Showing posts from May, 2012

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen

Title:The Secrets of Mary Bowser
Author: Lois Leveen

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1860s / Virginia / Slavery / Civil War / Spying / Underground Railroad / Quakers / Jefferson Davis)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (5/15/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Oh yes -- couldn't stop!
One-sentence summary: The story of a Richmond woman, who goes from slave to free woman to spy, in this real life tale of Civil War espionage.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- again, I love a hist fic that doesn't feature the beheaded costumed woman, although I do sort of hate the giant quote on the right side.

I'm reminded of...: Margaret George

First line: Mama was always so busy.

Did... I become a walking 1860s-ish trivia machine?: YES. Honestly, anyone who made eye contact with me got a buttload of awesomeness gleaned from this novel -- so much fascinating stuff in this book!

Did... I love the 22 pages of extras …

Dead Beautiful by Melanie Dugan

Title:Dead Beautiful
Author: Melanie Dugan

Genre: (Fiction / Greek Mythology / Persephone / Hades / Mother-Daughter Relationships / Romantic Relationships)
Publisher/Publication Date: Upstart Press (2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did, in about two hours!
One-sentence summary: A multi-voiced look at the relationship between Hades and Persephone.

Do I like the cover?: I don't mind it although given all the emphasis on flowers as the way Hades and Persephone communicate, I'm surprised there isn't a floral element to the cover.

First line: I knew he'd be the death of me.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: I'm not sure -- borrow, I think, if you enjoy mythological-inspired fiction.

Why did I get this book?: I love mythology and retellings inspired by mythology.

Review: This book elicited some pretty strong feelings in me (I can't help it; I'm an all or nothing girl.) At moments, I really enjoyed this book; at moments, I kind of wanted to lob it ag…

Lonesome Animals by Bruce Holbert

Title:Lonesome Animals
Author: Bruce Holbert

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1930s / Pacific Northwest / Rural West / Americana / Crime / Murder Mystery)
Publisher/Publication Date: Counterpoint (4/17/2012)
Source: Author's publicist.

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A retired lawman with a violent past faces a gruesome crime in 1930s Washington.
Reading Challenges:A-to-Z, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I love the cover: it's gauzy, dusty, cloaked with mystery, evocative and yet, silent.

I'm reminded of...: Keith Donohue

First line: There was, even in Russell Strawl's time, the myth of the strong silent man of the West.

Did... my wife take this book from me while I was reading it because she was so intrigued?: YES. We split reading it -- her during the day, me in the evening -- because we were both so eager!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy!

Why did I get this book?: I'm kind of hot for westerns right now!

Review: This is …


I was at the beach for the holiday weekend -- without internet for the most part -- so I apologize for the delay in announcing the winners of this most recent round of giveaways!

The winner of I Am Forbidden is ... Jennifer of Lit Endeavors!

The winner of State of Wonder is ... Carolina!

The winner of The Year of the Gadfly is ... Andi!

The winner of An Uncommon Education is ... Jared Q.!

Congrats to the winners! If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaways!

Perla by Carolina De Robertis

Author: Carolina De Robertis

Genre: Fiction (South America / Argentina / University Student / Family Secrets / Dictatorship / Victims of Violence)
Publisher/Publication Date: Knopf (3/27/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: An Argentinian college student comes to terms with her military father's involvement in their country's violent past when the specter of one of the victims lives with her.

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover. Isn't it stunning? One of my favs of 2012 -- so striking. Geraniums feature prominently in this story so their inclusion is fabu, and the half disguised face says everything about our eponymous heroine.

I'm reminded of...: Isabel Allende, Penelope Lively, Fay Weldon

First line: Some things are impossible for the mind to hold alone.

Did... I follow the story easily despite having next to no knowledge of 20th century Argentinian history?: YES. De Robertis provides enough con…

Interview with K. Hollan Van Zandt

Last week I read the so-epic-you-could-chew-it historical drama Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt. That meaty novel was a wonderful armchair escape to a very vivid Alexandria, and I'm thrilled to share my interview with the author. Read on to learn more about Van Zandt, her writing, and what she does when she's not working. There's also a chance to win her book!

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

Well, I wrote my first novel in the second grade; it was all of six pages and three chapters, but I recall it took me a week of work. It was a mystery wherein the main character, a young girl, went missing in the forest when she was chased by a witch. She turned up at the last page to discover the witch she had encountered was really her school teacher and that her class had thrown her a surprise birthday party. I watched a lot of the cartoon “Scooby Doo” in those days- I think this was some inspiration. Heck, I was only six.

Do you have any writing…

Interview with Steve Wiegenstein

Last week I reviewed Steve Wiegenstein's Slant of Light, his marvelous pre-Cvil War novel about a commune in Missouri. It was a fascinating book with great characters and writing. I'm thrilled to share my interview with the author; read on to learn more about Wiegenstein's writing, his book, and what he does when he's not writing!

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

It was an oh-so-ironic, Jack London-esque story about a man who goes out to the woods during the Depression to shoot some game for his starving family. They are so poor that he only has one bullet for his gun, so naturally he trips over a root and shoots himself in the chest just as a big deer enters the clearing where's he's been waiting. Yes, I'm still cringing.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I seem to do my best writing in the early morning hours, so I try to get up early and work in the dark before anyone else is awake. Not to sound too nocturnal about it, b…

Mailbox Monday, May 21

May's Mailbox Monday is hosted at Martha’s Bookshelf. I think this week I got the most books ever in a week and I'm flabbergasted. My picture of the stack doesn't even include all the e-ARCs, obviously -- what a week! I feel like a kid at Christmas -- just giddy with delight. I don't even know where to start! What did you get this week? Read any of these? As usual, click a cover to learn more about the book (link will open in a new tab/window). Do you still like this format or is it getting too image heavy? Should I switch back to the list?

For Review


This week's giveaway winners!

The winner of The Queen's Lover is ... Colleen!

The winner of I, Iago is ... Margaret!

The winners have been emailed. If you didn't win something, be sure to check out my open giveaways.

Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt

Title:Written In the Ashes
Author: K. Hollan Van Zandt

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Ancient Egypt / 4th Century / Religious Conflict / Library of Alexandria)
Publisher/Publication Date: Balboa Press (7/2011)
Source:Premier Virtual Author Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did -- for a chunkster, this book reads fast!
One-sentence summary: The story of a slave girl who finds fame, fortune, danger, love, and loss in ancient Egypt.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- although I'm reminded a tiny bit of the decor from Cheesecake Factory. (Which leads me to a total unrelated rant: why is the decorative theme of Cheesecake Factory Egyptian-y?!)

I'm reminded of...: Marion Zimmer Bradley,

First line: All trees hold secrets.

Did... I do a double take when I saw the author thanked Johnny Depp in her acknowledgements?: YES. I don't know if she means that Johnny Depp but wow!

Do... I love the secret freebies for those who've got the book?: YE…

The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

Title:The Storytelling Animal
Author: Jonathan Gottschall

Genre: Non-Fiction (Literary Analysis / Evolutionary Psychology / Human Development / Cognitive Science / Myths / Folk Lore / Popular Culture)
Publisher/Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (4/10/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: LOVE!
Did I finish?: Yes -- I raced through this one.
One-sentence summary: A readable and amusing look at how humans need stories in their lives and why.
Reading Challenges:Dewey Decimal

Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- it's playful, evocative, pretty, and spot on.

I'm reminded of...: Diane Ackerman

First line: Statisticians agree that if they could only catch some immortal monkeys, lock them up in a room with a typewriter, and get them to furiously thwack keys for a long, long time, the monkey's would eventually flail out a perfect reproduction of Hamlet -- with every period and comma and "'sblood" in its proper place.

Do... I think the book trailer is dead adorable/funny?: …

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Title:The Uninvited Guests
Author: Sadie Jones

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Edwardian / English Estate / Upstairs - Downstairs / Disaster / Domestic Horror)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (5/1/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Looooooooooooooooooved like a loving thing.
Did I finish?: I inhaled this in one day!
One-sentence summary: One country estate, one prickly family, one birthday party, and one train disaster equals a night of revelation, drama, desire, heartache, ugliness and unexpected joy.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- it references a scene in the novel and captures the Edwardian feel just perfectly. (Also, the end papers are too cute for words, referencing a particular character -- perfect!)

I'm reminded of...: Djuna Barnes, E.M. Delafield, Stella Gibbons, Molly Keane, Ada Leverson

First line: Since her marriage to Edward Swift, three years after the sudden death of her first husband Horace Torrington, Charlotte had changed her pos…

Interview with Elizabeth Percer

Last week I read Elizabeth Percer's lovely An Uncommon Education, about a girl's childhood and experiences at Wellesley college. I'm thrilled to share this interview with Ms. Percer on her writing, her book, and what she does when she's not writing. Read on to learn more and for another opportunity to enter a giveaway for her book!

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

My VERY first? The first piece of fiction I can remember writing was about a girl whose father drowned at sea and returns to her as a ghost who insists she must save the world from certain destruction with help from him and his ghostly, sea-wrecked friends. I think I was eight when I wrote it. Can you tell?

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Yes. Most of my rituals or routines are designed to reduce the anxiety that always arises over asking my inner self to come out and play, no matter what kind of state she may be in. I try to walk or drive or do some other kind of physical …