Showing posts from March, 2012

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twang Eng

Title:The Garden of Evening Mists
Author: Tan Twang Eng

Genre: Fiction (Historical / WWII / Post-WWII / Malaysia / War Crimes / Gardening / PTSD)
Publisher/Publication Date: Myrmidon (2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: I did -- another one I inhaled.
One-sentence summary: A WWII prison camp survivor comes to terms with her experiences as she reflects on the twenty years following her release, and the unusual journey she took thanks to a Japanese gardener and her South African friends.
Reading Challenges:A-to-Z Reading Challenge, E-books, Historical Fiction,

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's pretty and simple although it does remind me of an academic volume.

I'm reminded of...: Michael Ondaatje

First line: On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.

Did... I tear up at the end?: YES. In such a good way -- I never wanted this book to end!

Did... I wish there was a glossary?: YES. Eng peppers the story with p…

A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar by Daniel Pyne

Title:A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar
Author: Daniel Pyne

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Colorado / Mining / Sibling Relationships / Black Comedy / Small Town Politics)
Publisher/Publication Date: Counterpoint (1/17/2012)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did -- I inhaled it.
One-sentence summary: A gold mine in Colorado, purchased off eBay, provides drama, excitement, intrigue, danger, and a ton of muck to a motley group of

Do I like the cover?: I do -- the mine looks as I expect a mine too; I like the marker-y font; and the dirty smear/splash in the upper right hand corner is repeated on all the chapter starts.

I'm reminded of...: Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard

First line: A small mountain airport, shrouded in fog, dusted with summer snow.

Do... I adore the title?: YES. Pyne explains the possible source of the title -- maybe Twain, maybe a contemporary of his -- and regardless of the source, I heart it so.

Did... I find all the mining stuff rather easy to follow,…

The Thirteen by Susie Moloney

Title:The Thirteen
Author: Susie Moloney

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Suburban Horror / Witchcraft / Human Sacrifice / Mother-Daughter Relationships / Motherhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (3/27/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did -- drawing it out because it was such fun.
One-sentence summary: Twenty-something Paula returns to her childhood town with her daughter in tow after her mother is hospitalized and discovers that the town's elite harbor some seriously twisted secrets.
Reading Challenges:Witches & Witchcraft

Do I like the cover?: I actually kind of like it -- even though it has the potential to look YA-ish, the woman is clearly older, not a teen, which I love -- fits the ages of many of the 'witches' -- and it's creepy and snaky looking.

I'm reminded of...: Alma Katsu, Ira Levin, Stephen King

First line: Chick was an old-fashioned woman.

Was... it super disconcerting to read a character named Audra?: YES.…

Mailbox Monday, March 26

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in March at Diary of an Eccentric -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox.  Forgive me for the thin post -- I'm trying to do this from memory, as I'm still parked at the hospital.  Still, it's a diverting activity and I'm appreciative of that.  To learn more about a book, click on the image (which should open in a new tab/window!).  What did you get this week? Read any of these?

For Review


I'm sorry I've been MIA the last few days -- I'm out of town tending to my mother, who was hospitalized last week. She's improving, but it was quite stressful for a while. Thankfully, I've had some great books to help me escape!

Even more fun -- a metric ton of winners!

The winner of The Turning of Anne Merrick is ... Kathleen B.!

The winner of 18th century-inspired stationary is ... Marie of Burton Book Review!

The winner of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is ...Svetlana!

The winner of Enchantments is ...Farin!

The winner of The Sister Queens is ... Tara!

The winner of The Flight of Gemma Hardy is ... JoAnn of Lakeside Musing!

Congrats to all the winners (who have been emailed). If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaway -- with more to come!

Interview with M.J. Rose

Earlier this week I reviewed the fun reincarnation thriller The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. I'm thrilled to share my interview with Ms. Rose, so read on to learn more about her, her writing, and what she does when she's not writing.

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

It was a story about a woman who sued several movie companies for perpetrating a myth that romance, as portrayed in film, is damaging to our emotional health.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Yes I do. I immerse myself in books relating to the time period of my book and I make a journal for the main character filling it with things that matter to him or her and ideas . And then I buy something important that belongs to my main character. I spend at least 3 months on the journal before I start to write. I think of it as procrastinating my way into writing the novel.

Was The Book of Lost Fragrances the original title of your book?

No. I had a really boring title! Then one day…

Molly Make-Believe by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

Title:Molly Make-Believe
Author: Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

Genre: Fiction (Vintage / Correspondence / Invalid / Boston / Secret Identities / Comedic Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Legacy Romance (2/14/2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did, in one evening! (It's about 80ish pages.)
One-sentence summary: A housebound Boston businessman takes his cold fiancée's suggestion and purchases a mail order friend, and finds himself falling in love with the mysterious Molly Make-Believe.
Reading Challenges:E-books

Do I like the cover?: I just love it -- I'm a sucker for these kind of dramatic costume-y shots, and it fits the feel of Molly Make-Believe, who has a dramatic entrance in a veiled hat.

I'm reminded of...: rather than authors, I'm reminded of cute classic films like The Shop Around the Corner and Christmas in Connecticut

First line: The morning was as dark and cold as city snow could make it -- a dingy whirl at the window; a smoky gust through …

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Title:The Book of Lost Fragrances
Author: M.J. Rose

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Perfumers / Archaeological Excavation / Reincarnation / France / New York City / Secret Societies)
Publisher/Publication Date: Atria (3/13/2012)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour / NetGalley

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A family of perfumers, torn by debt and disparate beliefs, gamble on whether a mystical fragrance can bring back past life memories while bad guys and secret societies try to steal their discoveries.
Reading Challenges:E-books, Historical Fiction, NetGalley

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it captures the feel of the novel very well.

I'm reminded of...: Dan Brown, Kate Mosse, Danielle Trussoni

First line: Giles L'Etoile was a master of scent, not a thief.

Am... I coveting the real-life fragrance inspired by the book's mystical scent?: YES. I am a fragrance and perfume addict, and stuff like this just makes me giddy with delight.

Do... I love that…

Interview with Kathryn Harrison

Earlier in the month, I tore through Kathryn Harrison's gorgeous, emotional, and captivating historical novel Enchantments. It had so many winning elements for me and it's a story I haven't shaken (and likely won't). I am delighted to be able to share my interview with the author, Kathryn Harrison. Read on to learn more about her, her writing, Enchantments, and what she does when she's not writing. There's also another chance to win a copy of her newest book.

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

I can't remember more than a few images from the short stories I wrote in college, but I do recall the one I included as my writing sample when I applied to the Iowa Writers Workshop. It's never been published, but it got me into the Workshop. I was 23 or 24 and more than a little overawed by Flannery O'Connor when I wrote it. The story was was titled "The White Bus" and it had a sinister, "Twilight Zone" quality. …

A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois

Title:A Partial History of Lost Causes
Author: Jennifer duBois

Genre: Fiction (Russia / 1980s / 2000s / Cambridge, MA / Chess / Politics / Incurable Diseases)
Publisher/Publication Date: The Dial Press (3/20/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loooooooooooooooooooooved!
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Spanning the 1980s through 2008, the novel tells the dual stories of a Russian chess champion turned politician and American academic who assists him.
Reading Challenges:A-to-Z

Do I like the cover?: I do -- I believe it's the view of St. Petersburg, Russia from the Neva River, which is where much of the story is set. (Plus, part of it takes place in Cambridge at Harvard, so there's the Charles River, too, and I like the river-y image.)

I'm reminded of...: Valerie Laken, Scarlett Thomas

First line: When Aleksandr finally arrived in Leningrad, he was stunned by the great span of the Neva.

Did... I sort of get a bit glazed-eye-y at the chess talk?: YES. I don't play chess…

In My Mailbox, March 19

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in March at Diary of an Eccentric -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox.  What did you get this week? Read any of these? I'm mixing up the format a little this week -- click the cover to learn more about the book. Do you like this format, or my previous format?

For Review



Happy St. Patrick's Day! Apropos of nothing, here are some giveaway winners!

The winner of The Technologists is ... Lauren M.!

The winner of The King's Agent is ... Angela!

Congrats to the winners! If you didn't win, check out my open giveaways -- currently 10 open and more coming this week!

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Title:The Mapping of Love and Death
Author: Jacqueline Winspear

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1930s / Mystery / London / Private Investigator / Murder / post-WWI)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (4/22/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Yes -- and immediately wanted more!
One-sentence summary: In 1932, a former WWI nurse-turned-PI investigates the mysterious death of a WWI soldier.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- I believe Andrew Davidson is the illustrator for the whole series and I adore the vintage-y feel of the art as well as the imagery here. The focus of Maisie's investigation is a cartographer, and the two locales on the cover feature in the novel. Very nice details reflected here.

I'm reminded of...: Nicola Upson

First line: Michael Clifton stood on a hill burnished gold in the summer sun and, hands on his hips, closed his eyes.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Start reading this series, stat.

Why did I get this b…

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini

Title:Sonoma Rose
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1920s / California / Abusive Marriage / Prohibition / Farming / Childhood Loves / Mysterious Illnesses)
Publisher/Publication Date: Dutton Adult (2/21/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Unfinished.
Did I finish?: Alas, I didn't!
One-sentence summary: During the Prohibition, the wife of a California rye farmer-turned-bootlegger escapes her abusive marriage with her four surviving children in hopes of finding a new life for all of them.

Do I like the cover?: Eh, I'm not wild about it. The painting is very pretty, but I don't think it reflects either lead character. Still, it has a soft, vintage-y feel that's appealing.

I'm reminded of...: Camille Noe Pagán

First line: Clad in the faded apron she had sewn from a cotton feed sack, Rosa sat at the foot of the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee and planning her day while her husband bolted down his bacon and eggs.

Why did I get this book?: I love books…

The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn

Title:The Dispatcher
Author: Ryan David Jahn

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Texas / Kidnapping / Multiple POVs / Police Procedural / Crime Thriller)
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin (12/27/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes -- I couldn't stop thinking about this one!
One-sentence summary: Police dispatcher gets a call from his teenaged daughter, who was kidnapped seven years ago and presumed dead.
Reading Challenges:E-books, NetGalley

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it captures the gritty, dirty feel of the town of Bulls Mouth.  I kind of hate the whole 'The phone rings...' thing, though.  It's a bit distracting.

I'm reminded of...: Sarah Dunant, Jennifer McMahon

First line: Ian Hunt is less than an hour from the end of his shift when he gets the call from his dead daughter.

Did... I kind of have a crush on Ian?: YES. I'm a sucker for (anti/non)heroes with baggage, angst, stubble, and a drinking problem. Thankfully, my wife finds…

Interview with Margot Livesey

From the first line, I was seduced by The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. It was an enormous treat to be able to interview Ms. Livesey about her work, so read on to learn more about her, her new novel, and what she does when she's not writing.

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

I think my first piece of fiction probably involved a princess and a dragon and perhaps a few dwarfs. My first published piece of fiction was based on my hitchhiking home at night after finishing my waitressing shift in a Toronto restaurant.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Drinking coffee and using the dictionary as a kind of i-ching.

Was The Flight of Gemma Hardy the original title of your book?

My working title was simply Gemma Hardy but that felt a bit stark and didn't quite capture my sense of the journey Gemma is on.

As you were writing The Flight of Gemma Hardy, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I was surprised by the charact…

Clair de Lune by Jetta Carleton

Title:Clair de Lune
Author: Jetta Carleton

Genre: Fiction (Southern US / 1940s / Male-Female Friendships / Ozarks / WWII / College Life)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (3/6/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Looooooooooooooooooooooooved!
Did I finish?: In less than four hours
One-sentence summary: A young woman becomes a college teacher in 1940s Missouri where she befriends two of her students and learns some bitter lessons of her own.
Reading Challenges:A-to-Z Books

Do I like the cover?: I love it -- I think it's super pretty. I don't think it wholly fits the novel, though.

I'm reminded of...: Alan Bennett, Melanie Benjamin, Ellen Feldman

First line: Allen Liles is a fictional character.

Does... my copy have extensive tabbing and bookmarks of fantastic passages and quotes?: YES. The language is just's pragmatic and pretty at the same time. Nothing fancy, but moving. Writing for language lovers!

Am... I kind of obsessed with Jetta Carelton now?: YES. I w…

In my Mailbox Monday, March 12

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in March at Diary of an Eccentric -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox. Another marvelous collection of arrivals -- such gorgeous covers! -- and I'm wicked excited about all of them. What did you get this week? Read any of these?

For Review

Miss Fuller: A Novel by April Bernard
Dancing at the Chance by DeAnna Cameron
The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc by Nancy Goldstone
The Frozen Heart by Almudena Grandes
All He Saw Was The Girl by Peter Leonard
The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas
Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton
The Thirteen by Susie Moloney
The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
Oleanna by Julie K. Rose
The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone
More Than You Know: A Novel by Penny Vincenzi


The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi's Venice by Laurel Corona, thanks to dolce bellezza


Apex MagazineIssue 34, March 2012