Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins

Title: The Turning of Anne Merrick
Author: Christine Blevins

Genre: Fiction (Historical / American Revolution / 18th century / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Women in War / Love Triangle)
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Trade Publishing (2/7/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: Yes -- inhaled this one in days!
One-sentence summary: Widow Anne Merrick disguises herself as a loyal Tory among English troops during their campaign to Albany while her true love fights with the American rebels.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Yes! First, the woman has her whole head, hurrah! And I like -- nay, love -- her dress. And she's sort of unusual looking for a histfic cover model, I think, which endears the cover to me even more!

I'm reminded of...: Diana Gabaldon, Sandra Gulland, Georgette Heyer

First line: In the distance, the resound of ax iron biting into wood echoed up from the valley floor, adding ringing harmony to the morning song of a nearby thrush.

Did... I find myself alternating who I wanted Anne to be Truly In Love With throughout my read?: YES. Both love options were wicked bohunky, and I do love a good triangle when it's fun and lacking wangst.

Did... I adore the Historical Notes at the end, detailing who was historical and what really happened with them?: YES. History, plus gossip equals win.

Am... I desperately hoping the end of this book is hinting at another book?: YES. Moar please!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy -- get this and the earlier book, The Tory Widow, for some delightful reads!

Why did I get this book?: I love fic set during the American Revolution -- so I needed this one!

Review: I loved this book. Just flat out loved it. One of my favorite historical eras -- the American revolution -- combined with a romantic triangle of sorts, great writing, and a fantabulous heroine that I desperately want as a best friend.

Set in 1777, this book is technically the sequel to Blevins' The Tory Widow which I sadly didn't get around to reading before starting this one.  However, I didn't feel lost at any time -- Blevins immediately pulled me in to Anne's story and she offered enough details from the previous book that I understood what had occurred and why people were behaving as they were.  (Word of warning, events in The Tory Widow will be spoiled for you if you read this one, so if you're a stickler for surprises, don't start here.)  Since I loved this one, I'm still going back to read The Tory Widow because I don't care if I kind of know the plot -- I need me some more Anne Merrick!

Clearly, our heroine Anne was the hook for me -- she's the kind of character I would follow for ten more books (I understand now why people get so rabid for Gabaldon's series!).  Blevins' storytelling was thick with historical detail, offered in a lovely style that didn't feel in your face.  Her history was human, and I loved seeing such a feminine side of war (so to speak).  Anne spies for the American rebels by maintaining her facade as a Tory widow while traveling with British troops.  Despite her patriotic loyalties, she's still moved and horrified by war and the results -- especially the deaths -- her actions cause.

Blevins doesn't sugar coat the historical horrors of war (even though she adjusts one military punishment for fear readers would think she was exaggerating!), but she's not blunt, over-the-top, or grotesque.  If you're not into romance, this might not be the book for you -- there's no heaving bosoms, but there is a romantic triangle between Anne, the man she loves, and the British officer who is cute and pays attention to her and is all dreamy and flirty and... (why yes, now and then I did indulge in some alternate universe day dreaming where they could be happily ever after!). 

So, long story short, get this book. Well, get this and The Tory Widow, and read them both. You can thank me later!

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled offer a copy of The Turning of Anne Merrick to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/international readers, ends 3/23.

I'm also giving away 18th Century Stationery – just the sort of sundry Anne Merrick peddled to those bloodyback scoundrels in Burgoyne’s camp. Supplied with a quill pen and wrapped for convenient stowing amidst your gear, these sheets and envelopes are perfect for scrieving all manner of secret messages – invisible ink not included. Open to US/international readers, ends 3/23. Fill out this form to enter!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin

Title: The King's Agent
Author: Donna Russo Morin

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1500s / Italy / Florence / Art / Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Kensington (3/1/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A modest noblewoman with a secret and an honorable, patriotic thief take a jaunty journey, inspired by Dante's masterpiece, in search of a sculpture that might change everything.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's pretty -- but I hate the truncated head shot and it doesn't exactly fit the story (other than imply, I presume, the heroine). I would have loved one of the pieces of art mentioned in the story, or something alluding to Dante's works -- anything but the bland costumed lady!

I'm reminded of...: Emilio Salgari

First line: His hands quivered ever so slightly.

Do... I like the author's blog?: YES. Donna Russo Morin shares historical tidbits and adorable geekiness that makes me

Was... I delighted to find that Russo Morin used real art and artists as part of her story?: YES. I love art and I've a soft spot for mystical magical hidden things in art -- it's so fun! That the mysterious Sebastiano Mainardi painting crucial to the plot was real made me so happy!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for a very diverting weekend.

Why did I get this book?: I've heard great things about Morin's previous books and I am just a sucker for histfic.

Review: This is a romp of a novel. The story literally bounces along, bops happily through Florence and Italy in search of mysterious piece of sculpture of immense importance, following clues from Dante's Divina Commedia, following clues in paintings that may or may not indicate UFOs. And yet, while it sounds a bit laughable and weird, it all kind of fits together and was, in the end, a great deal of fun.

Set in 1500s Florence, the story follows Battista della Palla, a Florentine patriot who steals art to keep Florence free. When he receives a mysterious request from the King of France to locate an even more mysterious sculpture, he comes across Lady Aurelia, protected ward of the Marquess of Mantua. Educated and longing for freedom, Aurelia allies herself with Battista and joins him in his search for the sculpture.

I suppose the flavor of this novel is 16th century Indiana Jones. While reading, I was reminded of Emilio Salgari, Zorro, and Errol Flynn movies. The playful thief-hero practically winks at the reader with each daring theft, and there's this overabundance of masculinity among the thief's band of co-thieves that begs to be slashed. It's campy, but what can I say? I love me some camp!

It took me some time to really get in to the story; the feel was a bit too bombastic for my tastes: first a theft! and a mischievous-but-honorable thief hero! and his adorably rascally and masculine crew! and a mysterious imprisoned woman! But about 60 pages in or so, I think the story settled in a bit and I got used to Morin's writing style, and from that point, I was sucked in.

The novel requires some suspension of disbelief and a willingness to not be a historical stickler (the heroine's behavior felt a little too romance novel-y feisty for me, a bit like Tangled's Rapunzel all grown up) but much like The DaVinci Code or the Indiana Jones movies, doing so allows for a delightfully silly, engrossing ride.

*** *** ***

Learn more about Donna Russo Morin: check out her webpage, Facebook, and Twitter. You can follow the tour on Twitter with #KingsAgentVirtualBookTour.

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The King's Agent to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only. Ends 3/16. Be sure to come back on Friday, March 2 for my interview with Donna Russo Morin!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Interview with Nancy Bilyeau

From the first line, I was completely taken by Nancy Bilyeau's intriguing Tudor novel, The Crown.  Following a noblewoman-turned-nun, this novel had everything I adore in a good book.  I'm excited to share my interview with Nancy Bilyeau, so read on to learn more about her writing, her book, and what she does when she's not reading.  Bonus: giveaway!

Photo of author Nancy Bilyeau
What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

I wrote stories in high school but I don't remember any of them now. Then there is a huge gap until I attempted fiction in the last seven years. My first novel is The Crown. But before that I wrote a short story in a Gotham Writer's Workshop class. The plot revolved around an American woman going to a cabin on a lake in Canada with her Canadian boyfriend to meet his family. Because it's me writing this, there are rivalries and drinking and illicit sexual encounters and finally a drug overdose. LOL.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Not ritual exactly, but I like to wake up very early--before dawn-- and have a strong cup of Earl Gray tea and get to it.

You've written for magazines like Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly, and have also written a number of screen plays. Why the move to novels and was it a hard transition?

I love screenwriting but I was frustrated by constrictions of length and how much I could dive into character. So I decided to go back to my first love, of writing fiction. For me it was easy to make the transition and I used some of the techniques learned in screenwriting in my novel. On the other hand, I can write a screenplay in a few months. Novels take much much longer. As for why leave magazines, I wanted to tell stories and craft characters. And I wanted to create something of my own, rather than deliver work to various corporations. I mean, my books are published by big corporations but I am the person responsible for them, not one member of a huge team that works on something that churns out every month or week.

image of book cover for The Crown
Was The Crown the original title of your book?

No, my title was The Last Nun. The publisher changed it.

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

The character of Brother Edmund kept surprising me. He sort of took over and became his own person. Readers have had interesting responses to him, too. One woman I know wants to wear a "Team Edmund" T-shirt. Ha.

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

Go to the movies. Take long walks while listening to my music. Do things with my children. My son really loves Chinese food these days so our mother-son activity has been finding different restaurants for Sunday Chinese brunch. His quest is to find the perfect won-ton soup.

Read any good books recently?


Right now I'm about one-third of the way through Robert K. Massie's biography Catherine the Great. It's amazing! He makes everyone so incredibly interesting and I love his psychological insights.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Crown to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only. Ends 3/9.

See more reviews by checking out the other blogs on the tour. Learn more about Nancy Bilyeau at her website, and follow her on Twitter. Follow the tour on Twitter with the #TheCrownVirtualBookTour hashtag!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In my Mailbox Monday, February 27

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in February at Metro Reader -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox.  I think I've finally shaken of my cold -- hooray! -- and my relishing my nights of reading again (instead of, like, wheezing myself to sleep at 9pm).


For Review

cover image for Molly Make-Believe cover image for Clair de Lune book cover of A Partial History of Lost Causes
book cover for Garden of Evening Mists cover for book We Bury the Dead cover image for People Who Eat Darkness

Molly Make-Believe by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
Clair de Lune: A Novel by Jetta Carleton
A Partial History Of Lost Causes: A Novel by Jennifer Dubois
The Garden of Evening Mists by Twan Eng Tan
We Bury the Landscape by Kristine Ong Muslim
People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry

Won

cover image for Next to Love

Next To Love: A Novel by Ellen Feldman, thanks to Random House Secret Read

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Winners!

This week four giveaways ended -- really good ones, too! -- so I'm excited to announce the winners.

First, my Jennifer Haigh-stravaganza!

The winner of Faith is... Brooke!

The winner of Baker Towers is ... Anna of Diary of an Eccentric!

I've also got winners for two more awesome books:

The winner of Gillespie and I is ... Irene!

The winner of The Kama Sutra is ... Terri C.!

Congrats to the winners! If you didn't win, check out my open giveaways -- currently five now, and more coming next week!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Reads and being frustrated...

So, I had a review scheduled for today but had to bump it as we've been internet-less for a few days at home. The repair tech just left, and hallelujah!, we've got internet again. It's shameful how badly I need my internetz.

However, I got a good chunk of reading done while repairs were underway. Today's Friday Read is The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin.  Super fun, very dramatic, a little silly, and perfect for my chilly weekend.

What are you reading this weekend?


Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

Title: The Technologists
Author: Matthew Pearl

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1860s / Boston / MIT / Scientific Thriller / Historical Figure Fictionalized)
Publisher/Publication Date: Random House (2/21/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: The first class of MIT faces prejudice, fear, and accusations of black magic as weird technological disasters plague 1860s Boston.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I don't think I have strong feelings about it, although I'm leaning toward 'eh' on it.

First line: Its proud lines intermittently visible through the early morning fog, the Light of the East might have been the most carefree ship that ever floated into Boston.

Do... I love Matthew Pearl's extras?: YES. His website has photographs of some of the characters as well as a prequel available for download.

Am... I totally keen to prowl around MIT now?: YES. I'm deeply saddened that I don't know any MIT grads so I'm going to see if there are any museums or halls open to the public.

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

Why did I get this book?: I love books set in Boston, and I've long been curious about Matthew Pearl's novels.

Review:  This is a hefty historical (496 pages) with a good chunk of nerdiness, a big cast, and a lovely mix of fantasy and fact.  Set in the late 1860s, the story follows the first class of MIT -- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- while the city of Boston is being plagued by bizarre disasters.  In an era when the word 'technology' was feared and the aims of MIT distrusted, the scientific studies pursued by the students was challenge enough, but made all the more difficult as the public accused the school of black magic.

I was telling a friend this book reminded me a bit of steampunk novels with the mix of fantastical technology although, if I understand correctly from Pearl's Afterward, the events and technologies featured were historically accurate. Pearl often had me wondering Is that true? about many an event and tidbit, and I was pretty captivated by that storyline. The novel has a number of diverse plot threads woven through, from the seemingly fantastical technological attacks on Boston to the Harvard/MIT rivalry that shaped the city's investigation of the attacks.

One of the most unique angles for me was the view of Harvard University as parochial and old-fashioned. Whereas the students of MIT were studying science without an overarching theology, Harvard students were not admitted unless they held Christian beliefs. (There's a scene where Prof. Agassiz -- a real naturalist and Harvard professor -- refused admittance of a student because he wouldn't refute Darwin's evolutionary ideas.) It was a fascinating flip for me as I perceive Harvard as quite forward thinking, and as Pearl is a Harvard grad himself, I appreciated his willingness to show his alma mater in a less flattering light.

Overall, a very entertaining read, quite meaty and thick with historical detail and characters. I wasn't emotionally sucked in but I was certainly interested in the characters and plot lines, and I think this would be a great read for those who like history but not necessarily historical novels.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Technologists to one lucky winner! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 3/16.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When A Man Marries by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Title: When A Man Marries
Author: Mary Roberts Rinehart

Genre: Fiction (1910s / Socialite / Domestic Comedy / Secret Identity / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Legacy Vintage Collection (2/14/2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: Yes, I inhaled this one.
One-sentence summary: Socialite Kit McNair is convinced to play the wife of a rich friend when his fashionable dinner party is crashed by his even richer aunt and much drama ensues.
Reading Challenges: E-books

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's rather sweet, which matches the mood of the novel, and hints at a scene...sort of.

I'm reminded of...: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Janet Mullany

First line: When the dreadful thing occurred that night, everyone turned on me.

Did... I develop a hot crush on both our narrator, Kit, and the object of her love/hate, Tom Harbison?: YES. Both were charming and dramatic and intense and fun and romantic and silly and totally hot (in my mind's eye).

Did... I have 97 bookmarks out of 154 pages of text?: YES. Honestly, every page had a line that was pure gold. See my Teaser Tuesday for a sample of Rinehart's sharp, witty, playful prose!

Did... I get in to a giggle fit so bad while on the subway that I had to pretend I was coughing to keep from looking like a maniac?: YES, true story.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy, buy, buy -- this edition is $1.49 and includes a massive gallery of images to help visualize the era -- super fun!

Why did I get this book?: I love vintage fiction, especially early 20th century stuff, and I'm a sucker for a socialite!

Review: I adored this book. Everything about it: the writing style, the characters, the ludicrous plot, and frenetic mix of romance, slapstick comedy, and mystery. Written in 1910, this novel features a very broad and comedic portrait of New York society, and it was a delicious escapist read for the weekend.

I'm going to try to describe the plot. Bear with me, because I know how over-the-top it sounds, and it is, but it's also hilarious and amazing and fun. The story is told by Kit McNair, a New York socialite who is rather indignant about her treatment at the hands of her friends following a trying week. The drama begins when her friend and former amour Jim Wilson has a dinner party with other fashionable, rich friends, which is crashed by his rich and old-fashioned Aunt Selina. Aunt Selina is unaware that Jim has divorced, and since she hadn't met his ex-wife Bella, Jim convinces Kit to pretend to be his wife. As if that challenge isn't daunting enough, things really get wild when Jim's butler is discovered to have small pox, the city quarantines the house for a week, and Jim's ex-wife Bella breaks in to the house to steal away Jim's butler, unaware of the quarantine. Amidst all that, there are robberies, a cop discovered sleeping in the basement, reporters stalking the house, and flirtations and hurt feelings galore.

This sounds messy, I know, but Rinehart manages these wildly diverse threads beautifully. Her characters are wry, funny, sarcastic, rude, snobby, ridiculous, and appealing. As a snapshot of Edwardian New York City, it can't be beat, and Rinehart's writing conveys so much in so little. Her characters are clearly the precursors to the '20s flapper era, and I loved this snapshot of early 20th century New York society.

This e-book edition was a treat as well: for one thing, the formatting was great. I love Project Gutenberg and Google Books for public domain reads, but the files don't always display right in my ereader -- in this edition, there's no weird characters or formatting, and the font size was great without my needing to zoom in on anything. There's an extensive gallery of vintage images to help give the reader a sense of the era (which I appreciated, because I did keep envisioning folks as flappers and not Edwardian-ish socialites).

I must disclose that I've started writing content for The Vintage Reader, the blog associated with the Legacy Vintage Collection, but that has in no way affected my opinion of this book. If anything, this book made me more excited about Legacy Vintage's future offerings as I adore vintage fiction and am thrilled to see these forgotten gems available to readers.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

The publisher has kindly offered a copy of When a Man Marries e-book (epub or Kindle format) to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/international readers, ends 3/9.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teaser Tuesday, February 21

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read & open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page (be careful not to include spoilers!)
- Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

It's been a long time since I shared a teaser, but I haven't broken out of my habit of including more than two sentences. I can't help this -- this book is hilarious and begs to be quoted at length!  Written in 1910, When a Man Marries by Mary Roberts Rinehart is decidedly modern in feel -- banter, silly mixups, improbable circumstances -- but also reminds me a bit of F. Scott Fitzgerald -- lots of wealthy people behaving ridiculously.  Our narrator, Kit, pretends to be the wife of a friend to keep the friend's wealthy aunt from discovering he's divorced.  Then the ex-wife, Bella, shows up under the pretense of stealing her ex-husband's butler.
...we went downstairs in a line to welcome Bella, to try to make her feel at home, and to forget her deplorable situation.  Leila had worked herself into a really sympathetic frame of mind.

"Poor dear," she said, on the way down.  "Now don't grin, anybody, just be cordial and glad to see her.  I hope she doesn't cry; you know the spells she takes."

We stopped outside the door, and everybody tried to look cheerful and sympathetic, and not grinny -- which was as hard as looking as if we had a cup of tea -- and then Jim threw the door open and we filed in.

Bella was comfortably reading by the fire.  She had her feet up on a stool and a pillow behind her head.  She did not even look at us for a minute; then she merely glanced up as she turned a page.

"Dear me," she said mockingly, "what a lot of frumps you are!  I had hoped it was someone with my breakfast."

Then she went on reading.  As Leila said afterward, that kind of person OUGHT to be divorced. (p70)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Title: Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Thriller / Amnesia / Unreliable Narrator / UK)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Paperbacks (2/7/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did -- I was too petrified to stop!
One-sentence summary: A woman wakes to find herself in her 40s without a memory of her last twenty years or so, and each day she starts over trying to untangle the mystery of how it happened.

Do I like the cover?:I hate it, but I actually think it fits the book very well, and it's creepy and striking.  So...maybe I like it!

I'm reminded of...: Jennifer McMahon

First line: The bedroom is strange.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow, especially if you're facing a gloomy weekend (weather-wise): the ambiance will make this even creepier!

Why did I get this book?: Some heavy hitters blurbed this book positively -- Dennis Lehane, Lionel Shriver, Anita Shreve -- so I figured I'd give it a try!

Review: Last year, I read something like three books featuring main characters with a traumatic brain injury that caused them to forget parts of their past. I'm sort of over that theme, but there was so much buzz about this book that I decided to get over myself and read this one. From the first chapter, and the narrator's disorienting crash in to reality and her life (even if she doesn't believe this is her life), I was grabbed: there's an immediacy that comes from her horror and her apprehension. Even more, it's impossible to trust anyone -- at least I couldn't conceive of trusting anyone in this tale -- which meant every revelation felt suspicious, and I just couldn't put the book down. I had to know!

I must admit I was reminded greatly of Momento, so some of the oomph of the premise -- the journal, the don't-trust-Ben stuff -- didn't feel as shocking to me as I think they were supposed to be, but Watson's writing is solid, and there's tension is spades. I couldn't put this book down because I didn't want to leave our heroine, Chrissy, alone!

Overall, this is a solid thriller, and if you're not the type to try to 'solve' the mystery, then I think it'll captivate you for a few days. Everything wrapped up a little too neatly for me, but I think it would have been impossible to find a perfect ending for this book. A diverting read!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday, February 20

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in February at Metro Reader -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox.  I'm sick again -- can you believe it?!  But another amazing week of arrivals perked me up!  What did you get this week? Read any of these?


For Review





A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez
The Sumerton Women by D.L. Bogdan
Coming of the Storm: Book One of Contact: The Battle for America by W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O'Neal Gear
Fire the Sky: Book Two of Contact: The Battle for America by W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O'Neal Gear
A Searing Wind: Book Three of Contact: The Battle for America by W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O'Neal Gear
The Receptionist by Janet Groth
The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
Girl Reading by Katie Ward
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear
The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Won



Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl, thanks to Stiletto Storytime

Purchased



An Arsonist's Guide To Writers' Homes In New England: A Novel by Brock Clarke

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Winner!

Just one giveaway ending this week!

The winner of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is ... Kathy of Bermudaonion!

If you didn't win, no worries -- I have a ton of open giveaways!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Crown
Author: Nancy Bilyeau

Genre: Fiction (Tudor / Reformation / 16th century / Nuns / Religious Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Touchstone Publishing (1/10/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked immensely/basically loved.
Did I finish?: I did -- zoomed through this one without stop!
One-sentence summary:
Reading Challenges: E-books, Historical Fiction, NetGalley

Do I like the cover?: I love it. Even though it sort of has a The DaVinci Code-ish feel to it, I find it striking and unusual for a Tudor-set hist fic.

I'm reminded of...: Mary Doria Russell

First line: When a burning is announced, the taverns off Smithfeld order extra barrels of ale, but when the person to be executed is a woman and one of noble birth, the ale comes by the cartload.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this one is worth getting. History, action, unique take on a popularly novelized time, and great storytelling.

Why did I get this book?: The cover, plus I love novels with nuns.

Review: I dare you to read the first sentence and not want to keep going. From that oomph of a beginning, Bilyeau's fantastically fun and engrossing historical novel takes what is an overdone era (for me) -- the Tudors -- and provides a fun angle: the story of a noblewoman-turned-nun who finds herself an enemy of the state when Henry VIII declares himself head of the Church. At the novel's open, she's left her convent -- without permission -- to attend the public execution of her beloved cousin, and finds herself embroiled in both a battle for her faith and a fight for a legendary relic. While this has shades of Dan Brown, I didn't find this plot twist to be tiresome or over-the-top: it was the right mix of mystery and thriller.

Bilyeau's writing is the winner for me: her characters were fantastic and the pacing wonderful. In particular, I found her articulation of Joanna's faith understandable, even if one isn't a devout Catholic. Despite the religious theme to the plot, this novel isn't inspirational. (I think more Mary Doria Russell than Rumor Godden.)

Even if you're suffering Tudor fatigue like me, give this novel a try -- I loved the focus on the religious community and Henry and his sexual shenanigans aren't a part of the story the way much of the Tudor fic is. The novel's heroine, Joanna Stafford, was wonderful -- human, real, authentic to the era and herself, and quite compelling. She's made the list of fictional character I'd like to have as a real life bestie.

A wonderfully fun debut -- treat yourself and pick this one up, especially if you're a historical fiction fan. I understand there's a second Joanna Stafford novel coming, for which I am deeply grateful. Joanna is a heroine I want to spend more time with and I'm wicked excited for Bilyeau's next novel.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Crown to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only. Ends 3/9. Be sure to return on Feb 27 for my interview with the author and another chance to enter!

See more reviews by checking out the other blogs on the tour. Learn more about Nancy Bilyeau at her website, and follow her on Twitter. Follow the tour on Twitter with the #TheCrownVirtualBookTour hashtag!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

Title: The Garden Intrigue
Author: Lauren Willig

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Regency / Napoleon / France / Ex-pats / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Contemporary / Academia Setting)
Publisher/Publication Date: Dutton Adult (2/16/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Really, really liked!
Did I finish?: I did, super fast.
One-sentence summary: British spies in Napoleonic France, a contemporary American historian struggling with love and vocation, and a mysterious invention that might change history all come together in this breezy novel.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I loathe it. Other books in the series featured art but these newer ones have the awkward, headless model thing going and this weird grocery store romance cover vibe.

I'm reminded of...: Janet Mullaney, Carol K. Carr

First line: "A little to the left....A little to the...No!"

Do... I absolutely adore Lauren Willig's website?: YES. A section detailing the artist and painting title of her book covers (thank you!), detailed bibliographies for each book, a suggested reading order for the contemporary and historical storylines, there's a wealth of delicious extras available to her readers.

Did... I have another night or two of late-night snickering while reading?: YES. Which was especially cruel since my wife and I have both been afflicted with this hideous plague and are in desperate need of sleep. I just dosed my wife up on cold medicine, though, and she stopped noticing my laughter!

Did... I enjoy the references to specific places in Harvard Square?: YES. I even get my baked goods at the same market Eloise does!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure, but be prepared to want to go back and start the whole series!

Why did I get this book?: I've heard nothing but praise for this series and have been dying to give it a try.

Review: It's been impossible not to hear all the raves for Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, but I've somehow never gotten around to starting it, despite all the promise. Featuring a Harvard-educated heroine who researches Regency-era spies, the series seems a bit like chick-lit-meets-hist-fic in the best way.

And now, I understand why people are so enamored of this series: it's cute, breezy, easy, and diverting. Corset-clad beach read. (Shift-clad beach read? I'm shaky on my Regency undergarments. You get my quip, right??) Despite this being the 9th book in the series, I didn't feel like I was stepping into a story midway. I think the contemporary heroine and the Pink Carnation are two characters common to the series; the rest, I couldn't say. Regardless, Willig immediately pulled me in to story with her clever, bantering main characters and yummy mix of history and romance.

The setting is France, just as Napoleon has declared himself emperor, and the place is thick with British spies (under various covers) and American ex-pats and ambassadors. There are echoes of Much Ado About Nothing in the story, from the contemporary plot line -- where a version is being filmed -- to the Beatrice-and-Benedick-ish prickliness between our historical heroes, Augustus and Emma. Banter plus Shakespeare-ish-ness plus romance? Sign me up!

My only complaint was Eloise, the modern-day heroine, who has that rather aggravating habit of avoiding her big girl responsibilities and being proactive and, say, talking to her boyfriend. Most of the plot related to her unfolded from her passive refusal to take charge of her life, and I found myself skipping through her portions of the book -- which was fine, since her story was only a fraction of the entire novel. (She's the reason I never finished The Pink Carnation -- I couldn't stand her long enough to get to the historical part.) Blessedly, most of this novel was devoted to our Regency cast and I'm eager to remain firmly in their world. I'm going back and starting The Pink Carnation immediately -- if the ninth book is this good, I can only imagine the other eight!

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Garden Intrigue to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 3/9.  For more reviews, be sure to check out the rest of the blogs on the tour!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Interview with Anne Clinard Barnhill

Last week I read Anne Clinard Barnhill's exploration of Anne Boleyn's reign in her novel At the Mercy of the Queen. Inspired by her real-life ancestors and her interest in the Tudors, her first novel is a coming-of-age story in a time and place fraught with dangers.  I'm excited to share my interview with her; read on the learn more about her, her writing, and what she does when she's not writing!  (Plus, there's another opportunity to win a copy of her book!)

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

Oh my, that's a tough one--I've been telling stories since I was quite young. I'd say my very first story was about a young girl who discovers an old ring in the farmland surrounding her new Virginia home, takes it home, cleans it up and begins to wear it. As she wears it, she begins to change--she stays in her room, reading about history, particularly the Civil War. She dresses strangely, in longer and longer skirts. The ring haunts her and her identity becomes confused with that of the original owner. Basically, a ghost story.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Absolutely! I try to walk everyday and eat healthy foods, especially when in the middle of a book. Though AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN is my first novel, it's not my first book. In 2007, I wrote a memoir, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ: Autism, My Sister and Me, which Fred Chappell called "a story filled with suspense, humor, empathy, frustration, triumph and heartbreak--her words will go to the heart of every reader." For that book, I ate a lot of fruits and veggies, staying away from sugar and white flour. I have this strange sense that when I write, I need to be in the best possible shape, mentally, spiritually and physically.

In 2009, my short story collection, WHAT YOU LONG FOR, came out, "a cause for celebration" according to Julianna Baggott. Before I even began writing those stories, I played three, and only three, games of 'spider solitaire' on my computer. If I go beyond my limit, I fritter away the whole morning!
To get into the right spiritual/emotional frame of mind, I meditate and write in my journal--venting all the negative emotions so that the stories can come out unfettered. While I was writing AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN, I surrounded myself with research materials--literally. I would read before bed and then sleep with the books, hoping I'd absorbed and retain the knowledge by osmosis! I prefer writing in the mornings from about 8:30 until around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Then, I do the domestic duties required, walk, read for pleasure, etc. I'm not nearly as compulsive as all this makes me sound. I struggle to maintain any semblance of routine.

Was At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn the original title of your book?

No, I had called it 'The Queen's Whore' but the editor didn't like that. I'm very happy with the title as it now stands. The other title sounds a bit harsh.

As you were writing At the Mercy of the Queen, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I'm always surprised by one character or another--I hadn't expected Arthur Brandon to show up on the page, but there he was, cocky and sexy and handsome. And he wouldn't go away. He kept popping up, demanding my attention. He sort of took over as the romantic lead--not what I'd thought would happen. But this is my first attempt at historical fiction--I have a lot to learn about this genre.

According to your website, you're working on a second novel set in Tudor England. What about the Tudors or that era grabs you?

I've always been a Tudor fan, or obsessed might be a better word. I am not sure there is any one thing that grabs me--as a lover of Shakespeare's plays, I very much enjoy the language and the drama of the age. If a writer wrote a story that followed all the stuff that happened in the Tudor court, no one would believe it. But because it's history, we know it happened and it's just chocked full of all the good emotions for a riveting story: passion, love, jealousy, ambition, betrayal--and, since it is the beginning of the modern age, we have much in common with that time--struggles with religion, struggles with gender identity (think of Shakespeare and al l those cross-dressing characters) struggles with human rights versus the powers that be. It's all there and it's all here, too.

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

I love to read and hike in the woods. Enjoy dancing when I can get my husband to agree--not often! I like ballet and the symphony and scouring consignment stores to find really great deals and unusual stuff.

Read any good books recently?

Right now, I'm reading Sere Prince Halverson's The Underside of Joy, which I am really loving. Just finished The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone which is not yet out--I'm reading that one for review. Also just finished Marilyn Robinson's Home and Alison Weir's Mary Boleyn: Mistress of Kings. I have a huge stack by my bed of books clamoring to be read! I enjoyed The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau--also set in Tudor times.

*** *** ***

My thanks to Ms. Barnhill for her time and answers. You can learn more about her at her website, and follow her on Twitter. Check out the blog tour for At the Mercy of the Queen and follow along on Twitter: #MercyOfTheQueenVIrtualTour.

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to be able to offer a copy of At the Mercy of the Queen to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 3/2.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

Title: The Baker’s Daughter
Author: Sarah McCoy

Genre: Fiction (Historical / WWII / Germany / Nazis / Contemporary / Immigration / Texas / Bakeries)
Publisher/Publication Date: Crown (1/24/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did -- I was halfway through this book without realizing it -- it reads very fast!
One-sentence summary: Parallel stories of two women facing their own grey areas in life -- Elsie, a German woman during WWII, and Reba, a contemporary American woman dating a Border Patrol agent.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories

Do I like the cover?: I do! I don't think it has anything to do with the story at all, but it's wicked pretty!

I'm reminded of...: Camille Noe Pagan

First line: Long after the downstairs oven had cooled to the touch and the upstairs had grown warm with bodies cocooned in cotton sheets, she slipped her feet from beneath the thin coverlet and quietly made her way through the darkness, neglecting her slippers for fear that their clip might wake her sleeping husband.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure -- this would be a great novel for book clubs as there are so many facets that beg exploration and discussion.

Why did I get this book?: The pretty cover!

Review: I started this book and felt a bit stony about the story: the writing felt kind of casually journalistic, like an A&E piece in a local paper, and rather snobbily I thought this might be a topical, fluffy read. After picking up the book yesterday morning in bed, I had my nose in it on my walk to the subway, and I settled in once seated on the train. When my commute ended, I was irritated at having to put my book away -- and stunned to see I had raced through more than half the book. What I initially wrote off as something simplistic turned out to be an engrossing, engaging, and moving exploration of love, family, obligation, and the terrible grey area we live in.

Modern-day Reba, a reporter with emotional damage and an eating disorder, interviews a German baker on Christmas traditions. The German baker, Elsie, remembers only the Christmas in 1944 when she went to a Nazi party, got engaged to an SS officer, and tried to leverage that power to help a few people she could. Reba is engaged to a by-the-book Border Patrol Agent whose feelings on immigration are shifting and changing as he continues to face the reality of the immigration crisis in the US.

I definitely expected some simplistic acknowledgement of the gray areas in history -- not every German was a Nazi, not every undocumented immigrant is a criminal -- but McCoy's story tackles more than that. Without getting pedantic or uncomfortably political, her characters wade through intense emotional challenges that would best anyone, and as I was reading, I found myself empathizing with just about everyone. There were no handy villains to hate on; the world Elsie and Reba live in is sticky, and I so appreciated McCoy's articulation of that. All the secondary characters were vivid, which made me care so much more, as I was as invested in them as Elsie and Reba were.

The book closes with recipes, the ones featured in the narrative, which is wonderful because ohemgee, the food descriptions made my mouth water. I raided my local Danish bakery at one point because I was, like Reba, absolutely craving the baked goods.

This would make a great book club pick -- so many facets to invite conversation and discussion -- and it would make a good gift for someone who isn't sure they like historical fiction. This is an easy novel to read despite the complicated story and I have to applaud McCoy for presenting these stories in a human way.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

Title: Ragnarok: The End of the Gods
Author: A.S. Byatt

Genre: Fiction (Norse Mythology / WWII / Childhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: Grove Press (2/1/2012)
Source: NetGalley

Rating: Liked with hardcore swooning.
Did I finish?: Yes -- savored over a week.
One-sentence summary: A young girl experiences

Do I like the cover?: I do although I don't think it captures the feel of the story, either Byatt's little girl or the Norse mythology.

I'm reminded of...: Jeanette Winterson

First line: There was a thin child, who was three years old when the world war began.

Do... I love the Canongate Myth series so hardcore?: YES. I'd elope with it if I weren't already married and it was legal.

Did... I bookmark so many passages because the language was amazing?: YES. 53 of 193 pages were bookmarked because of some gorgeous, delicious turn-of-phrase, and that was me limiting myself!!

Did... I seriously fall in love with line after line?: YES. I struggled to limit myself with my GoodReads status updates.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow -- it's an introduction to Norse mythology for those new to it and those familiar with Norse mythology might enjoy revisiting it.

Why did I get this book?: If it's part of the Canongate Myth series, I'm all over it, and of course, if it's by Byatt, I'm there.

Review: This skinny book is really a novella, closed with a brief essay. And in that way Byatt does so well, this small book on Norse mythology also tells a story of marriage and motherhood, war, loss, escapism, violence. Insidious, along the edges of the larger story, what seems to be a straight-forward retelling of some aspects of Norse mythology actually tells us a story of World War II, Byatt-as-a-child, and the way a good story can help us escape our reality.

Unlike some of the other Canongate Myth pieces, Byatt doesn't twist or warp or reinvent the myth she's chosen. Norse mythology has never been a big passion of mine so I didn't have that immediate connection with the story that I've had with other books but Byatt's (possibly?) autobiographical 'thin girl' and the World War II setting pulled me in. I might not have connected with the story of Ragnarok, but I immediately understood the magic of reading, the absorption of a compelling, alternative world on a lonely imagination.

Byatt's thin girl reads a volume of Norse mythology, an English edition that extols rather warmly the impact of Old German on the myth cycle. The play of the 'good Germans' from the book and the 'bad Germans' of WWII was interesting ("Who were these old Germans, as opposed to the ones overhead, now dealing death out of the night sky", p17) and poignant: enemies and friends are so easily made and unmade.

Unsurprisingly, the language is gorgeous but simple, poetical and lyrical and moving. ("Baldur went, but he did not come back. The thin child sorted in her new mind things that went and came back, and things that went and did not come back. Her father with his flaming hair was flying under the hot sun in Africa, and she knew in her soul that he would not come back.", p86) Byatt's narrative reads like a collection of myths, myth-of-the-thin-girl and myth of Ragnarok, and every page invites rereading.

Byatt's closing essay was interesting -- about why she chose to tell the story as she did, what she had hoped to do, what she didn't do -- but I wish it hadn't been included. I made the mistake of reading it immediately upon finishing, and it took some of the warmth away from the story as I chewed over her analysis rather than the feelings she provoked in me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Title: At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn
Author: Anne Clinard Barnhill

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Tudors / Reformation England / Historical Figures Fictionalized)
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Griffin (1/3/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did -- this reads quickly!
One-sentence summary: Young Madge Shelton is brought to the glittering court of Anne Boleyn, where she finds love, lust, and court intrigue in spades.
Reading Challenges: A to Z Reading Challenge, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I don't hate it -- I think the cover model looks a bit like Natalie Portman, which is kind of distracting.

First line: Already the grassy fields surrounding Hever Castle were greening, though Easter was several weeks away.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow.

Why did I get this book?: I was intrigued by the familiar Tudor tale seen through the eyes of a lesser known cousin.

Review: Despite my love of hist fic, the Tudors are among my least favorite which is sad since there's a glut of novels on them. However, I'm not opposed to the setting and so when I learned about Anne Clinard Barnhill's novel featuring Anne Boleyn's cousin, I was curious.

Barnhill's premise is that Margaret "Madge" Shelton, cousin of Anne Boleyn, is brought to court as one of Anne's ladies. In the course of her time there she's wooed and wowed and seduced -- and pimped out to the king by her own cousin. I confess, it was that set up that most intrigued me: how do you make such an unsavory story human, real, and the players appealing? I love novels that explore the lives of women, especially in settings like this, where power is tenuous and dependent on, essentially, bartering one's body.

For the most part, this novel works in that regard: Barnhill presents the mix of assumed piety and open sexuality that made up Henry and Anne's court. Her portrayal of Anne Boleyn, as seen through her cousin's eyes, felt real although I found Madge, our heroine, to be a bit too perfect and guileless and pretty.

Barnhill uses dialogue primarily to provide back story and context, so for a good portion of the beginning, we're subjected to awkward lectures and weird speeches to set up the novel. That would be my biggest complaint -- the writing style -- but it grew on me as the story progressed and less explanatory exposition was needed. This volume has great extras to help the reader along (like a timeline, background on Margaret Shelton, and recommended reading) although I would have loved a who's who since I always mix up courtiers and cousins and mistresses.

This would be a great historical novel for someone new to the Tudors or someone who doesn't care much for dates and battles and minute court intrigue. Ultimately, this is a coming of a story during a tumultuous time when a woman at court had to be modest and knowing, when a kiss could make or break one's reputation. Barnhill's focus is on a young woman trying to find her footing in such a world, and its an inviting debut.

** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to be able to offer a copy of At the Mercy of the Queen to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 3/2.

Check out the other blogs on this tour. Learn more about Anne Clinard Barnhill at her website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana

Title: Kama Sutra
Author: Vatsyayana, A.N.D. Haksar (Translator)

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin Classics (1/31/2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A new translation of the classic, notorious Kama Sutra -- without images, but still sexy.
Reading Challenges: Books in Translation, Dewey Decimal Challenge

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover. It's gorgeous, naughty, playful, sinuous, sensual, striking, and provocative. I love the Beardsley-esque-ish style and the colors. The flipside has even naughtier poses!

First line: The Kama Sutra was written in India nearly two thousand years ago.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure -- learn what this notorious work really is about!

Why did I get this book?: I'm still 15 inside and am curious about sex!

Review: No need to feel mortified reading this book! Blessedly free of awkward 60s-ish drawn illustrations, Cosmo-esque cartoon figures, or really disquieting photographs of therapist/lovers modeling the poses, this edition of Kama Sutra offers the original, notorious, and famed work in a clean, straight-forward translation.

I'll be honest: until now, I was actually unfamiliar with the Kama Sutra, other than the usual teenaged interest in checking out the naughty pics.  So I was thrilled to see Penguin's new translation -- I've been dubious of the infamous Richard Burton version

The Introduction opens with an explanation of present perceptions of the Kama Sutra, including the fact that more than half the titles in the US Library of Congress are non-academic translations. The Kama Sutra has come to represent, simply, sex, and the spiritual, ethical, and literary merits of the work ignored or forgotten.

Vatsyayana -- a celibate cleric! -- wrote his guide as an educational tool to shape the whole person. From straight-forward tips on sex, it also includes information on hygiene, managing a harem, and the fiscal challenges facing courtesans.  Obviously, some of the sections rang ludicrous for me, but I was fascinated by the very pragmatic and practical attitude toward sex, sex workers, and sexual partnerships.  Haksar, the translator, uses lovely, clear language for the passages, and the work is readable and titillating!

A super fun gift for Valentine's Day or an anniversary, this is a wickedly delicious read that is edgy without being embarrassing.  Plus, there's something to be said for reading such a notorious work and knowing what it's actually about!

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Penguin Classic's new Deluxe edition of Kama Sutra. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 2/24.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Title: Faith
Author: Jennifer Haigh

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Boston / Families / Catholic Church / Priest Abuse / Irish-Americans
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (1/17/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes -- I inhaled this book.
One-sentence summary: A woman reflects on her childhood, her family, and her brother, a Catholic priest, when he's accused of sexual abuse during Boston's 2002 abuse scandal.

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- I'm not wild about it. I vastly prefer the hardcover design which fits the familial theme of the story.

First line: Here is a story my mother has never told me.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy or borrow -- this is a WOW! book.

Why did I get this book?: After so many book bloggers I like raved about it, I knew I had to give it a try, despite the discomforting topic. I'm a sucker for anything set in Boston.

Review: Everything you've heard about this book is true. It's beautifully written, complicated, conflicting, confusing, emotional, mesmerizing, and captivating.

I avoided this when it first came out because I usually can't stomach any kind of child abuse stuff, especially sexual abuse. Having grown up Catholic, and been in Boston during the abuse scandal, it still felt too close to home. But after seeing so many swoon-y reviews of this, I was curious -- and my curiosity was rewarded.

From the first page, with the bitterly poignant opening scene, I was hooked. There's a sizzling tension to the story -- did Sheila's brother molest one of his parishioners? -- and I literally couldn't put this book down. I inhaled the story.

Haigh's strength -- and the reason this story is so emotionally engrossing, I think -- is her characters and writing. This fractured Catholic family isn't overly dramatic or lurid. They felt authentic and real. (Having grown up Catholic in an Irish family, it was uncomfortably familiar at times!) Haigh has some of the loveliest passages in her novels, poetic and pretty, simple and breathtaking.

I'm being purposely vague about the plot because the unfolding story is worth it. Whether you're familiar with the Boston clergy scandal or not, consider this novel -- despite the horrifying topic, the story is beautifully done. Ultimately, this is a novel about family, about love and growing up, about self-worth, and the faith one has in each other, in family, and in life. A satisfying read.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Faith to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 2/24.