1. The Skin of Water by Greg Johnston
Passions flare and alliances shift in this breathtaking story of survival set during the final days of World War II in Hungary.
Young Zeno dreams of moving to Budapest and becoming a great filmmaker in the Hungarian film studios. But one evening he follows Catherine Steiner, a guest at the exclusive lakeside resort where he works as a bellboy, into the forest. Unknowingly he dives into her life, changing his forever.
Her husband is a wealthy industrialist with the power to create – or crush – Zeno. Despite Catherine’s protests, Zeno moves to Budapest and takes a servant’s job in the Steiner house, shining her husband’s shoes while hearing the family’s secrets.
All Zeno and Catherine have are precious hours in a secret apartment, tucked above the uneasy streets of a city at war, their affair a flimsy wall against a future no one can see or predict. Until it arrives.



GISBORNE started for fun, in instalments on her blog, Mesmered's Blog, and after a long work of research and editing, has now become a very interesting debut historical novel for Australian author Prue Batten. Mind you, this is not Ms Batten's  first publication,  but her debut in the historical fiction genre. Today GISBORNE has been released and it is available for Kindle at amazon.com (HERE).
I've  had the pleasure and honour to read it before its publication and - do I need to say it? - I loved it! This is my review. No major spoiler, don't worry. And by the way, there is a giveaway contest linked to this post. Read the details below if you want to get a chance to win your copy of GISBORNE!

‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.’
Julian of Norwich

Richard Armitage as Gisborne (BBC Robin Hood 2006)
When you first meet him astride his steed and with his proud demeanour, he feels compassion, not pity, for Lady Ysabel. He is Gisborne, her father’s steward come to escort her home from Aquitaine after her mother’s death. With his black hair, his blue eyes and his visceral voice, he immediately fascinates you and, like Ysabel of Moncrieff, you want to know more about this man.
It is not Guy of Gisborne from Child  Ballad  (#118), the big man “clad in his capull-hyde topp and tayll and mayne” who Robin Hood easily dispatches, but a rewritten gripping hero. The author was inspired by the character from the BBC Robin Hood (2006/2009) and with the sensitive contribution of Richard Armitage but there the similarity ends.
No Robin Hood nor merry men exist in Prue Batten’s tale set in the final years of the 12th century, the years of Henry II’s sons, Prince Richard and Prince John, both aspiring to the throne of England. And Gisborne is not the  Sheriff’s second-in-command. A dark character, maybe. A complex round figure definitely. You can find echoes of the Gisborne you’ve seen in the BBC series, fighting for status and power, with his conflicting attempts to redeem himself for love, with a temptestous temper and a troubled soul, vulnerable but strongly proud at the same time. But he lives again in the pages of a totally new story with a different background and an utterly new heroine to love – Ysabel of Moncrieff.



Cecilia Latella is my guest today to talk about her interest in Richard III and  about her comic book dedicated to him, The Boar (Read my review HERE)
Cecilia Latella was born in Naples in 1981. She has always loved stories of heroes and knights, so that her first comic, drew when she was in elementary school, was a short version of the Odyssey. While at university she has outlined 948 pages of a fantasy saga entitled Asanor. After her PhD in Comparative Literatures, she has returned to comics, writing and drawing The Boar, a biography of Richard III, that was self-published and presented in Lucca '09. In 2010, she was selected by Craig Thompson for a graphic novels residency that took place at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Florida. She is currently working as art director for the MAD Entertainment animation studio and is continuing to draw comics for a series of indipendent writers.

Richard III - Saint and Wicked by Cecilia Latella
Where does your interest in Richard III and the Ricardian cause come from? A book, a movie, a college course?
The first time I met the figure of Richard III was in the comic book adaptation of The Black Arrow by Gianni De Luca. I was 13 at the time. In it, as in Stevenson’s novel, Richard is described as a young captain, ruthless but at the same time following his own code of honour. Plus, he is superbly drawn (De Luca was and is one of my favourite artists). I was hooked in particular by the last scene, in which he regrets not being able to enjoy a normal, happy life. After that, I started looking for more stories featuring Richard III.

Which was the book /film/play that made the difference for you?
I’d lie if I didn’t admit that Shakespeare’s Richard III was a major factor of my fascination. I read it after The Black Arrow and it was a blast. I fell in love with Richard’s way with words, his wit and his black humour. I’ve always been fascinated by ambiguous characters, and Richard was the peak of charming villains. Then I found, by chance, an abridged version of Jean Plaidy’s The Reluctant Queen, and as easily as I was hit by Richard as villain, I accepted his version



Meet Victoria Lamb and get a chance to win her "The Queen's Secret" (read the giveaway details below) .
While studying Elizabethan playwrights at university, Victoria Lamb always dreamed of writing a series of novels about Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'. Now a busy mother of five, she has finally achieved that ambition after much research, fixing on the fascinating figure of Lucy Morgan as Shakespeare's Muse.
Victoria lives in Warwickshire, also known as Shakespeare Country, only twenty minutes from Kenilworth Castle where her novel, "The Queen's Secret", is set. The middle daughter of bestselling novelist Charlotte Lamb, Victoria grew up in the peaceful Isle of Man, benefitting from a vast library of thousands of books and a family of published writers from which to take inspiration. She is presently working on a new novel featuring Lucy Morgan and William Shakespeare.
Her other work includes several books of poetry published under the name Jane Holland, and a paranormal Tudor series for Young Adult readers as Victoria Lamb, launching with "Witchstruck" in summer 2012. Here is my interview with her.



Re-reading North and South or re-watching the TV series (BBC 2004),  I can never avoid figuring out the dreaded event, pushing myself  a step ahead the words “the end “.  By dreaded event, I mean the meeting between  Margaret Hale and Hannah Thornton as John’s wife-to-be and mother-in-law to be.  Not an enthusiastic one, I guess, with poor embarassed John between them hoping they could get on well together somehow for his sake. 
I've written a guest post about "The Two Women in Mr Thornton's Heart" for  A North and South Celebration , the event celebrating Mrs Gaskell's novel at Melanie's Musings this week.
I'll wait for you there, then. Join the discussion and contribute your opinion, if you feel like doing it. Melanie and I will be glad to read your comments. 
- How do you imagine their first meeting as in-laws to be?
- Do you think young and old Mrs Thornton will get on well together? 
- Will they leave apart their pride and their strong temper for John's sake? 
- Can the love they share for him lead them to love each other?


 Wow! This has been an incredible Giveaway Hop! Thanks to the organizers, the ladies at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Read For Your Future! More than 150 comments is something definitely out-of-ordinary for my little blog, used to  avarage comment rates 0/10. 
I'm glad so many visitors liked the gift I chose. It is actually a beautiful present I'd love to receive myself and which I chose just because I liked it very much.

The beautiful wooden box one of the commenters is going to win is disguised as one of my favourite books: Jane Austen's Pride and PrejudiceIn this beautiful box she may keep trinkets and secret love letters away from prying eyes or other smaller books.  It will blend in perfectly with the other ones on her shelves and will look like an old leather volume. Ready to discover who the lucky winner is? 

Congratulations to...  

Book First Love!!!

I hope she'll treasure my beloved Pride and Prejudice on her shelf and think of FLY HIGH! each time she'll open it for any reason.
Thanks to all those who dropped by and commented to enter the giveaway. I'll wait for you back for other giveaway contests and, of course, to discuss books, films, art, period drama and TV series. By the way, have you checked the new giveaways on the right sidebar



Today's guest at FLY HIGH! is G.S. Johnston. He is the author of two historical novels, The Skin of Water and Consumption, noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings. In one form or another, Johnston has always written, at first composing music and lyrics. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels. Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Sydney, Australia with two cats - home-loving Reba and the wayward Rose - and Miss Mia, a black and white cuddle dog. He would be impressed with humanity if someone could succeed in putting an extra hour in every day.  
Read through G S Johnston's post below,  "Come to the Cabaret", and get a chance to win the e-book version of his new novel, The Skin of Water. Read the details at the end of the blogpost.

Around 1972, my mother took my brother and I to the film Cabaret.  We didn’t have live productions in Hobart, Tasmania so we made-do with Michael York and Liza Minnelli in their prime.  My mother loved the theme song.  My father was away sailing for the weekend.  In the evening, we went to the Avalon Theatre in Melville Street, a Victorian theatre with imperial plaster moldings and pillars, gold trim and swathes of lush red velvet.  We sat in the dress circle.

I don’t think she knew how risqué the film was going to be.  From the opening scene, the distorted image of the Master of Ceremonies, this clearly wasn’t The Sound of Music.  We descended into an alien world, a world without judgments, mein Herr.  The cabaret formed a Greek chorus to the off-stage story, even though my knowledge of the function of a Greek chorus was many years away.  There were people of indeterminate gender, gay people, straight people, all seemed to mish-mash.  Even the Nazis came to the cabaret.  I remember the telephones on the tables so people could call to other tables.  This was sophisticated and restless, a long way away from Melville Street, Hobart, Tasmania.  



by guestblogger Anne Illsley

Hermione Norris and Richard Armitage

We've often discussed Spooks here on Fly High focusing on  Lucas North (for very well-known reasons). I'm also sure you -  like me -   have missed not only handsome Lucas but also all the other cool "spooks" since our favourite series ended in October 2011. Do you remember Maria Grazia 's farewell to Spooks? Well, her farewell to Lucas was certainly a tiny bit more heartfelt .
Richard Armitage is, without doubt, a superb actor. Spooks is an outstanding BBC Drama that has delivered some world class performances, and showcased some of the greatest actors in the UK. Richard Armitage (Lucas),  Peter Firth (Harry Pearce), Rupert Penry-Jones (Adam) and Matthew MacFadyen (Tom)  are mesmerising male leads. But for me,  it is the women who really lift Spooks into another league as drama. And the best of the best is Ros Myers, played by actress Hermione Norris. It's refreshing to be able to relax on your leather sofa and take in superb performances from an actress who is also a strong female role model. 



Friday, February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness DayWhat better way to celebrate than by taking part in a giveaway hop?  Read for Your Future and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer have teamed up to bring this Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Hop and I joined in. 

It is a way to thank both new and old, regular followers of FLY HIGH! with the chance to win  a beautiful wooden box disguised as one of my favourite books: Pride and Prejudice.In this beautiful box you may keep trinkets and secret love letters away from prying eyes or other smaller books.  It blends in perfectly with the other ones on your shelves and is designed to look like an old leather volume!  Would you like to win it?

1. You just have to leave a comment adding your e-mail address.

2. If you want to have an extra chance, you should be or  become a follower of FLY HIGH! (optional

This giveaway is open worldwide and ends on February 21st. 

The winner will be announced on the 22 nd. There are other 172 blogs participating in this giveaway hop and you can enter all the contests,  if you want.




An interesting guest post and a thought-provoking book. Thanks to Robert Earle for being my guest here on Fly High and for presenting his The Man Clothed in Linen. 

Now, the name of the winner  in the drawing through random.org is ...

Adriana Zardini !!!

Congratulations, Adriana,  and thanks for taking part.



BBC two-part serial Birdsong , adapted from a novel by Sebastian Faulks (1993), is a gripping, touching love story set in the years of the First World War. But it is much more than a classic romance.  It is an epic tale of great passions and extraordinary events experienced by ordinary men and women who were called  to become heroes and heroines. There are so many layers to this wonderful story and I'm so happy I could finally watch it! It is indeed one of the best TV adaptations I've ever seen.
The action  moves between 1910 and 1916, telling the story of Stephen Wraysford (Eddie Redmayne) , a young Englishman who arrives in Amiens in Northern France to stay with the Azaire family and falls desperately in love with Isabelle Azaire (Clémence Poésy). They begin an illicit and all-consuming affair, but the relationship falters. 
Years later, Stephen finds himself serving on the Western Front in the very area where he experienced his great love. As he battles amidst the blood and gore of the trenches he meets Jack Firebrace (Joseph Mawle), a tunneller who unexpectedly helps him endure the ravages of war and enables him to make peace with his feelings for Isabelle.
Joseph Mawle and Eddie Redmayne
Extraordinary events and ordinary heroes

The First World War was a shocking event - when is war not? - in which a million British soldiers died. Only in the attack at La Somme, France, which is fictionalised  in Birdsong, the British had 60, 000 casualties in only one day. That was the war which transformed men into numbers. It was an uprooting, devastating violent storm that cancelled an entire generation of proud young men and left the few survivors, haunted , guilt - ridden, torn and compromised. Shell-shocked is the term usually used.



Download free DA cards at Chad Thomas's site
Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! Are you happily celebrating? No? Like me trying to cope with  the great deal of messages and hearts sent to you? Joking. I must be honest: I've never loved this day's celebrations and all the marketing activity connected. So, why am I here?  Because I am really fond of love and of great love stories.  Especially the unforgettable ones from classic literature.
These are the first 10  that come to my mind if you ask me. Well, I know you didn't, but I'm afraid you must be patient, because I've asked that myself and I'm going to write about them. I'm also very curious to know what yours are. If not 10, at least one, your best favourite. Do you feel like sharing with us here on FLY HIGH?

1. Mr Thornton and Margaret's love story in Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South.
Did any of you doubted that? My regular readers expected this for sure.

 They know how much I love this novel and that I've always found this beautiful romance blossoming in such an unusual, complex environment  very intriguing. For several different reasons. A curiosity: reading this book, I've always related to John and felt for him. Never for Margaret.  When he got the woman, I feel his pride and his gratification. Is that ... normal?



Teresa Bohannon was my guest last week for an interesting interview about writing and about her latest release. If you've missed it,  CLICK HERE to catch up.
The giveaway contest linked to that guestpost is over and I'm here to announce the name of the winner, of course. But first, the prizes.Teresa suggested that the readers who entered the giveaway could choose which one of her books they wanted as a prize. Here are the 3 items offered (e-book version.

Book Presentations from Amazon.com Kindle Store

.1. Shadows in A Timeless Myth 
The Lindsey Mountain Massacre was the stuff of legend—the spine chilling, wicked-cruel kind of story that evil-humored folk like to share on a dark and moonless night. It held all the makings of a fine and frightful tale, a blustering blizzard of a winter storm, a candlelit, backwoods mansion in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a Christmas Eve celebration in the year of nineteen and one, good folk killed by a vengeful haint... or a rabid bear—depending on who was doing the telling. Truth be told, no one ever really found out exactly what did happen or why, nor even realized just how far from the truth all their old stories fell...'til more than a century later, when folks 'round Lindsey started mysteriously disappearing and dying...and the ancient ones returned. 

From the nevermore mists, lost among dark realms of nothingness and myriad points of twinkling light, in a place that had never really been before or since, the Fates appeared, and with caprice and whimsy created all that followed as unscripted players on a stage designed for no more mind or purpose than to lessen the burdens that neverending eons of time lay upon the creators themselves. 



(from the blurb) "Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning," says Thomas More, "and when you come back that night he'll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks' tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money." 

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the Pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. 

Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

My musings

Thomas Cromwell was a man capable of writing a contract and taming a wild falcon, of drawing a map and settle a fight down, of furnishing a house and bribing a jury. He was the Machiavellian architect of Henry VIII's kingdom and master of the Tudors' destiny. 

Henry VIII
He is the protagonist Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (the title refers to the name of the residence of the Seymours) and from his point of view we witness the well-known facts:  Cromwell  was the man King Henry VIII  trusted  to get to marry Anne Boleyn and get rid of Catherine of Aragon. We watch and take part in all the whims  of king and mistress from the smart, detached, strategic point of view of a power-hungry man. Cromwell is the emblem of a self - made man who thanks only to his incredible intellectual skills rose from very humble origins to be the politician who marked the new course of the English Church which led to the separation from the Church of Rome and from papal authority, the dissolution of the monasteries, and to the establishing of the king as the Supreme Head of the Church of England
Honestly, what still disturbs me is that all that was for ... a woman. Not for the love of a woman but in order to  accomplish  lusty wishes, which drove many others of Henry VIII's political decisions even later on. Mind you, I'm not a Puritan nor such a conservative but yet the fact disturbs me quite a lot.



Guest author
My guest today is Robert Earle, writer.  Robert was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service for twenty-five years. He is the author of The Way Home, a novel, Nights in the Pink Motel, a memoir of a year in war-torn Iraq, and dozens of short stories that have appeared in magazines across the U.S. and Canada. He received a classical education as a boy, studying Latin and Greek and attending chapel six days a week. The Man Clothed in Linen is dedicated to the teachers who introduced him to the classical and Biblical world at The Hill School.  He also holds degrees from Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University.
Please welcome Robert Earle on Fly High!  Furthermore, leaving your comment + e-mail address you'll have the chance to win the e-book version of The Man Clothed in Linen. The giveaway is open internationally and ends on February 17th.

The Historian Behind The Man Clothed in Linen by Robert Earle

Some many years ago I fell into a reverie about the man sometimes referred to as “the historical Jesus.”  As a cultural Christian though not a religious Christian, I found the topic fascinating.  A few writers, Paula Fredriksen, John Dominic Crossen and Harold Bloom, to name three, excelled in describing the various phases, challenges, and circumstances that may have characterized Jesus’ life.

Even though we know little about Jesus, there isn’t much doubt he existed. One of the key bits of evidence is found in the histories of Flavius Josephus, just a reference, not much. 

And then there are the Gospels and the other texts of the New Testament, each curiously distinctive and yet (perhaps with the exception of the very Hellenistic Gospel according to John) sharing commonalities not only in the narrative sense but in the sense of Jesus’ mission and purposes on earth.



In my constant quest for real Richard III, I've found out this graphic tale online. It is by an Italian  artist who happens to be also a Ricardian with a degree and Phd in Foreign Languages and Literatures. Cecilia Latella has been a Richard III fan since she read Robert Louis Stevenson' s The Black Arrow at 13. Later on,  she studied English Language and Literature at University in Italy where she researched, wrote and discussed a thesis about Richard III. 
She works in a graphic studio now. You can visit her at  Holy Grail Comics, her blog.

In the preface to  The Boar  (first published in Italian as Il cinghiale)  she tells how she came to create a comic about Richard III: "I joined the Society in 2003-4 and in June 2008 I had the lucky chance to take part in the Ricardian Rover organized by the American Branch. During the long rides from site to site, to keep myself busy, I started doodling little scenes featuring Richard, who has



When I heard Michael Fassbender won the Best Actor award at the Evening Standard awards last night, I gave a quiet cheer – but wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Last week, via Twitter, Maria heard about my current obsession and offered me the chance to blog about the actor and his roles.
Now, I'll admit that over the last few months, I've slowly developed a thing for Mr Fassbender. He first came to my attention a couple of years ago in The Devil’s Whore, the brilliant English Civil War drama starring Angela Riseborough and John Simm. However, I’ll admit I didn’t really take much notice of him until last September when we went to see the new movie of Jane Eyre.



I should have celebrated this occasion, Dickens Bicentenary, at school with my oldest students, the ones in their final year. No way. Schools are still closed because of the snow and it goes on snowing right now outside of my windows. 
I had planned to tell them about Dickens life, his picture of Victorian London,  and show them scenes from David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.

I have to renounce and postpone. But can I celebrate with you? Genius story-teller , Dickens, deserves to be read, remembered and celebrated on his 200th birthday (7 February 1812) . There will be celebrations all through the year and lots of TV programmes and new adaptations of his novels. The latest BBC series were very good. Have you seen them? Have you read my posts about them? Great Expectations was stunning and Edwin Drood a revelation to me who had never read nor seen the story.

Google remembers Dickens today



Teresa Thomas Bohannon is a published author, web designer, hosting & domain provider & (occasional) internet marketing consultant. Teresa founded Spun Silk Web Design in December of 1995 as one of the first free standing female owned web design firms in the country. As of late, Teresa has returned to her roots, utilizing the exciting new world of online publishing to present a backlog of original novels and short stories to the world--beginning with A Very Merry Chase--a Regency romance novel which she originally wrote some 35 years ago.
In late 2011 she published Shadows In A Timeless Myth a Paranormal Historical Fantasy/Romance/Horror Novel  Teresa holds an MA in history--with a haphazardly obtained--concentration in women's studies. In addition, she is the Director of Human Resources for a non-profit agency. Teresa's personal cause is revitalizing literacy by reading "with" children.

There is a giveaway contest linked to this post. It is open internationally. You can choose  either a copy of  Shadows In A Timeless Myth, A Very Merry Chase, or Teresa's  illustrated version of Jane Austen's The Widow's Tale (Pdf or Kindle version with personalized dedication). Please express your choices in your comment and don't forget to add your e-mail address. The name of the winner will be announced on 13th February.

Welcome on FLY HIGH! Teresa and thanks for accepting to answer my questions. This is my first one: it took you so long and now you’ve finally published, Shadows in a Timeless Myth.  What has the complex journey towards publication left to you/meant to you?
Writing has always been a personal touchstone in my life, it gave me the strength to believe in myself when believing seemed almost impossible. I've had several short stories and other items published; but publishing books in general—and this one in particular—was always the light at the end of the tunnel for me...the personal goal I've held most dear.

.It seems not easy to define the genre of your book.  Have you decided which is the best connotation among historical fiction, horror, paranormal, fantasy romance? 
Shadows actually fits well in several categories. It's a horror novel set in modern day Appalachia, however that's just the the stage where my characters play in their current incarnation. It is also largely historical fantasy.  I love women's history, and my original



It has been snowing for 4 days now. The reaction of the majority of people tothis news may be: "How beautiful! Winter snow!". But it hasn't been beautiful at all. Rather awful. And the weather forecast is not encouraging. It will go on snowing until Friday. 
Reason 1  for the awfulness of the situation: we don't live in an area where it usually snows, we are not ready to cope with it, not at all organized to face emergencies of this type.
Reason 2. after a few hours, on Thursday evening,  we were left without electricity (no light, no heating, no fridge, no telephone, no computer, no hot water) and it lasted for more than 24 hours. There are still towns and villages with no electricity and areas with no water at all. The risk of other power cuts is real.
Reason 3. Impossible to drive our car out of the steep alley we live at the bottom of. No public snow plough will help us to get rid of all this snow. 
Reason 4. Our provisions are not endless, few shops are open and left with very little to sell.



Today is release day for  Tom-All-Alone's (Solitary House in the US edition) and I'm glad to feature this interview with its talented author, Lynn Shepherd,  (her debut novel was Murder at Mansfield Park) who accepted to answer some questions after I read and reviewed her upcoming book. 
Celebrate Dickens Bicentenary with us, read through Lynn's interview and about her love for Bleak House, leave your comment  + e-mail address  to take part in the giveaway contest open internationally for 1 copy of just released Tom-All-Alone's (copy provided by UK publishers, Corsair & Random House). The winner will be announced on February 28.

Writing a second novel after a successful debut one is never an easy task for a writer. What was your journey from Murder at Mansfield Park to Tom-All- Alone’s like?