Showing posts from June, 2012


Best way to come back from work: sharing a bunch of giveaway winners! So, without further ado, here are the winners from the last three weeks!

The winner of Equal of the Sun is ... Katherine of Historical Fiction Notebook!

The winner of The Secrets of Mary Bowser is ... Alena W.!

The winner of The Unseen is ... Na!

The winner of The Receptionist is ... Rachel W.!

The winner of Love, Fiercely is ...Irene Y.!

Congrats to the winners! (Winners have been emailed and have 48-hours to respond.) If you didn't win, be sure to check out my current giveaways -- it might look thin now, but I've got a metric ton of giveaways coming up this week!

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

Title:A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
Author: Suzanne Joinson

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1920s / China / Missionaries / Cultural Differences / London / Parallel Plot Lines)
Publisher/Publication Date: Bloomsbury USA (6/4/2012)
Source: NetGalley

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: Sort of -- I started skipping sections to do so!
One-sentence summary: A British missionary in 1920s China and a modern Londoner have a common thread in this dual narrative novel.
Reading Challenges:E-books, Historical Fiction, NetGalley

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover -- it so captures the bucolic ambiance of the the bicycling guide that the missionaries use, all polite and refined. It's delusional in the best way.

I'm reminded of...: Melissa Bank

First line: I unhappily report that even Bicycling for Ladies with hints as to the art of wheeling - advice to beginners - dress - care of the bicycle - mechanics - training - exercizes, etc. etc. cannot assist me in this current predicament: we find ourse…

Friday Reads and I'm ba-a-ack!

Back from my work conference with the mother of all colds. Ugh! Too sick to even lay about and read -- ultimate sadness. I'm wicked behind on reviews and reading blogs, so apologies friends!

My weekend reads includeGilded Age: A Novel by Claire McMillan, a contemporary retelling of Edith Wharton's House of Mirth (set in Cleveland!) and D.B. Jackson's Thieftaker, which sounds like a Colonial American Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. (Should I want to mix things up, I've also got My Dear I Wanted to Tell You (WWII hist fic) and Brand New Human Being (contemporary) in the queue.)

What are you reading this weekend?

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

Title:The Virgin Cure
Author: Ami McKay

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / New York City / Prostitution / Poverty / Coming of Age)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (6/ 26/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a good deal!
Did I finish?: I couldn't stop.
One-sentence summary: The Dickensian life of Moth, a 12-year old girl who finds herself in a brothel that specializes in virgins.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do, as Peter Stuyvesant's pear tree features in the story on the fringe, and I like that it's restrained compared to the lurid promise of the plot.

I'm reminded of...: Geraldine Brooks, Talia Carner, Sadie Jones, Lois Leveen

First line: To the Reader: In 1871, I was serving as a visiting physician for the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this is a fantastical novel.

Why did I get this book?: The title!

Review: Despite the title and the premise, this isn't a 'sexy…

Friday Reads and leaving town...

Sadly, I won't be reading much this weekend -- or the next nine days or so -- as I'm off to a major work conference. It's in (very) sunny Phoenix, AZ which will be a welcome change from wet, gray, rainy, dreary Boston!

I'm very excited, even though I will be so insanely busy I won't do much other than run around with a fringe of sleeping. Of course, even if I think I can't read, I'm still bringing books! (Because if there's a free moment, I'm diving in!) Among the many, many books on my e-reader are these, which I plan on reviewing upon my return: D.B. Jackson's Thieftaker (Colonial American hist fic meets wizards), Susan Fales-Hill's Imperfect Bliss (Jane Austen meets The Bachelorette, according to the book blurb), and Emily Jeanne Miller's Brand New Human Being (contemp novel, man walks in on wife w/another man, takes their kid, leaves, finds self, etc.).

Sadly, I will be very absent here -- I have some reviews scheduled but won'…

Love, Fiercely by Jean Zimmerman

Title:Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance
Author: Jean Zimmerman

Genre: Non-Fiction (Biography / 1890s / Belle Epoque / New York City / New York High Society / John Singer Sargent / Art Critique / Chicago World's Fair)
Publisher/Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (3/13/2012)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did -- I read this one like I do novels, gulping huge chunks at a time.
One-sentence summary: A biography of a marriage between two passionate, learned, and philanthropic members of New York City's glittering society.
Reading Challenges:Dewey Decimal

Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- I'm a huge Sargent fan, so it was guaranteed I'd love it for that alone; but I also enjoy the off-center layout and gold trim along the edges.

I'm reminded of...: Philip Herring, Molly Peacock

First line: I saw her for the first time in a work of art.

Is... this the kind of book my wife and I treasure because it makes for great vacation planning?: YES. Zimmer…

Interview with Katherine Webb

Katherine Webb's The Unseen was a delicious start to my summer, an exciting, dramatic thriller with contemporary and historical elements, and she's become one of my favorite authors for escapist summertime reads. I'm super psyched to share my Q&A with her, especially since Ms. Webb has the honor of being the first author to do a repeat interview with me! (Her first took place last summer following the publication of The Legacy.) I tried to shake things up with a few fresh questions for her, so read on to learn about The Unseen, her writing process, and what she does when she's not reading. Be sure to enter my giveaway for The Unseen, too!

Was The Unseen the original title of your book?

No, actually this one went through several incarnations before we found something all were happy with. It started out as ‘The Dryad’, then became ‘The Elemental’, then at the last minute changed again to ‘The Unseen’.

As you were writing The Unseen, was there a particular scene or…

Teaser Tuesday, June 12

Teaser Tuesday is actually one of my favorite memes because I love sharing tidbits of what I'm reading and indulging in snippets from others. So I'm thrilled that this week I can actually share some teasers!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read & open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page (be careful not to include spoilers!)
- Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers
As always, I'm breaking the rules: I'm sharing more than two teaser sentences and I'm sharing from two different, not-even-connected-by-historical-era books! (Look at me, I'm a rebel!)

The first book is Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance by Jean Zimmerman. (Zimmerman also has The Orphanmaster out now, too -- she's one prolific author!)  While the titl…

Mailbox Monday, June 11

The house is in shambles at the moment as my wife and I engage in a rather ill-timed but much anticipated interior redesign of our dining room, living room, and bedroom. An early birthday present for me, we've hired a designer to help us with color palettes and layout, and in the meantime, we're painting like mad fiends. All this, and I'm prepping for a major work conference that will take me out of town next week through the rest of June. I'll share pictures when we're finished -- frankly, I'll be gloating and crowing, this has been such an effort -- but in the meantime, my house is a disaster area and I've very little energy. Still, I'm thrilled about the changes and I just can't wait until we're done.

And now, my Mailbox Monday -- on an actual Monday for once! -- hosted by one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Burton Book Review.  As usual, click on a cover to learn more about the book (link will automatically open in a new tab/window). …


My weekend has been super hectic as my wife and I are doing some major home improvements. I've begged off painting for a break, citing the crucial need to share giveaway winners, so thanks to all of you for giving me an excuse to sit down! ;) So I'm not lying to my wife, I'm going to share giveaway winners for this week.

The winner of Perla is ... Laura Kay!

The winner of Lonesome Animals is ... Megan!

The winners have been emailed. If you didn't win, check out my open giveaways. More are coming!

The Receptionist by Janet Groth

Title:The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker
Author: Janet Groth

Genre: Non-Fiction (Memoir / 1950s / 1960s / 1970s / New York City / New Yorker Magazine / Writing)
Publisher/Publication Date: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (6/6/2012)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: I inhaled this book in one night.
One-sentence summary:
Reading Challenges:Dewey Decimal

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover -- it captures the feel of retro New York City and I love the woman with the pencil in her hair -- so cute!

First line: It all happened by the merest chance.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you're a Mad Men fiend or like writers on writing, or enjoy coming-of-age stories in complicated, vigorous times.

Why did I get this book?: I love books on books, and memoirs of writers on other writers.

Review: Although I don't read The New Yorker, I'm aware of its reputation, the careers launched, the personalities housed there, (and I've certainly read …

Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster

Title:Beneath the Shadows
Author: Sara Foster

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Yorkshire / Missing Person / New Mother / Isolation / Gothic )
Publisher/Publication Date: Minotaur Books
Source: NetGalley

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Grace returns to Yorkshire a year after her husband's disappearance in hopes of finding answers.
Reading Challenges:A-to-Z, E-book, NetGalley

Do I like the cover?: Oh, I do, I do -- how creepy is it? Pretty much that's the opening scene, too!

I'm reminded of...: Rosamund Lupton, Jennifer McMahon

First line: They should be home.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for a wintry thriller!

Why did I get this book?: I love gothic-y novels set in Yorkshire!

Review: For an innocuous thriller, this book provoked a lot of emotion in me, and gave me much to chew over in terms of my expectations of a book, a heroine, and a story. The premise of this book is simple: Grace, new mom, has moved to rural Yorkshire with her husband and their three-mon…

Interview with Carolina De Robertis

I was absolutely taken with Carolina De Robertis' novel Perla, about a young woman's battle with the ghosts of her family's past, and I'm thrilled to share this interview with her.  Read on to learn more about her writing, her book, and what she does when she's not writing.  Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end!

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

I’ve never actually told this in public, you’re the first to get it out of me! The first story I ever wrote was called “Spimp, the little Kirmie.” It was about, well, a Kirmie—an extraterrestrial creature that looks something like a bunny, a bear, and a racoon rolled into one—who is sent to earth to study the way humans live, and discovers that we are in fact stranger than previously imagined. It comes complete with illustrations, and is twelve pages long. I was seven years old. I didn’t write it for school but for the sheer adventure of it. It has never been published.

Do you have any writing rituals…

The Unseen by Katherine Webb

Title:The Unseen
Author: Katherine Webb

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1911 / Spiritualism / Suffragettes / Country Life / Dual Story Lines / Journalist / Contemporary / Mystery)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (5/22/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Oh yes!
One-sentence summary: One summer in 1911 undoes four people in a sleepy English village when politics, God, and the occult collide.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- it's pretty, but like the cover for The Legacy, I feel like it doesn't quite match the story. This cover makes me thing coming-of-age in the US, not backstabbing and murder in "sleepy Berkshire".

I'm reminded of...: Jennifer McMahon

First line: It's the most glorious spring morning here, on a day of some excitement.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this is great, dramatic fun.

Why did I get this book?: I loved Webb's previous novel.

Review: Last year Webb's The L…

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

Title:Equal of the Sun
Author: Anita Amirrezvani

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Iran / 16th Century / Court Intrigue / Royalty / Eunuchs / Rebellion)
Publisher/Publication Date: Scribner (6/5/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes -- in a few days.
One-sentence summary: In 16th century Iran, a brilliant princess and her loyal eunuch struggle to survive court intrigue, betrayal, and the possible fall of the empire.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do, very much: the embroidery and patterns of the character's clothing is often described and I love that the book cover resembles one of the royal robes.

I'm reminded of...: Jeanne Kalogridis, Matt Rees, Sandra Worth

First line: I swear to you on the holy Qur'an there has never been another woman like Pari Khan Khanoom.

Did... I want this book to be never-ending?: YES. Pari was a fascinating woman and I wished her story never had to end!

Did... I wish there was a glossary?: YES…

Armchair BEA, 2012: Intro!

Last year was my first year experiencing Armchair BEA and it was a hoot. One of the best perks of book blogging is the wonderful community I've met and Armchair BEA has allowed me to get to know other bloggers better -- so I'm thrilled to participate again this year! Last year, I used my review format as my introduction but this year, Armchair BEA has a prepared intro interview for folks.  Without further ado...

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I'm Audra, a 30ish married lesbian living in Boston.  I work full-time doing non-book related work, and blog around the edges.  My first review was posted in January of 2010, a review of a Fay Weldon novel about a nanny that messed me up so much I still have PTSD from it! I started blogging because I wanted to share my thoughts on the books I was reading, to geek out with other book lovers. Before 2010, I had kept a Livejournal with book revi…

Book Brunch: The Language of Flowers

This post is nearly four weeks late due to life being crazy and whatnot, but I finally have time to share the awesomeness of my The Language of Flowers-inspired book brunch!

Motivated by a) my love of brunch, b) my friends who love brunch, c) Random House's Pinterest page, From the Page to the Plate: The Language of Flowers, and d) never turning down a good reason to have mimosas, I decided to have a The Language of Flowers-inspired brunch one weekend in May.

Brunch was tasty and albeit a bit slapdash, in that it was too early for me to cook and decorate and be clean, all at the same time. Still, I managed: there were mimosas and sangria, coffee (caffeine clearly needed!), Trader Joe's marvelous flatbread pizza, cheese and crackers, bagels and cream cheese, fresh fruit, and chocolate-covered figs.  No one leaves my house hungry!

Despite teasing me about my ambitious plans, my wife went nuts buying me flowers -- and she even scanned the flower dictionary ahead of time in hopes of…


I think I've finished fooling around with my blog layout for a bit; I took a picture of my bookshelves and made it the background of this blog. Let me know if it's too busy. I'm also judging all the books on it, and I'm kind of tempted to stage my shelves now!

Winners! I've got some winners this week. A quick request: please be sure to check the email account you use for contest entries as I had to redraw for two winners last week! (Lucky for those folks; not lucky for others!)

The winner of Slant of Light is ... Kathleen B.!

The winner of The Uninvited Guests is ... Farin!

The winner of Written in the Ashes is ... Marie C.!

If you didn't win, I still have some open giveaways and more coming this week!

Layout Changes

Those of you reading my posts via a reader likely won't have noticed any changes, but if you wouldn't mind popping by my blog and giving me your thoughts on the layout change, I'd appreciate it. I'm now doing columns on each side of the entries and I'm kind of hating it. It feels so busy! I'm a bit attached to my widgets but perhaps they're too much -- what do you like/dislike? Thanks for any help or suggestions. I might attempt a custom background now -- we'll see if I can take a lovely picture!

Coming Out Can Be Murder by Renee James

Title:Coming Out Can Be Murder
Author: Renee James

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Chicago / Murder Mystery / Hate Crime / Transgender Women / Hair Dresser)
Publisher/Publication Date: Windy City Publishers (6/1/2012)
Source: The author.

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: Oh yes -- this was a must-get-to-the-end-before-I-go-to-sleep read!
One-sentence summary: A transgender woman finds herself seeking the killer of a friend in Chicago.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it captures the thematic elements of the book and reminds me a bit of old school murder mystery covers.

I'm reminded of...: Achy Obejas

First line: She coos the words in his ear, her voice oddly androgynous, neither fully feminine, nor distinctly male.

Did... I rave about this book so much my wife took it out of my hands the moment I was done?: YES! At least she waited until I was finished this time!

Is... this is an exciting murder mystery for anyone, even though unfamiliar with the trans community?: YES! James uses Bobbi's tra…