Saturday, December 26, 2009

Giveaway: Small Wars by Sadie Jones


The prizewinning author of The Outcast delivers the emotionally searing story of a marriage in crisis, an unflinching look at lives irrevocably altered by one of history's "small wars."

Hal Treherne is a major in the British Army, a young and dedicated soldier on the brink of a brilliant career. When he is transferred to the British colony of Cyprus in 1956, Hal is joined by Clara, his beautiful and supportive wife, and their baby daughters. The Trehernes quickly learn that the Mediterranean is no "sunshine posting," however, and soon Hal is caught up in the battle to defend the island against Cypriots seeking enosis, union with Greece.

Leading his men in difficult and bloody skirmishes, after years of peaceful service, Hal at last tastes triumph. But his confidence and pride quickly fade: traumatized by the brutality he witnesses—and thwarted again in his attempts to do the right thing—Hal finds himself well trained in duty but ill equipped for moral battle.

A seasoned army wife, Clara shares her husband's sense of obligation. She knows to settle in quickly, make no fuss, smile. But as she struggles to trust her own maternal instincts and resist the anxiety that surges with Hal's frequent absences, Clara grows fearful of her increasingly distant husband. When she needs him most, Clara finds the once-tender Hal a changed man—a betrayal that is only part of the shocking personal crisis to come.

What place is there for honor amid cruelty, and what becomes of intimacy in the grinding gears of empire? A passionate and brilliantly researched novel about the effects of war on the men who wage it and the families they leave behind, Small Wars raises important questions that resonate for our own time.

-Synopsis courtesy of the publisher


Harper Collins has generously provided two copies for this giveaway! For one entry, just leave me a comment here. If you would like extra entries there are instructions below. Giveaway open through midnight eastern time on January 20. The winner will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address.

+2 Follow this blog any way you choose (Google, Feedburner, etc) and leave a comment...if you already do, include that in your comment
+2 Tweet or blog this giveaway and leave me a comment to let me know that you did

Good luck everyone, thank you for visiting and entering!

Giveaway: The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell



In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.

At the end of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in ill health; his heir, an untested youth. His enemy, the Danes, having failed to conquer Wessex, now see their chance for victory. Led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair, the Viking hordes attack. But Uhtred, Alfred's reluctant warlord, proves his worth, outwitting Harald and handing the Vikings one of their greatest defeats.

For Uhtred, the sweetness of victory is soon overshadowed by tragedy. Breaking with Alfred, he joins the Vikings, swearing never again to serve the Saxon king. Instead, he will reclaim his ancestral fortress on the Northumbrian coast. Allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—he aims to invade and conquer Wessex itself.

Yet fate has different plans. The Danes of East Anglia and the Vikings of Northumbria are plotting the conquest of all Britain. When Alfred's daughter pleads with Uhtred for help, he cannot refuse her request. In a desperate gamble, he takes command of a demoralized Mercian army, leading them in an unforgettable battle on a blood-soaked field beside the Thames.

In The Burning Land, Bernard Cornwell, "the reigning king of historical fiction" (USA Today), delivers a rousing saga of Anglo-Saxon England—an irresistible new chapter in his thrilling Saxon Tales, the epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

-Synopsis courtesy of the publisher

Harper Collins has generously provided two copies for this giveaway! For one entry, just leave me a comment here. If you would like extra entries there are instructions below. Giveaway open through midnight eastern time on January 18. The winner will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address.

+2 Follow this blog any way you choose (Google, Feedburner, etc) and leave a comment...if you already do, include that in your comment
+2 Tweet or blog this giveaway and leave me a comment to let me know that you
did

Good luck everyone, thank you for visiting and entering!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!


Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

~Mistletoe by Walter de la Mare

Wishing everyone the happiest of holiday seasons!



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Post: Karen White, author of The Girl on Legare Street

Today The Tome Traveller's Weblog welcomes author Karen White! I enjoy Karen's books so much (see my review of The Lost Hours here). Her most recent book is The Girl on Legare Street, sequel to The House on Tradd Street. Thank you for joining us, Karen!


People are surprised when I tell them that my life isn’t glamorous. Sure, my eleventh novel hit bookstores in November and even managed to reach the New York Times extended list, and my publisher is already working on a major book tour for the release of book #12 in May, and I just bought the cutest, most impractical yet expensive shoes just to wear on TV interviews. But at the moment, I’m dressed like a homeless woman because I’m in “just finished a book and now I’ve got to get into the holidays” mode, I’ve been yelled at twice by each resident teenager (not including the one “You can’t make me!” from the 16-year-old male child regarding his haircut appointment later this afternoon), I’m sitting on a bed covered with three loads of unfolded laundry and umpteen unwrapped presents and wrapping paper, and I’m thinking I need to take the dog to the vet tomorrow because he’s chewing on his leg which means he has another skin infection.

See what I mean?

Sure, I get lots of fan mail—my favorite part of this job—but all I have to do is glance up at the sticky kitchen counters, the shoes, text books, and sports apparatus scattered liberally around the house like pepper on scrambled eggs, and I’m back to the reality of my non-glamorous life.
I don’t want to burst anybody’s fantasy bubble, but I feel a dire need to set the record straight. I recently signed a two-book contract for the continuation of my Tradd Street mystery series, but the books are going to come out two years apart because I simply couldn’t fathom keeping up with writing two books a year and having a life, glamorous or otherwise. When I mentioned this at a book club, the readers—and I love them all!—were up in arms that they would have to wait so long between installments. I told them if I could get the two teenagers, husband, guinea pig and dog to move in with them for a year, I might be able to write a bit faster. Oddly enough, I didn’t have any takers.


Yesterday, as I was cleaning dog vomit from the back seat of my car, I found myself wondering why I make my life so crazy. Why do I have to write? Couldn’t I just keep to a leisurely schedule of a book every five years or so? The answer is easy: no. Writing isn’t just something I do—it’s who I am. When I get a story snagged in my brain, I’m compelled to write it—even if it means carting my laptop to the carpool line, the horse barn, the football field or the laundry room to get it written.

In my November book, The Girl on Legare Street, the protagonist, Melanie Middleton, is forced to reunite with her mother 33 years after her mother abandoned her. There are so many hurts and misunderstandings in their relationship until Melanie discovers the real reason why her mother left her all those years ago. But that’s more than three decades lost to both of them, decades of stories Melanie and her mother never shared with each other. And in all that time, Melanie relegated her mother to her past, as if she’d never existed and her stories didn’t matter.
I don’t want to be like Melanie; I want to experience life and all its stories—good and bad—then put them down onto the pages of books to share with others. Even if it means getting less sleep than I should, and sometimes picking my children up from school at 3:30 in the afternoon still wearing the pajamas I wore when I dropped them off.


My life might not be glamorous, but it’s mine, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Besides, my children won’t be teenagers forever, and before long I’ll have a quiet, orderly life and house, and they’ll be calling me and telling me how wonderful I am and asking for my advice about life. And if that doesn’t happen, then I’ll just have to write them into my books so I can bend them to my will. Hey, I’m the writer and in my world, fantasies happen.

For more information about Karen and all of her books, please visit her website. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Review & Blog Tour: Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan

After surviving three painful miscarriages and a devastating divorce, Anna O'Shea has given up her draining law practice and tried to put the scattered pieces of her life back together. A trip with a girlfriend to the British Isles is part of her healing process, including a quick one day stopover in Ireland on the way home. They have time to visit just one castle. As she is leaving, Anna meets an elderly Irish woman who says that she has been waiting for her. She gives Anna a small wrapped package, which gets tossed unopened into her luggage.

And there the package lies, forgotten. Once home in Massachusetts, Anna falls into a jet lagged sleep, only to be awoken abruptly by the telephone. Her mother is calling to tell her that her only sibling, her brother Patrick, has been in a horrible car accident. He was on his way to New Jersey to pick up his son, Anna's sixteen year old nephew Joseph, who had been arrested.

Eventually Anna is the one who springs the boy from jail. She has always tried to be there for Joseph, just as she always tried to be there for Patrick. She knows first hand the awful pain of child whose father is given to sudden rage. Her father had been volatile and she can see the same trait repeated in her brother.

They arrive home late, too late to visit the hospital. During the night, Joseph has a dream that sends him, almost still dreaming, out to the living room to go through his aunt's baggage. Just as he picks up the mysterious package from Ireland, Anna walks in and assumes the worst. As she angrily grabs at what he holds in his hands, both are sucked into a violent vortex and pulled apart...

When Anna awakens she is on a cold beach, battered and bloody, with a serious wound in her leg. Joseph is nowhere to be found, though she searches with the last of her strength. The people who find her and save her life are kind and generous with what little they have. But as she heals, she begins to realize that she is not in 2009. It is a shock to learn that it is the year 1844 and she is in Ireland. The Ireland of her own ancestors.

At first she is so weak and sick, it takes weeks to recover the strength just to walk. Her focus every day is to find a way to locate Joseph and figure out a way to get back to their own time. But it is impossible not to become entwined in the lives of the Irish people and it is a constant struggle for Anna to maintain a plausible story and refrain from mentioning anything that might color future events. She has no way of knowing if their very presence in the past will change their own future.

Time travel books have a special place in my heart and I am always drawn to them. I remember reading Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder" as a teenager, I think that is where it started. Next came the fantastic novel Time and Again by Jack Finney and I was a convert. Since then, I have been fascinated by the process and the possibilities...or maybe I should say possible repercussions. I liked that Ms. Sheehan's mode of time travel was a dangerous, bloody business. It seems so much more plausible than the fall asleep in one time, wake up in another that is usually used in novels. She even mentions string theory (my Dad would love that)! She knits together the lives of the characters in a subtle but magical way, and presents them with enough drama to draw in any reader. This is an absorbing story that I truly enjoyed.

For more information about Jacqueline Sheehan and her books, please visit her website.

I received this book as part of the TLC Book Tour. For a complete list of tour stops, click here.

Now & Then is published by Avon, ISBN 978-0-06-154778-2

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It has been a long month and I have been completely out of the loop...I'm embarrassed at my lack of posts! But I have several reviews that will be up soon and then I'll get everything back to normal.

Wishing you all a fantastic Thanksgiving (and good shopping on Friday)!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review & Giveaway: Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton

Peter Kendrick is a Cambridge geography professor, a widow, and the father of nine year old twin girls. His life is hectic, most days he is lucky just to get everyone fed, clothed and where they need to be on time. Romance is just about the last thing on his mind.

When the neighbor's cat darts out in front of his Land Rover, the result is just a minor dent. The young woman who answers the phone at the insurance call center is unexpectedly friendly and helpful, pleasant. He remembers her name, Mina, and imagines what she looks like. Not that he really has time to imagine things like that, but she made an impression somehow.

In an embarrassingly short amount of time, about a month, there was a second incident. Peter was playing charades with his daughters while driving and rear ended another car. No real damage to his big SUV but the smaller car lost its bumper. So, naturally, when he calls the insurance company, he asks for Mina.

Something clicks between the two. Mina is a single mom with a ten year old daughter and a complicated family life. But they find they can talk to each other about all kinds of things. There is warmth and humor, an easiness of communication that both of them are attracted to. Hashing over life's problems in that weekly Sunday night phone call becomes the highlight of the week.

Of course, no road to happiness ever runs smoothly. There are always obstacles and twists that you can't see coming. But that is what makes this book so charming. It is about real life, everyday drama, the little highs and lows of any ordinary person. No theatrics, no heroics, just people doing the best they can with what life has thrown at them.

This is a sweet and gently funny story, with realistic and honest characters who win over the reader. I really loved this heartwarming book and am now a big fan of Rosy Thornton. If you want a book that will just make you feel good, you won't go wrong with Crossed Wires.

Rosy Thornton teaches at Cambridge University, lives in Cambridgeshire (lucky girl) and didn't write her first novel until after she turned forty. For more information about her and all of her books, please visit her website.

Crossed Wires is published by Headline, ISBN 978-0-7553-4555-7.

Rosy has generously provided me with a signed copy to give away (thank you so much, Rosy)! For one entry, just leave me a comment here that includes your email address. This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE and you can enter until midnight eastern on November 30. For extra entries:

+2 Follow this blog any way you choose (Google, Feedburner, etc) and leave a comment...if you already do, include that in your comment
+2 Tweet or blog this giveaway and leave me a comment to let me know that you did

Monday, November 2, 2009

Giveaway: Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb


It's 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he'll never forget.

LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone's turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.

Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina's word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone's business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from Qu├ębec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin' and Hopin' barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.

From the Funicello family's bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off), Wishin' and Hopin' is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we've been—and how far we've come.
~Synopsis from the publisher


Harper Collins has generously provided two copies for me to give away! To enter, leave me a comment here. The winner must have a US or Canada mailing address and will be drawn at random. Enter through midnight eastern on November 20th. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Anyone who already follows, subscribes, or has faved at Technorati still gets the extras, just mention it in your comment! Thank you for visiting and entering!

+1 become a follower
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it (note that you did in your comment)
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Giveaway: Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton


From one of the best-loved authors of all time comes an irresistible adventure of swashbuckling pirates in the New World, a classic story of treasure and betrayal.

The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English Crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses.

In this steamy climate there's a living to be made, a living that can end swiftly by disease—or by dagger. For Captain Charles Hunter, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking, and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it.

Word in port is that the galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in a nearby harbor. Heavily fortified, the impregnable harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of the Spanish king himself. With backing from a powerful ally, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy outpost and commandeer El Trinidad, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of island legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he even sets foot on foreign shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure. . . .

Pirate Latitudes is Michael Crichton at his best: a rollicking adventure tale pulsing with relentless action, crackling atmosphere, and heart-pounding suspense.

~Synopsis from the publisher


Harper Collins has generously provided two copies for me to give away! To enter, leave me a comment here. The winner must have a US or Canada mailing address and will be drawn at random. Enter through midnight eastern on November 20th. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Anyone who already follows, subscribes, or has faved at Technorati still gets the extras, just mention it in your comment! Thank you for visiting and entering!

+1 become a follower
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it (note that you did in your comment)
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Review: The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes (plus a Giveaway!)

From her happy and carefree childhood to her loveless marriage, Elizabeth Plantagenet always did her duty. Born the oldest daughter of Edward IV and his hated Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, she grew up in a world of privilege. Except for the months spent in sanctuary while her father was fighting to keep his crown.

She was a loving daughter and sister, there to support her family through the dark times that were to come. After their father's sudden death, the entire family once again sought the protection of the church, but to no avail. Elizabeth's two brothers, both heirs to the throne, were taken away and never seen again. Like so many others in a turbulent world, they were sacrificed to a powerful man's ambition.

Through all of the twisting, swirling political currents, Elizabeth maintained her poise and grace, trying desperately to avoid the type of machinations that her mother excelled at. And for the most part, she succeeded.

Just once, though, she took a great chance to change her own future. When she was sure that her uncle, Richard III, had murdered her brothers, she conspired to support another claimant to the throne. She took steps to invite young Henry Tudor, who had royal blood, to both overthrow King Richard and marry her to cement his claim. As a beautiful young woman, she wove dreams of love around the handsome Henry and waited with longing to meet him after his victory.

Her dreams were destined to be smashed, though their enterprise was wholly successful. Elizabeth and Henry founded a dynasty, the Tudors ruled England for many peaceful years. But Henry turned out to be cold and unloving...she never found the companion she had hoped for, though she found joy in her children.

Margaret Campbell Barnes first published this fascinating look at Elizabeth Plantagenet in 1953, bringing to life the world of a woman who had been largely forgotten, or at least overshadowed completely by her wildly famous son, Henry VIII and granddaughter, Elizabeth I. She was far ahead of her time, considering how popular historical fiction in general, and Tudor historical fiction in particular, has become in the past few years.

Elizabeth's world is lovingly created by this author, so that it comes to life with all the color and vibrance that are the hallmarks of excellent historical fiction. The story is fast paced and interesting (which is quite a compliment, because I already knew the facts and was still intrigued). If you are looking for the next Philippa Gregory or Sharon Kay Penman, give Margaret Campbell Barnes a try...she was writing what we want to read today fifty years ago!

The Tudor Rose is published by Sourcebooks, ISBN 978-1-4022-2468-3

Sourcebooks is providing one copy for a giveaway! To enter, just leave a comment here letting me know who your favorite Plantagenet or Tudor is. Winner must have a US or Canada mailing address and will be drawn at random. Enter until midnight eastern time on November 7. Thank you and good luck everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blog Tour: A Land Beyond Ravens by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (and an Apology)


First, the apology. I have had some medical issues come up suddenly about two weeks ago and it has really affected my reading. Basically, I haven't been doing any. It has been very hard to concentrate and so I am extremely behind. There are several reviews that need to go up but I won't be able to get to them when I was supposed to. I am going to work hard to catch up, but if I owe a review for your book it is going to be late. I am very, very sorry and I promise to get caught up as soon as possible!

One of the books I haven't read yet is A Land Beyond Ravens. The author was kind enough to send me all four books, since this one is the fourth in the series. I did read the first one, Into the Path of Gods, and I really enjoyed it. It is wonderful, complex historical fiction that reminded me of Helen Hollick's books (you all know how much I love her work!). I am so looking forward to reading the remaining books and will post reviews as I get to them.

I do want to point out that all of these books have some of the nicest bindings that I have ever seen. They have sturdy covers that feel wonderful under your fingers and are of much higher quality than most of the big publishers hardbacks.

Kathleen Cunningham Guler has a fantastic website here and several wonderful blogs: Lighting Up Britain's Dark Ages, Macsen's Treasure, Can't, I'm Booked, and Early Medieval Britain. If you love a good historical fiction series, give this one a try!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes

Who would have the nastiness, the evil, the just plain meanness to take advantage of a ten year old kid's plea for help? Satan would, that's who!

When Lucy's sister, Ellen, has a terrible accident, Lucy turns to their playhouse mailbox. She leaves a note, a plea really, for the survival of her sister. Her only mistake was a certain vagueness in addressing it: "To Whom it May Concern" is not very exact, unfortunately. But it got a reply, and her sister recovered.

As the years went by, Lucy managed to forget about that reply, and the creepy "I'll be in touch" included within it. She even managed to overlook the birthday phone calls that she received thereafter, the ones that asked what she wished for and somehow granted those wishes, even when the wishes were for a prettier face and bigger boobs.

Then, in her first year of college, the Devil came to collect his due. Lucy was placed in his ranks as a "facilitator." There are some high points: she never ages, can eat anything she wants without gaining a pound. And she gets to do away with the some really evil humans, sending them down her basement stairs to hell. But the drawbacks are huge. She has to sever her link with her family, for fear of causing them harm. And she is not allowed to have a close relationship with a man, no boyfriends, husband, children, nothing like that. She is lonely.

After years of serving as Satan's minion, Lucy's luck turns one day when she learns that there is a way out. A loophole. By fulfilling three tasks, she can return to her normal life and be free of the job, and the boss, that she hates. But, of course, the tasks are not easy. They take ingenuity and courage, will Lucy have enough of both to break the bargain that she made when she was just a kid?

This book was such fun! It is well written, has some hilarious scenes and a truly likable heroine. The story moves along at a brisk pace, it is a short book that just speeds by. The whole thing is charming and quirky, it even contains some nods to classic literature. Try not to like this book...go ahead, try. I'll bet you won't be able to. It is lovable. I, for one, will be fascinated to see where Elizabeth Leiknes takes us next.

Halloween is coming up, this is a great book (and a quick read) to get you in the mood!

This review was originally published at Curled Up With a Good Book

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Review & Blog Tour: The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl (plus a Giveaway!)


In 1870 American publishing firms raced to obtain copies of new European books. The copyright laws did not stretch to international works, so there was no regulation prohibiting a competing firm from printing any book. There was great competition amongst the big publishing firms to be the first to print popular new works.

When Charles Dickens died suddenly on June 9, 1870 he was only half finished with the book that would be his last: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. His American publishing house, the Boston firm of Fields, Osgood & Co, is anxiously awaiting the first half of the book to be delivered by ship. Young Daniel Sand, the assistant who was sent to the dock to pick up the pages, is killed on his way back to the offices. His death looks like an opium overdose, though his sister Rebecca, who also works at the company, knows that he was no addict.

The pages are replaced fairly easily, but Fields and Osgood both know that rival firm Harper & Brothers is breathing down their necks and will publish the first half of the book themselves as soon as the six installments comprising the first half of the book are published. The author's death means that the final six installments will never be written. Then they are inspired by a fantastic idea. If they go to England perhaps they can learn something about what the ending of the novel would have been. Armed with this information, Fields, Osgood & Co. would be in the enviable position of having exclusive content and would be assured of a bestseller, something their struggling firm badly needs.


The Great Charles Dickens, aka Chief, Inimitable, Boz

Originally, Fields was to have made the trip as senior partner. But he decides to send young James Osgood instead, along with Rebecca Sand as secretary. James is attacked on the ship going to London. The culprit, a swarthy fellow with a deadly walking stick, is captured and held in the ship's hold. Before they dock in England, though, the fellow has inexplicably escaped.

They have not seen the last of him. James and Rebecca take rooms at the inn across from Dickens' home, Gadshill Place. They have permission from the family to execute a search of the author's papers, though no one has any idea what the author's plans were for the last half of the novel. They find a few tiny clues, but not even the Queen of England was told how the book would end (Dickens offered to tell her, but she preferred to wait and read the installments with the rest of the British public).

As their search widens, they encounter more strange and eccentric people while following the twisting trail of Edwin Drood. Their time is running out, the last of the six installments will soon be published and they will have nothing to add to the final published book. Desperate to succeed, James accompanies a lunatic into London's violent opium dens, hoping to find more information...if he survives.

I really loved this fascinating mystery. It has everything, from a eye-opening look at the publishing industry of the period, both in America and England, to an equally hair raising lesson in the opium industry. I had no idea that whole areas of India were commanded by the ruling British government to grow nothing but poppies for the development of opium. Nothing else could be grown, not even food, so whole villages starved as a result.

The characters in the book are equally interesting (many of them were, of course, actual people), vividly drawn and so true to life that I sometimes felt I was reading non-fiction - though real life is seldom as action-packed as this book! Matthew Pearl has all his historical facts right and he blends them artfully into an absorbing, fast-paced thriller of a tale. Go and get The Last Dickens...you won't be disappointed!

I received this book courtesy of the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour. To see the rest of the stops on the tour, click here. For more information about Matthew Pearl and his fantastic historical novels, please visit his website.

The Last Dickens is published by Random House, ISBN 978-1-4000-6656-8
The publisher has provided an extra copy for this giveaway! To enter, leave me a comment here. The winner must have a US or Canada mailing address and will be drawn at random. Enter through midnight eastern on October 30th. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Anyone who already follows, subscribes, or has faved at Technorati still gets the extras, just mention it in your comment! Thank you for visiting and entering!

+1 become a follower
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it (note that you did in your comment)
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner
+1 go to Matthew's website
here and either sign the guestbook or sign up for the newsletter - make sure to let me know that you did in your comment!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review & Blog Tour: The Return by Victoria Hislop


Sonia's life in London is full, but not full of joy. She has a high stress job and a crumbling marriage. A chance stop at a dance studio and the resulting dance classes she enrolls in become the one area of her life that brings her happiness. So when her longtime friend Maggie decides to celebrate her birthday with a trip to Granada, Spain and asks Sonia to come, she jumps at the chance.

In Granada, the women decide to take dance classes and while Sonia is thrilled with the fun of the Salsa, Maggie is intrigued by the passion of the Flamenco dancers. While Maggie dances until dawn and sleeps all morning, Sonia is up early to enjoy the city.

On her first morning, she wanders to a small cafe, El Barril. She makes an unlikely friend there, her waiter Miguel, when she expresses an interest in the history of Granada and Spain. He turns out to be the owner of the cafe. When she goes inside, she is struck by the multitude of posters pasted on the wall, all showing one bullfighter or one flamenco dancer.

Their few days fly by and all too soon they are back in London. When Sonia goes to visit her elderly father she comes away with some surprising information. Her mother, who died from a degenerative disease when Sonia was a teenager, was from Granada. And her parents loved to dance when they were young, winning many competitions. But, as her father tells her, it was the fifties and everyone danced. She can't help but think that this is where her own love for dancing comes from.

As the weeks pass and Sonia's marriage becomes still worse, she thinks often of her time in Spain. Then, Maggie calls with the surprising news that she is going to live in Granada. She loved it there and can't stop thinking about it. As soon as she is settled, Sonia is invited to visit.

The first person Sonia wants to see after her arrival is Miguel. She has brought along a photo of her mother when she was young. She wants to know more about the history of her mother's birthplace. Miguel is the right one to ask. He tells her about the family who lived at and ran El Barril in the 1930's.

The Spanish Civil War was horrendous, bloody conflict. Miguel describes the war through the eyes of the Ramirez family, who owned the cafe. Pablo and Concha had four children: Antonio, a teacher; Ignacio, a bullfighter -and the man on the posters; Mercedes, a flamenco dancer -and the girl in the posters; and Emilio, a guitarist. Though they try to remain neutral, before long everyone is on one side or the other. The war turns brother against brother, even in the Ramirez family.

Mercedes is a talented young dancer and she is in love with a guitarist, a rising star named Javier Montero. The war separates the young couple as lines of communication are cut. Through the grief and tragedy Mercedes supports her family as best she can. But the day comes when she can wait no longer. If she is to have any chance at happiness in the war torn, hellish world she lives in, she must find Javier. She goes on foot, alone, walking from town to town, heartbroken by the violence and destruction everywhere but always searching.

When I was in London last April, The Return was out there and I saw it in every bookstore. So I was very excited to be able to read it for this tour. It is part modern novel with a bit of a mystery and part historical fiction. The author did a good job of describing the details of the Spanish Civil War, which I knew nothing at all about until I read this book. I did get a little confused about which political party was on what side at times, but that is probably due to my lack of education in this area. Which is why I love to read historical fiction! You gain some knowledge about a period while being totally entertained by a fantastic story. It is a vivid portrait of a turbulent time period. I really enjoyed it.

For more information about the author and her books, visit her website.

I received this book as part of the TLC Book Tour. For a list of all the tour stops, click here.

The Return is published by Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-171541-9

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Giveaway: Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

Another wonderful book that I reviewed last year, Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, is out this month in paperback. I really enjoyed this one! (Click here for my review). And I have five copies to give away!

Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest person he knows. By age 12, he was in high school, and by 15 he was attending a top-ranking university. And now, at the tender age of 18, he's on the verge of proving the Riemann Hypothesis, a mathematical equation that has mystified academics for almost 150 years. But only days before graduation, Mead suddenly packs his bags and flees home to rural Illinois. What has caused him to flee remains a mystery to all but Mead and a classmate whose quest for success has turned into a dangerous obsession.

At home, Mead finds little solace. His past ghosts haunt him; his parents don't understand the agony his genius has caused him, nor his desire to be a normal kid, and his dreams seem crushed forever. He embarks on a new life's journey -- learning the family business of selling furniture and embalming the dead--that disappoints and surprises all who knew him as "the young Fegley genius."

Equal parts academic thriller and poignant coming-of-age story, LIFE AFTER GENIUS follows the remarkable journey of a young man who must discover that the heart may know what the head hasn't yet learned.

~Synopsis from the publisher



The Reading Group Guide will soon be available here and find out more about the book and the author at her website.

Valerie at Hachette Book Group has provided five copies for me to give away (Thank you, Valerie)!! To enter, leave me a comment here. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes) and will be drawn at random. Enter through midnight eastern on October 28th. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Anyone who already follows, subscribes, or has faved at Technorati still gets the extras, just mention it in your comment! Thank you for visiting and entering!

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Giveaway: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

One of my favorite books from last year is out in paperback... (you can read my review here)...and I have five copies to give away, courtesy of Valerie at Hachette Book Group! I was thrilled that I got to participate in the Blog Talk Radio interview that Miriam did with the author, Kathleen Kent. It was fascinating and I'm so looking forward to her next book! If you want to listen to the interview, you'll find it here.

This book is such a great autumn choice for your book group! There is an excellent reading group guide available from the publisher here.



Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live.

Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft.

This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.

Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family's deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

~Synopsis from the publisher

I have five copies for this giveaway. To enter, leave me a comment here. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes) and will be drawn at random. Enter through midnight eastern on October 28th. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Anyone who already follows, subscribes, or has faved at Technorati still gets the extras, just mention it in your comment! Thank you for visiting and entering!

+1 become a follower
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it (note that you did in your comment)
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

+1 leave a comment on my review

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review: Pendragon's Banner by Helen Hollick (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, Book Two)

It has only been a few years that Arthur has been Supreme King of Britain, and they have been hard ones. Constant battles with the Saxons and other enemies, frequently moving to new locations, living a nomadic life in tents, all have taken their toll on Queen Gwenhwyfar and their relationship. Add to that Arthur's inability to remain physically faithful to his wife, it has all strained the love they have for one another.

The world is a dangerous place and the strength of their relationship is tested time and again. Through heartbreaking grief and constant malicious attacks, they strive to maintain the happiness that they had when they were young. But at times, that seems impossible.

When Arthur finally founds his own hall at Caer Cadan, the peace and security that Gwenhwyfar has been longing for finally seem within reach. And for a few months it does seem as if the outside world has stopped its relentless interference and slumbered quietly.

It doesn't last long. Beset on every side by the vengeful and greedy, including Arthur's ex-wife Winifred and the witch Morgause, Arthur desperately tries to maintain the peace treaties that are in place. He finds how impossible it is to be two men at once, loving husband and ruling King.

Once again, the author delivers a vividly alive portrait of England in the Middle Ages, complete with the complex political struggles of a tribal nation. This is one of my favorite Historical Fiction series, it is filled with excitement and drama, human heroes and truly wicked villains. Highly, highly recommended. You can read my review of the first book, The Kingmaking, here.

For more information about Helen Hollick and all of her wonderful books, visit her website. Many thanks to Sourcebooks for providing my copy for review.

Pendragon's Banner: Book Two of the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-1889-7

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review: A Marquis to Marry by Amelia Grey

When the Dowager Duchess of Blooming drops by to see Alexander Raceworth during his big party, he is seriously annoyed. He keeps her waiting for quite a while, what on earth could the old biddy want that justifies dropping by unannounced? Imagine his surprise to find that the dowager is far from elderly. She is, in fact, his own age, thirty, very beautiful, and a widow.

Alexander's Grandmother has recently died and left him a fantastic string of valuable pearls, called The Talbot Pearls. The necklace has five perfectly matched strands of pearls, each thirty two inches long. They are stunning. And locked up safely. There has been quite a bit of interest in them lately, since his inheritance was mentioned in the society column of the papers. Already, three different men have approached him offering to buy the pearls.

Susannah, the Dowager Duchess of Blooming, wants them too. But she doesn't want to buy them! She claims that they belong to her own grandmother and were stolen. She even has the paperwork to prove it. There's no way that Alexander is going to hand over his Grandmother's pearls, papers or no papers. He is instantly intrigued, though, with Susannah. She won't leave without that necklace, so she rents the house behind his, settling in and planning to convince him to at least take a fair look at her evidence.

Of course, romance blossoms between Susannah and Alexander. When the pearls are stolen from the safe they are kept in, their budding relationship is ripped apart. They both have the same goal, to get the pearls back from whoever has stolen them. Though they start out separately, the course of their investigations will throw them together and give them the opportunity to try to repair the damage.

This book reminded me a little of the great Georgette Heyer novels. The characters have a snappy and witty dialogue, it is such fun to see them spar with each other! It is a fast, fun read that sparkles with humor. The London scene is vivid and interesting. It is sure to please fans of Historical Romance!

A Marquis to Marry: The Rogues' Dynasty is published by Sourcebooks, ISBN 978-1402217609

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review (& Blog Tour): Betsy's Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace

The tenth and final Betsy-Tacy book begins with Betsy's return from her travels in Europe as the first World War starts. Her ship is overcrowded, a very different experience from her trip over. But she is elated that Joe will be waiting for her at the dock in New York.

And waiting he is! He wants to make up for lost time and be married right away. Betsy travels back to her beloved family and friends in Minneapolis to break the news that Joe will follow her within a week and he doesn't want to wait for planning a wedding. Betsy despairs of getting her parents to agree, but Joe is persuasive. Before they know it they are man and wife, living in their own small apartment and socializing with "the Crowd," which hasn't really changed all that much since high school.

Like any newly married couple, there are adjustments to make for both of them, and a few hurdles, too. Betsy has never been very domestic and keeping house is a challenge. Even worse, she has no cooking skills! She sets out to be the best wife she can be, learning to cook as best she can, though she still puts aside time for her life's passion, writing. Soon, the outside world intrudes in the form of Joe's Aunt Ruth, and then the looming American involvement in the war becomes a certainty.

Maud Hart Lovelace

I have always been a reader, my entire life, for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school the school librarian would gently tease me when I came in: "Are you back again, haven't you already read everything we have?" My early favorites were indeed "Betsy books"...but they were a different series, written by Carolyn Haywood. I vaguely recall some confusion about some "other" Betsy books, but somehow I never got my hands on them.

Now, I can't believe that I missed them. I just read the entire series, all ten books, and I loved them. I can see why they are so beloved, spawning Betsy-Tacy Societies and clubs of grown women who just adore the books and the author, Maud Hart Lovelace. This series has taken its place with my other childhood favorites: the Little House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, the Narnia series. They are enchanting.

Betsy is, to this day and maybe even more importantly these days, a role model that any girl would profit from. She is smart, full of imagination, ambitious, honest, able to learn from her mistakes, a faithful friend, a loving sister (most of the time). It is truly astonishing that this character stands the test of time this way, but she is as refreshing and easy to relate to as she must have been in the 1940's when she first arrived on the scene.

All of the Betsy-Tacy books are more than a little autobiographical. Maud used her childhood, her family, her friends and her experiences to build the world in her stories. Most of the characters have real life counterparts and my favorite part of these books is the bit at the end that shows old photos of the real life people who inspired the characters.

There are some upcoming events celebrating the re-release of the Betsy-Tacy books:

10/23 Bainbridge Island, WA at the Library http://www.krl.org/index.php/bainbridge-island 11/7 Highland Village, TX Barnes and Noblehttp://storelocator.barnesandnoble.com/event/3010339-8
11/8 St. Paul, MN at the Red Balloon Bookshop http://www.redballoonbookshop.com/
4/17/10 Dallas, TX, Dallas Heritage Museum http://www.dallasheritagevillage.org/

I received this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. For reviews of the other books in the series, and all the other tour stops, click here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday Suggestions: Gillian Bradshaw





It has been a while since I posted a Saturday Suggestion (Saturday Suggestions are to highlight a book, series, or author that I have read in the past, before I started blogging). This week I want to share with you a fantastic historical fiction author, Gillian Bradshaw. I started reading her books years ago when I discovered her Arthurian Trilogy:

Hawk of May, Kingdom of Summer and In Winter's Shadow

Hawk of May was her first book, published in 1980, and she finished the first draft of that novel when she was only seventeen!

She also has written a number of novels set in Ancient Rome or the Ancient World. I've enjoyed all of them but I think Island of Ghosts is my favorite:

Island of Ghosts: A Novel of Roman Britain
The Sand-Reckoner
Alchemy of Fire
Horses of Heaven
Render Unto Caesar
Cleopatra's Heir
Imperial Purple
The Beacon at Alexandria
The Bearkeeper's Daughter
The Wolf Hunt

There are several newer titles that I haven't read yet (but can't wait to get my hands on!):

London in Chains: An English Civil War Novel
Dark North
The Sun's Bride

If you love historical fiction and are looking for something new, give one of these novels a try. I recommend them! You will find Gillian Bradshaw's website here.

Thank you!!

Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!

About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.