate siblings of the princess, except Paulus, who after surrendering to Hildebrand, turns about and treacherously kills him, and then brutally, incarcerates his step-sister.

As these occurrences were unfolding, in another part of the continent, one of her bodyguards, the Teutonic knight, Karl von Altenburg, now living in a monastic order, experiences a vision, informing him of Hellalyle`s plight, and sets out to for Castle Preben.

Meanwhile, in her prison, Hellalyle gives birth to Hildebrand`s son, now sole heir, whom she names Hagen. On a fateful day, Ethla, at the princess’s urging, flees into the wilderness, taking to safety, the infant crown prince, to save him from Prinz Paulus, who, feeling outwitted mortally wounds the princess in revenge.

“A beautiful love story of a medieval knight and a noble princess written by Tagai Tarutin. The book allows us to go back in history and hear more about the exploits of the legendary Hildebrand and his beloved Hellalyle. The book is full of picturesque scenes of the events in Medieval Europe and it gives us the opportunity to immerse in the spirit of those times. It will be a good read for those interested in history, literature and romance…” – Alexandra Suyazova, Teaching Fellow of English, Saint Petersburg, Russia

“A fabulous story that could be easily transformed into a screen version, about a truly romantic relationship beyond any prejudice, driven by pure intentions at the times when the chivalry and nobleness made the difference in survival of a human life.” – Anatoly Leonidovich Rasputin, graduate in English from the University of Linguistics, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Amazon →

B&N →


In the great hall, Hellalyle, on hearing the news that her brothers were coming to arrest Hildebrand, pleaded with him to leave. “Hildebrand, you must leave – my father has dispatched my brothers to seize you. Our relationship has set in motion a fait accompli, and now your life is in great danger.”

However, Hildebrand, staring into the fire, was in no mood to listen to her pleading, saying, “Whatever the other knights decide to do, I cannot in all consciousness allow myself to abandon you to an uncertain fate, as I feel responsible for this dire situation.”

Hellalyle, in desperation, pleaded, “Will you, please, be sensible! You cannot defeat eight armed men! Remember, these are my brothers, and at the end of the fight you will lie dead, and so will most of my brethren, and for what end? My family destroyed, and

Prince Hildebrand ignominiously buried in a foreign field, which will be a tragedy for the English nation, and it will not end there, as I feel further calamity awaits those remaining at this fortress.”

“Fate must run its course!” exclaimed the defiant knight, raising his voice. “If you think I will deliver you into the hands of Paulus, you gravely underestimate me. No greater evil walks the land, and he will surely die on the blade of my sword! As for my remains lying beneath the woodland floor, that holds no fear for me, as you have introduced this knight to the beauty of nature, and honour awaits if wild creatures should walk across my grave!”

The soldier’s expose of his inner self prompted Hellalyle to gently grasp his forearm, in a gesture of empathy to his plight, with a pained expression etched on her face. The other bodyguards met to decide on what action to take considering the king’s command, knowing that they must not obstruct. All – save one – agreed that they should depart, convinced their contract with the monarch was severed by these unfortunate events. Von Altenburg, at first, declined to abandon his friend. He was fearful for the safety of the princess, but he eventually conceded, opting to join his comrades in arms.

News of their impending departure reached Hellalyle, who decided to visit them. In a fractured voice, she addressed the company.

“Honoured knights, whom I might almost regard as my brothers and such gallant men, warriors of the Christian church…my heart is about to break. I stand here now imploring you to persuade Hildebrand to leave at once with his fraternal fighters, for if he were to stay, I fear that some tragedy may befall him and my family.”

Her impassioned speech prompted the knight von Streitz to say, “He appears to be deaf to our pleading, Your Highness! What more can we do to sway him?”

Hellalyle, almost in despair, raised her hands to her face and burst into tears. All eleven knights, embarrassed, kept their eyes fixed on the ground before stealing past her prostrate figure, anxious to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

As they rode from the castle, von Altenburg lingered to pay one last visit to Hellalyle and Hildebrand. Entering a chamber, he observed them by the window, Hildebrand pacing up and down, stabbing the floor with his sword, in apparent frustration, the princess standing in sombre contemplation of the densely wooded prospect below. They were all alone as she had sent her staff to the safety of the kitchens. As they turned to face him, von Altenburg became struck by their dramatically altered demeanour. The once-resolute Prince of England now despondent and downcast; and Hellalyle, her face once so radiant now shut down, her eyes that brightly sparkled now eclipsed. She appeared almost lifeless.


‘Hellalyle and Hildebrand’ is Tagai Tarutin’s first completed novel.

There are two others of a completely different genre, that lie unfinished, awaiting inspiration.

He has worked most of his life in sales but has always had an interest in Arts and Humanities. Things that are beautiful and appealing play an essential part in his imagination.

Besides travelling in West Europe, he has journeyed to the far South Atlantic, and European Russia, anxious to see parts of the world that are for many mystical destinations on a historical map.

You can visit his website at

Sunday, November 15, 2020

An Interview with Joan Schweighardt, Author of ‘River Aria’

Joan Schweighardt
 is the author of River Aria, which is both a standalone novel and the third book in a trilogy, as well as other novels, nonfiction titles, and children’s books. She is also a freelance writer and ghostwriter. Currently touring the blogosphere, she’s here today to discuss her novel, her series, the themes in her work, and her research conducted in South America. Visit her at 

Thanks for chatting with us today, Joan! What drew you to write a historical series partly set in the rainforests of Brazil? What attracted you about this setting and time period?

A decade ago, a publisher hired me to speedread some of their backlist books and write short descriptions for their website. One of the books was a slim and heavily annotated true story based on the edited diaries of a rubber tapper working in the Brazilian rainforest in the early 20th century. At the time I knew nothing about rubber tapping. I found the information fascinating, not only the tapping process but also the impact the industry had on Manaus, Brazil, the sleepy fishing village which became its headquarters. And having been a devotee of jungle stories since childhood, I loved reading about the beauty and dangers of the rainforest. I began to imagine writing my own rubber-tapping-in-the-rainforest story.

I visited the rainforest for the first time soon after, specifically to travel to the territories of the Achuar people on the Pastaza River in Ecuador with a small group that included environmentalists, sustainability enthusiasts, and guides and translators. It was a transformative experience, and by the time I came home, I was ready to start doing the research my story would require. When I finished my first good draft of what would eventually become the first book in a “rivers” trilogy, I returned to South America, this time to visit the city of Manaus and to travel on the Amazon and Rio Negro with a guide to see, among other things, rubber trees.

In a nutshell, can you tell us a bit about your series as a whole and the overarching arc across the different books?

Collectively the three books cover the years 1908 to 1929 and concern two different groups of people: an Irish American contingent living in New York and New Jersey and an Amerindian/European contingent from Manaus, Brazil. Book one, entitled Before We Died, begins with the two Irish American brothers leaving New Jersey because they have heard that rubber tappers in South America are making a lot of money, and they want to try their hand at it. The results of their effort are tragic, and when one of the brothers returns home without his sibling, relationships among the Irish American contingent must bend and shift accordingly, which happens over the course of the second book, Gifts for the Dead. In book three, River Aria, a young woman—the product of an affair one of the brothers had back in book one—travels to New York with a companion in the hope of finding success in the world of opera.

Let’s talk about the 3rd and latest book in the series, River Aria. Why the title?

As noted above, the South American rubber boom is the jumping off point for all three books in the trilogy. And central to the rubber boom—a symbol of both its short-lived success and its ultimate failure—is the Teatro Amazonas, the grand opera house built by wealthy rubber barons who hoped to attract world-class performers to Manaus. But the boom came to an abrupt end in 1912, and the Teatro Amazonas was basically locked up and went unused for many years.

That’s the actual history. In my novel, I took the liberty of making some changes: namely, a European voice instructor arrives in Manaus post boom, and seeing that everything is falling into a state of decrepitude, decides that he will use his remaining years to teach opera to a handful of “river brats” who would otherwise have virtually no education at all. Local dignitaries allow him to use the grand lobby of the Teatro Amazonas for his lessons. Estela, who narrates River Aria, is one his students. Her dramatic story connects the two great rivers in the novel, the Amazon and the Hudson. Since she is a singer of arias, and since arias are by definition extended songs sung by one voice, and usually very theatrical, River Aria seemed like the perfect title.

There’s quite an array of interesting characters in your novel. Which character was most challenging to write? Which one surprised you the most?

JoJo, Estela’s “cousin,” was both challenging and a complete surprise, literally, because he wasn’t supposed to have much of a role in River Aria. He is a baby in Before We Died, the first book in the series, and he is mentioned in passing in the second book, Gifts for the Dead. I didn’t plan to do more than mention him again in River Aria either. But then a friend of mine sent me a gift for my birthday…

Often things happening in my life during the time I’m writing a book come to influence the book in some way, even if there doesn’t seem to be a direct connection initially. The gift my friend sent me was a copy of The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri. Henri was a leading figure in the Ashcan school of American realism and also a popular teacher at the Arts Students League in New York City. He and his followers were great proponents of immigrants in a time period when (not unlike now) immigrants, especially those with darker skin, were not especially welcomed. As I read this wonderful book, I began to look for ways to connect Estela to Henri’s art crowd. But I had already committed Estela to the music world; it seemed like too much of a stretch to connect her to the art world too. But then I thought of JoJo, the baby from book one, who would be about Estela’s age. Once I decided to have him travel to New York with Estela, the whole plot got messier—and much more interesting. I had to invent both a good reason for JoJo to want to travel to New York and a good reason why it would have been as easy for him as it was for Estela.

Family roots and blood relations seem to hold a vital part in the story. Is this a recurrent theme in your work?

Yes, now that I look back I would have to agree with you. I write a lot about families, and sibling relationships particularly.

You made two life-changing trips to South America over the course of writing the books. What did you discover and/or corroborated that you later used in the novels?

After my first rainforest trip I began reading one book after another, trying to learn everything about the rubber boom—and the rainforests where it took place—to support the fiction I wanted to write. But it wasn’t until I came across a book based on the journals of Roger Casement, an Irish Nationalist who had been sent by the British Foreign Office to investigate stories of the mistreatment of indigenous tribes by rubber industry bosses, that I realized that the indigenous people played a huge part in the rubber boom. The recruits the rubber barons had been sponsoring were dying left and right, because most of them had no previous experience in the rainforest and were unable to cope with its dangers. So the rubber barons began to set their sights on indigenous people, taking them from their lands, enslaving them, and subjecting them to atrocities that defy imagination. Casement’s study focuses on the exploitation of one particular tribe, but it hinted that the problem was widespread, and I found evidence of this in my research thereafter, once I knew where to look.

Having seen the way the indigenous people live for myself—the beauty of their beliefs, their regard for their lands and love for their ancestors, their spirituality—corroborated for me what was lost when the rubber barons violated them.

How do you address immigration and concerns about the destruction of rainforests in these books?

I let the history of the time period guide me. The Irish American brothers who start off the trilogy in 1908 are from Hoboken, New Jersey. They are products of their parents’ immigration story. But Hoboken was populated at that time by immigrants from Italy and Germany as well as Ireland. Since the second book in the trilogy covers American involvement in WWI, and since the doughboys left for Europe from the docks in Hoboken, it was impossible not to include the story of the division among immigrant groups caused by the war, especially regarding the German Americans, who were sorely mistreated. And that is only one of many immigrant stories that came up organically in writing about this particular time and place.

Likewise stories about the destruction of the rainforest are inherent to the time and place I’ve chosen to write about. The rubber boom might have come to destroy much of the rainforest, but it didn’t, actually, because it ended soon after it began, when rubber trees planted on plantations in English territories in Southeast Asia began to produce. Henry Ford tried to create a plantation of his own in the rainforest some years later, which would have been the size of Connecticut, but he was not successful either. The fact is, there is a blight in South America that infects rubber trees when planted close together; you can’t have a plantation there. But even these failed attempts to tap the resources of the rainforest had an impact, mostly on the people who dwell in the rainforest and along its rivers. And these attempts were only precursors to the ongoing attempts unfolding in modern times, particular regarding oil drilling and mining and burning land to provide for cattle grazing. It’s an extremely important issue.

What other themes do you explore in the 3rd book, River Aria?

I’ve tried to explore what it means to be a young artist, again in a particular time and place. JoJo can barely read and write, but he paints beautifully. Estela can sing, but she has no patience. She is a slave to her fluctuating emotions. I’ve set obstacles before each of them, to see who will come closest to their respective ideas of success.

What effect did the writing of these books have on you? Were you transformed in some way?

It’s been exactly ten years since I first began to think about writing these books. That’s a long time, but you have to remember that I was freelancing for clients throughout, and weeks went by when I could not write a single word on behalf of any of my own projects. But even when I was not able to be working on the trilogy, I was thinking about it; I was reading books that touched on the subjects I wanted to explore and making notes. I was completely immersed. In The Art Spirit, Henri says, “The object of all art is intense living, fulfilment and great happiness in creation.” I have experienced all that and more.

I understand the books stand alone on their own. This is quite an achievement when writing a series. What was the most important thing to keep in mind in order to accomplish this?

Book two was the most difficult to write in such a way that it would function as both a book in a series and as a standalone novel. Of the two main characters, one, Jack, knows exactly what happened in the rainforest in book one, because he lived it, but he has reasons not to want to share that information. On the other hand, Nora, the woman he loves, feels that their relationship will remain in jeopardy if she doesn’t learn what Jack knows and is keeping from her. My job was to migrate the right amount of information from book one to book two while keeping the plot of Jack and Nora’s story moving along. I had to make sure it wouldn’t feel redundant to anyone who had read book one—or confusing to anyone who hadn’t. It was challenging. I wrote a lot of drafts before I was happy with it. I also asked fellow writers to read drafts and advise me. The third book, River Aria, relies much less on the information from either book one or book two. It was easy, relatively speaking, to bring the essentials in organically.

What’s on the horizon for you?  

River Aria is the last of three books in a historical novel trilogy. I have been utterly immersed in this series for a number of years. Because some parts of the trilogy take place in the South American rainforest, I have made two trips there. I’ve read lots of books as part of my research. This project has been intense and very enjoyable, and I think it will be hard for me to turn around and start on another novel right away. I’m thinking of taking a nonfiction break in the meantime. I hope to write something about my sister, who died a few years ago.

Thank you, Joan! And best of luck with River Aria!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Justine Carver's THE WALTZ OF DEVIL'S CREEK Book Blast & Enter Giveaway


Justine Carver
Historical Fiction

Judith Campbell is dying, and she cannot take the painful truth about where her son came from to the grave with her. While on her deathbed in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994, Judith tells him the tragic story of his conception, and which of two men his birth father could be: the young man who professed his love to her, or the pastor who assaulted her.

Set in the Deep South in 1947, The Waltz of Devil's Creek digs into the dark crevices of racism and women's rights during a heated political climate in an era of segregation. Combined with Judith's lack of social stature, and at a time when reporting sexual assault was unheard of, every injustice is stacked against her from the very beginning.

But there is a light in Judith's young life: her best friend, Joseph Bird, who has loved her since childhood. Joseph stands up for Judith when no one else will and proves that even in the darkest of times, a light is always burning.



Link to book on B&N:

Link to book on Kobo:


“But Mrs. Bird,” I said, looking over at her, “God don’t want people like Pastor Allman.”

She just looked at me for a moment, and then a smile slowly lit up her eyes again.


The voice snapped Mrs. Bird and me from our moment, our heads simultaneously jerking toward the living room.

When we heard Joseph’s feet stomping against the floor as he ran down the hallway, Mrs. Bird and I dropped the dishtowel and the plate and hurried out of the kitchen.

“YOU GET YER DUMB ASS OUT HERE!” a second voice shouted, “OR WE’RE COMIN’ IN TO GET YOU!”

“That’s the Woodson brothers,” I told Joseph’s momma.

“Don’t you go out there,” she warned him as he thrust his big feet into his shoes. “I mean it, Joseph, don’t you go out that door!”

He flung the front door open anyway, and before he could step outside, the Woodson brothers jumped on him in the doorway.

“Joseph!” I screamed.

“Get out of my house!” his momma shrieked.

The whole house shook as the three fought; a small table underneath the window beside the door fell over, shattering the flower vase atop it; fists swung and legs kicked, and cuss words flew.

“You little piece of shit, you burned up my truck!” said the blonde-haired brother.

“I’m gonna kick your nuts right up yer throat!” said the brown-haired one. “What tha hell were you thinkin’ boy?!” Thwap! When his fist pulled back, his knuckles glistened with Joseph’s blood.

“Let go of him! Let go! Let gooo!” I dug all ten of my fingernails into the blonde’s arm, trying to stop him from pulling Joseph out of the house.

His momma was on the other side, screaming as she worked, unsuccessfully, to beat them off with a broom. The blonde shoved me away, and I fell onto my butt on the porch as they dragged Joseph down the steps and into the front yard.

“Don’t you touch my son!” Mrs. Bird roared, and the broom came down hard on the brown-haired one’s back.

He whirled around, seemingly unfazed by the blow, and yanked the broom from her hands and tossed it.

They nearly beat Joseph unconscious.

Mrs. Bird ran next door and called Sheriff Woodson, but he never showed; he’d stayed out of all the incidents between Joseph and his sons. But Joseph wouldn’t have had it any other way.



Justine Carver was born and raised in the Southern United States on a heavy dose of creek-wading, lightning-bug-catching, and Saturday morning cartoons. She is a full-time writer, all-the-time reader, and every now and then, she pulls her head out of the clouds long enough to remember how much better it is up there.




Thursday, November 5, 2020

Book Feature: AROUND THE WORLD IN (MORE THAN) 80 DAYS by Larry Alex Taunton


Larry Alex Taunton
Fidelis Books

The belief in “American Exceptionalism” is under attack, declares Larry Alex Taunton, an award-winning author, columnist, and cultural commentator. “A battle rages for the heart and soul of America.”

For Taunton, the question comes down to: Is there a better place to live than America?

To explore the idea of “national greatness,” Taunton went on a global odyssey, visiting some 26 countries. He records his discoveries in his new book, AROUND THE WORLD IN (MORE THAN) 80 DAYS: DISCOVERING WHAT MAKES AMERICA GREAT AND WHY WE MUST FIGHT TO SAVE IT.

If all of this sounds like a slog over some serious philosophic and political terrain, it is, but Taunton’s wry humor leavens the loaf.

In a chapter on Sweden, for example, the author hears, on a boat tour of Stockholm, a litany of Swedish accomplishments from his guides: “America? We discovered that. Skype? We invented it. The flat screen? You’re welcome. IKEA? You guessed it.”

Taunton’s mix of socio-political observations and cheeky wit in AROUND THE WORLD IN (MORE THAN) 80 DAYS opens the book up to a large and diverse group of readers.

The online publication The Federalist says of Taunton’s work: “The social elites want evangelicals to be as dumb as they suspect they are. But when a person comes along who proves that tale false, which Taunton clearly does…they simply don’t know what to do.”

In advance praise for AROUND THE WORLD IN (MORE THAN) 80 DAYS, Paul Reid, co-author with William Manchester, of THE LAST LION: WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL: DEFENDER OF THE REALM, 1940-1965 observes:

Larry Taunton—historian, columnist, and a man of abiding Christian faith—traveled (often at great risk to himself) to twenty-six nations in order to hold a mirror up to the United States of America and ask: Is America Good and is America Great? Mark Twain did much the same more than a century ago. Twain’s and Taunton’s conclusions are identical: There is no place—literally No Place—like home. “Around the World in (More Than) 80 Days is fabulous.”  It’s going on my shelf next to “The Innocents Abroad.”

AROUND THE WORLD IN (MORE THAN) 80 DAYS is a book for all seasons.

“America—the freest, most tolerant and inclusive nation on earth—is under siege by radicals who make no effort to conceal their determination to destroy it. Larry Alex Taunton has provided patriotic Americans with a powerful weapon to defeat our enemies. Buy this book to arm yourself for the defense of your freedoms. Buy a second copy for a friend.”

— David Horowitz, author of Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America

“To truly understand how and why America is exceptional you could travel to country after country and see for yourself. You might even want to write a brilliant book about it! But lucky for you my friend, Larry Taunton has done all the traveling for you—think of the money you’ve saved!—and has written that brilliant book, making the case so clear that you owe it to yourself to grab a copy and read it! Please do!”

— Eric Metaxas, host of The Eric Metaxas Show; author of Bonhoeffer and If You Can Keep It

“The problem with being an American is that familiarity too often breeds contempt because we see our faults up close and take our virtues and blessings for granted. Larry Alex Taunton has provided a cure by lifting us up out of America, and taking us on a long and insightful tour of the world to see how other places actually stack up. Take the tour with him, and gain some very much needed perspective. You may find—as he did—there’s no place like home.”

— Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., author of 10 Books That Screwed Up the World

“Larry Taunton—historian, columnist, and a man of abiding Christian faith—traveled (often at great risk to himself) to twenty-seven nations in order to hold a mirror up to the United States of America and ask: Is America Good and is America Great? Mark Twain did much the same more than a century ago. Twain’s and Taunton’s conclusions are identical: There is no place—literally No Place—like home. Around the World in (More Than) 80 Days is fabulous. It’s going on my shelf next to The Innocents Abroad.”

— Paul Reid, co-author with William Manchester, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965


Amazon →

Larry Alex Taunton is an American author, columnist, and cultural commentator. A frequent television and radio guest, he has appeared on CNN, CNN International, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, and BBC. You can find his columns on issues of faith and culture in The Atlantic, USA Today,, and The Blaze. Taunton has been quoted by Rush Limbaugh, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, TIME, Vanity Fair, and NPR, among others. He is the author of “The Grace Effect” and “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens.”