In accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Confessions of a Literary Persuasion. All books I review are either borrowed, purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for my honest review of the book in question.

29 February, 2008

Book Review: Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars by Mabel Armstrong

Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

Have you ever looked up at the sky and wondered at what you saw? Who has made discoveries among the stars in the past and present day? Reaching for the Stars provides some answers to questions such as these.

The book is laid out in a way that introduces readers to women who study the stars from ancient times, to current day. Each woman is given an overview of their life, including the influences that drew them towards astronomy. This glimpse into the lives of female astronomers gives readers an idea of why these women fell in love with the stars, and what they accomplished in their lifetimes. Even now, the field of astronomy is still very male oriented, and it is nice to see the past and current contributions and advancements to physics, and how science looks at space and the stars by women scientists, and enthusiasts.

Starting back with the Greek Hypathia, who created the astrolabe that sailors used to measure the positions of the stars while at sea, to Hildegarde of Bigen who as well as the music and medical writings that she is more famously known for believed that the earth rotated around the sun in a time when most people believed otherwise. The book then moves forward, through the dark and middle ages to examine when and how astronomy became a science through the works of Caroline Herschel and her brother in eighteenth century England. From there, the book moves to the period of time from 1890 through the early 1940’s when women scientists who worked low paid jobs processing massive amounts of data for the Harvard observatory. The book finally moves to study the time from the 1920’s, when American universities first started awarding doctorates in astronomy, through the 1980’s when federal legislation opened all university programs to women, and their numbers increased in all the scientific fields. The book concludes with the work of well known women astronomers in the turn of the twenty-first century.

This book is a wonderfully written reference book for anyone who is interested in the backgrounds of the many women who have advanced the study of the stars over the years. It looks at the rigid standards of societies look at a women’s roles, their struggles with running a household, raising children, and their love of the stars. I saw some well known names, among the lesser known women who advanced the study of astronomy in a time where women were not considered to be candidates for advanced degrees in the field. I personally enjoyed the mixture of biographical material with information on the types of tools used, the historical impact of the past on the study of the stars, and the more detailed explanations and illustrations of terms commonly used by astronomers as well as different types of stellar subject studied.

22 February, 2008

Book Review: Rusty Son of Tall Elk by Charles H. Bertram

Reviewed for Armchair Interviews

When ten-year old Russsell “Rusty” Weaver set off on a logging trip with his uncle Evan, and his two older brothers, the last thing on his mind was Indians. His job for the two week trip to float the log rafts down to St. Louis was to scout ahead, find good landing spots, and start dinner each evening. But when river rats steal the boat, Rusty ends up attracting the attentions of a group of Cheyenne Indians that are headed back West after buying guns.

Rusty, is taken back with the Cheyenne. He finds himself adopted into the family of Chief Tall Elk. The chief, father to a red haired daughter of mixed ancestry, believes that to have two red haired children will bring good luck to his family and tribe. Rusty, finds himself hundreds of miles from home, in a new “home” where he doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the customs, and where everything seems to be new and unusual.

Rusty Son of Tall Elk transports readers back to a time when much of the United States was still unexplored. The story explores the differences between the lives of the settlers, and the Native American tribes that were still fighting for the survival of their culture in the threat posed by Westward expansion of the United States. Rusty is faced with hard decisions for a child to make. Can he find a home with these Cheyenne? Is there a way for him to enjoy the freedoms and responsibilities that his new life is allowing him to experience? Will his family back in Illinois ever find out the truth of his disappearance, or will they believe he is dead? I found Rusty Son of Tall Elk a great start to an encompassing story. This is the first in a four book series, and I look forwards to reading more in the continuing adventures of Rusty.

ISBN-13: 978-1-933255-43-9
Publication Date: April 2008
Publisher: Nartea Publishing
Author's Web Site:

08 February, 2008

Book Review: The Diva's Fool by Silvia Foti

Read and Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

Alexandria Vilkas, a reporter for the Chicago based Gypsy magazine, is interviewing world renowned opera singer Carmen Dellamorte about her passion for tarot cards. During the interview, Carmen’s understudy in a moment of anger utters the name of the opera, Macbeth. This is taboo in the operatic circles, as it is considered a part of a 400 year old curse in which if the name of the opera is uttered out loud while in production a cast member will die. After a stunning final performance, Carmen steps on stage during her curtain call and collapses. She has been as the police will discover shortly, poisoned.

Alexandria is pulled into the mystery surrounding Carmen’s death for three reasons. Her first reason is her interview with the diva before her death. The second reason, Carmen entrusted Alexandria with a box of material to help her ghost write a biography of Carmen’s father - a box which may contain clues to the diva's death written in her own hand. Finally, and most importantly to Alexandria, the third reason, it was predicted that she would have to solve this case in order to become a member of the secret society, the Order of the Tarot.

Her boss at Gypsy Magazine changes her story from one about celebrity usage of Tarot cards, to one that finds and reveals the murder responsible for Carmen’s death. Alexandria finds herself learning more about Carmen’s past, family, and career as she investigates the murder. She finds herself in a race against time to find an answer to the question that everyone is asking.

Has the curse claimed another victim, or are there other sinister plots in play to bring down the diva?

The Diva’s Fool is Silvia Foti’s second mystery with reluctant detective Alexandria Vilkas. It is also, the first book in The Tarot Chronicles series. I was a little reluctant to start this without having first read Skullduggery, however the story is paced well enough that you don’t feel as though you have missed something by not having read the introductory book. Paranormal themes have recently started to creep into every genre from science fiction & fantasy to thrillers, mysteries, and romance. It is also, a theme that is extremely hard to write and have come off convincing and not cheesy. The adventures of Alexandria Vilkas ended up grabbing my imagination while reading. The fact that the story is set in Chicago, the city I grew up in and still live near was another good thing for me while reading. It was extremely easy to imagine Alexandria running around the city I love. Like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books, The Diva’s Fool shows another layer to Chicago, one filled with ghostly encounters, and where nothing is what it seems. I found the book to be thrilling read filled with murder, music, and unseen forces at work. I am looking forward to reading Silvia Foti’s first book, and her future books.

Publication Date: April 2007
Publisher: Echelon Press
Author's Web Site: