Showing posts from October, 2011

Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Title:Song of the Nile
Author: Stephanie Dray

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Ancient Rome / Ancient North Africa / Magic / Royalty)
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Trade (10/4/2011)
Source: The author.

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes, although I drew it out because I was reluctant to leave Selene!
One-sentence summary: Cleopatra's daughter has become Queen of Mauritania faces tension in her marriage, her new home, and her family as she struggles to embrace her power and destiny.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's super striking and captures the feel of the novel. My only quibble is that I wish the woman was a little younger -- Selene is 14-20ish in this novel and the woman on the cover clearly isn't.  (I suppose she's on the 20ish spectrum.)

I'm reminded of...: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Clysta Kinstler, Libba Bray, Phillipa Gregory

First line: I am nature.

Do... I love Dray's mix of historical fiction and magical fan…

Friday Reads, and I'm dragging my feet...

Honestly, this has felt like the world's longest week. Work has been exhausting, and I've been staying up all night reading which is fun at the time but makes me a sad beast in the morning. You'd think I'd learn, but alas, I do it again each night.

FridayReads: I'm still reading Lisey's Story (dragging it out because I'm so reluctant to finish it!), but I started Stephanie Dray's Roman/Egyptian historical novel Song of the Nile, which is the sequel to Lily of the Nile (which I loved).  I've been racing through but totally reluctant to finish it, too -- I don't want to leave Selene! (And, of course, wait for the next book!)

Ever have this problem?  You're loving a book so much you don't want to finish it?  What are you reading today (and this weekend)?

Irrepressible by Leslie Brody

Title:Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford
Author: Leslie Brody

Genre: Non-Fiction (Biography / 1930s / 1950s / 1960s / American History / Civil Rights Movement / Journalism / British Ex-Pat / Literary Family)
Publisher/Publication Date: Counterpoint (10/2011)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: I tore through this book.
One-sentence summary: Well-written biography of muckraker Jessica Mitford.

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover -- the font, the image, the layout -- it's perfect.

I'm reminded of...: Nancy Milford, Barry Werth

First line: Soon after Jessica Mitford moved with her family to Swinbrook House in Oxfordshire, she began to plot her escape from it.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy -- I'm telling you, you want to know about the fabulous Decca Mitford!

Why did I get this book?: I love the Mitfords, and I love muckrakers, and I love female journalists. I couldn't resist.

Review: In a high school journalism class, I read some excerpts from Jess…

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

Title:You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself
Author: David McRaney

Genre: Non-Fiction (Psychology / Pop Culture / Americana / Personality / Popular Science)
Publisher/Publication Date: Gotham (10/27/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: Forty-eight essays on human behavior and the fascinating, necessary, and amazing way we really don't understand how our brains work.

Do I like the cover?: Yes -- it's quirky and punchy, like the book.

First line: You hold in your hands a compendium of information about self-delusion and the wonderful ways we all succumb to it.

Did... I torture everyone around me with non-stop trivia gleaned from this book?: YES. Sorry co-workers and friends! I couldn't help myself -- this stuff is fascinating!

Did... I start reading McRaney's blog upon finishing this book?: YES. It's horrifying/awesome what I…

Wings by Karl Friedrich

Title:Wings: A Novel of WWII Flygirls
Author: Karl Friedrich

Genre: Fiction (WWII / Airplanes / WASPs)
Publisher/Publication Date: McBooks Press (4/1/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did, rather quickly.
One-sentence summary: Country girl becomes pilot during WWII, faces romance, prejudice, and bad weather.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's kind of adorable, but I mean that in a good way. It certainly captures the homey roots of the heroine's background

First line: Sally Ketchum peered over the edge of the cockpit.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow -- this has a sort of beach read feel for a WWII historical.

Why did I get this book?: I'm always interested in how women fare during wartime and have been curious about the WASPs.

Review: In the 1940s, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program was started to free up male pilots so they could fly in combat, and women pilots were given Army flight training to do routine, …

Interview with Donia Bijan

Last week I read and was charmed by Donia Bijan's memoir of food and family, Maman's Homesick Pie.  I'm excited to share my interview with Ms. Bijan.  Read on to learn more about her, her writing, and what she does when she's not writing.  There's another opportunity to enter to win a copy of her book, too!

Was this book your first foray into writing (either seriously or for fun)?

No, as a chef, I was writing every day. It was important for me to write menus that didn't just list ingredients, but were evocative and even poetic. The dishes had to be well thought out just like a good sentence.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

After I take my son to school, I wash the breakfast dishes, think about what I'll make for dinner, and then sit down to write until it's time for him to come home. By then, I find myself missing him and looking forward to an afternoon snack together.

Was Maman’s Homesick Pie the original title of your book?

The original tit…

In My Mailbox Monday, Oct 24

Seen both at Mailbox Monday (hosted in October at the fabulous Savvy Verse & Wit) and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox on a chilly, very autumnal Sunday. I had been sighing and whining to my wife that I hadn't gotten anything new in a while, but doesn't this just prove me wrong?! I'm slightly ashamed of myself! Have you read any of these?  What did you get?

For Review

Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
People Tell Me Things by David Finkle
You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 65 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself by David McRaney
A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead
James Joyce: A Life by Edna O'Brien
The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis
Charles Dickens: A Life by Jane Smiley


The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst
Good Behavior by …


Only one giveaway this week, so only one winner!

The winner of India Black and the Widow of Windsor is ... Maria D.!

Congrats! Check out my current giveaways -- more coming this week!

Friday Reads, and I'm a bit scared...

I went through this phase in high school where I read a metric ton of Stephen King novels -- crappy ones -- like Carrie, and Cujo, and Needful Things -- and I hated them all. I decided then, at 17, never to give him another minute of my time since there were a billion other books I wanted to read, and up until yesterday, I kept that vow.

My wife, unlike me, is a slavish King fan. She's got every book of his (and Bachman's) in hardcover, paperback, and audio, and King is the only author to claim that honor in our house (sadly). She keeps casually trying to get me to read him now and then but I remain pretty stubbornly determined to ignore him -- until now. In light of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) VI reading challenge and the little things that make my wife happy, I relented and agreed to read a Stephen King she picked for me.  She chose Lisey's Story.

This is a long way of introducing my FridayReads for this week.  Rather resentfully, I have to admit I'm re…

Maman’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan

Title:Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen
Author: Donia Bijan

Genre: Non-Fiction (Memoir / Iran / Immigrant Experience / Cooking / Food / Mother-Daughter Relationships)
Publisher/Publication Date: Algonquin Books (10/11/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, super quick.
One-sentence summary: A warm, inviting memoir about an Iranian-American chef's childhood, her Iranian parents, her Parisian culinary training, and her search for her own happiness.

Do I like the cover?: I can't decide: I hate the font but I do rather like the sort of precious, cutesy images.

I'm reminded of...: Diana Abu-Jaber, Firoozeh Dumas

First line: My mother had been dead eight days when I showed up in her kitchen.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow, and gift to the foodie or memoir addict in your life!

Why did I get this book?: I love stories of the immigrant experience, and being a foodie, I can't resist the mix of narrative and recipe!

Review: Although I'…

Motor City Shakedown by D.E. Johnson

Title:Motor City Shakedown
Author: D.E. Johnson

Genre: Fiction (Mystery / Murder / 1910s / Mafia / Detroit / Automobile Manufacturing)
Publisher/Publication Date: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (9/13/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Yes, very easily.
One-sentence summary: Seven months after Will Anderson was framed for murder, he's struggling with a crippling injury, an addiction, and an all-consuming desire for revenge.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I love it -- paperboys feature in this novel, and I think the layout and design is super catchy.

I'm reminded of...: M.L. Malcolm

First line: My left index finger traced the shape of the little morphine bottle through the outside of my trouser pocket.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow -- after you read the first book!

Why did I get this book?: It has all the elements I like in fiction: great historical setting, unique location, crime.

Review: First things first: don't read the blur…

The Detroit Electric Scheme by D.E. Johnson

Title:The Detroit Electric Scheme: A Mystery
Author: D.E. Johnson

Genre: Fiction (Mystery / Murder / 1910s / Detroit / Automobile Manufacturing)
Publisher/Publication Date: Minotaur Books (9/14/2010)
Source: My public library

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: In early 20th century Detroit, automobile heir Will Anderson finds himself framed for the murder of his best friend -- who happens to be his ex-fiancée's new fiancé -- and he races to clear his name and solve the murder.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Yes -- it's not a favorite but it's eye-catching and sort of matches the style of the second book (or, the second book sort of matches it.).

I'm reminded of...: M.L. Malcolm

First line: The first part of the body I saw was half of the left arm.

Did... I spend a ton of time researching the cars and fashions mentioned in this novel?: YES. Especially with the cars -- I know nothing about automobiles, especially early ones, so …

Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

Title:Practical Jean
Author: Trevor Cole

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Satire / Black Comedy / Friendship / Marriage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (10/18/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, another book inhaled in a matter of hours!
One-sentence summary: After watching her mother's slow death, Jean Vale Horemarsh decides the best way to express her love for her good friends is to ensure they die quick and happy.
Reading Challenges:RIP VI

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's delightfully retro!

I'm reminded of...: James K. Morrow

First line: You might think this a rather horrible and depraved sort of story.

Was... I kicked out of bed for snickering while reading?: YES. This was another delightful book that had me giggling the whole way!

Am... I getting this book for my besties for the winter holiday?: YES. This group of friends all agreed to eat each other come an Alpine plane crash, so I think they're going to dig this book.

Buy, Borrow,…

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman

Author: Sharon Kay Penman

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Richard / Crusades / Medieval / Military)
Publisher/Publication Date: Putnam/Marian Wood (10/4/2011)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: Detailed, deft novel following Richard the Lionheart and his contemporaries
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I don't hate it, although I find it a bit boring. It sort of reminds me of a movie poster (I keep looking for an actor's face behind the sword and shield) but it conveys the militaristic bent to the novel.

First line: Theirs was a story that would rival the legend of King Arthur and Guinevere, his faithless queen.

Do... I love the way Penman writes about her subjects?: YES. Actually, I love the way Penman writes as an author -- she's responsive to her readers and quite devoted to keeping them happy -- and her 'Message from the Author' on Lionheart references Johnny Cash (yay!). She's s…


This week's winners!  (Forgive my lack of chattiness -- am a bit wiped from the day and sadly, not from anything fun! :/)

The winner of my giveaway for A Man of Parts and War of the Worlds is ... Carrie of Nomadreader!

The winner of my giveaway for Salvage the Bones is ... Cassie!

Congrats to the winners! If you haven't won, be sure to check out my open giveaways and look out for the ones coming this week!

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Title:Far From the Madding Crowd
Author: Thomas Hardy

Genre: Fiction (English / Victorian / Rural / Marriage / Relationships)
Publisher/Publication Date: Project Gutenberg (2/1/1994)
Source: Project Gutenberg

Rating: Looooooved!
Did I finish?: Yes -- it took me a while only because my review schedule got a big hectic.
One-sentence summary: Bathsheba Everdene, a young woman who inherits a farm, struggles to make herself happy, successful, and loved in a rural county in England.
Reading Challenges:British BooksE-books, Victorian Literature

Do I like the cover?: N/A -- sadly, unlike many e-book packagers, Project Gutenberg doesn't do covers for their e-books.

First line: When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.

Did... I spend about two months confusing …

Interview with Carol K. Carr

The second India Black novel, India Black and the Widow of Windsor, was one of maybe three books I've been waiting for with desperate, unceasing eagerness. (The first book, India Black, made my top ten of 2010.) It was a pleasure to revisit India's world again (see my review of India Black and the Widow of Windsor for more gushing!) and I'm very excited to share my interview with the author, Carol K. Carr.  Read on to learn more about her, her writing, and what she does when she's not writing, plus enter to win a copy of India Black and the Widow of Windsor.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

Yikes! I haven't dredged up that memory for quite a while, and with good reason. The novel was an historical police procedural set in Dallas during the Prohibition, and featured a wise Marine veteran turned cop named Pappy and his new partner Joe. Pappy? What was I thinking? I do recall that I was really enamored with that name for my character at the…

In My Mailbox Monday, October 10

Seen both at Mailbox Monday (hosted in October at the fabulous Savvy Verse & Wit) and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox (on a Monday for once!). Read any of these?  What did you get?

For Review

To Join the Lost by Seth Steinzor


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, thanks to Lions and MenViscount Breckenridge to the Rescue by Stephanie Laurens, thanks to Klout


These all came from my trip out west (to western Massachusetts and Vermont, that is) from a funky roadside harvest festival tent sale thing. The old books are all very musty smelling and the newest is from 1947. The oldest is the Jane Eyre, from 1887!

The Legacy by Nevil ShuteThe Five Hundred Best English Letters by BirkenheadA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty SmithBrideshead Revisisted by Evelyn WaughJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Shirley Jackson Road Trip, the report

[March 2013: Please don't request directions or addresses for these locations -- the throwaway offer I made in the comments has lead to a barrage of requests.  The residences are actively occupied by families who may not realize the significance of where they live and we could have been wrong. Readers can puzzle together locations via the books we referenced, which is how we made our educated guesses. --Audra]

Last weekend, my wife surprised me with a mini-vacation to N. Bennington, VT, home of author/goddess Shirley Jackson. While I like Jackson's fiction, my wife loves her. Loves. So it was with much giddiness we made the trip, armed with a biography and Jackson's autobiographical works, hoping we might be able to glean something of where Jackson lived and worked.

The trip turned out even more amazing than we anticipated!  Despite the rain, we enjoyed the gorgeous three plus hour drive to Vermont: fog, mountains, trees turning to gold and red, lots of adorable, decay…


I missed posting last week's winner because I was too excited about that road trip so I wised up this time and got today's post ready well in advance!  So, winners all around!

The winner of Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods? is ... Darlene!

The winner of Me Again is ... Margaret!

Congrats to the winners (who have been emailed).  Please check out my other giveaways if you didn't win. 

Also, I now have a giveaway for Waiting for Robert Capa! To enter, fill out the form -- and if you want to see what I thought of it, check out my review.

Friday Reads, and I'm in love...

I'm still working on my blog post about our Shirley Jackson pilgrimage (needless to say, I've got a metric ton of photos I'm matching up to passages from Jackson's writing, because I'm a nerd like that), and this morning my lovely wife sprang on me another road trip!!

Tuesday is our third wedding anniversary, and we always spend at least a day in Salem, which is what we did the day before our wedding. This time, however, my wife recalled my swooning over The American Heiress and so surprised me this morning by announcing we're starting our trip in Newport, RI with tours of the five mansions there! Then we're going to Providence for WaterFire, in which bonfires are lit on the rivers that wind through Providence. There's performance art, music, and other awesomeness. I can't wait! Then we're driving along to coast to Salem to visit our usual haunts, have lunch, and enjoy the ocean before heading home. Best anniversary road trip ever!  (Love …