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Showing posts from March, 2014

Interview with M.J. Neary

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Yesterday I reviewed M.J. Neary's wonderful novel of the early 20th century movement for Irish independence, Never Be at Peace. I'm thrilled to share my interview with Neary, so read on to learn more about her and her books.

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

If you are referring to my first novel-length piece of fiction, that would be "Wynfield's Kingdom: a Tale of the London Slums". I started writing it at the age of 15, and completed it at 31. It was featured on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK (no longer in print, unfortunately) and reviewed favorably in the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal in Wales. The novel opens in 1830s Bermondsey, London's most notorious slum, a land of gang wars, freak shows and every depravity known to man. Dr. Thomas Grant, a disgraced physician, adopts Wynfield, a ten-year old thief savagery battered by the gang leader for insubordination. The boy grows up to be a slender, idealistic opium…

Never Be At Peace by M.J. Neary

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Title:Never Be At Peace
Author: M.J. Neary

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1910s / Ireland / Revolution / Politics / Theater / Historical Figures Fictionalized)
Publisher/Publication Date: Fireship Press (3/8/2014)
Source:The publisher.

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A novel of early 20th century Irish revolutionary Helena Moloney and the tumultuous circumstances of her life.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I'm ambivalent -- it fits the novel, but isn't what draws me in.

First line: Katie Barrett would sell her soul for a gulp of fresh air, but there wasn't any inside the filthy store on Ship Street where she had been marched along with the handful of the Irish Citizen Army survivors.

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

Why did I get this book?: It's a fascinating era I haven't seen featured in hist fic before.

Review: Set between 1903 and spanning through to 1940, this rich novel follows Helena Molon…

Interview with Carol Strickland

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Yesterday I reviewed Carol Strickland's fantastic The Eagle and the Swan, a novel of 6th century Byzantium and the infamous Empress Theodora.  It was a wonderful novel full of personality and rich with historical detail.  I'm thrilled to share my interview with the author (who also penned a favorite book of mine on art), so read on to learn more about her, her books, and what she does when she isn't writing.  Be sure to enter the international giveaway, too!

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

I took a creative writing class in college and wrote some short stories I’d charitably describe as “under-developed,” mainly because at the age of 21, I had little life experience to draw on. My very first piece of fiction was probably an assignment in junior high school to write a myth that would explain some natural phenomenon through supernatural intervention. I imagined a Poseidon-like god who was wrathful at humanity and flooded the land, determined not to rec…

The Eagle and the Swan by Carol Strickland

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Title:The Eagle and the Swan
Author: Carol Strickland

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 6th Century / Byzantium / Court Intrigue / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Empress Theodora / Sex Worker)
Publisher/Publication Date: Erudition Digital (11/7/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: The story of how two unlikely figures ascended into power and eventually become Emperor and Empress in 6th century Turkey.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I adore it.  It harkens to the title as well as Theodora's infamous performance.

I'm reminded of...: Donna Russo Morin, Mingmei Yip

First line: It's a stronger pull than the tide, but beauty's only part of it.

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

Why did I get this book?: I'm a huge Theodora fangirl.

Review: I must admit I'm always reluctant to pick up a historical novel about a historical figure if I've already read an amazing book…

Napoleon in America by Shannon Selin

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Title:Napoleon in America
Author: Shannon Selin

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Speculative / 19th Century / Napoleon Bonaparte / Historical Figure Fictionalized / New Orleans / Mexico)
Publisher/Publication Date: Dry Wall Publishing (1/2014)
Source: The author.

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: An imagined year when Napoleon escapes his exile and rouses an army in the US, bound for Mexico.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction, What's in a Name?

Do I like the cover?: I adore it. It's reminiscent of the Francois-Joseph Sandmann painting of Napoleon in exile.

I'm reminded of...: James Mace

First line: As sun broke over the black wart in the Atlantic, a banging on the door disturbed the island's governor at his toilet.

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

Why did I get this book?: I love novels about Napoleon.

Review: This inventive, engrossing novel imagines Napoleon's escape from his exile on the island of St. Helena in 1821 which l…

The Mapmaker's Daughter by Laurel Corona

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Title:The Mapmaker's Daughter
Author: Laurel Corona

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 15th Century / Spain / Judaism / Coming-of-Age / Court Life / Family / Historical Figures Fictionalized)
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks Landmark (3/4/2014)
Source: NetGalley

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: A young 15th century conversa recounts her life in Spain and Portugal and her search for her spiritual and emotional home.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction, NetGalley & Edelweiss

Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- so bright, eye-catching, and evocative.

First line: I hold my hands up for my mother's inspection.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow.

Why did I get this book?: Corona's novels always get rave reviews and I love the setting and era.

Review: This rich novel, set in 15th century Spain and Portugal, follows the life of Amalia Cresques, a conversa who eventually returns to her Jewish faith at great personal expense.

Born to a famous mapmaker, Abraham …

Winners!

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Sorry for the delay in announcing these winners!

The winner of Girl on the Golden Coin is ... Folliesgirl14!

The winner of Under the Wide and Starry Sky is ... Melanie!

Congrats to the winners! Check out my open giveaways -- as usual, there are more coming!

A Snug Life Somewhere by Jan Shapin

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Title:A Snug Life Somewhere
Author: Jan Shapin

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1910s / Pacific Northwest / Union Organizing / Mexico / Chicago / J. Edgar Hoover)
Publisher/Publication Date: Cambridge Books (4/2014)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A woman in the early 20th century shares her life and experiences with the labor movement, Belshevik revolutionaries, and meeting J. Edgar Hoover.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Mostly -- I'm not wild about the font but I do love the portrait of the woman -- it makes me think a bit of our heroine, forcing herself to pose.

First line: My brother died on November 5, 1916.

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

Why did I get this book?: I love novels about the labor movement, and erroneously thought this was set in Everett, MA -- I always like local hist fic.

Review: Opening in 1916, this rich novel follows the life of Penny Joe Copper, a young woman from Everett, WA.…

Interview with Nicole Dweck

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Earlier this week I reviewed The Debt of Tamar, an exciting debut by Nicole Dweck that spans 400 years, and takes place in Spain, Turkey, and New York City. I'm thrilled to share my interview with her, so read on to learn more about her and her book -- and be sure to enter the giveaway!

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

Strange as it may seem, The Debt of Tamar was my first piece of fiction.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

If it’s warm out, I’ll grab a cup of coffee, head over to Central Park and work from there. There are so many people walking by from every walk of life. It’s easy to draw inspiration from almost any and all passersby.

If it’s cold out, I’ll head to Joe’s Cafe, where I’ll inevitably bump into other writers pounding away on their laptops while downing their second or third macchiato.

Was The Debt of Tamar the original title of your book?

No it wasn’t. The original title of the book was The Bosphorus Dreams, referring to the Bos…

The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck

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Title:The Debt of Tamar
Author: Nicole Dweck

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 16th Century / Judaism / Turkey / Ottoman Empire / Contemporary / Family Saga / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Devon House Press (2/4/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Two families are connected by loss and love over the centuries.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories, NetGalley & Edelweiss, What's in a Name?

Do I like the cover?: Love it -- it's so striking!

I'm reminded of...: M.L. Malcolm

First line: He may well have been the happiest orphan in the world.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow.

Why did I get this book?: Heard rave reviews from blogger I trust, especially Amy of Passages to the Past, and I was intrigued!

Review: Opening in the 16th century, this novel follows two families separated by culture, but connected by love. The titular Tamar is a young Jewish woman educated in Istanbul after her fam…

Interview with Kim Cooper

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Earlier in the month I read Kim Cooper's delicious The Kept Girl, a novel of Raymond Chandler, a murderous cult, and a sultry 1929 Los Angeles. I'm thrilled to share my interview with Cooper so read on to learn more about her book and what she does when she's not writing (which is very cool!).

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

The Kept Girl is actually the first piece of fiction I've written. I've been a professional writer for most of my life, but always nonfiction: music criticism, oral history, true crime. The story of the Great Eleven cult was so compelling, especially when paired with the opportunity to set the young Raymond Chandler on their trail, that I was compelled to make the leap to writing a novel.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Writing fiction feels very different from nonfiction. I've always done my best writing late at night, but The Kept Girl insisted I attend to her early in the day. I think other parts of the…

Winners!

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It's a bit of a horror movie in my house this weekend -- my wife and I both got the norovirus, and for one horrifying overlapping day, it was, well, gross!  I'm feeling a little better but my wife is totally flat out, so ... I'm ready for spring.  Anyway, here are this week's giveaway winners!

The winner of The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is ... Vera P.!

The winner of While Beauty Slept is ... Carolyn O.!

Congrats to the winners! Folks have until Wednesday to respond to my email. If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaways -- more coming next week!