Sunday, July 26, 2015


Oops, super late with this -- have had a bonkers weekend with a baby that is just flat out refusing to sleep. It's made my wife and I all kinds of sleepy and slow! Without further ado...

The winner of The Visitors is ... Jane S.!

The winner of The Wild Girl is ... Lindsey S.!

Congrats to the winners! Folks have until the end of day Wednesday to respond to my email; after that, I'll draw new winners. Be sure to check out my open giveaway -- more coming!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Weekend reads and enjoying free time...

Somehow, I'm at the end of my second week of sabbatical, and I don't have much to show for it, writing-wise. However, I've enjoyed spending days with Unabridged Baby, doing the things I can't when I'm working and I'm grateful for this time.

I have gotten in scads of reading, though, which is just lovely. Still behind on reviews, but this, as with so much else, is my new normal.

I'm reading Marci Jefferson's Enchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King’s Court, which is just gripping. French court drama, lesser known historical figures, witchcraft, and a not-typically-gorgeous heroine. I'm super in love.

What are you reading this weekend?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

Title: Miss Emily
Author: Nuala O’Connor / Nuala NĂ­ ChonchĂșir

First line: July and there is crisis.

Review: This lovely, slender novel imagines a friendship between poet Emily Dickinson and their Irish maid Ada Concannon.

I was immediately taken with this book, as both Ada and Emily are charming and captivating. The chapters alternate between their viewpoints, as the story of their friendship and the dramas around them unfold. 

O'Connor's Emily grabbed me immediately, an intellectually curious woman happy to be in her home, moved by the wilds of nature and the passions of the heart. She hovers in the kitchen for sweets and bakes as a way to shower love on those around her; she composes in secret and doles out her poems carefully.

Ada is a willing audience, a teenager fresh from Ireland, bemused by Emily. The Dickinsons are a kind family to work for, and she thrives in their home, yet heartache still hits her. It is Emily who rallies to defend her and who helps her gain some measure of happiness despite tragedy. O'Connor puts away any imaginary idea of Emily Dickinson as a pallid, passive ghost hiding in the rafters; the complicated and curious woman emerges from her pages, immediate and intriguing.

It goes without saying that a novel featuring Emily Dickinson should read poetically; in this case, O'Connor manages lyrical prose that doesn't emulate Dickinson's yet still offers the passion and boldness the poet captured in her spare lines. My copy is heavily dog-eared from the various quotes that caught me up and gave me pause, like
I look at her words, one by one. Love. Thee. Breath. Smiles. Tears. It pleases me that each word is solitary, a loner. Side by side, their staccato nature blends with others, but in the end they stand alone. Each word is a fence post -- upright, demanding, shrill -- but each one holds the fence erect, and as such, is indispensable. (p119)
From now on I shall be candle-white. Dove-, bread-, swan-, shroud-, ice-, extraordinary-white. I shall be blanched, bleached and bloodless to look at; my very whiteness will be my mark. But inside, of course, I will roar and soar and flash with color. (p121)

The more I write or talk about this book, the greater my affection for it grows, and it is one of my top ten reads for 2015.

I think this would make a fabulous book club read -- zippy yet bursting with wonderful discussion topics -- as well as those who love historical fiction featuring well-known historical figures. And of course, fans of Irish fiction and Irish authors must get this one!

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / Massachusetts / Irish Immigrants / Emily Dickinson / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Women Writers / Friendship)
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin Books (7/14/15)
Source: The publisher
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Miss Emily to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only, ends 7/31. See my Giveaway Policy for complete rules.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book blast release: Naked by Eliza Redgold

I can't wait to read this one -- I just love Godiva and am fascinated by the various ways she's seen in popular culture. Read on to learn more by Eliza Redgold -- and enter the giveaway!

02_Naked A Novel of Lady Godiva_CoverNAKED: A NOVEL OF LADY GODIVA

Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Formats: Ebook, Paperback
Pages: 320

Genre: Historical Fiction

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We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.


"Redgold's variation on this enticing legend is often lyrical and offers a satisfying blend of history, lore, and romance." (Booklist)

"Breathes new life into the story of the woman who would stop at nothing to protect her land and people." (Romantic Times)

"NAKED delivers far more than the famous ride of Lady Godiva. It's a beautifully woven story of love, loyalty, and the determination of a young woman trying to protect her people and their way of life, no matter the price. Godiva is a wonderfully strong woman in an age of dangerous men, and in NAKED, she certainly meets her match!" (Amalia Carosella, author of HELEN OF SPARTA)

"A wonderful, romantic retelling of the Lady Godiva legend. There is the colorful Anglo-Saxon backdrop, warriors, battles, peacemaking, desire, revenge and love - everything a fan of medieval romance could desire - plus a strong-willed heroin. Written with a lyrical lilt to her prose, Redgold adds realism to the myth and love to the lusty tale, allowing readers a glimpse into what might have been." (RT Book Reviews)

03_Eliza Redgold_AuthorABOUT THE AUTHOR

ELIZA REDGOLD is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. As a non-fiction author she is co-author of Body Talk: a Power Guide for Girls and Stay-at-Home Mothers: Dialogues and Debates. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

For more information visit Eliza Redgold's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+.


Tuesday, July 14
Boom Baby Reviews
Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, July 15
Genre Queen
The Maiden's Court
What Is That Book About

Thursday, July 16
Bibliophilia, Please
The Reader's Hollow
CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, July 17
100 Pages a Day
The Never-Ending Book

Saturday, July 18
Just One More Chapter

Monday, July 20
To Read, or Not to Read
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, July 21
A Literary Vacation
Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, July 22
Unabridged Chick

Thursday, July 23
So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, July 24
The Reading Queen

Saturday, July 25
Book Nerd

Sunday, July 26
Passages to the Past

Monday, July 27
The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, July 28
A Chick Who Reads


To enter to win a copy of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva & a $50 Amazon Gift Card, please enter via the GLEAM form below.


Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Giveaway is open internationally.
Only one entry per household.
All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva Book Blast

03_Naked_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dark Horse by Michelle Diener

Title: Dark Horse
Author: Michelle Diener

First line: Rose slipped her ticket out of hell over her head and tucked it beneath her shirt, where it lay against her skin, throbbing like a heartbeat.

Review: I'm a ginormous Diener fangirl, having read something like six of her novels, all of which are historical fiction -- so this is an unusual foray for her. Straight up scifi, this novel is a delicious mix of romance, adventure, and friendship that I inhaled in a few days.

Our heroine, Rose, was kidnapped three months back by an alien race known as the Tecran. At the novel's open, she has escaped thanks to the help of Sazo, an artificial intelligence, and launched into Grih territory, another species of alien who resemble humans.

Part of a collective of alien races who have committed to protecting (rather than experimenting on/torturing sentient species), her rescuers are horrified at what Rose has lived through and adamant at giving her life -- once they figure out just who was responsible for capturing her and just how dangerous she might be. Rose's liberator Sazo is learning how to live, guided by Rose, but just as she has some success in teaching him morals, she learns he's deeply unwelcome among her rescuers.

There were lots of ways this novel could have gone south for me -- an overly victimized heroine, aliens with Earth-like cultures, the artificial intelligence coming off as echoes of Hal, coincidences and easy ways out -- but Diener expertly unrolls a light sci-fi story that has emotional impact without melodrama, a little romance, and plenty of action.

Most refreshingly, and characteristic of Diener's heroines, is that Rose does the action stuff. Rescuing? She does it. Seducing? She does it. Being vulnerable, being wise? She does it. And she does it without being so good at it you want to roll your eyes. 

Fans of shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Gallatica will enjoy this one; if you're on the fence about sci-fi, this might be one to try. Longtime Diener fans will see in this the elements so enjoyable from her previous novels -- wonderful heroine, great sense of place, and brisk storytelling -- so give this a try even if you're dubious!

Genre: Fiction (Sci Fi / Future Era / Aliens / Kidnapping / Artificial Intelligence / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Season Publishing (6/15/15)
Source: NetGalley
Reading Challenges: NetGalley & Edelweiss

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

Title: The Wild Girl
Author: Kate Forsyth

First line: 'Wild by name and wild by nature,' Dortchen's father used to say of her.

Review: I begged for a review copy of this novel knowing nothing about but that it was Kate Forsyth's newest. Forsyth wrote one of my 2013 top ten reads, Bitter Greens, and I will basically read anything she writes. My blind devotion was well rewarded with this one!

Set in the early 19th century, this novel follows Dortchen Wild, neighbor of the Grimm brothers -- yes, those Grimm brothers. One of a handful of daughters of a cruel apothecary, Dortchen has had feelings for Wilhelm Grimm, but a relationship between them seems impossible: Wilhelm is poor and seems more interested in her older sister, and her father is ruthlessly controlling of her and her time. Still, Dortchen maintains contact with the Grimm family, eventually becoming a crucial source for Wilhelm and Jakob as they assemble their volumes of German folk tales.

Although I expected this novel to be more about the fairy tales -- perhaps even some retellings of Grimm's most well known stories -- this is actually a novel about how the stories were gathered, and most importantly, who told the stories to Wilhelm and Jakob.

In her opening note, Forsyth points out that the Grimm brothers were collecting their tales as young men at the same time of Byron and Austen -- not musty old men from the Dark Ages, as many (like me!) might imagine. Even more, the interest in gathering these stories came out of a desire to preserve rural German culture in the face of Napoleon's relentless conquest and rule. It was this political background that made this story most fascinating and illuminating, and the narrative is flavored by the terror of occupation and the cruel realities of war.

Dortchen and Wilhelm's relationship is slow to grow, made more complicated by some terrible abuse Dortchen suffers. Here is where Forsyth's skill shows, for she makes the tribulations suffered by Dortchen both grimly realistic and reminiscent of the trials of a fairy tale heroine, mythical and mundane in equal part. I didn't know whether to wallow in the unfairness of life or hope for magic beans to liberate her, but I needn't have worried as Dortchen is an immensely capable heroine. Her story left me teary and a bit breathless.

Fairy tale retellings are very trendy, and I appreciate this "behind the scenes" kind of story that makes those familiar stories richer and more intriguing. Those who like a knockout heroine who doesn't wait to be rescued will love this one as Dortchen has neither a Prince Charming nor Fairy Godmother to rescue her. This is a nice brick of a novel that reads very quickly and is wildly engrossing -- the kind of historical fiction that will send you down Wiki rabbit holes and stick in your mind for quite a while.

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / Germany / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Napoleon / Romance / Sexual Abuse)
Publisher/Publication Date: Thomas Dunne Books (7/7/2015)
Source: The publisher
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Wild Girl to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only, ends 7/24. See my Giveaway Policy for complete rules.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Giveaway: The Visitors

Sally Beauman's The Visitors made my top ten of 2014, although I still haven't reviewed it yet. (Sorry! I will someday!)

I was so taken with this novel, a kind of coming-of-age story set in the 1920s among Egyptologists, English peers, and the monied set. In some ways, this novel reads as two or three different kinds of books -- for good and for bad -- as our 11 year old narrator goes from glamorous Egypt back to the UK where she squares off with a new tutor-turned-stepmother before looking back on her life as an adult during World War II. But the voice is so compelling I couldn't stop reading.

The paperback has just been released by Harper Paperbacks, and I'm thrilled to be able to offer a giveaway copy. This is a beefy read at 544 pages, but just gripping.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Visitors to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only, ends 7/24. See my Giveaway Policy for complete rules.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Eeek, it's been quite a while since I've done a winner's post!

The winner of The Lover's Path is ... Christina R.!

The winner has been emailed and has until end of day Wednesday to respond. I have more giveaways coming up this week, so be sure to pop by and see!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Weekend reads and sabbatical soon...

A grey and steamy Friday here in Boston. And another few weeks without reviews -- shame on me! (Especially as I've sped through a number of great reads.) I'm going to try to catch up this weekend, but I find reviewing -- or at least, nailing down my thoughts on my reads -- a bit elusive these days. Exhausted is my new normal, and work is wildly crazy, and I just want to read if I have a few free moments.
A room of my own, from 2013
But...the second half of my sabbatical begins next Tuesday (!) and I can't wait. My goal is to write a second draft of my historical novel, and having finished my fabulous writing class with the equally fabulous Tim Weed, I feel better equipped to do so successfully.

So, for the next seven weeks, I plan to bang out about 10K words a week, and see if I don't end up with a slightly less embarrassing draft.

I'd really been putting off this second draft because, and I'm embarrassed to admit it, I wasn't sure exactly how one created another draft of something. In school, I was a first-draft-is-the-final-product kind of girl, but I know that's not the best work I do. In the writing class, I learned a few techniques and styles for rewriting a draft, and I've been doing tiny prep work in anticipation of really diving in. (If you're curious, I clumsily summarize my novel at the end of this interview with Lynn Cullen, after she asked about it.)

My reads this weekend are crazy ambitious, but in addition to writing, I hope to get a good chunk of reading done over sabbatical.

This morning I started Nuala O'Connor's Miss Emily and I know I'll finish it tonight -- it is that good, and that inhale-me-right-now readable. Yesterday I started Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me which is gripping, but a less zippy read.

What are you reading this weekend?