Showing posts from May, 2013

Weekend reads and I'm melting...

It's about ten thousand degrees Farenheit (actual true temperature) in Boston today and my work hasn't turned on the AC in the building yet, so I'm wilty and a tiny bit surly.


Last night I had another fangirl night -- I got to meet author Tara Masih for dinner.  Tara wrote Where the Dog Star Never Glows, an amazing collection of short fiction that converted me to short fiction, and that I loved so much, I gave it a shout out in Ladies Home Journal in 2012.

It's taken us that long to connect, but I'm so glad we did -- it was wonderful.  At her suggestion, we tried out this Mexican restaurant I've been dying to go to -- we each had a glass of sangria (much needed, yesterday was nine thousand degrees) and we both opted for dessert (we were delightfully like-minded in many ways!).

We gabbed about books, publishing, my blog, her work, our personal lives -- it was such fun and made me feel preeeetty fancy and awesome.  (Excuse my crazy squinting grin-y …

A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon

Title:A Dual Inheritance
Author: Joanna Hershon

Genre: Fiction (Family Saga / 1960s / 1970s / 1980s / 2000s / Marriage / Daughters / Friendship / Infidelity / New York City)
Publisher/Publication Date: Ballantine Books (5/7/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a very good deal.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: Two friends, forty years, and marriage, work, love, lust, loss, pain, agony, betrayal, and forgiveness.

Do I like the cover?: Yeah, I guess -- for a book that covers four decades, it would be hard to nail down a single image to convey that scope. The three figures certainly hit the vague sort of triangle of the plot, but I wouldn't say that triangle is the primary thrust of the story -- and they were never this bucolic or pretty.

I'm reminded of...: Sigrid Nunez, Bart Schneider

First line: Had he described Hugh Shipley at all over the past three years, approachable would not have been a word he'd ever have used.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially i…

Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

Title:Jack Absolute
Author: C.C. Humphreys

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 18th Century / American Revolution / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Espionage / British Army / Theater)
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks Landmark (5/2013)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked a great deal -- practically loved.
Did I finish?: Oh yes, in just two days.
One-sentence summary: Former soldier Jack Absolute returns to the British Army and finds himself embroiled in a love affair, tangling with a secret society, and spying for the Crown.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do, I do -- it's the author, too, which makes it even more fun! (And this time, I'm gleeful that male models suffer the same fate as female models when placed on the cover of a historical novel.)

I'm reminded of...: Christine Blevins, Carol K. Carr, Donna Russo Morin, Judith Tarr

First line: The snow lay deep over Hounslow Heath and the light was failing fast.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, e…


I am all off schedule!  Just now getting to my giveaway winners -- sorry for the wait!

The winner of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life is ... Lauren P.!

The winner of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is ... Kirsten M.!

Congrats to the winners!

Folks have until the end of Thursday to respond; I'll redraw winners at that point. If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaways -- as always, more to come, too!

Flashes of War by Katey Schultz

Title:Flashes of War
Author: Katey Schultz

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Soldiers / War / Iraq / Afghanistan / Short Stories / PTSD / Military Families / Non-Combatants)
Publisher/Publication Date: Loyola University's Apprentice House (5/2013)
Source:MindBuck Media

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, in a single morning.
One-sentence summary: Thirty-one short stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the soldiers, the survivors, and the citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan responding to the violence.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's simple and sparse. As many of the stories have the POV of someone young, the use of the toy soldier is smart, I think.

I'm reminded of...: Tara L. Masih

First line: Now there's waiting to get deployed and there's waiting to get shot at., from 'The Waiting: Part I'

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you're interested in stories about the military and those impacted by war.

Why did I get this book?: Curiosi…

Historical Novel Society 2013 Conference Panelist: Meet jay Dixon

In anticipation of the 2013 Historical Novel Society conference, I'm excited to share a Q&A with panelist jay Dixon, editor and author of The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon 1909-1990s. You can learn more about Ms. Dixon by reading her panelist bio at the conference website (scroll down).

(You can check out the other Q&As with panelists via my hns2013 tag.)

What got you first interested in historical fiction?

I've been reading historical fiction since I was a child, but I suppose I first realised I was reading historical fiction when I discovered Georgette Heyer's novels at about the age of 11.

For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?

First define 'fact'! I suppose anything that can be corroborated by two other independent sources is a fact, and fiction is what you then make of it.

Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you'd like to share?

Not an anecdote, but as an English editor I wish writers would get English/Euro…

Interview with Jennie Fields

Last year I read Jennie Fields' The Age of Desire, a historical novel about Edith Wharton's late-in-life love affair. It was a fantastic book not just at the famous author but at friendships that bridge social classes, the destructive joy of desire, and Paris in the early 20th century. Read on to learn more about Fields' novel and be sure to enter the giveaway!

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

I wrote a 'novel' when I was six called Emmy. It was about a poor girl who lived in a tenement played in the alley behind her house. I grew up in little tudor house in a leafy suburb. I knew nothing about alleys. But I was enamored with a children’s book called “Twig” and I did my best to imitate it.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I make a cup of tea about two p.m., read fiction for about a half hour and then start writing. By reading before I write, I come to the page as a reader, and it seems to help control the inner-editor in me w…

Weekend reads and I'm feeling ambitious...

I have a four day weekend ahead of me and I plan to read like a reading thing.

The proof of my ambition is here: I've got seven books in my queue to try this weekend.  (Perhaps not try and finish, but at least have a go.  I'm hoping to finish a few!)

Mette Ivie Harrison, The Rose Throne
C.C. Humphreys, Jack Absolute
Paula McLain, The Paris Wife
Adolfo GarcĂ­a Ortega, Desolation Island
Katey Schultz, Flashes of War
Anthony C. Winkler, The Family Mansion
Felicity Young, Antidote to Murder

Happily, I'll be spending the weekend with a friend (a kind of staycation, from one suburb to another!) who is as much a reader as I; I anticipate she, I, and my wife will spend a good deal of time on the back porch in companionable silence reading, interrupted only by cooking. It will be a delicious weekend (no pun intended!)

What are you reading this weekend?

Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat

Title:Spirit of Lost Angels
Author: Liza Perrat

Genre: Fiction (Historical / France / 18th Century / Rural Life / Herbalism / Paris / French Revolution / Secret Identities / Revenge / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Motherhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: Triskele Books (2012)
Source: The author.

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The tumultuous fifteen years in the life of an 18th century French village woman, from innkeeper to prisoner to reinvented storyteller.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction, What's in a Name?

Do I like the cover?: I really like it -- it's quite lovely and although it has the chopped head motif, the close focus is a nice change (rather than another long tall headless woman). There are plot elements featured on the cover as well.

I'm reminded of...: Michelle Diener, Sidney Sheldon

First line: The early light burns Victoire's cheeks, like a beacon warning her this summer day will bring something special.

Buy, Borrow…

In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve

Title:In the Garden of Stone
Author: Susan Tekulve

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1920s / 1930s / West Virginia / Sicily / Immigrants / Coal Mining / Marriage / Family Saga)
Publisher/Publication Date: Hub City Press (5/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a very good deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: Spanning almost fifty years, the story of a family in rural West Virginia and their passion for place, each other, the foreign and familiar.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories

Do I like the cover?: I do -- months and bees feature rather prominently for two of the main characters.

I'm reminded of...: Jennifer Haigh, Ursula Hegi

First line: On Monday, washday, the two boys standing outside the white frame house looked like wizened old men.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you like fiction of place, immigrant stories, and the vignette-y look at family a la Jennifer Haigh's Baker Towers.

Why did I get this book?: The era, the place.


Interview with David Morrell

Yesterday I reviewed David Morrell's wonderfully grim, deliciously dark Murder as a Fine Art.  I'm excited to share my interview with Morrell, who reveals, among other tidbits, that he's working on a sequel to Murder as a Fine Art! (I am so excited.)  Read on to learn more about him, his writing, and this great novel, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

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

My debut novel, published in 1972, was First Blood, the novel in which Rambo appeared. It’s an anti-war novel about the damage done to a man who was sent to war and discovered that he had a skill for killing, hating himself in the process. Ten years later, the film adaptation appeared, which follows the plot of my novel for the most part but reinterprets the story. It’s an odd feeling to be associated with a character that’s among the top five in the thriller world, using the criterion of characters who started in novels and then gained worldwide recognition thro…

Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

Title:Murder as a Fine Art
Author: David Morrell

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / London / Thomas DeQuincy / Laudanum / Serial Killer)
Publisher/Publication Date: Mulholland Books (5/7/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Loved -- will likely make my top ten of 2013.
Did I finish?: Oh yeah.
One-sentence summary: A serial killer in 1854 London replicates -- and exaggerates -- a series of violent crimes from decades before, and laudanum-addicted writer Thomas DeQuincey is seen as the prime suspect.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's not super compelling but certainly evokes the feel of the novel: soot, fog, London, guys in hats.

I'm reminded of...: Matt Rees, Dan Simmons

First line: Titian, Rubens, and Van Dyke, it is said, always practiced their art in full dress.

Did... I die of surprise when I learned the author was the guy who invented Rambo?: YES. Morrell wrote First Blood in 1972 and was involved in the subseque…


Just two giveaways this weekend!

The winner of The Golem and the Jinni is ... Leah!

The winner of Fear in the Sunlight ... Nadia!

Congrats to the winners!

 I've emailed folks who have until end of day Tuesday to respond. If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaways.

Weekend reads and feeling funky...

No cute picture today; I'm not exactly between books so much as sandwiched in a pile, all half started. 

Real life has me a bit funky lately -- the last four weeks or so -- and I'm having a hard time focusing on reading, never mind reviewing.  (Funk isn't helped by the pile of review books staring at me!)

What are you reading this weekend?

[image credit: Mo Willems]

Historical Novel Society 2013 Conference Panelist: Meet Stephanie Cowell

I'm excited to share another Q&A with an author participating in the 2013 Historical Novel Society Conference this year, Stephanie Cowell.  Her books have long been on my TBR and now I'm breathless with anticipation for her newest (see her second to last question).  

What got you first interested in historical fiction?

Since an early age I believed I belonged in an earlier time, that my real life and were waiting for me there. I read historical children’s novels such as A LITTLE PRINCESS and felt that was my life, if I could only get to it. Even today certain places and times are a home I miss with all my heart.

How do you find the people and topics of your books?

Oh I am interested in many people and topics, and they come rushing at me. I can hardly leave a street in Europe or England without some fictional character tapping me on the shoulder and pouring out her story. Years ago I was walking behind my parents in a tiny village full of stone houses in Switzerland, and…

A Prince to be Feared by Mary Lancaster

Title:A Prince to be Feared
Author: Mary Lancaster

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 15th Century / Eastern Europe / Romania / Ottoman Empire / Court Intrigue / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Self published (4/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The lifelong friendship and love affair between Vlad the Impaler and a Hungarian noblewoman in 15th century Transylvania.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's ambigu-royal but I think it conveys the more serious (non-paranormal) heft to the story.

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

First line: He made a perfect villain.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy -- the ebook is $2.99!

Why did I get this book?: I love hist fic in unusual settings, and having traveled through Transylvania over the winter, I'm eager to return -- in person or via book!

Review: A novel about Dracula that d…


I'm super behind on life -- reading, reviews, and apparently, sharing giveaway winners! -- so my apologies for the wait!  Here are the winners for this week!

The winner of Pain, Parties, Work is ... Krystle C.!

The winner of The Bequest of Big Daddy is ... Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J.!

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

Mailbox Monday, May 13

In May, Mailbox Monday is hosted by Abi @ 4 the LOVE of BOOKS. Some wonderful arrivals this week! To learn more about any title, click the cover and it will open in a new tab/window.

What did you get this week? What do you think of these titles?

For Review


All gifted to me by the amazing Amy of Passages to the Past! Thanks for letting me get these out of your house! ;)

Historical Novel Society 2013 Conference Panelist: Meet Stephanie Dray

This year, I'm going to be attending the Historical Novel Society's annual conference -- a first for me -- and I'm going as a panelist! (So surreal!) 

For the next few weeks, I'm going to be sharing some short interviews with a few of the panelists planning to come to the conference. I hope, even if you aren't attending, you'll find some new authors to add to your TBR!

I'm particularly excited to be hosting Stephanie Dray here -- as some of you may know, I kind of have a thing for herwriting. (Good luck to me if I have a chance to meet her; there will be much gasping and swooning.)

Here are some questions Ms. Dray answered for HNS about her writing and books.

How do you find the people and topics of your books?

I'm fascinated by the bad girls of history, not to mention the under-appreciated heroines of our past. When I learn about a woman that I feel I should know about, and don't, it's almost as if she's calling out to me to bring her to …

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Title:A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Author: Anthony Marra

Genre: Fiction (2000s / 1990s / Russia / Chechnya / Secret Police / Emergency Room / Sex Trafficking / Doctors / Siblings)
Publisher/Publication Date: Hogarth (5/7/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Six lives overlap, collide, and crash over a span of a decade, distilled down into five days in war-torn Chechnya.

Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- so sad, so evocative, so bittersweet!

I'm reminded of...: Jennifer Dubois, Valerie Laken

First line: On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- I suspect this book will be getting a good deal of praise in the coming months.

Why did I get this book?: If it's from Hogarth, I'm reading it.

Review: I'm a total Hogarth fangirl now, having first fallen in love with I Am Forbidden and then The Headmaster's …