Showing posts from September, 2013

Interview with Laura Joh Rowland

Last week I read Laura Joh Rowland's newest novel featuring her 18th century samurai detective, Sano Ichiro. It was my first time reading Rowland and I enjoyed this unusual historical mystery. I'm thrilled to share this interview with Rowland, who talks about her writing, this series, and what she does when not reading. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of The Shogun's Daughter!

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

It was a short story about a group of idealistic hippies who go into a forest to found a utopian commune. Lightning strikes, a tree falls on the leaders head, and goodbye commune. (This was when I was in high school, in the 1970’s.)

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I go for a walk every morning and figure out what I’m going to write that day. Thinking is easier when my body is moving. When I get home, I have 5-6 pages planned out.

Was The Shogun’s Daughter the original title of your book?

Yes. It fit the story and my…

The Arrangement by Mary Balogh

Title:The Arrangement
Author: Mary Balogh

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Regency / 19th Century / Romance / Marriage of Convenience / Blindness)
Publisher/Publication Date: Dell (8/27/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Mostly liked, although it sticks a little.
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly.
One-sentence summary: A blind viscount and a poor mousy girl enter into marriage with an unusual caveat: an agreement to live apart if they aren't happy together after a year.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I don't. The ARC had a prettier version, of our heroine looking off at a pretty estate that I vastly preferred. This cover made me grateful I was reading it on my e-reader!

First line: When it became clear to Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, that if he stayed at home for the remainder of the spring he would without any doubt at all be betrothed, even married, before summer had properly settled in, he fled.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow.

Why did I get this…

Weekend reads and feeling busy...

I just realized I have two weeks of work left before my sabbatical starts!  I'm kind of agog.  For those who don't know, I'm taking 7-weeks off (in two weeks!) to try to write a novel.  (!!!!)

I've talked for ever and ever about wanting to be a novelist, and I'm always writing, but hope to use this focused paid time off to really see what I can do. (I hope to take the other 7-weeks off sometime next year, and use it to edit my novel.)  I eager and nervous!  My wife has found a little writer's retreat out in western Massachusetts, and I'll be spending five weeks there, all by myself, in a little carriage house, with nothing to do but write!  (I'm very much channeling Virginia Woolf's 'a room of her own' -- this will be an exercise in discipline among other things!)

As I keep trying to stave off panic about whether I can finish all my work before leaving, I will be doing a good deal of reading this weekend, I anticipate.  On Wednesday, I tripp…

The Shogun’s Daughter by Laura Joh Rowland

Title:The Shogun’s Daughter
Author: Laura Joh Rowland

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Japan / 18th Century / Edo / Samurai / Murder Mystery / Royal Intrigue / Smallpox)
Publisher/Publication Date: Minotaur Books (9/17/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: In 18th century Japan, the sudden death of the shogun's daughter leads to a possible pretender taking power, and samurai Sano is tasked with finding out the truth of the daughter's death.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I'm of two minds: on one hand, it just looks like an ambigu-Asian novel, but on the other hand, there is a (minor) character who has half her face obscured due to her smallpox scars, so this could be a nod to her.

First line: Moans filled a chamber lit by a single dim lantern.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow.

Why did I get this book?: I have long been interested in Rowland's series, and figured I'd j…

Interview with Susan McDuffie

This past weekend I shared my review of Susan McDuffie's The Study of Murder, a 14th-century murder mystery set in Oxford, featuring a Scottish amateur detective and scribe and his clever wife. I inhaled this book and am delighted to share my interview with the author.  Read on to learn more about her this book, how she 'found' her hero, and what she does when she's not writing. 

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

Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog, Audra! It’s such a pleasure to be here.

My first book was The Magic Mirror, a third grade oeuvre that was kind of a “Through the Looking Glass goes to Scotland”. It was one of those class projects in which we actually bound our little book. I remember thinking at the time how hard it was to plot, a thought that still flits through my mind at times when I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper. I probably would have forgotten all about that first effort, except my mom, who saves everythin…

Confessions of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

Title:Confessions of Marie Antoinette
Author: Juliet Grey

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 18th Century / France / French Revolution / Royalty / Marie Antoinette / Motherhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: Ballantine Books (9/24/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: The final four years of Marie Antoinette's life.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Love it! Was iffy about the covers for the previous two books although now that it's not a photograph of a model, I'm sort of missing it...

I'm reminded of...: Sandra Gulland, Susan Holloway Scott

First line: "We will take the queen dead or alive!"

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy all three books if you like historical novels about royalty, France, and/or biographical novels of the notorious made human.

Why did I get this book?: I love Marie Antoinette and Grey's previous two novels about her.  (See my review of the first book…

The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie

Title:The Study of Murder
Author: Susan McDuffie

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 14th Century / UK / Oxford University / Murder Mystery)
Publisher/Publication Date: Five Star Publishing (9/16/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly.
One-sentence summary: Scottish scribe and detective finds himself at Oxford University to support his young ward and becomes embroiled solving murders, disappearances, and the source of a mysterious manuscript.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do, actually: first, I find it it kind of hypnotic; and second, the stoniness matches both the university and

I'm reminded of...: Priscilla Royal

First line: The nymphs first.

Did... I love the author's Gaelic pronunciation guide she has on her website?: YES. Typically (shamefully?!), if I can't immediately pronounce a character's name, I tend to just spend the rest of the time mentally mumbling it. I found the guide ahead…

Weekend reads and staying up way too late...

I cheated and posted this picture of my weekend read last night (Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen) as I knew I'd be reading it once it became Friday morning. And I was right!

I'm a bit overtired but dying to get back to it -- and I'm sure I'll finish tonight --so will have to tack on something else for my weekend read.  I've got about four books started that I need to buckle down and finish.

What are you reading this weekend?

Interview with Jennifer Cody Epstein

Yesterday I reviewed the marvelous The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, a wonderfully gorgeous and gutting novel of World War II that focused on Japan and a handful of people there. It was kind of a revelation and I can't gush about it enough! I'm thrilled to share my interview with the author, Jennifer Cody Epstein, who talks about her writing, her book, and what she does when not writing. Enjoy! Be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of this great book.

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

It's all rather hazy now, but I believe it was about a magic swingset that could swing you into another dimension. That, and fighting with siblings!

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I'm rather remarkably unstructured (according to those around me, at least). But my rule is to try to put in at least two hours of something writing-related a day. As I get closer to a deadline, those hours will grow, however--when I'm in "the zone" I some…

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Title:The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1930s / 1940s / World War II / Japan / US Navy / Architecture / War Crimes / Parent-Child Relationships / Post-War Society)
Publisher/Publication Date: W. W. Norton & Company (3/11/2013)
Source: Edelweiss

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did, in a matter of hours!
One-sentence summary: The interconnected stories of an American couple, an expat architect and his photographer son, children who love and fear their fathers, the beauty of Japan, and the impact of World War II on them all.
Reading Challenges:7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books, E-books, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do, very much -- the black-and-white photograph is reminiscent of a photographer character, and I'm rather grateful the cover is slightly more upbeat that some of the action!

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

First line: The climb felt almost arduous, the engine juddering …


OOfta, what a week! Have done very little reading, sadly, and my Friday the 13th was a bit hairy -- how was yours?

One giveaway winner this week...!

The winner of Freud's Mistress is ... Nicole of Linus's Blanket!

Congrats to the winner! Shockingly, I've got no open giveaways at the moment but I have some coming next week.

Interview with Michelle Diener

Last month I gorged myself on Michelle Diener's Tudor series featuring a Flemish painter and her courtier husband: In a Treacherous Court, Keeper of the King's Secrets, and the newest novel, In Defense of the Queen.  While I still need to write reviews of the first two, I wrote a rather swoon-y review of In Defense of the Queen and I'm still sighing over our hero and heroine.  I'm delighted to share my second interview with Michelle Diener, who talks about the source of her heroine, some details about this newest book, and what she's been reading recently.  Enjoy!

Was In Defense of the Queen the original title of your book?

It wasn't :). In the very beginning, the first book in my series was entitled Illuminations, not In a Treacherous Court. But after the ARCs had already been printed, my publisher decided Illuminations didn't tell the reader enough about the content of the book. It worked as a title, because my heroine is an illuminator and artist, and she…


I have about one million giveaways to announce -- this is what I get for missing a week!  Sorry for making folks wait!

The winner of Bride of New France is ... Ariel of One Little Library!

The winner of The Darwin Elevator is ... atlantisflygirl!

The winners of Queen's Gambit are ... Shannon @ River City Reading and Mary Beth!

The winner of Belle Noir is ... Elizabeth H.!

The winner of Song of the River and Mother Earth Father Sky is ... Heather D.!

The winner of Where They Bury You is ... Katie @ Doing Dewey!

Congrats to the winners! Folks have been emailed and have until the end of day Tuesday to get back to me before I re-draw winners. If you didn't win, check out my current giveaways -- as always, more coming this week!

The Best of Daughters by Dilly Court

Title:The Best of Daughters
Author: Dilly Court

Genre: Fiction (Historical / WWI / UK / Social Class / Nursing / Edwardian)
Publisher/Publication Date: Arrow (12/17/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly.
One-sentence summary: Young Daisy Lennox finds herself about to marry her childhood friend just as the first World War breaks out and worse, she finds herself in love with the same man as her best friend.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- it's super pretty but the figure on the bike is so super wrong -- the characters pointedly make fun of bike riding in the story and not a single one, male or female, hops onto a bike!

I'm reminded of...: Catherine Marshall

First line: In her frantic dash to escape the police Daisy had lost her hat and broken a heel off one of her shoes.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you want an Edwardian/WWI-era historical fiction.

Why did I get this book?: I'm a sucker for …

Freud’s Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman

Title:Freud’s Mistress
Author: Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / Austria / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Freud / Infidelity / Sisters / Marriage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Amy Einhorn Books (7/9/2013)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked and disliked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The early sexual relationship between Sigmund Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I really ought to like it -- it's different, and it could be a scene from the book -- but I'm actually not wild about it! Fickle is me!

I'm reminded of...: Sarah Jio

First line: The season for suicides had begun.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you like historical fiction of affairs.

Why did I get this book?: Very curious about late 19th century Austria.

Review: I'm all over the place with this book: I liked some aspects of it and disliked others and I really don't know where to settle in the…