Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wordless Wednesday, June 24

Another Wordless Wednesday. Obviously, this is a new, favorite meme -- helpful for when words elude me.

I'm racing through Dark Horse, a scifi offering by Michelle Diener. You might recognize Diener's name from this blog -- I've reviewed four of her books but have read something like seven of them -- and I'm delighted by her foray into science fiction. I'm about a quarter of the way through this one and so into it -- one of those wish-I-could-just-read-all-day sort of books.

Guzzling tea by the gallon -- terribly congested and suffering a wicked sore throat -- and am not sure if it is allergies or a cold. Work is bananas and the sweet baby is teething, so lack of sleep is to blame, either way!

Have a Wordless Wednesday to share? What are you reading?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Lover’s Path by Kris Waldherr

Title: The Lover’s Path: An Illustrated Novella of Venice
Author: Kris Waldherr

First line: Sixteenth-century Venice was a rich mélange of cultural influences arising from the steady interaction of intellectuals, artists, diplomats, travelers, and merchants.

Review: I've been an enormous fan of Waldherr for years, thanks to her tarot decks, and I'd been so intrigued by this novel. Unbelievably, it's been ten years since this was originally released, and Waldherr is releasing this as an enhanced e-book.

This novel is a 16th century memoir, framed by notes from museum curators. The pages are richly illustrated, decorated with portraits, ephemera, illuminated caps, and other small notions that make the experience magical. (And had/has me wishing still that this manuscript, and the associated museum, were real!)

Filamena Ziani, singer and aspiring composer, is kept tightly hidden by her older sister Tullia, a reknown Venetian courtesan. But a chance encounter introduces Filamena to love, and her amour gifts her with a plum and his mother's journal, which details the lover's path -- lovers from history and mythology who act as guardians, guides, and icons for the young couple.

In addition to being an immensely gifted illustrator, Waldherr's narrative is wonderfully evocative. The set up of this novel immediately made me think of other medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, as Filomena addresses her patroness. Her story is a classic coming-of-age tale, sympathetically told, in a lyrical manner that is rich with detail without feeling bloated or overly ornate. The historical details and setting provide flavor and a strong sense of moody romance (how can it not -- it's Renaissance Venice!).

I read this on my Kobo Glo HD and it was a thing of beauty, even in black and white (iPad and Kindle Fire editions are in color and yowza!). The first few chapters are available as a PDF preview in sumptuous full color.

I've got nothing but swoony, swoony love for this one -- get it and indulge in some lush escapist reading! With the playful and charming illustrated elements, this book drew out that sense of wonderment I get from reading, the visceral joy of being plunged into a story. These days, being so frazzled and overtired (and impatient and dopey and etc etc etc) it was really a gift to feel so immersed in another world.

Publisher/Publication Date: Art and Words Editions (6/16/2015)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Genre: Fiction (Historical / Italy / 16th Century / Venice / Courtesans / Musicians / Love Affairs / Mythology / Found Object / Illustrations)
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer an e-book copy of The Lover's Path to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 7/3. See my Giveaway Policy for complete rules.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pre-Order Book Blast for Medicis Daughter

I am sooooooooooooooooooo excited for this one. My only experience with Queen Margot is via the film of the same name, that tasty bit of costume drama-y eye candy with Vincent Perez, Isabelle Adjani, Asia Argento, and Thomas Kretschmann (among others).

I loved Perinot's 2012 release, The Sister Queens for the many reasons that I adore hist fic: the way historical backdrop is both alien and familiar, and exotic figures made real and compassionate and maddening. Given Queen Margot's notorious reputation, I'm dying to see how Perinot breathes life into her. (And lucky me -- I've got a copy and will be reviewing it in November!)

Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois

by Sophie Perinot

Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Genre: Historical Fiction

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot’s heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother’s schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot’s wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois Available for Pre-Order at


About the Author

SP Small
SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens and one of six contributing authors of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. A former attorney, Perinot is now a full-time writer. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.

An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times. Find her among the literary twitterati as @Lit_gal or on facebook at www.facebook.com/sophie.perinot.author.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wordless Wednesday, June 10

I've finished back-to-back delicious reads in the last few weeks, but still can't quite motivate myself to get on reviews.

Wordless Wednesday is deeply appealing, needless to say.

Just started this read, and am in love already. Continuing my slow progress through this vest -- my first attempt at cables. Here's hoping I finish before Unabridged Baby outgrows it (like my last endeavor!).

Tell me about your day, in books or projects or pictures.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Interview with Alex Myers

Back in January of this year, I read and greatly enjoyed Alex Myers' Revolutionary War-era historical novel, Revolutionary, about his ancestor Deborah Samson (check out my review here). Samson enlisted in the Continental Army as a man, Robert, and struggles to understand how to live fully the life that brings the most satisfaction.

Myers kindly agreed to an interview, back in January, and I just flaked like a flaking thing and am only now posting it. Please read on to learn more about Myers and Revolutionary!

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

An older woman comes home to discover that her house has been robbed. The thieves have taken her silver, nothing else. This disturbs her for some reason... and as she walks through the house she is led to wonder what really has value.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I try to write everyday, even for just a little while. I also write standing up. First drafts are always written by hand and then typed into the computer.

Was Revolutionary the original title of your book?

No. The original title was "The Continental." A faculty member at Vermont College suggested I get something into the title that more strongly emphasized the Revolutionary War. I kept thinking, okay, Revolutionary ________. And I couldn't fill in that blank. So, Revolutionary it was!

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

James kept surprising me. I wondered what his attitude towards Deborah/Robert would be, and how he would understand their time together. Whatever expectations I had kept shifting as I wrote him into being.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Read, run, cook. Those are my three favorite hobbies after writing.

Read any good books recently?

Oh, yes. "Inferno" by Eileen Myles. Currently enjoying Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy. I was delighted by "I am Abraham" by Jerome Charyn (my favorite sci-fi author) as well as the Maine writer Frank O. Smith's "Dream Singer."

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My thanks to Mr. Myers for his time and thoughtful responses. You can learn more about him and his work at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Revolutionary by Alex Myers

Title: Revolutionary
Author: Alex Myers

First line: A man in a blue coat crossed the common, and Deborah craned her neck to glance through the window.

Review: I'm woefully behind on this review -- I inhaled this one back in January, the first full length novel I read after giving birth to Unabridged Baby in November. It was a wonderful return to reading.

I'd been dying to get my hands on this one since it's original release; between the setting -- Revolutionary War -- and the premise -- a woman who passes as a man -- I was immediately intrigued. My eagerness was well placed as this is a wonderfully engrossing read that is impossible to shake.

Set in 1782, the novel follows Deborah Samson, an indentured servant who is a weaver in a small Massachusetts town. Frustrated by her present circumstances and impatient with the few opportunities ahead of her, Deborah signs onto the Continental Army as Robert Shurtliff. She finds soldiering immediately fits her personality and years of hard work allows her to blend in with the other recruits. In time, her identity as Robert the soldier blends, bleeds, and trumps that of Deborah, but as she tries to imagine what her future is like, she's forced to decide who she is and how she wants to live.

Booth took the stack of coats the soldier passed him. "Think of the lasses in Massachusetts weaving and sewing these garments for you," he said. The words caught Deborah short; she had been such a lass, weaving cloth at Sproat's, listening to the other girls talk of their brothers and husbands gone to be soldiers. She had woven and envied and wished, and now here she was, on the other side -- on the inside -- of that same fabric. (p72)

Samson is a real historical figure, and her time in the Continental Army is fact. Myers convincingly depicts the life of Deborah/Robert -- the historical details are fabulous, rich without being overwhelming -- and makes believable this fascinating story. (And the end, oh the end! I cried. In a good way.)

My favorite part of this book was Myers' narrative style and the way he articulated the conflicting push-pull of Deborah/Robert. Deborah is Robert and Robert is Deborah, and yet, each struggled to live fully within the social constructs facing them: Robert could live the unencumbered free life that Deborah always yearned for, but love and motherhood seemed something only Deborah could have. In the story, Myers would shift between identifying Sampson as Deborah or Robert, but this isn't a story of two people, or split personalities. It is a bittersweet -- and occasionally just bitter -- look at the complicated dance done when society tries to push people into tight frames, relevant now and compellingly done.

A wonder historical novel of Revolutionary era New England, and a fascinating biographical novel of a forgotten, but intriguing, figure. 

Publisher/Publication Date: Simon & Schuster (1/14/15)
Source: The author/publisher

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 18th Century / New England / American Revolution / War / Gender Identity / Romantic Relationships)
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland

Title: Mistress Firebrand
Author: Donna Thorland

Genre: Fiction (18th Century / American Revolution / Theater / Romance / Espionage / Mohawk American Indians)
Publisher/Publication Date: NAL Trade (3/3/15)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked very much
Did I finish?: Yes!
One-sentence summary: An American playwright and half-Mohawk British agent find love, danger,
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction, NetGalley & Edelweiss

Do I like the cover?: Oh, I just love it even though it has the headless woman motif.

First line: John Burgoyne was in New York.

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

Why did I get this book?: I'd heard great things about Thorland's previous novels.

Review: I've long wanted to read Donna Thorland as I love Revolutionary-era historical fiction and have seen rave reviews for her books. Happily, I wasn't disappointed with this read, which was atmospheric, detailed, and vividly done.

Set in 1777, Mistress Firebrand features a young American playwright, Jennifer Leighton. Niece to the much toasted actress Fanny Leighton, Jennifer aspires to fame, and considers a daring plan to do so: have British general John Burgoyne act as her patron. Burgoyne is a notorious womanizer, so British spy Severin Devere decides to ward off any distractions, but finds himself charmed and intrigued by the writer. Pretty soon, both become caught up in the war between England and the colonies, and both have to decide where their loyalties lie, a decision made more complicated by their very obvious interest in each other.

In addition to being a fabulously fun historical romance, Thorland tackles some rather "modern" issues in the story, which just ratchets the book from good to great: careers over relationships, safe sex through condom use, and the idea of pleasure and happiness. Jennifer and Severin (and their friends and enemies) felt historical grounded and yet, discussed and debated topics that are relevant to people today (which I love). There was a real struggle, not just for Jennifer and Severin to survive a war unscathed (which was exciting enough), but for the two of them to have professional happiness, too.

I mean, read this, from our heroine Jennifer. I practically cheered on the subway:

"...I have seen love up close now, and I will not settle for the kind that limits and diminishes me. You are capable of more than killing. I am capable of more than domestic devotion. I do not wish the kind of love that reduces over time who we each are. I want the kind that makes the whole of us greater than the sum of our parts." (p298-299)

Amen, sister.

There were sexytimes that were hot and plotty (and surprising!). There's a fabulous wealth of detail about 18th century theater (Jennifer is inspired by Mercy Otis Warren and her aunt by Mary Darby Robinson, two real life figures I love, so I've got love-upon-love here!) as well as exciting wartime drama. This isn't a fluffy read, not precisely, but it races from the mix of romance, tension, and humor -- a combo I love.

Technically, this is the third book in Thorland's Renegades of the American Revolution series, although I don't think they're actually connected in any way other than setting. I'm dying to get my hands on the other two now -- I'm a Thorland fangirl!