Thursday, June 26, 2014

Voyage of Strangers by Elizabeth Zelvin



What really happened when Columbus discovered America. Diego Mendoza, a young Marrano sailor with Columbus, returns from the voyage of discovery to find that his sister Rachel is in danger from the Inquisition as a secret Jew. After failing to find safety in Spain, they sail with Admiral Columbus on the second voyage to Hispaniola, where they must struggle with divided loyalties as the Spaniards' greed for gold and conquest clashes with the local Taino people's way of life. Both Diego and Rachel find courage, love, and heartache as they come of age in a doomed paradise. Sequel to Zelvin's Agatha-nominated mystery, "The Green Cross."
Leona's Review:
Voyage of Strangers by Elizabeth Zelvin
This book is based on the sailings of Christopher Columbus and the sailings to the Americas. The book is in first person by Diego so we see one viewpoint of what happened.
The main characters are a brother and sister, Diego and Rachel Mendoza. They are Jewish and from Spain during the time of the Inquisition. Diego especially seems to have a hatred for Christians because most are cruel in their actions. Because they are Jewish, they keep it a secret from all except Columbus. Diego sailed with Columbus on his first voyage to the Americas and convinced Columbus to take his sister as a cabin boy on the second voyage to the Americas so she could leave Spain.
Lots of history but I found a dark novel based on fact and fiction. I was not aware in all my readings of the slavery from the Islands in the Caribbean. The book had a lot of light moments and love is also part of the book. I learned a lot the area, food, hardships and cruelty to the local people. As readers we see, with the eyes of Diego, customs and ways of life of the Taino Indians.  I also learned more about the Jewish people and some of their customs.
The author has done her research. She has included a dateline of events which begins with the prologue December 24, 1492 and ends February 24,1495 with chapter 36. The list of characters include 28 people known to history and 38 fictional characters including Rosa, the mule, and Baxtalo, the dog. I like maps and would have liked to have seen one included in the book. I have been to most of the places so I could picture them and the route. Little tidbits of information were useful to read like using a lemon to clean teeth and help prevent teeth rot.
There is an Afterword which is about the book and the facts and fiction of the novel.
She has a list of acknowledgements of people who have helped her in this writing.
The Green Cross was the first book Elizabeth Zelvin wrote about Columbus so I will also have to read that one. This book can be read without reading the Green Cross first.
I downloaded this book from
I give it a 4 star rating because of the history and research by the author.
Elizabeth Zelvin may be reached at
Leona Olson

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Merlin's Nightmare by Robert Treskillard

Merlin's Nightmare by Robert Treskillard
"Arthur, now eighteen, is missing, and Merlin must find him before a shadowy pursuer catches him first.
With the High King and his kingdom caught in a trap of sinister deceit, Merlin has to find a way out before all is lost. Having everything to fight for, and almost nothing to fight with, Merlin and Arthur must rally Britain’s warriors against three overwhelming enemies: Saxen hordes in the south, Picti raiders in the north, and a chilling new enemy that has arisen in the west. At the same time, Morgana brings Merlin’s deepest fear to life and sets a horde of werewolves loose to destroy Britain. But when the secret purpose of this nightmare is finally revealed, will Merlin and Arthur find a way to survive—without unleashing an even greater evil?"
Leona's Review:
This is the third book of the Merlin series by Robert Treskillard.  The others are Merlin's Blade and Merlin's Shadow.
In this book Merlin now has two children by his wife, Natalenya.  The years have passed from the first books.  Any of the books can be read on their own. The author has The Story of Book 1, Merlin's Blade and  The Story of Book 2 , Merlin's Shadow  at the beginning of Merlin's Nightmare so the reader has an idea of what has happened in the previous books.
Robert Treskillard has such full descriptions of what is happening especially in the battles. This book had more war then the other two but necessary to accomplish the mission.  A werewolf is also part of this book which is interesting and unusual in the Arthurian books but the Voice is also different.
The reader finds many of the same characters in the first books of the Merlin Series.  Arthur, Merlin, Natalenya, Dwin, The Voice and Morgana. I liked the addition of the children in this third book; it helped make the book more personal.
Part One : Fear's Glance (page 21)
Ash, smoke, and flame: the young one looming.
Sin, spite, and hate: the sly shade luring.
Hand, soul, and heart: the black choice making.
Snare, lash, and trap: the death power waking.
Orb and fang, there at the dark demise.
Part Two: Terror's Grasp (page 159)
Battle, noise, and dust: the young one fighting;
Holy, pure, and strong:  the good God calling;
Spirit, hand, and heart: the white path choosing;
Gauntlet, shield, and torc: the kingship taking;
Skinned in death, there the moon will rise.
Part Three: Nightmare's Gallows (page 283)
Faster than crow, the bleak night coming;
Blacker than coal, the dread oath binding;
Stronger than steel, the great claws gripping;
Sharper than flint, the long teeth gnashing;
Sword and stone, there the prophet outcries.
Dedicated to: For Samantha Adele, Leighton, and Ness. Psalm 5:1-12
God is also a big part of the book as the characters pray often.
One similar chant I remember  when we spoke Latin in Church:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus-Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
A response in British:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord-the God of mighty warriors.
Heaven and earth are filled with Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
There are maps in the beginning of the book and a glossary in the back (page 408). I used the glossary many times because  of so many names.  There is also a pronunciation guide. (page 407)
This was a harder book for me to read than the other two books in the series. It was good but so many names and activities. It still will get a  5 star rating.
This is not the end of the series; it continues with the  Pendragon Series.
I received a complimentary copy from to read and review. The opinions are my own.
Robert Treskillard may be reached at:
Many characters and happenings  are based on  legends and history but Merlin's Nightmare is fictional. It is good reading for  young people as well as adults.
Leona Olson

Monday, June 2, 2014

Streusel Rhubarb Bread/ Muffin Recipe


Streusel Rhubarb Bread/Muffin Recipe

I found this recipe on the Taste of Home site.

I made 18 muffins instead of bread as they can freeze and I can also share. Everyone seems to like them. I baked for 40 minutes in 350* oven. I used fresh rhubarb from my garden.
Streusel Rhubarb Bread Recipe
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. Bake: 1 hour + cooling
MAKES: 32 servings


  •   1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  •   1/2 cup canola oil
  •   1 cup buttermilk
  •   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •   2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  •   1 teaspoon baking soda
  •   1 teaspoon salt
  •   1-1/2 cups chopped fresh or sliced frozen rhubarb
  •   1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  •   TOPPING:
  •   1/2 cup sugar
  •   1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •   1 tablespoon cold butter

Nutritional Facts

1 serving (1 slice) equals 138 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 8 mg cholesterol, 131 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 2 g protein.


  1. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and oil. Beat in egg. Beat in buttermilk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into brown sugar mixture just until combined. Fold in rhubarb and nuts. Pour into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.
  2. For topping, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and butter until crumbly; sprinkle over batter.
  3. Bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  4. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Cut with a serrated knife. Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).
Editor's Note: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.
Originally published as Streusel Rhubarb Bread in Quick Cooking