Thursday, July 23, 2015

Alchemy's Daughter by Mary A. Osborne (Review and Giveaway)

Alchemy's Daughter by Mary A. Osborne
Lake Street Press
ISBN: 978-1936181179
Published May 2015
Trade Paperback, 288 pages

Book Description:

In medieval San Gimignano, Italy, daughters of merchants are expected to marry. But Santina Pietra cares only for Calandrino, a brilliant young scholar who is preoccupied with his ancient alchemical texts.

Soon Santina meets Trotula, the village midwife, who might or might not be a "strega," a witch. Trotula challenges her to forget Calandrino and become the woman she is meant to be. Some say she is a victim of the midwife’s spell, but Santina is determined to follow in Trotula’s footsteps even as calamities strike.

My Review:

A story set in medieval Italy, a strong female protagonist, midwifery, science, romance, adventure, the Black Death, betrayal, intrigue...these are just some of the elements that made me love reading Alchemy's Daughter. Santina is a great character, well-developed, strong and yet vulnerable, living in a time when science was little understood and women could be considered witches and burned just for practicing advanced medicine little understood at the time.

She is also young and in love, and we feel strongly her coming of age as she makes the bold move to defy convention and live with Trotula, a strong and intelligent woman who would become her mentor. I was totally fascinated by the midwifery practices and very impressed by Osborne's meticulous research. The author also includes a timeline of historical events, sketched maps and a glossary of the Italian words used throughout the text.

I loved Osborne's writing style, which was fluid and compelling. Through the plot, setting and dialogue, we can see that the author understood 14th century Italy with the strong influence of the Church, small village life and endless gossip. I couldn't get enough of this story as I was transported to an era in which I am glad not to have been born, especially since I had to undergo a C-section when giving birth to my children.

This story entertained me and touched me deeply as the plight of some pregnant mothers brought tears to my eyes. It made me applaud the women in the past who took a stand to help their gender and the author for writing about a young woman who chose to be different even at great cost to herself. This was historical fiction at its best and I am Osborne's newest fan. I now look forward to reading her first novel Nonna's Book of Mysteries.

To read more reviews, please visit Mary A. Osborne's page on Italy Book Tours.

Where to buy the book:

About the Author

Mary A. Osborne is the multiple award-winning author of Alchemy's Daughter and Nonna’s Book of Mysteries. A graduate of Rush University and Knox College, where she was mentored in the Creative Writing Program, Ms. Osborne is a registered nurse and holds degrees in chemistry and nursing. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as Hektoen International, Newcity, and the Ms. Osborne lives in Chicago.

Connect with Mary: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


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Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Out from the Underworld by Heather Siegel (Book spotlight & Giveaway)

Today I'm featuring Out from the Underworld by Heather Siegel, a gutsy memoir of how the author and her siblings faced parental abandonment. It's well-written and almost reads like a novel.

You can find my review on This is a story that touches on mental illness, family responsibility and fighting to win against all odds. Heather is an author to watch out for, and I look forward to reading her future work.

In her memoir, Heather tells of how she and her sister are put into foster care with an Italian family. I had to laugh when Heather recounts her first meeting with Mrs. Giordano when even before being introduced, Mrs Giordano opens the refrigerator and offers them food. Heather states in her memoir, "I liked her way of food first, business second."

Food is a big part of the Italian culture. Everything revolves around it. Food is both seen as an art and as comfort. In North America the Italian Americans brought the customs from their small towns and are still practising them today, like making tomato sauce and wine in the fall. I grew up with these customs that are such an inherent part of my life.

Anyhow, be sure to check out this memoir and enter the giveaway!

About the Book:

Out from the Underworld by Heather Siegel
Greenpoint Press
ISBN: 978-0-9906194-0-6
Published: April 30, 2015
Trade paperback, 220 pages

Heather Siegel was six years old when her mother disappeared, sending her father into a tailspin that took Heather and her siblings down with him— from a comfortable suburban home to a barely habitable basement apartment, a dark world they soon found themselves fighting to return to from the exile of foster care, then fighting even harder to escape.

Forty years later, Heather Siegel tells the remarkable story of how she and her siblings, Jaz and Greg, banded together to find out what happened to their mother and fight their way Out from the Underworld with nothing but their wits, determination, unbreakable bonds and gifts for humor and compassion to sustain them. A wrenching, inspiring story filled with heartbreak, hope and love, Out from The Underworld will move you to laughter and tears.

Where to buy the book:

About the Author:

Heather Siegel holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from The New School. Her work has appeared on and in The Mother Magazine and Author Magazine, as well as in various trade publications. She was a finalist for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Award in Nonfiction Writing, the 2011 San Francisco Writers Conference Nonfiction Writing Award, the Carolina Wren Press 2012 Doris Bakwin Award and the 2012 Kore Press First Book Award. A multi-creative person with interests in the arts, nutrition, health and beauty, she has founded several independent businesses, including a coffeehouse, a café, an organic juice bar and a natural beauty bar. She currently lives with her husband, Jon, and daughter, Julia, in the woods of Long Island in a house filled with light.

Connect with Heather: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


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