Showing posts from April, 2014

The 25th Anniversary of The Joy Luck Club

Unbelievably, Amy Tan's classic The Joy Luck Club is 25 years old this year!  I read this book in college, about a decade after its release, and fell immediately in love with it.  (Shamefully [?] one of the things I remember most is Waverly -- I just thought that was the most dramatic and romantic name ever.)

Have you read The Joy Luck Club?  What did you think of it?

Here's the jacket blurb:
Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.

With wit and sensitivity, A…

Interview with Stephanie Thornton

Yesterday I reviewed the delightful Daughter of the Gods, a historical novel about famed female pharaoh Htshepsut.  Dramatic, evocative, and emotional, this was an inhale-it-in-hours kind of read.  I'm excited to share my interview with Ms. Thornton, so read on to learn a little more about this book, her writing process, and what she's been reading recently.  Be sure to enter the giveaway!

Was Daughter of the Gods the original title of your book?

No, but it’s so much better than my original title. I wrote and submitted the novel as Hatshepsut: Pharaoh and Queen, but several people told me that sounded more like a non-fiction title. The new title came to me after a revision where I emphasized the role of the Egyptian gods, but it wasn’t until after I finished writing The Secret History that I officially changed the title of Hatshepsut’s story.

As you were writing Daughter of the Gods, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

Several, actually, but it was th…

Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

Title:Daughter of the Gods
Author: Stephanie Thornton

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Ancient Egypt / 15th Century BC / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Royalty / Intrigue)
Publisher/Publication Date: NAL Trade (5/6/2014)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked to loved.
Did I finish?: Yeah, I did, in a matter of hours.
One-sentence summary: The tumultuous life of Egypt's nearly forgotten female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Actually, I'm kind of cold on it, but that's fine: it's very good at expressing the feel of the book, which is what matters!

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

First line: The gods erred that day.

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

Why did I get this book?: Thornton's debut novel was awesome, and this second one just as good.

Review: I was just swept up by Stephanie Thornton's first novel, The Secret History, about Empress Theodora and…

Read-a-Thon: Hour 12 Update: Successes and distractions

Here's the evidence of my successful read-a-thon so far: obliterated bowl of spaghetti-and-vodka sauce, plus two books down.  Feeling very good so far!

I have to share a little geeky silliness; there's a mini-challenge inviting readers to invent a drink based on a book or character, so I whipped up one inspired by Daughter of the Gods, the Hatshepsip.  I'm feeling very smug.

The Hour 12 meme is a check-in survey, so here are my answers (you'll note some odd numbering; I decided not to answer every question!).

1. What are you reading right now?: Sandra Gulland's The Shadow Queen.

2. How many books have you read so far?: 1 and ... 0.5. My second read turned out to not be a book, per se, but a collection of numbered sentences. It's not really a thing you read and once, so I'm not counting it, although I spent about 45 minutes thumbing through it!

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?: A little -- my wife and I typically cle…

Read-a-thon: Hour 0 - Kickoff Meme: Intro

Looking forward to meeting everyone as I settle in to the day. It's a bit disconcerting to have a whole day to just read; I keep futzing around the house and pestering my wife.  Here's my intro for those read-a-thon-ers who don't know me!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?: Boston, MA!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?: I'm pretty keen on my whole stack, but really jazzed for The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland. She wrote one of my all-time top ten favorite trilogies in the world.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?: I bought some fancy organic fruit yesterday and I plan to luxuriate in bed with tropical fruit, bubbly water, and my cats! Five very ripe champagne mangoes are calling my name!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!: I'm married to a pretty fabulous woman (who's doing today's chores so I don't have to!), and I work full-time for a national non-profit. I'm in the proce…

Read-a-Thon kick off!

Okay, Read-a-Thon starts in a few minutes, and I'm wolfing down a delicious breakfast in preparation for a long day of reading! 

I plan to finish up Stephanie Thornton's Daughter of the Gods first -- so grateful for the read-a-thon today because this book is pretty un-put-down-able!!

Good luck to those participating, and those who aren't -- hope you're having a lovely Saturday.  Go #teamBronte!

Weekend reads and readathon

My FridayReads/weekendread is Stephanie Thornton's Daughter of the Gods. I may or may not have gotten teary on the train after the first ten pages. Fantastic read so far!

Tomorrow is Dewey's Read-a-Thon, which I signed up for last year and totally bailed on.  This year, I'm determined to do it, and win!  (Or, you know, read a ton.)  My planned TBR so far includes:

Daughter of the Gods
1,000 Feelings for Which There Are No Names
The Falconer
The Shadow Queen
The Quick
O, Africa!

Most of these are review reads, so it'll be nice to get a leg up, but I will admit to a little sadness I can't "free range" read, so to speak.  I hope to have a less scheduled October so the next read-a-thon I can really graze!

What are you reading this weekend?

Interview with Ann Weisgarber

Yesterday I reviewed Ann Weisgarber's The Promise, a stunningly delicious novel set in 1900 Galveston, Texas, featuring two unshakeable narrators and a poignant story.  It's going to make my top ten of 2014, I know it, and I can't stop enthusing about it.  I'm delighted to share my interview with Ann Weisgarber to learn more about her and her writing (as well as how she and I met!).  Be sure to enter the giveaway, too!

*** *** ***

Audra, it was great fun meeting you last June at the Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was at the book signing and when you introduced yourself, I bounced out of my chair to give you a big hug. You had written a lovely review for my first novel, and I was excited to meet you in person. Thank you so much for reading The Promise and for giving me the opportunity to be part of your blog again.

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

I’m a late bloomer. Unlike many writers, I didn’t write stories w…

The Promise by Ann Weisgarber

Title:The Promise
Author: Ann Weisgarber

Genre: Fiction (Historical / early 20th Century / Galveston / Texas / Natural Disaster / Marriage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Skyhorse Publishing (4/1/2014)
Source: Publicist

Rating: Loved! A top ten read of 2014.
Did I finish?: Oh yes.
One-sentence summary: Two women from different lives are bound together through a man and his child in 1900 Galveston
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Actually, I'm kind of meh about it.

I'm reminded of...: Angela Davis-Gardner, Erika Mailman, Julie K. Rose

First line: There wasn't nothing good about funerals.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy! (Or borrow, but you want to read this one.)

Why did I get this book?: I love the premise and I adored Weisgarber's debut novel.

Review: In 2011 I read Weisgarber's fantastic debut, The Personal History of Rachel Dupree.  It was the kind of historical novel I adored -- unique setting and era, unbelievable heroine, fabulous historical detail. …


Ohemgee, I am so behind on life.  I'm behind on reading, behind on reviews, and behind on announcing giveaway winners.  (Sorry!)  So, here are a few from the last few weeks; I promise I'll be more prompt from now on!

The winners of The Eagle and the Swan are ... Diane L. and Shannon L.!

The winner of To Live Forever is ... Ryan of Wordsmithonia!

Congrats to the winners!  Be sure to check out my open giveaways -- more coming soon.

The Winter Siege by D.W. Bradbridge

Title:The Winter Siege
Author: D.W. Bradbridge

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 17th Century / UK / Murder Mystery / English Civil War)
Publisher/Publication Date: Electric Reads (10/1/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A cheese merchant slash constable has to deal with murders amidst the drama of guild politics, an approaching army, and the return of his old flame.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- it's not my thing but it's done well enough.

I'm reminded of...: James Mace, Sam Thomas

First line: The small group of horsemen pulled up in front of the imposing sandstone towers of Kinneil House, allowing the riders to survey the scene in front of them.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you like historical mysterious with meaty locales and rich ambiance.

Why did I get this book?: It got great reviews the first time it went on tour.

Review: I enj…

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

Title:The Frangipani Hotel
Author: Violet Kupersmith

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / Contemporary / Vietnam / Vietnamese-Americans / Cross-Cultural Experiences / Supernatural Themes / Folk Lore)
Publisher/Publication Date: Spiegel & Grau (4/1/2014)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Nine chilling and atmospheric short stories about Vietnam.
Reading Challenges: E-book, NetGalley & Edelweiss

Do I like the cover?: Love it. It reminds me of 'Boat Story', the piece that opens this collection.

I'm reminded of...: Aimee Bender, Elizabeth Hand, Sara Maitland, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

First line: The only photograph I have of my father doesn't show his face., from 'Reception'.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, stat!

Why did I get this book?: I'm a short story fan.

Review: I loved this volume of short stories, right from the first page. Reminiscent of Aimee Bender, Elizabeth Hand, Sara Maitland, and Ludmilla Petrushevsk…

The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal

Title:The Anatomy Lesson
Author: Nina Siegal

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 17th Century / Amsterdam / The Netherlands / Rembrandt / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Artist)
Publisher/Publication Date: Nan A. Talese (3/11/2014)
Source: Edelweiss

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A day in 17th century Amsterdam, immortalized in a Rembrandt painting.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction, Netgalley & Edelweiss

Do I like the cover?: Adore it.  The image at the top is from the painting in question; the hand is also from that painting and is a huge part of the story; the doctor is named for tulips.  Such a brilliant design.

I'm reminded of...: Kathryn Harrison, Ami McKay, Louisa Young

First line: At the first toll of the Westerkerk bell Adriaen Adriaenszoon bolts awake in a dank stone jail inside Amsterdam's town hall.

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

Why did I get this book?: The cover: I was seduced by it!

Review: This slender novel -- just 288 p…


It's been crazy hectic in my personal and professional life, so apologies for the delay in getting this up!  But I have a giveaway winner at last!

The winner of The Debt of Tamar is ... Susan C.!

Congrats!  If you didn't win, be sure to check out my open giveaways (both open internationally!) -- more coming next week.

Interview with Ruth Hull Chatlien

Earlier this week I reviewed Ruth Hull Chatlien's fabulous novel The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, about the American belle who married one of Napoleon's brothers. Her life verges on the unbelievable, and I inhaled this novel in a few days. I'm excited to share my interview with the author, so read on to learn more about the book and what she does when she's not writing.

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

When I was ten, I started writing a historical novel called The Unknown Patriot. It was a combination of a spy story and Romeo and Juliet. During the American Revolution, two young lovers named Rebecca and Thomas were kept apart because their fathers—Boston merchants—had fallen out over political differences. Rebecca’s father was a Tory, while Thomas’s father favored independence. The young couple decided to meet secretly. Thomas was also approached to act as a courier for an American spy who communicated only by letter and called himself John Q to …

To Live Forever by Andra Watkins

Title:To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis
Author: Andra Watkins

Genre: Fiction (Speculative / 1970s / New Orleans / Mississippi / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Child Narrator)
Publisher/Publication Date: World Hermit Press (3/1/2014)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A young girl is saved from a predatory man by the stuck-in-limbo ghost of Meriwether Lewis.
Reading Challenges:E-book

Do I like the cover?: I uh-dore it. Clean, sharp, eye-catching.

I'm reminded of...: Cass Dalglish, Michael Williams

First line: A drop of sweat hung from the end of my nose.

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

Why did I get this book?: The set up was too bonkers to resist!

Review: The premise of this book is completely bananas, and I mean that in the best way.

The ghost of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) is on his 13th and last mission to redeem his soul when he's sent to 1977 New Orleans. Tasked wi…

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Title:The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte
Author: Ruth Hull Chatlien

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 18th Century / Bonapartes/ Baltimore / Marriage / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Marriage / Motherhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: Amika Press (12/2/2013)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: The life of Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon's brother Jerome.
Reading Challenges:E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it captures the flavor and era of the novel.

I'm reminded of...: Liza Perrat

First line: Taking the footman's hand, eighty-five-year-old Betsy Bonaparte gingerly alighted from the carriage and readjusted her voluminous skirts.

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

Why did I get this book?: Couldn't pass up a Bonaparte hist fic!

Review: While I'm a fan of Josephine Bonaparte, I actually know very little about the Bonaparte family, so I jumped on the chance to read a no…