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Showing posts from April, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

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Title:The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Magical Realism / Historical Fantasy / 19th Century / New York City / Immigrants / Supernatural Creatures / Judaism /
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (4/23/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked to loved.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: Two mythological creatures arrive in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century, immigrants plunged into communities alien, and facing threats greater than they know.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories

Do I like the cover?: I do -- I think it captures the flavor of the book and the characters in a deliciously moody (and pretty!) way.

I'm reminded of...: Stephanie Dray, Neil Gaiman

First line: The Golem's life began in the hold of a steamship.

Did... I love browsing the author's website?: YES. She has sections on New York in 1899, Little Syria, the Lower East Side, as well as a helpful character list.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: B…

Winners!

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Today just ran away from me! I meant to do this earlier, but got waylaid. It's a stunningly gorgeous day and I'm grateful for it!



The winner of Cascade is ... Amy F.!

The winner of Highlander Most Wanted is ... Melody May!

The winner of The Chalice is ... Katherine G.!

Congrats to the winners! I've emailed folks and everyone has until end of day Tuesday to get back to me. Be sure to check out my open giveaways. I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend so far!

The Bequest of Big Daddy by Jo-Ann Costa

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Title:The Bequest of Big Daddy
Author: Jo-Ann Costa

Genre: Fiction (Southern / Gothic / Family Saga / 19th Century / 20th Century / Civil War / Post-Civil War / Alabama / Anti-Hero / Skeletons in the Closet)
Publisher/Publication Date: Koehler Books (4/1/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked. (Although, having finished my review, am nudging more closely to liked!)
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A young woman delves into her family's complicated past when she seeks out the truth of her great-grandfather and her family's connection to her ancestral home.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: It's fine, although with that little girl, I thought there'd be some kind of abuse, but this novel had a different kind of violence to it.

First line: As I understand it, Big Daddy was born that way, unable to help himself when he acted ugly and equally unable to recognize right from wrong.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like good, ta…

Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth Winder

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Title:Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953
Author: Elizabeth Winder

Genre: Non-Fiction (Biography / Poetry / 1950s / New York City / Sylvia Plath / Mademoiselle Magazine / Depression / Pop Culture / Sociology)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (4/16/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A poetic look at a month in Sylvia Plath's life, punctuated with trivia about 1953, American culture, women's lives, and New York City.
Reading Challenges:What's In a Name

Do I like the cover?: I love the cover very much -- adore those retro pics -- but my galley has no info about the image. I don't think it's Sylvia Plath on the cover, which is really too bad, as there are some wonderful pictures from this time that I would have preferred to see featured.

I'm reminded of...: Nancy Milford

First line: Sylvia Plath committed suicide with cooking gas.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like unique…

Interview with Michelle Diener

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I just loved Michelle Diner's 19th century historical novel set in South Africa, Daughter of the Sky. It was gripping and escapist and granted me some time away from the stress of last week, and for that, I'm grateful. I'm doubly so as Michelle Diener agreed to answer a few of my questions, so read on to learn more about her and her writing, and be sure to enter the giveaway for her wonderful book!

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

Oh, dear. Do I really have to? OK. If you go back in time to the 80s, when I was a child, my friends and I were addicted to a television cartoon from Japan. Manga-style, with girls with pink hair and boys with purple hair, who flew in space and were fighter pilots. Can't remember the series name, but I wrote extra episodes for my friends and myself, because we couldn't wait for the next week's episode to come around. But as an adult -- I had just completed my Masters' thesis in translation, which was on the t…

Mailbox Monday, April 22

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Hosted in April by Mari @ MariReads, here's my Mailbox Monday for the last few weeks. Such a lovely distraction getting all these fabulous books -- I don't know where to start! To learn more about a title, click and it will open in a new tab/window.

What did you get this week?

For Review

















Winners!

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It's feeling pretty celebratory here in Boston although I know everyone is heartbroken over the additional loss of life.  Grateful it is all over and there is a suspect in custody.

I'm also excited to get back to books and blogging -- and share this week's giveaway winners!

The winner of The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is ... Jennifer M.!

The winner of Like Chaff in the Wind is ... Ann (summergal05)!

Congrats to the winners!  Folks have been emailed and have until the end of day Tuesday to get back to me.  If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaways.

I'd also be grateful if you checked out some of the reviews from this week if you haven't already -- I hadn't had the focus to be online and promote things (for which I feel terrible!). 


Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener

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Title:Daughter of the Sky
Author: Michelle Diener

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / South Africa / Zulus / Anglo-Zulu War / Cross-Dressing / British Army / Cross-Cultural / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Self published (2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Loved, especially as it was gripping enough to get my mind off the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday.
Did I finish?: I read this in one day -- about six hours.
One-sentence summary: Englishwoman Elizabeth Jones was raised by South African Zulus after surviving a shipwreck, and when British troops threaten the Zulu, she infiltrates the army by disguising herself as a soldier.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: On one hand, I do -- very pretty! -- but on the other hand, I don't think it sets the novel up well. Young, long-haired white girl with indigenous weapon is hardly our heroine, who -- while young -- crops her hair and uses a rifle.

First line: Lindani didn't run fr…

House of Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt

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Title:House of Rocamora
Author: Donald Michael Platt

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 17th Century / Judaism / Medicine / Amsterdam / Family Saga)
Publisher/Publication Date: Raven's Wing Books (11/19/2012)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: 17th century Dominican priest turns Jewish physician in Amsterdam.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories

Do I like the cover?: Not really, although with the Dutch setting, it has a kind of Vermeer-y look to it that I like!

First line: "¡Madre de dios!"

Why did I get this book?: The setting was unique, and I'd read the first one!

Review: This book is the sequel to Rocamora, a beefy historical novel following Isaac Vicente de Rocamora. Continuing the tale of real-life Dominican-priest-turned-Jewish-physician, Platt's book again delves deeply into 17th century life, this time focusing on Jewish communities in Amsterdam rather than the grim drama of the Spa…

Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt

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Title:Rocamora
Author: Donald Michael Platt

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 17th Century / Spain / Inquisition / Court Intrigue / Religious Orders / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Judaism)
Publisher/Publication Date: Raven’s Wings Books (9/26/2011)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: The story of a charismatic young man in 17th century Spain, who gains prestige and power as a priest with the Spanish royal court.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I don't.

First line: El jorobado, the hunchback, reached under his tattered cloak and gripped the hilt of his dagger.

Why did I get this book?: I was interested in the setting -- you don't often see that in historical fiction!

Review: This immense novel clocks in at nearly 400 pages and is set among the tumultuous, violent, vibrant world of 17th century Spain. Growing up amidst a culture obsessed with limpieza de sangre, or the 'purity' of one…

Interview with Sandra Byrd

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Yesterday I went into swoons over Sandra Byrd's Roses Have Thorns, her novel of Elizabeth I's court. While not a Tudor addict, she hooked me from the start and I'm delighted to share my interview with Sandra Byrd about her book and her writing.  Be sure to check out the giveaway at the end!

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

It was a doomed love story between a hero from the North Pole and a heroine from the South Pole who desperately wanted to be together but were magnetically driven apart for all eternity. You can see why that wasn't published, right? I think I was about 14 when I wrote it. It was great fun, which is why we all start writing, anyway.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I listen to sound track or instrumental music appropriate to the era when I'm writing a rough draft, and then I edit in dead silence. When I'm anxious about the book's progress I eat Lemonheads, which is getting to be a little hard on the cr…

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

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Title:Roses Have Thorns
Author: Sandra Byrd

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 16th Century / Elizabeth / Tudors / Sweden / Court Intrigue / Religious Intrigue / Marriage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Howard Books (4/9/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did, in a night.
One-sentence summary: The story of Elizabeth's I court told through the eyes of a Swedish courtier who wants family, love, and friendship.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: You know what? I do. Even though it has the headless motif going on, I rather like the female figure's unusual profile. She seems a little zaftig, too, which I dig! I will admit that I keep thinking the other figure is a lipstick-wearing male attendant of some kind, and I'm loving that, too. (In my defense, I only have this as an e-book; perhaps it is more obvious with a physical copy.)

First line: I may have been a maiden just shy of seventeen years of age, but I wa…

Winners!

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Sorry for the delay in getting this up: I took advantage of yesterday's lovely sunny day to see friends! I'm having a particularly lovely weekend (grateful for that after my last few weeks!) and have Monday off as it is a Massachusetts holiday known as Patriot's Day (and also, it's Marathon Monday). Hope you all are having nice weekends! Now, winners!


The winner of The Paradise Guest House is ... Jessica D.!

The winner of The Prisoner of Heaven is ... Melissa from Confessions of an Avid Reader!

The winner of And Then I Found You is ... DarcyO!

Congrats to the winners! Folks have been emailed and have until end of day Tuesday to get back to me. If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaways -- more coming this week!

Literary Wives

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Earlier this year I was invited to be part of a blog group book club (of sorts) of bloggers who were wives who wanted to read and discuss books about wives.  And while I'm a lot more than just a spouse, being my wife's wife is a huge part of who I am and my identity, and I just loved this frame for reading.

We'll be focusing in particular on two questions as we read:

1. What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?

2. In what way does this woman define “wife”—or in what way is she defined by “wife”?

If you're intrigued, consider reading along with us and chime in!

We'll be discussing these books during the coming months (the plan is to read the previous month and have a review posted the first of the scheduled month):
May: Curtis Sittenfeld, American WifeJune: Paula McLain, The Paris WifeJuly: Robert Goolrick, A Reliable WifeAugust: Melanie Benjamin, The Aviator's Wife Fall titles to come soon -- if you can think of books with '…

City of Lights by Melika Dannese Lux

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Title:City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier
Author: Melika Dannese Lux

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / Paris / Cabaret Singer / Romance / Adventure)
Publisher/Publication Date: Books in My Belfry, LLC (10/23/2012)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked enough.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A beautiful cabaret singer with a tragic past fights her evil Russian patron to find her true love and her estranged brother.
Reading Challenges:7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I'm not wild about it, but it fits the book -- the Eiffel Tour features rather prominently in the story.

First line: It was an age of glistening enchantment--the perfumed night air, the verdant trees lining the Champs Elysées, the decadent cabarets and dance halls offering solace in a glass of champagne, or comfort in a lady's arms.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you want something quick, diverting, and Pari…

Interview with Nancy Bilyeau

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I'm still swooning over The Chalice, Nancy Bilyeau's newest novel featuring her ex-nun Joanna Stafford and the heady, hectic days of Henry VIII's reign. Nancy kindly did an interview with me last year so I came up with some new questions for her this year! Read on to learn more about her novel and how she landed on Joanna Stafford, as well as what she's been reading recently. Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Was The Chalice the original title of your book?

Yes, I suggested it because the first book was The Crown. I thought it might be fun to keep going with one word titles beginning with “C.” Like Charlaine Harris does it with the word “dead.”

As you were writing The Chalice, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I feel that Geoffrey Scovill kept going in new directions. In the first book he was smart and physically strong and good at his work—with a bit of a sarcastic sense of humor. And obviously a yearning for Joanna. In the second …

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

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Title:The Chalice
Author: Nancy Bilyeau

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Tudor / Reformation / 16th century / Nuns / Religious Conspiracy / Henry VIII / Prophesies)
Publisher/Publication Date: Touchstone (3/5/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: Former nun Joanna Stafford finds herself a part of a prophesy and a conspiracy in 16th century England.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- that blue is quite eye-catching!

I'm reminded of...: Mary Doria Russell,

First line: When preparing for martyrdom on the night of December 28, 1538, I did not think of those I love.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- get this and the first book and be very, very happy!

Why did I get this book?: I loved Bilyeau's first novel and have been on pins and needles waiting for this one.

Review: It's no secret the Tudor era is not a favorite of mine but Nancy Bilyeau makes me sing a different tune:…

Interview with Maryanne O'Hara

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Maryanne O'Hara's Cascade made my top ten of last year; I fell in love with it when I read it last fall and haven't shaken it yet.  (It also has one of the most stunning covers I've ever seen.) Read on to learn more about her and her writing, and what she does when not writing (it's very cool!).   Enter to win a paperback copy of Cascade!

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

I was about five years old when I wrote and stapled-together a book about my little dog who had just been killed by a car. It was my first experience of unbearable grief, and the impulse to write was immediate, instinctive, and such a balm. After that, I wrote a lot of grammar school fairy tales. I remember one was about how the ocean had become salty. It was a sort of prequel to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which I adored. (“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”)

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I keep my journal and…