The Twisted Crown, the newest historical fiction novel by Anita Bunkley is a fascinating look into the post-Civil War South. Focused on the story of a free black woman from the North, Eva Phillips takes advantage of the abolition of slavery in the South to embark on a treacherous journey to South Carolina to try to find the mother who gave her a chance at freedom as a child. Along her way, readers meet a captivating cast of characters ranging from cunning professional gamblers to complex carpetbaggers to innocents turned corrupt by hardship. Eva has to navigate a part of the country decimated by the bitterest of fighting as it struggles to regain its footing. And like Eva, readers will never know if the character with the checkered past they just met will be someone who can be trusted or or who will surprise them with an unexpected betrayal.
Along the way she meets up with Chicago lawyer and profiteer Trent Hartwell who, against the recommendations of his new Charleston acquaintances, offers to help Eva in her quest. Although he came to the South to benefit from the financial opportunities blossoming in the wake of so many people’s misfortunes, he can’t quite understand the unwritten rules governing the South about the proper roles of white people and black people and why there should be any difference.
This book also sheds light on the important and dangerous work that took place during this time by black activists to promote equal participation in government for all races. This work made many who benefited from the pre-war social structure very angry and prone to violence, so the lobbying had to be done secretively.
While the story is solid and flows well, I thought that the characters and dialogue lacked some depth. This book kept me very engaged, however. The quick pace, many edge-of-your-seat situations, and several sultry moments kept me reading along without any lulls.
I also came away with a much clearer understanding of what life in the South was like after the Civil War for both whites and blacks. I didn’t know the depth of poverty freed slaves were faced with and this book provided a very interesting example of the creative and sometimes unfortunate ways that people used to survive and start a new life. Anita Bunkley is famous for writing stories that show what a famous period in history was like from the perspective of black women, and I really appreciated having the opportunity to experience this after so many other Reconstruction books (Gone With the Wind, That Bright Land, ect.) only focus on the white experience. This is important because, clearly, this was a period where the African-American experience is integral to understanding the situation appropriately.
I highly recommend joining Eva on her exciting voyage to the land of her birth and learning more about the United State’s most interesting periods of history in The Twisted Crown by Anita Bunkley.
Pages: 336 | ASIN: B07G7GPX2F
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Seven Beyond follows Dr. Meenins as he goes on an adventure spurred by wild dreams and helped along by unlikely friends. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
I was first attracted to the idea of writing about people with long life and how a century can be devoted to a specific study of music or warfare without loss. Also a woman can enter business without feeling the pressure to give birth to all her children within a single decade. As my father aged, I wondered how very old people cope with loss of friends, loss of a homeland, or a faulty memory without companions to reinforce the old heroic tales. The storyline grew from there.
Dr. Meenins is a well developed character that I enjoyed reading about. What were some obstacles that you felt were important to his character’s development?
Dr. Meenins is troubled by dreams that are his memory turning. The character has lived for 800 years and traveled to other worlds. He started a blood feud by killing another Longist, his great friend Frum from the Soldier caste. The relatives of Frum cannot with honor allow Chris Meenins, who they know as Clem from the House of Past Promise, to live. He must side-step assassins in each situation on each planet that he visits.
When our story opens, Dr. Meenins is channeled and believes that he’s an aging temporal earthling. He enters resurgence where he accepts that his knowledge is greater than he could attain over a temporal’s lifetime – human anatomy, advanced weapons, the relative positions of the stars. As a Longist, he must face his past guilty acts that perpetuated the blood feud. Only in full memory can he lead the colony to the new homeland.
This is an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
The Longists maintain group identity with social castes and old stories and ancient books of wisdom. To match those, I used Christian beliefs and stories from the Bible as the source of strength for Lady Drasher and other traveling companions.
The traveling group starts in old Russia, travels through the Caucuses, and across the Mediterranean to the northern coast of Africa, before they visit England and fly to NYC. They are piercing time from the 18th into the 20th century. They also test many philosophical theories that groups used to justify political movements.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Backside of Beyond is a companion book to Seven Beyond that opens a generation later with a few characters the reader will recognize. Dr. Meenins’ daughter lives as Yolanda Santiago in fragmented America and volunteers for a brain implant experiment that is a corporate and military partnership. She gains core programming, making her independent and lethal, and goes rogue with a traveling group who are on the provinces’ most-wanted list. Her Longist friends who integrate with society in the USA have spiritual questions and join a tent revival movement to heal America and bring down the bisecting fence.
The Backside of Beyond is in beta now and may be released in 2019.
Dr. Meenins has recurring dreams that are his memory turning. He resists facing his guilty acts from eight centuries ago. Linda Deemer of his race of Longists is sent to help him step through painful memories of lost companions.
Travel companions help Dr. Meenins confront his dreams while haunted by wispy memories of faraway places and alien races. The reader is treated to his past adventures on other worlds where Christopher Meenins escapes assassins of a blood feud and gathers followers to find the new homeworld.
A quest novel that, in broader terms, is a cautionary tale with many tongue-in-cheek references to true human nature and injustices of contemporary society. Similar to Cloud Atlas or Sense 8.
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Thrust back to feudal Japan, martial arts expert Aiyana Amari’s most challenging battle is the choice to either return home or leave the love of her life behind.
To save her family’s dojo and keep her father’s legacy alive, Aiyana Amari travels to Japan to compete in the Meiji martial arts tournament. But on the eve of the competition, Aiyana is thrust back to 1853 into the life of a geisha.
Captain Derek Blackburn, a sailor for the Dutch, returns to Japan to avenge his brother’s murder and secretly plans to assassinate the one ultimately responsible–Shogun Ieyoshi.
Like the two stars celebrated in the Tanabata Festival, Aiyana and Derek meet on the seventh day of the seventh month. Their wills clash. Aiyana is desperate to get home, but Derek needs her for his scheme of revenge. After falling in love a decision tougher than a sparring match must be made. Will Aiyana return home or stay with her one true love in the past?
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Beguiled follows young Miriam as she struggles to follow her dreams through a turbulent time in history. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Initially, I had the idea to write a story of the kind of life my mother, born in 1910, might have had, if she’d had the gumption. Which she did not, so the story of Miriam Levine, 1st generation Russian-Jewish girl, is entirely fictional. There are a few biographical markers, e.g., Miriam’s Pop was active in the leftist-unionist organization called the Workmen’s Circle. My maternal grandfather was as well. Similarly, he was a cultured fellow, albeit not formally educated, and introduced my mother to cultural events from a young age. The character Miriam developed her aspirations to go on stage from the experiences her Pop exposed her to from a young age.
The story transformed itself immediately from anything biographical to an exciting adventure of Miriam and her girlfriends as they make their way through a difficult time in history punctuated by WWI, the “Spanish” flu, women’s getting the vote, the Roaring 20s, the relationship between young people and their immigrant parents, and the status of women.
Miriam is a well developed character that I grew attached to. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young woman in the 1900’s?
Research, research, and more research helped me to describe a girl of the early 1900s. I read many books about the times, including novels of women of that period.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been a psychotherapist and life coach all my adult life, so am accustomed to hearing people’s stories and helping them to make sense of their lives. So, the emotions of a woman of this period seemed little different to me from my clients’ stories. Yes, women have approached the glass ceiling and many are in marriages that are fundamentally equal or mutually enhancing, but with the outing of many in the MeToo movement, it’s clear that women’s place has not appreciably changed vis a vis powerful men.
I liked how the politics and drama of the time was not front and center, but served as a backdrop to Miriam’s story. Did you do any research for this story to keep things accurate?
As stated above, I pored over many historical books of this period, as well as historical novels about the early 1900s. Having been in graduate school for a PhD back in the 1980s, I learned how to do research and to enjoy it. I was not, however, a big history buff, so my becoming absorbed in this research was a surprise to me. One funny thing: in one of my last drafts, I realized that NO character ever was described as smoking. So, I had to go back and add smoking Lucky Strikes, Camels, pipes, and cigars to many scenes.
WWI was certainly in the background only in Beguiled. Miriam and her friends barely seemed to register that there was a world war going on in Europe, until Miriam arrives home and discovers that her father’s Workmen’s Circle is having an important emergency meeting to discuss US entry into the War. Then a young German boy barges in to say that his family was beaten bloody right in their neighborhood, an unthinkable thing in their multi-ethnic close community.
Many people have suggested I write a sequel to Beguiled, but that would take me into the Depression of the 1930s and I don’t know if I want to go there, particularly since our country seems liable to get there itself.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Beguiled was just released on May 1st 2018, so I’m devoting some time to publicizing it before embarking on my next story. But, I’ve had the idea of locating an appealing news story of a woman who lived in another era. I enjoy researching historical fiction and being an archaeologist in searching out details of a bygone period. In order to find this appealing person, I’ll need to immerse myself in the Boston Public Library’s newspapers from the last century or even before. There are also archives of women’s letters housed at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, where I’ve done research before. I look forward to being able to do this, once my initial marketing campaign is over.
Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.
Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’
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Second chances are not easy to come by, but when they roll around, you grab them and hold on for dear life. No family quite knows the truth of this old adage as well as the McPhalan clan. Kate, Alex, and their mother, Marian, share a bond that unites them in more ways than one. All three women have had a relationship with Carl, and all three of them have found ways to discover love once more. When Kate decides to breathe new life into Mockingbird Valley Ranch, the home in which they all lived as a young family, mother and both daughters are presented with an amazing and unforeseen opportunity to renew themselves and their relationships with one another as adults.
Mallory M. O’Connor’s American River Trilogy focuses on several different storylines surrounding the McPhalan family. These parallel plots play nicely against one another as the book progresses. Readers are treated to thorough descriptions of Kate and Alex’s backgrounds as well as a clear look at Marian’s history. O’Connor includes a lengthy list of secondary characters with their own storylines and this, at times, can be a little difficult to follow.
Set in the 1970s, O’Connor masterfully integrates mentions of now historic events alongside the characters’ numerous dilemmas. She covers everything from the moon landing to the increasing focus on feminism. Each of the events and historical aspects gives the book a richer and more polished feel.
American River Trilogy touches on a variety of difficult topics including post-traumatic stress disorder and interracial relationships. O’Connor deals with each of these highly-charged topics with style and grace. Her characters are genuine and leave readers rooting for them every step of the way.
Alex’s particular story line is tragic and likely the most down-to-earth of any of the characters. The trauma of her past and the way it impacts her present life is a striking commentary on an all-too-common facet of the lives of many. O’Connor’s slow reveal of Alex’s damaged childhood is effective and powerful. As much as I found Carl’s inclination to move through the women in the McPhalan family to be somewhat disgusting in retrospect, I saw a whole new side of him when he came to Alex’s aid in her time of need.
O’Connor’s writing is, what I would consider, specialized. There exists a specific audience for this particular piece. Centered around the arts and focusing primarily on the world of music, there is a plethora of discipline-specific terms and ideas within American River Trilogy. I did not find myself able to relate easily to many of Kate and Alex’s experiences.
Readers who seek historical accuracy intermingled with their drama will appreciate O’Connor’s particular style. Classically-trained musicians and those who enjoy reading fiction with a peppering of music-specific terms will find American River Trilogy the perfect read.
Pages: 394 | ASIN: B079659RH5
Posted in Book Reviews
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
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The Witch Trials is an interesting historical drama centered around the life and times of a middle-class woman living in France during the 16th century. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?
I imagined how difficult it would be during the middle ages to be a strong, intelligent woman, constantly having to hide their true self for fear of ridicule or rebuke. Then it hit me, I should write a story illustrating that. I also am inspired by world history and how all cultures and countries tie in together and effect one another both knowingly and unknowingly.
I enjoyed the historical accuracy in this book. What kind of research did you undertake to get things right?
Allot. Which is why I usually shy away from writing these type of books. However, I wanted my first published books to showcase my writing skill and I felt the best way to do that was to have an organized field of reference. I love learning about history and seeing how that contributes to todays society. As the medieval time period is my natural obsession, I picked a topic that many people know of, but dont really know the historical background to, within that time period. I used typical college outline format as a baseline and timeline reference and filled in the blanks with my imagination. My next series after Witch Trials, a novel currently in edit, will showcase my imagination more in depth.
Sylvie’s character is an intriguing character who struggled for a dream beyond what many women settled for at the time. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character?
1. Knowing that you have something so invaluable to those around you and feeling a spiritual calling to share it, but fearing to release it. (More captured in book 2 of Witch Trials).
2. Discovering a tolerable balance as a women in this time period; knowing when to show strength and when to hold back.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Witch Trials is a short story series. So I am currently working on book 2 now. I expect it to be released in time for Christmas. I am also working on a fantasy novel currently in edit.
Once upon time, women struggled to gain notoriety capable of any feat besides household responsibility. The struggle was life and death in the resistance of recognizing the inevitable rise of women. Starting life in Italy with a wealthy protestant family. Sylvie idolizes her father Dr. Fiore. Sylvie has her hopes set on being one of the first female doctors known to the area. But when Sylvie is married off to a wealthy craftsman named Leon, in France, she quickly realizes that this dream may be out of her reach and possibly run the risk of death. Is Sylvie’s dreams worth dying for? This book starts our journey in a small town of Eze in Southern France in the late 1600’s and tells a fictional story based from real time events in our history. This is book one of a new short story series.
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When Gabriella is handed the death box at her boyfriend’s funeral, she has no idea how her life is going to change. Her life becomes more than a stage; it becomes the looking glass through which the past and future can be seen.
Destiny Revisited begins in a Boston chapel in 2001, where Gabby flashbacks to the beginning of her journey–to Savannah, Georgia during the early sixties. Her memories take her to the university where she escapes a tragic love affair and finds herself living an extravagant, but ultimately mundane lifestyle in Kentucky. That is, until multimillionaire Sterling Powers, introduces a naïve Gabby to his special world of sexual intrigue.
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The Infinity series follows star crossed lovers through the ages and combines fantasy and historical fiction to breathtaking effect. What served as your inspiration while writing this series?
Most authors will say that their books can be read in any order but they are lying through their teeth. You’ll pick up one book and read 75 spoilers for another. I really hate that. You’ll select a later book and be completely lost while reading as if you’re in a convoluted fog until you eventually give up. My goal with the Infinity series was to create a set of books that could truly stand alone. Every book takes place in an entirely different lifetime. Readers can choose the setting and plot that seems interesting and jump right in without having to work their way down a reading list. You can start the series where ever you want, read just one book or the whole set, and no story will ever spoil another.
Sarah is an amazing and strong character that continued to develop throughout the series. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
The fantasy genre has a serious deficit of characters of color. Growing up, I was a huge Fear Street fan. I must have read at least forty of these young adult novels. I found one black character out of all the stories and she wasn’t even the main character. She was merely a side note featured in just one book. There were no black people in Middle Earth, no Hispanic archeologists raiding tombs like Indiana Jones, and there were no Asian teens living on Fear Street. I love a badass white man with a sword adventure as much as anyone else and I don’t mind reading my hundredth reluctant to marry white princess story. But there are no words to express how it feels to NEVER be able to read about a character who looks like you. This is especially important for children and young adults who are still unsure of themselves and not quite comfortable in their own skin. Authors should not be sending a message that white is the default setting (nor should we be sending the message that one body type is the default setting). I will never understand how the most imaginative of all the book genres could be so utterly closedminded in regard to the way characters look. Fantasy authors can envision elves, fairies, goblins, and orcs but characters of color are not in the realm of possibilities. I intend to change this with Sarah’s character and many others.
Although the settings changed in each book, you were still able to deliver some outstanding backdrops and characters. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing this series?
The main theme I wanted to express was that love is never easy. While doing research for my Civil War era series I stumbled upon the most stunning love stories I’d ever read and they were all true life events. The one that touched me most was about a former slave man, who I’ll call Jim. His wife and children were still slaves, though he was working tirelessly to earn the money to free them. The plantation master had gotten behind on his taxes and the government was going to seize his property (including slaves) and auction off everything (and everyone) to cover his debts. Jim’s wife wrote him letters in regard to this pending catastrophe. It soon became clear that no matter how hard Jim worked he would never have enough money in time to free them all. He would never see his wife again, they would never see their children again because being sold often meant sold separately. Jim did the only thing he could to save his family. He met with a group of abolitionists and they planned a rescue mission. The mission was foiled by a snitch and Jim died. They found his body with love letters from his wife still in his pocket. His story was no exception. There were many like it. Why are these tragedies relevant? Because love like this is rare in our day and age. Absentee parents have to be forced to pay child support, forced to even visit their kids, while Jim sacrificed everything for his kids. Couples divorce for trivial and absurd reasons, while Jim died with his wife’s letters in his pocket during a battle to the death to save her. I wanted to write a series that reminds my generation that love is never easy but people used to fight for it anyway. Why can’t we?
What is a Medium Adult novel?
Medium Adult Literature is a term I use for books that are more mature and complex than Young Adult novels but not as daunting as a 400-page Adult story. My Medium Adult books are written for people who’ve outgrown Harry Potter and Goosebumps but aren’t ready to dive into Stephen King and Game of Thrones. The romances in my medium adult series are more passionate and involved than a teen book but not as smutty as an adult romance. Sexuality, bad language, and graphic descriptions of violence are dialed back in my medium adult books without making the plot childish and unrelatable. I keep these books short and fun, usually 150-200 pages, an adventure that a busy college student can squeeze into his/her schedule without having to read a children’s book.
With that said… I must warn that the Infinity books are the only ones I’ve written with such restraint. My full adult novels are raw and uncensored beware.
What is one thing you felt the fantasy genre was missing that you wanted to introduce in your series?
PASSION!! I’ve always loved fantasy stories. I am swept off my feet by all the chivalry, action, and supernatural mystique. But the romance in fantasy books leaves me disappointed at worst and underwhelmed at best. The lead characters either can’t stand one another or completely ignore one another for over half the book. When they finally acknowledge their feelings you spend the entire second half of the book waiting for them to act. After reading 400 pages and wasting a week of your life you are rewarded with one measly kiss on the very last page. In traditional fantasy, the action moves fast but the romance moves sloooooooow. My desires for passion, drama, and love led me to historical romance. This turned out to be a mistake. While historical romance books were chock full of passion, drama, and love, I found the plots predictable, unimaginative, and incredibly slow moving. To this day I have never finished a traditional romance novel. I wrote the Infinity series as a hybrid of fantasy and historical romance so readers can enjoy the best of both worlds.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Infinity: Transylvania will be the next installment in print. Matthew and Sarah, are plunged into a world of darkness. Immortal beings with an insatiable hunger for blood rule the night. As a ruthless foreign army threatens to conquer Transylvania, Matthew is forced to choose between watching his kingdom fall, or joining forces with the vampires…
I hope to have it written and submitted for review in December. I can’t give an exact release date because the review process can take weeks or even months but I aim to have Transylvania available for purchase mid-March of 2019. Every book I create endures a rigorous screening process. Only books that receive EXCELLENT reviews from at least three different companies are marked as fit for readers. Novels are judged on many elements, such as plot, characters, dialogue, scenery and accuracy of setting. The purpose of all this reviewing is to provide high-quality stories for an enjoyable reading experience. For a complete list of five-star ratings refer to the Banner of Excellence on each cover.
Literary Titan is always my first stop on the road to a great novel because of the phenomenal work they do. I have trusted them with all my books and it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
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Clare Dupres, ambitious young Huguenot midwife living in turbulent 17th century France, struggles to save her family and career from the terrors of tyrannical King Louis XIV.
On the brink of womanhood, she records in her journal the grand plan for her perfect life–marriage to the man she loves, renovation of mysterious Maison Dupres as her home, and a rewarding profession. The key to her plan lies in “the magic elixir,” her ancestors’ secret formula for pain-free childbirth, which she offers solely to wealthy aristocratic women.
But King Louis’ increasing pressure on Huguenots to convert to Catholicism shatters Clare’s dreams. Her lover forced to flee France, she is compelled to marry his boring brother. Then she is banned from practicing midwifery. Yearning to continue her profession coupled with fear that her children will be kidnapped by Papists, Clare tries to convince her stubborn husband to move to England, but he is blind to the growing menace. When danger lurks in the form of the King’s dreaded Dragonnade soldiers, she must summon all her strength and determination to save her family.
Can Clare succeed in getting her family safely out of France before it is too late?
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