Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Blog Tour: Mitchell James Kaplan on Why I Love Dreaming

Today I am pleased to welcome Mitchell James Kaplan to my blog as part of the blog tour for his new book Into the Unbounded Night. Welcome Mitchell!


I am not going to tell you why I love dreaming. I don’t know why I love dreaming. I don’t even know what dreaming is. When I’m dreaming it is everything but when I’m awake it is nothing. It never
happened. By the same token, when I’m dreaming, the world I inhabit while awake doesn’t exist and never existed. It’s as if I were given not one life, but many, all within the short span of years
allotted to mortals. It feels like a rare privilege even though it may be a common and insubstantial one.

Fortunately, the “short span of years” is only a waking concept. Not a dreaming one. There isno such thing as time in dreams. That’s because there is no causality. Anything can happen, in any order. Dreams expand our lives beyond the finite.

I am not a person who enjoys flying in my dreams, or spying on friends, or exploring places I have never been. I do not aspire to have control over where I go or what I see. Sometimes I may think I am in charge of my dream-destiny but then something happens that robs me of that conviction. The same occurs in “real” life. The reasons for all the important events, including the circumstances of my birth, where I went to college, and how I met my wife, are beyond my understanding.

Lately my dreams have been dark. Everyone wears masks. A little boy, whom I had never seen in any world, walked up to me from out of a crowd and told me, “You will be dead by morning.” It felt so real. I woke with a start, roused my wife, and told her where I had stashed my life insurance policy. She muttered something and fell back asleep.

In the morning, I was not dead, as far as I know. But I remain convinced that little boy was telling me something important and I feel an urge to do something before it’s too late. Maybe I’ll go into an economically challenged neighborhood and find a kid to mentor. That would be something. Yes, I must do that.

Where did this desire come from? Is it a result of that dream? Do dreams even have a purpose? I have no idea.

What I do know is that who we are is a result of all our experiences, conscious and unconscious. We carry around this residue of our past—or rather, of our pasts. Every place we have visited, everyone we have met, in dreams as well as in “reality,” affects who we are today, how we got here and where we are going.

Some people live vertically, others horizontally. When you’re dreaming, you’re lying in bed. You’re living horizontally. When you’re climbing the corporate ladder, or any social ladder, you’reliving vertically. Maybe some people know how to do both but I don’t.

I am not going to claim that dreams are some kind of portal. I don’t know whether dreams suggest we have souls, or that there is life after death. For that matter, I don’t know whether emotions, including love, joy, and sadness, are real. The things that matter most are the things we cannot understand. Maybe they matter precisely because they defy comprehension.

About the book


Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Regal House Publishing
Paperback & eBook; 231 Pages
Genre: Literary/Historical

When her village in Albion is sacked by the Roman general Vespasian, young Aislin is left without home and family. Determined to exact revenge, she travels to Rome, a sprawling city of wealth, decadence, and power. A “barbarian” in a “civilized” world, Aislin struggles to comprehend Roman ways. From a precarious hand-to-mouth existence on the streets, she becomes the mistress of a wealthy senator, but their child Faolan is born with a disability that renders him unworthy of life in the eyes of his father and other Romans.
Imprisoned for her efforts to topple the Roman regime, Aislin learns of an alternate philosophy from her cellmate, the Judean known today as the Apostle St. Paul. As the capital burns in the Great Fire of 64 AD, he bequeaths to her a mission that will take her to Jerusalem. There, Yohanan, son of Zakkai, has been striving to preserve the tradition of Hillel against the Zealots who advocate for a war of independence. Responding to the Judeans’ revolt, the Romans—again under the leadership of Vespasian—besiege Jerusalem, destroying the Second Temple and with it, the brand of Judean monotheism it represents. Yohanan takes on the mission of preserving what can be preserved, and of re-inventing what must be reinvented.
Throughout Into the Unbounded Night, Aislin’s, Faolan’s, Vespasian’s, and Yohanan’s lives intertwine in unexpected ways that shed light on colonization and its discontents, the relative values of dominant and tyrannized cultures, and the holiness of life itself—even the weakest of lives.


Praise for Into the Unbounded Night

“In Into the Unbounded Night, Mitchell Kaplan offers a rich rendering of war and humanity in first century Rome — of tradition and loss, and the transformative power of healing and collective memory to find one’s way home.” – Nichole Bernier, Boston Globe Bestselling author of The Unfinished Work Of Elizabeth D
“Mitchell James Kaplan is the gloriously talented writer of this dramatic, intense story of conflicting emperors, slaves, priests and exiles in a first century world whose roots and traditions are increasingly torn apart by the brutal rule of Rome. Men and women search for belief and reason, out of which will emerge a new Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple as well as the early beginnings of Christianity. A writer of enormous scope, compassion and poetry, Kaplan has written several of the most compelling characters you will meet in the pages of a book. Into the Unbounded Night sweeps over you like a succession of huge waves. It is truly a major novel.” – Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award recipient, author of Claude And Camille: A Novel Of Monet
“Kaplan’s prose is so rich and agile I felt I was breathing the air of these ancient places, and his evocation of character is no less palpable. Fully embodied and driven by ambition, grief, the clear-eyed desire for truth, and fierce maternal love, these characters plunge, march, and stumble toward their fascinating and entangled destinies.” – Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling novelist of I’ll Be Your Blue Sky and award-winning poet
“I’m a big fan of historical fiction when it’s as good as Mitchell Kaplan’s Into the Unbounded Night. Vividly imagined, Into the Unbounded Night pulls the reader along with beautiful prose, strong characters and a wonderfully realized story.” – Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize
“A beautiful, informative book. It was gripping throughout, the research never overwhelms the story, but is always part of it. [The] writing is lyrical and evocative of time and place. All the characters are real and interesting. Loved it!” – Martin Fletcher, National Jewish Book Award winner, author of Promised Land
“From the mystical lore of Albion to the Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem, Kaplan’s meticulous research and evocative writing meld seamlessly to create a vivid, textured, and richly imagined story.” —Beth Hoffman, New York Times and International bestselling author of Saving Ceecee Honeycutt and Looking for Me
“Set in Rome and Judea after the crucifixion of Jesus, Mitchell James Kaplan’s finely crafted and intense second novel delves into the minds and hearts of truly captivating characters. An excellent read.” – Eva Stachniak, winner of the Canadian First Novel Award, author of The Chosen Maiden
“Sensually provocative, verbally sharp and critically witted, Mitchell James Kaplan’s Into the Unbounded Night brings to life the tumultuous birth of Judeo-Christian monotheism in this intimately woven narrative brimming with righteous and riotous characters striving for survival and transcendence across the ravished landscapes of Judea, the Roman Empire, and Britannia.”
– Jessica Maria Tuccelli, an Okra Pick winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance for her debut novel, Glow
“Kaplan weaves an intricate literary tapestry to create a poetic exploration of early Judeo-Christian and Roman history. He builds a diverse yet connected cast of characters whose encounters inspire timeless self-examination and advance the course of history. An engrossing work not easily forgotten.” – Therese Walsh, critically acclaimed author of The Last Will Of Moira Leahy and The Moon Sisters, founder of the literary blog, Writer Unboxed

About the author

Mitchell James Kaplan graduated with honors from Yale University, where he won the Paine Memorial Prize for Best Long-Form Senior Essay submitted to the English Department. His first mentor was the author William Styron.
After college, Kaplan lived in Paris, France, where he worked as a translator, then in Southern California, where he worked as a screenwriter and in film production.
He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with his family and two cats.


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 31

Review at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, September 2
Review at Books and Zebras
Friday, September 4
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Saturday, September 5
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Monday, September 7
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks
Tuesday, September 8
Interview at Novels Alive
Feature at I’m Into Books
Wednesday, September 9
Review at YA, It’s Lit
Thursday, September 10
Review at The Caffeinated Bibliophile
Friday, September 11
Feature at Pursuing Stacie
Monday, September 14
Interview at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, September 16
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, September 17
Review at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals
Friday, September 18
Guest Post at Book Bustle
Monday, September 21
Interview at Books & Benches
Tuesday, September 22
Feature at Coffee and Ink
Wednesday, September 23
Guest Post at The Intrepid Reader
Friday, September 25
Review at A Book Geek


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 2 copies of Into the Unbounded Night! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on September 25th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Unbounded Night

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week the theme is all about the books that we have on our TBR pile over the coming months.

Here are the books that are coming out soon that I am really looking forward to.

Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr - Book number 19 in the Virgin River series. This was quite a surprise when it was announced earlier this year. After all, it has been 8 years since book number 18 was released.

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner - The final book in The Queen's Thief series. I was very excited when I heard about this book. Tonight I realised that I actually haven't read the last book in the series which is an oversight!

Death and the Maiden by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman - This is another long awaited novel which will wrap up the series. I loved the early books in this series so hard, and was gutted when Ariana Franklin passed away 10 years ago.

The Survivors by Jane Harper - I am very much looking forward to reading this latest release from Aussie crime author. And today Harper just announced that this book has been optioned for a TV series.

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan - This is the next book to be set on the island of Mure. I am not necessarily a Christmas book reader but I am going to try and give this one a go!

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline -This is another book that I am not sure we knew was coming and that we have been waiting for a long time for. Ready Player One came out 10 years ago!

The Charleston Scandal by Pamela Hart - I realy enjoyed the last books I read by this author, and I am excited by the sound of this one!

The Champagne War by Fiona McIntosh - World War I in the champagne region of France - yes please!

Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns - Rachael Johns is my Clayton's author - the author I read when I am not reading books, so I am always excite

The Cartographers Secret by Tea Cooper - I am lucky to have read lot of great historical fiction set in Australia this year, and I am hopeful that this will be another great one!

What books are  you looking forward to over the coming months?

Monday, September 21, 2020

This Week...

I'm reading....

After a really good reading week last week, this week has been a lot slower.

I am reading The Second Wife by Gill Paul which is about Jackie Kennedy, Maria Callas and the man that they have in common - Aristotle Onassis. I think I made a bit of a mistake with this book. When I was about to start reading I consulted Doctor Google to get a little background of the key players. I didn't look too hard, but now the book feels a bit like a a recitation of those facts/rumours. Whoops!

I think I am also going to make the call that I am giving up on the audiobook that I have been listening to for weeks. I was sometimes listening to it while I was working but it has been very busy and I don't have capacity to think and do work things and listen to a book as well. Maybe it just isn't catching my attention enough.

I'm watching....

Not a lot really


In theory we should be getting close to having our stage 4 lockdown restrictions lifted a little, hopefully this weekend, and I have to say I am ready for it to be over. We had beautiful spring weather last weekend and it was hard to know we couldn't go anywhere. We have been doing so many things to make life interesting during lockdown but this weekend that was a step too far.

Part of what we have done in order to keep busy.....In a what were we thinking moment, we have both signed up to do a double diploma. I haven't done any formal learning for years and I am a bit intimidated by the thought of doing so!

I did say last week that I was okay with the new Blogger and I mostly am but it does do seem to do strange things with paragraph breaks right now. It doesn't help that the odd spacing doesn't appear on the preview which means that you have to revisit the post after it has posted to check what it really look like. It's not ideal given that I do tend to schedule posts in advance.

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Alphabet 2020: T is for Time


Time is funny isn't it?

Every week we have a two day weekend which is never long enough, but when we have a three day weekend that isn't long enough. Have a week long break from work and that often isn't long enough  either. Every weekend there is a list of things to do but we often run out of time to do them all but then you think well what did we achieve? It is sometimes only when you sit down and look back you can see all the things that you have achieved.

In this crazy year that is 2020 it feels like time has been dragging but when I look back this time last year feels like it wasn't that long ago. This time last year we weren't yet married. And yet we have spent far more time together over the last 6 months than we ever would have expected.  We met in January 2017, so coming up to 4 years ago but I can't imagine life with him. I do remember what that is like and I wouldn't want to go back.

My son turns 22 this week. 22! How did that happen? And yet it did, and that is something that we feel both when we look at our own kids and others. Where did that time go?

One of the reasons I am thinking about time is that we both signed up to do a double diploma this week (in different fields). I did a 3 day course a couple of years ago, and a couple of things in the late 90s but really other than that I haven't done any formal learning since the early 90s and even then I dropped out because I couldn't fit it in with work, social life, sport and church (which at the time was important but isn't a factor now). It is something that I have thought about doing several times, and talked about doing, but just haven't quite done anything about it.

In theory the course can take up to two years which sounds like forever, but two years ago my son was living in America, I wasn't engaged let alone married, we had done the kitchen renovation but we hadn't done anything else yet, I was in a different job so a lot can happen in two years!

The question really is how am I going to fit it in? Work is crazy busy and I am working long hours, I still want to read and blog because I have really enjoyed coming back to blogging this year and I feel as though it is filling a need for me right now. There are some things that can go but do I want to let them go. I guess I will see.

Even the fact that I normally would post these A-Z things on a Thursday or Friday but today it is Sunday says  something about time I think. This was a good idea at the beginning but because there is no set theme or structure it is easy to skip a week. I do have an idea for another A-Z but that is going to be music based so I will announce that once I get to the Z on this one which could be some time between 6 to 12 weeks or longer

Sounds like a long time right, but that will fly by, because time is funny like that.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Teriyaki Salmon with Udon Noodles

One of the reasons why I started recording our dinner each week is so that we can identify patterns, what the dishes are that we eat time and time and again. In my experience, we go through seasons, not only for the weather, but also in terms of the recipes that we will cook over and over for a while, until suddenly we stop!

This season, there are two dishes we have been cooking regularly. The first is this recipe, Teriyaki Salmon with Udon Noodles was one that we found in the Coles supermarket freebie magazine, and the other is a Ginger and Apple Self Saucing Pudding. I have made the pudding a few times now and just mentioning it has my mouth watering.

The good thing about this dish is that it is a really good midweek dinner. It doesn't take a lot to prepare and it is cooked in no time at all!

It's fair to say that we don't eat enough fish. It's not helped by the fact that my son really doesn't enjoy it, so it's not something that he would generally choose to eat. I don't know that he loves this one, but he will eat it so that's something at least! If we can eat a bit more by using this recipe that's a winner in my mind.

Teriyaki Salmon with Udon Noodles

2 x 200g udon noodles

3 skin on salmon portions

150g packet teriyaki sauce

350g superfood vegetable mix

Spring onions

Cook and drain the udon noodles as per packet instructions

Remove and discard the skin from the salmon. Coarsely chop salmon. Place in a bowl with the teriyaki sauce. Toss to combine.

Heat a wok or large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Stir-fry the salmon, in 2 batches, for 3-4 minutes or until cooked. Return the salmon to the wok or pan with the sauce and the vegetable mix.

Stir fry for 1 minute or until the vegetables are tender. Add the noodles and stir-fry for 1 minute or until well-combined and heated through Sprinkle with thinly sliced spring onion to serve.

This week:

Saturday: Roast Chicken, roast potatoes, green vegetables and gravy
Sunday: Spanish tuna pasta bake
Monday: Chicken and Leek pie (made from leftover roast chicken)
Tuesday: Teriyaki Salmon and noodles
Wednesday: Pork Nachos
Thursday: Mustard steak with corn and potato mash and asparagus
Friday: Lamb kebab with chips (takeaway)

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Wreck by Meg Keneally

There seems to be a lot of really great Australian historical fiction around at the moment. Just this year I have read and enjoyed books by Alison Stuart, Victoria Purman, Tea Cooper and more, and now to this list I need to add Meg Keneally.

Sarah McCaffrey is a young woman who was left orphaned when her parents are killed in a peaceful protest turned massacre in Manchester. Along with her brother, Sam, she flees to London but they soon find themselves caught up in a rebellion plot. Unfortunately for Sarah, there is a police informant in their midst so the plot is foiled. Sarah escapes to a ship docked at the wharves of London called The Serpent. All alone in the world, Sarah finds herself unwillingly under sail. The boat, The Serpent, is headed for the other side of the world, to the colony of Sydney. 

The ship's captain was an ally to the planned rebellion, but he is a danger in other ways. He doesn't have a great relationship with other captains or shipowners and the ship itself isn't in great condition either. 

Having assumed a new identity, Sarah befriends another young woman on the ship, as well as some of the crew. When they are just hours away from reaching their destination there is a terrible storm, and the ship is dashed into the cliffs. Sarah is the only survivor, and so once again she is alone in the world 

Taken to shore, she shares a room in the hospital with a young woman named Annie who is about to give birth. Sarah is something of a celebrity in the fledgling penal colony. People want answers as to why the ship sank, how she came to be the only survivor, and who she is. 

Life in the young colony is tough. Whilst there are some substantial buildings, a lot of the inhabitants live in wattle and daub huts. And life is particularly tough for young women. Sarah and Annie are taken in by a local woman who gives them jobs in an upmarket boarding house providing food and shelter but little else. Despite her seemingly good fortune, Sarah is still determined to find out what really happened back in London and soon finds herself mixed up once again with rebellious types. When someone from her past reappears, could she find the answers she is looking for without the secret of who she really being revealed once and for all?

It is not necessarily rebellion that Sarah wants, but rather the chance of more equal rights for all, especially the women who so often find themselves without any means of support. Eventually she finds an ally in Mrs Thistle, who is a remarkable character and who is based on a woman named Mary Reibey who appears on our $20 note. Mrs Thistle is a successful merchant, in a world dominated by men, who has her own way of doing business.

Whilst some of the events in this book may seem fantastical, they are in fact based on true stories. There was a massacre in Manchester in 1819, and there was a shipwreck called The Dunbar which sank with only one survivor. Added to these events inspired by history, Meg Keneally has created an array of interesting characters that kept me reading until late at night, and bought the early days of colonial Sydney to life on the page.

Rating 4.5/5

Goodreads summary

All Sarah ever wanted was a better life ... From the bestselling author of Fled comes a moving tale of revolution, treachery and courage.

In 1820 Sarah McCaffrey, fleeing arrest for her part in a failed rebellion, thinks she has escaped when she finds herself aboard the Serpent, bound from London to the colony of New South Wales. But when the mercurial captain's actions drive the ship into a cliff, Sarah is the only survivor. Adopting a false identity, she becomes the right-hand woman of Molly Thistle, who has grown her late husband's business interests into a sprawling real estate and trade empire. As time passes, Sarah begins to believe she might have found a home - until her past follows her across the seas...

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant

You would think that as a seasoned reader I would be impervious to a great cover but this book is proof that I am not. I think I took one look at the cover and I had to have it. I did realise that in addition to a gorgeous cover (check), it was dual timeline (check) and also that it featured an old house with secrets (check check).

When Amber returns to her grandfather's home, Saffron Hall, it is in theory to catalogue his massive book collection. It actuality, it is a place that she is retreating to because of the grief she feels at losing her stillborn daughter, hiding away from friends and also her husband.

Saffron Hall has a tower that has always been locked and that no one has entered for generations. No one even knows where the key is. When they discover that the tower needs urgent work done to make it safe, one of the builders gives Amber a book that he finds. It is a book of hours that has been locked in the tower for centuries.

The beautiful illustrated book belonged to Eleanor, a young woman who was married off to the owner of what became Saffron Hall after the death of her father. She takes with her crocus bulbs which were given to her by the brothers at the local abbey as her only dowry. In addition to taking on the responsibilities as lady of the house, Eleanor becomes mother figure to her new step daughter. She also plants her bulbs and soon is producing quality saffron. Her merchant husband, Greville, is a man who is determined to make his mark at court. He has attached himself to local nobility and his cause and wealth is certainly aided by the quality of the saffron that Eleanor is growing. As an aside, I always associate saffron with Middle Eastern food so it really surprised me that it would thrive in England, but even today it is grown there.

There are two problems though. Eleanor and her family are staunchly Catholic in a period when that is a dangerous thing to be, especially seeing the court in question is that of Henry VIII. There is also the question of who Greville is associated with and what happens when you align yourself to the wrong person at court.

As readers we get to see Eleanor as she lives her increasingly fragile life, but Amber is looking back through the centuries as she reads the book, trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Eleanor, and to unravel what it is the common link between the two women, despite the differences between the 1500s and 2000s. I do think there could have been an epilogue to help the reader find out what happened after the end of the book, but having said that Amber would never have known so maybe it was fitting that we also didn't. The historical timeline was the stronger of the two for me, although that is true most of the time when I read dual timeline books.

When I requested this, I don't recall noticing that the book was set in the Tudor period. Whilst I used to read a lot of books set in this period, I got all Tudored out years ago so now it is quite rare for me to choose to read one now. Luckily I enjoyed this debut novel, especially because while the events that were happening in the court of Henry VIII shaped the lives of the characters, the story was not centred there. I will be keen to read whatever comes next from this author!

Rating 4/5

Goodreads summary:

Two women. Five centuries apart.
One life-changing secret about to be unearthed…

New bride Eleanor impresses her husband by growing saffron, a spice more valuable than gold. His reputation in Henry VIII’s court soars – but fame and fortune come at a price, for the king’s favour will not last forever…

When Amber discovers an ancient book in her grandfather’s home at Saffron Hall, the contents reveal a dark secret from the past. As she investigates, so unravels a forgotten tragic story and a truth that lies much closer to home than she could have imagined…

An enchanting historical novel about love and hope in dangerous times, perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley and Kathryn Hughes.


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