Monday, December 31, 2012

What's in a Name Reading Challenge

Every year, some of my favorite bloggers are participating in the What's in a Name reading challenge ... and it totally intimidates me!  But I can't resist any longer!

The premise is to read six books, one of each fitting the criteria below:
Kinda fun, right? I'm happy because I think a few books I've got in my TBR will fit. Hooray!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Books Read in 2012


Ellis Avery, The Last Nude
Alex Gilvarry, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
Theodora Goss, The Thorn and the Blossom
Jane Harris, Gillespie and I
Rashad Harrison, Our Man in the Dark
Melissa Marr, Graveminder
Sandra Newman, The Western Lit Survival Kit: An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Faulkner
Dubravka Ugrešić, Thank You for Not Reading: Essays on Literary Trivia


Anne Clinard Barnhill, At the Mercy of the Queen
Nancy Bilyeau, The Crown
Christine Blevins, The Turning of Anne Merrick
Jennifer Haigh, Baker Towers
Jennifer Haigh, Faith
Sarah McCoy, The Baker’s Daughter
Donna Russo Morin, The King's Agent
Matthew Pearl, The Technologists
Mary Roberts Rinehart, When A Man Marries
Vatsyayana, Kama Sutra
S.J. Watson, Before I Go To Sleep
Lauren Willig, The Garden Intrigue


Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, Molly Make-Believe
Jetta Carleton, Clair de Lune
Jennifer Chiaverini, Sonoma Rose
Jennifer duBois, A Partial History of Lost Causes
Tan Twang Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists
Kathryn Harrison, Enchantments
Ryan David Jahn, The Dispatcher
Margot Livesey, The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Kristina McMorris, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Susie Moloney, The Thirteen
Sophie Perinot, The Sister Queens
Daniel Pyne, A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar
M.J. Rose, The Book of Lost Fragrances
Jacqueline Winspear, The Mapping of Love and Death


April Bernard, Miss Fuller
D.L. Bogdan, The Sumerton Women
DeAnna Cameron, Dancing at the Chance
Angela Davis-Gardner, Butterfly’s Child
Francine du Plessix Gray, The Queen’s Lover
C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
Elizabeth Loupas, The Flower Reader
Rosamund Lupton, Afterwards
Kristine Ong Muslim, We Bury the Landscape
Rachael Pruitt, The Dragon's Harp
Michel Stone, The Iguana Tree
Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons
Saima Wahab, In My Father’s Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate


Melanie Dugan, Dead Beautiful
Nicole Galland, I, Iago
Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal
Bruce Holbert, Lonesome Animals
Sadie Jones, The Uninvited Guests
Lois Leveen, The Secrets of Mary Bowser
Anouk Markovits, I Am Forbidden
Jennifer Miller, The Year of the Gadfly
Ann Patchett, State of Wonder
Elizabeth Percer, An Uncommon Education
Carolina De Robertis, Perla
K. Hollan Van Zandt, Written In the Ashes
Steve Wiegenstein, Slant of Light


Anita Amirrezvani, Equal of the Sun
Kishwar Desai, Witness the Night
Sara Foster, Beneath the Shadows
Janet Groth, The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker
Renee James, Coming Out Can Be Murder
Suzanne Joinson, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
Stephen King, The Colorado Kid
Ami McKay, The Virgin Cure
Katherine Webb, The Unseen
Jean Zimmerman, Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance


Michael Boccacino, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling
Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue
Karen Harper, Mistress of Mourning
Victoria Hislop, The Thread
D. B. Jackson, Thieftaker
David John, Flight From Berlin
Sheila Kohler, The Bay of Foxes
Peter Leonard, All He Saw Was the Girl
Doug Magee, Darkness All Around
Emily Jeanne Miller, Brand New Human Being
Rachel Neumeier, House of Shadows
Ann Patchett, The Magician's Assistant
Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles
Louisa Young, My Dear I Wanted To Tell You


Emily Arsenault, Miss Me When I’m Gone
Alex Bledsoe, The Sword-Edged Blonde
Alex Bledsoe, Wake of the Bloody Angel
Debra Dean, The Mirrored World
Jennie Fields, The Age of Desire
Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master's Son
Giles Kristian, Blood Eye (Raven, Book 1)
Bianca Lakoseljac, Summer of the Dancing Bear
David LeRoy, The Siren of Paris
Maryanne O'Hara, Cascade
Emily Perkins, The Forrests
Julie K. Rose, Oleanna
Luisita López Torregrosa, Before the Rain
Lucy Wood, Diving Belles


S.G. Browne, Lucky Bastard
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes
Clare Clark, Beautiful Lies
Andrew Goldstein, The Bookie’s Son
Janice Law, Fires of London
E. J. Levy, Love, in Theory
Deborah Swift, The Gilded Lily
Peter M. Wheelwright, As It Is On Earth
Mingmei Yip, Skeleton Women


Tina Connolly, Ironskin
Louise Erdrich, The Round House
Sarah Jio, Blackberry Winter
Vincent Lam, The Headmaster’s Wager
Susan Elia MacNeal, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
Robin Maxwell, Jane
B.A. Shapiro, The Art Forger
V.E. Ulett, Captain Blackwell’s Prize
Marilyn Yalom, How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance


Jill Dawson, Lucky Bunny
Lawrence Durrell, Judith
Joan Frank, Because You Have To
Tessa Hadley, Married Love: And Other Stories
Carolle Jean-Murat, Voodoo in My Blood: A Healer's Journey From Surgeon to Shaman
Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior
Susan Elia MacNeal, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy
Timothy L. O'Brien, The Lincoln Conspiracy
Mary Sharratt, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen
Laryssa Wirstiuk, The Prescribed Burn


Jesse Blackadder, The Raven's Heart
Stephanie LaCava, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
Lev Raphael, Rosedale the Vampyre
Mark Spivak, Iconic Spirits
Michael Williams, Vine: An Urban Legend

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Reading Challenges summary

My 2012 Reading Challenges goals were kind of a big bust!  Of seventeen challenges I committed to, I only succeed in five of them!  Eeek!  Of course, has that stopped me from considering a badrillion more in 2013? NOPE.

A-to-Z (26 books) : Only made it to 'O' and I have at least one letter with an outstanding review. Ooops!

Bloomsday Readathon : Fail!  (I got the book, but didn't open it.)

Books in Translation (3 books) : Fail! Only read 1.

Clarissa Group Read : Fail! (Didn't even get the book! :/)

Dewey Decimal Challenge (5 books) : Victory!  Read 12.

E-books (25 books) : Victory! Read 29.

Edgar Awards (3 books) : Super epic fail. ZERO.

Europa Editions (2 books) : Super epic fail. ZERO.

Fearless Poetry (1 book) : Super epic fail. Zero.

Forever Amber Readalong : Fail! Bought the book though!

Gothic Fiction in October : Super epic fail.

Historical Fiction (20 books) : Super epic VICTORY!  Read 63!  Beat out last year's best, too!

Immigrant Stories (3 books) : Victory! Read 15.

NetGalley (10 books) : Victory! Read 20.

RIP VII (4 books) : Fail. ZERO.

Victorian Challenge (2 books) : Victory.  Read 5.

Witches and Witchcraft (5 books) : Fail.  Read 3.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Piaţa Universităţii in Bucharest
Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate!

This morning's greeting comes from Bucharest, Romania, where we've spent the last day and a half.  We're leaving this afternoon for our third train of this journey, from Romania through Bulgaria to Istanbul.

It's been a wonderful trip so far -- despite my cold, I'm having a great time.  Hope all of you are safe, happy, and doing well!  (And of course, reading something good! ;))

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mailbox Monday, Dec 24

I know I announced last week that there wouldn't be anymore Mailbox Mondays from me for 2012, but I lied! So many books arrived this week I couldn't wait until back from my trip to share. Happy Christmas to me, for serious!

Here is this week's Mailbox Monday (hosted in December at Suko's Notebook) -- what did you get?

For Review


Gifted to me from my boss!

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Or, in this case, no winners.  I know I had two giveaways but unfortunately, I just couldn't get to closing them, contacting winners, waiting for winner contact info, and sending that along to the publishers in time before my trip.  I'm so sorry!

I promise many awesome giveaways in 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Reads and I ran out of time...

I really really really wanted to post my Top 10 of 2012 before leaving on holiday but sadly, I just didn't have enough time to make it happen.

As it is, I'm writing this between frantic packing for my trip!

We're off to Turkey on a once-in-a-lifetime journey and I'm deeply, desperately, dangerously excited!  Needless to say, I likely won't be around until I'm back -- so apologies for abandoning all of you! I'll have my Top 10 post ready to go live when I'm back in 2013. 

I hope all of you have a safe and happy New Year's -- thank you for another fantastic year of book blogging.  So grateful for all of you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Raven's Heart by Jesse Blackadder

Title: The Raven's Heart
Author: Jesse Blackadder

Genre: Fiction (Scotland / 16th Century / Royals / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Mary Queen of Scots / Royal Intrigue / LGBT)
Publisher/Publication Date: Bywater Books (9/11/2011)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Looooooooooooved -- top ten of 2012 love.
Did I finish?: Couldn't put it down!
One-sentence summary: In 16th century Scotland, a woman finds freedom and danger in the guise of a boy, and proves her loyalty to Mary, Queen of Scots in an attempt to win back her family's legacy.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- not traditional given it is a royal court-set hist fic, and I'm grateful for that!

I'm reminded of...: Mary Sharratt, Judith Tarr, Sarah Waters

First line: Scotland, 1519, twenty-six years before I was born.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you like good meaty historicals with a fascinating protagonist and wonderful sense of time/place.

Why did I get this book?: Honestly, I think I was curious about the Blackadder surname.

Review: I loved everything about this book. The plot, the places, the people (oh, the people!), the mood, the drama -- everything. I'm not even sure where to start with this gush-fest!

Blackadder's novel grew out of her research into her surname, and while normally family-inspired novels give me the gibblies, in this case, we all win. The historical Blackadders have a story straight out of an opera or Gothic tale: widow violently married off to a vicious noble, evil stepfather marries her daughters to his brothers, and subsequent Blackadders are all murdered before they can foment rebellion against him. In this climate, surviving Blackadder William is re-invented as a merchant sea captain and his daughter Alison -- the Blackadder heir -- is transformed into his nephew, Robert Blackadder.

The novel opens in 1561, with Alison-as-Robert on the ship that is bringing Mary Stuart aka Mary, Queen of Scots, to Scotland. Although Alison has grown used to living life as a boy, her father believes they can better push their cause if Alison becomes one of Mary's ladies-in-waiting, and Alison finds herself away from the comfortable identity (and clothes) she's familiar with and struggling to embody a sophisticated lady at court.

What could be a simple story of a girl-who-dresses-like-a-boy shenanigans -- a little sapphic longing, lots of court drama -- is actually a rather meaty, dense, and evocative historical novel of Mary Stuart's court and a woman's confusing place in it. When Alison's skill at passing for a boy is discovered, it becomes her greatest asset and one that grants her unusual access and power -- and of course, increased danger. While Alison's father is driven to reclaim Blackadder Castle, Alison finds herself more drawn to her Robert persona and all it entails -- right down to romance with women.

Blackadder (the author) created a fantastic main character in Alison/Robert -- I was there, from the first page to the last -- and I fell in love with the world she evoked. Royal court hist fic is not a favorite of mine, but through Alison/Robert, the reader sees a more robust view of 16th century Scotland -- the court and the life of the non-nobles. Being unfamiliar with this era, I can't say how accurate the events are represented, but in terms of pacing, narrative arc, and character development, I was immersed. I didn't want this book to end.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop winners!

The Historical Holiday Blog Hop & Giveaway closed yesterday and I'm thrilled to announce the winners!

The winner of Fires of London is ... Atlantis FlyGirl!

The winner of Oleanna is ... Deborah Swift!

The winner of Book Pack 1: Only in America is ... Heather of The Maiden's Court!

The winner of Book Pack 2: European Education is ... Fluffy!

The winner of Book Pack 3: Unlikely Ladies is ... Kimberlee of Girl Lost in a Book!

Congrats to the winners! Thank you all for participating and enormous thanks to Amy of Passages to the Past for organizing this!

An Extraordinary Theory of Objects by Stephanie LaCava

Title: An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
Author: Stephanie LaCava

Genre: Non-Fiction (Memoir / 1990s / Adolescence / France / American Ex-Pat / Coming-of-Age)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (12/4/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal!
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: An American ex-pat shares her experience living in a Parisian suburb in the '90s and the crippling loneliness and depression that dogged her.
Reading Challenges: Dewey Decimal, Immigrant Stories

Do I like the cover?: I do -- I find it very charming and in person, the matte background and the slightly glossy illustrations are catchy.

First line: I was always strange.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like found objects, awkward memoirs, and Parisian escapes.

Why did I get this book?: Paris. I'm a sucker for all things Parisian.

Review: I didn't know what to expect with this book. While the blurb tells me something ('A haunting and moving collection of original narratives that reveals an expatriate’s coming-of-age in Paris and the magic she finds in ordinary objects.') it didn't convey, I think, the real personality LaCava brings to her book. In further crankiness, I thought the subtitle ('A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris') as off-the-mark as the blurb. I found this book to be a memoir of depression, portrayed in a series of playful, odd vignettes, voiced by a lonely American desperate for connection and unable to find the tools to get out of her head and be more present in the world.

In the early '90s, LaCava's family moves to a suburb of Paris. She's sent to an international school where she finds herself isolated and unhappy. Teased by her classmates, she starts collecting objects in a kind of obsessive cataloging endeavor, as if naming and placing things would help her find herself. LaCava shares the experience of her crippling depression that broke my heart and resonated with me -- she and I seem to be approximately the same age, and while she was feeling like an outcast in '90s Paris, I was an outcast in '90s South Dakota. (Those who love the '90s will enjoy that bit of ambiance -- My So-Called Life and Nirvana feature in her vignettes, for example.)

The book's narrative style is quirky, and I think readers will either love or loathe it. Interspersed in her vignettes, LaCava includes footnotes about an object or person, usually providing some quick trivia or history. The object in question is almost always paired with one of illustrator Matthew Nelson's drawings.  For LaCava, these objects are obviously totemic, deeply personal, and emotionally resonant, and the book's physical design -- cloth-bound cover, small size, and deckle-edged pages -- was tactile-ly satisfying, making me read a little more slowly, savor more, as if LaCava and I were in conversation.

While much of this novel worked for me, it isn't a perfect memoir.  Readers wanting a cohesive narrative and accounting of time will be disappointed, I suspect. There is a very strong sense of distance between LaCava and the reader, perhaps an echo of the distance she feels from others. The narrative jumps from 1996 -- when she's 13 -- to 2009, and I found that a bit jarring. Toward the end, LaCava shifts from a self-introspective accounting of time to replaying conversations between herself and others which didn't always work for me.  (In the seven-page vignette where she meets a former classmate, the conversation circles mostly around how pretty she is, and touching lightly upon a kind of throw away mystery from earlier.) 

I found LaCava seemed to need to punish herself for her debilitating depression -- she remarks in a 2009 vignette about how selfish she was, and in a later 2011 vignette, she quotes her mother as saying the same thing. It broke my heart a little, for however 'badly' LaCava might have behaved as a girl-almost-a-teen, she obviously needed help. Moody doesn't equal selfish in my book and I don't know if she felt as if she had to make 'amends' to people in her life for her depression, but it made me angry on her behalf.

I wouldn't recommend this exactly as an armchair escape to Paris -- while LaCava shares a passion for certain places, she evokes some strongly while others sort of just float in the background. As a memoir of a time and a place, of one person's pain, this is lovely, sad, moving, and odd.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of An Extraordinary Theory of Objects to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and Canadian readers, ends 12/20.

[Yes, this is a two day giveaway, and I'm sorry to make it so brief, but I really really really wanted to get this into someone's hands and I'm MIA after 12/21 so...there you are. Forgive me!]

Monday, December 17, 2012

2013 War Through the Generations

The American Revolution-era is a favorite of mine, so I'm really excited to participate in the War Through the Generations reading challenge.

I'm aiming for: Dip: Read 1-3 books in any genre with the American Revolution as a primary or secondary theme.


Elaine Cougler, The Loyalist’s Wife

2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge is the only challenge I ever really succeed at, and so, obviously, I had to sign up for 2013! I'm aiming for Ancient History - 25+ novels. (In 2012, I read almost 60 historical novels!)


Susan Wittig Albert, A Wilder Rose
Mary Balogh, The Arrangement
Maya Banks, Highlander Most Wanted
Anna Belfrage, Like Chaff in the Wind
Anna Belfrage, A Rip in the Veil
Melanie Benjamin, The Aviator's Wife
Maryka Biaggio, Parlor Games
Nancy Bilyeau, The Chalice 
D.L. Bogdan, The Forgotten Queen
Kit Brennan, Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards
Sandra Byrd, Roses Have Thorns
Nike Campbell-Fatoki, Thread of Gold Beads
Carol K. Carr, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy
Carol K. Carr, India Black and the Rajah's Ruby
Stephanie Carroll, A White Room
Ellen Mansoor Collier, Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets
Ellen Mansoor Collier, Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play
Tara Conklin, The House Girl 
Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist
Jo-Ann Costa, The Bequest of Big Daddy
Elaine Cougler, The Loyalist’s Wife
Dilly Court, The Best of Daughters
Suzanne Desrochers, Bride of New France
Michelle Diener, Banquet of Lies
Michelle Diener, Daughter of the Sky
Michelle Diener, In Defense of the Queen
Stephanie Dray, Daughters of the Nile
Stephanie Dray, The Princess of Egypt Must Die
Jennifer Cody Epstein, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
Kate Forsyth, Bitter Greens
Elizabeth Fremantle, Queen's Gambit
Nicole Galland, Godiva
C.W. Gortner, The Queen's Vow
Sue Harrison, Song of the River
Avery Hays, The Sixth
C.C. Humphreys, Jack Absolute
Steven W. Kohlhagen, Where They Bury You
Mary Lancaster, A Prince to be Feared
K.B. Laugheed, The Spirit Keeper
Janice Law, The Prisoner of the Riviera
Ariel Lawhon, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
Sara Lindsey, A Rogue for All Seasons
Melika Dannese Lux, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier
Annabel Lyon, The Sweet Girl
James Mace, Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz
James Mace, I Stood With Wellington
Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman, Freud’s Mistress
Erika Mailman, Woman of Ill Fame
Susan McDuffie, The Study of Murder
David Morrell, Murder as a Fine Art
Bárbara Mujica, I Am Venus
B.N. Peacock, A Tainted Dawn
Liza Perrat, Spirit of Lost Angels
Donald Michael Platt, House of Rocamora 
Donald Michael Platt, Rocamora  
Brandy Purdy, The Queen's Rivals
Phillip Rock, A Future Arrived
Phillip Rock, Circles of Time
Phillip Rock, The Passing Bells
M.J. Rose, Seduction 
Laura Joh Rowland, The Shogun’s Daughter
Paullina Simons, Children of Liberty
P.A. Staes, The Bruges Tapestry
Deborah Swift, A Divided Inheritance
Ania Szado, Studio Saint-Ex
Susan Tekulve, In the Garden of Stone
Kathleen Tessaro, The Perfume Collector
Sam Thomas, The Midwife's Tale
Stephanie Thornton, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora
Nicola Upson, Fear in the Sunlight 
Simon Van Booy, The Illusion of Separateness
Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni
Alana White, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin 
Victoria Wilcox, Inheritance
Jack Wolf, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones
Kate Worsley, She Rises
Felicity Young, Anatomy of Death
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Prisoner of Heaven

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday, Dec 17

Here is this week's Mailbox Monday (hosted in December at Suko's Notebook) -- last trickle of arrivals for 2012 -- and this will be my last MM for 2012 as well!  As always, the eye candy is ridiculously lovely!  What did you get this week?

For Review

Book cover: demon's curse by Alexa Egan

Book cover: Blood's Pride by Evie Manieri Book cover: The woman from paris by santa montefiore


My thanks to my awesome friend Tracy for gifting this one to me!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Aaaaaah, my last weekend before I leave! I'm wicked frazzled ... but thrilled to share giveaway winners.  Hope all of you are having peaceful weekends!

The winner of The Prescribed Burn is ... Judy B.!

The winners of Vine: An Urban Legend are ... Leocadia, Laurie C @ Bay State Reader's Advisory, and Anita Y.!

Congrats to the winners! I've got a few remaining giveaways open before I 'close' for the holidays -- my historical fiction holiday blog hop giveaway closes on Monday, so enter if you haven't!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rosedale the Vampyre by Lev Raphael

Title: Rosedale the Vampyre
Author: Lev Raphael

Genre: Fiction (Historical / New York City / Gilded Age / 20th Century / Vampires / Widower / Sex)
Publisher/Publication Date: Amazon Digital (6/2012)
Source: Pump Up Your Book!

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly!
One-sentence summary: A Jewish widower in Gilded Age New York loses himself in sex, and then blood, when a chance meeting changes him to a Vampyre.
Reading Challenges: E-books, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: No -- it looks like an ad for a CW tv show.

First line: As usual since his wife Florence had died, and their newborn son along with her, Rosedale passed most of the day in a state of agitation.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy if you like quicky paranormal fiction with a sense of mood.

Why did I get this book?: While not a huuuuge vampire fan, I am a Gilded Age fangirl, so I had to see if it would work.

Review: Interestingly enough, I think this book is a kind of supernatural sequel (or perhaps, an alternative-universe re-imagining) to the author's previous novel, Rosedale in Love -- Raphael's take on Wharton's The House of Mirth, from the viewpoint of Simon Rosedale, Jewish financier and suitor to the haughty Lily Bart.

I don't think one needs to be familiar with either Rosedale in Love or The House of Mirth to enjoy this novella; the story here is really about a Gilded Age widower's descent into depravity, first through sex and then through blood lust. In a brief 75ish pages, Raphael hints at a fascinating vampire mythology -- Jewish vampires have powers that other vampires don't -- and creates a kind of anti-hero who feels unappealing and likable in equal part. Not much happens in this novella, other than Rosedale's turning, but Raphael sets up an interesting supernatural universe, and it seems he has two more novellas in the works. (This makes me happy.)

The style of the story is very florid, like a pot boiler, Sheridan Le Fanu, or The Monk, and while at times it verged almost on purple, overall, I liked the ornate prose. (My vocab certainly expanded!) Raphael deals with sex more than his early 20th century counterparts and while he doesn't explicitly describe it, it's not obfuscated, so the squeamish might want to pass. I enjoyed the tawdry.

If you like supernatural, or historical supernatural, this is a great easy piece to snack on, especially during the hectic holiday season. Disappear and enjoy a little debauchery!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Gift Guest Post

All quiet here (behind on reviews, what else is new?!) but I did manage to wrangle together a holiday gift recommendation for Jen at Books, Personally.  Check out her post and see what I (and other awesome bloggers) recommend! 

What is one book you'd recommend gifting this year?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Iconic Spirits by Mark Spivak

Title: Iconic Spirits
Author: Mark Spivak

Genre: Non-Fiction (Popular Culture / History / Alcohol / Food & Wine)
Publisher/Publication Date: Lyons Press (2012)
Source: Pump Up Your Book!

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A look at twelve popular liquors and the history of their most popular brands.
Reading Challenges: Dewey Decimal,

Do I like the cover?: I've got no strong feelings -- it's fine for what it is, it resembles what it is.

I'm reminded of...: Jeffrey Steingarten

First line: What's a lifelong, committed wine geek doing writing a book about spirits?

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you've got a foodie or nascent booze hound in your life.

Why did I get this book?: I love drinking. Wait, I mean that in a less horrifying way!

Review: I love cocktails. I don't watch Mad Men but I'm grateful for the resurgence in cocktail culture. Spivak's book is perfectly timed for those who are obsessed with martinis and those who are a little curious.

Iconic Spirits is a series of readable, nerdy, trivia-filled essays on twelve of the world's most popular and, well, iconic alcoholic spirits. This volume isn't a historical survey or even a popular non-fiction look at how these spirits were developed or evolved. Instead, Spivak chooses a snapshot moment to explore, a chapter in the long histories of alcohol.

Opening with a chapter on American moonshine, Spivak surprised me by not talking about how moonshine is made, or the Prohibition or Whiskey Rebellion, and instead focused on how early 20th century moonshine runners were the forefathers of NASCAR drivers. The moonshiners interest in fast stock cars and flashy driving became commodified and eventually family friendly-ified; the earliest NASCAR winners were notorious moonshiners. The chapter concluded, as they all do, with a series of recipes.

Vodka's chapter is focused specifically on the Grey Goose brand and how it achieved its luxury appeal; the bitters chapter looks at the Italian liquor, Campari. Spivak takes on cognac -- and many of its myths -- as well as tequila, rum, gin, scotch, absinthe, St. Germain (elderflower liquor), whisky, and the famous brands associated with each.

Mixing interviews, scientific research, trivia, and an obvioius enthusiasm for his subjects, Spivak's book is like having a non-pretentious cocktail geek hanging out with you. The book includes color-plates of ads (pretty!) and an extensive bibliography.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Iconic Spirits to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and Canadian readers, ends 12/20.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop & Giveaway

If you check out my blog with any regularity, you'll see that historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love me some armchair time travel. One of my all-time favorite blogs in the history of ever, Passages to the Past, is hosting the Historical Holiday Blog Hop, from December 10 through 17, and I'm delighted to participate.

This is my third year as a book blogger and my most fun so far. I'm grateful to all of you who read and visit and comment and I hope to express that gratitude via some (I think) awesome giveaways.

There are five giveaways below -- two for individual books, three for book packs. All five giveaways are open to US and international readers. So go nuts!

Fires of London
I was smitten by Fires of London from the first page and I think more people need to read this seedy, sexy, sad novel of WWII. The giveaway is for an e-book, purchased by me and gifted to you!

Earlier this year I read and adored Oleanna, a novel set in early 20th century Norway. The author, Julie K. Rose, has generously offered a reader here a copy of Oleanna.

Book Pack 1: Only in America
I'm giving away two gently read historical novels set in the U.S.: DeAnna Cameron's Dancing at the Chance and Jennifer Chiaverini's Sonoma Rose.

Book Pack 2: European Education
I'm giving away three gently read historical novels set somewhere in Europe: Jennie Fields' The Age of Desire, Philippa Gregory's The Kingmaker's Daughter, and David John's Flight From Berlin.

Book Pack 3: Unlikely Ladies
(Yes, I'm stretching now for catchy names.) I'm giving away two gently read historical novels featuring women. (And clearly, I'm stretching now for themes, too!) Karen Harper's Mistress of Mourning and Mingmei Yip's Skeleton Women.

TO ENTER: Fill out this form (it will automatically open in a separate window/tab). Select the book(s) you wish to enter. Open to US and international readers, ends 12/17.  

Be sure to check out the other blogs on the tour!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mailbox Monday, Dec 10

I am in complete denial about the date and all that it means: holidays, merry-making, traveling, shopping. Can I have a few more weeks, please??

Here is this week's Mailbox Monday (hosted in December at Suko's Notebook) -- what did you get this week?

For Review

Book cover: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier Book cover: India Black and the Rajah's Ruby by Carol K. Carr

Book cover: The Expats by Chris Pavone Book cover: The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock

Book cover: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma Book cover: The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas


Book cover: Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

Gifted to me by the incomparable Amy of Passages to the Past (thanks, hon!)