Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield

After three years in the bloody trenches of World War I France, David Powlett-Jones is sent to an English hospital to recover from his injuries. He was born and raised in a Welsh mining town, where his father and two brothers were killed in a mining accident when he was a boy. He was accustomed to loss but nothing could have prepared him for the devastation he witnessed in the war. The injuries heal but the shell-shock requires a more creative treatment.

David's doctor has a remedy. He sends him on a job interview for a position teaching history at Bamfylde School, a boys' school in isolated Exmoor. At Bamfylde, David finds something special: a father figure, a surrogate family and a place to begin to forget the horrors of his war experiences.

And he does. The doctor has somehow hit on David's calling. He is young for a teacher, at only twenty one, but he has a gift for it and a passion for teaching history. He earns his degree along the way and becomes part of the fabric of the Bamfylde world, indeed one of the most important pieces of it. In a saga that stretches over more than twenty years, David's life has the same tragedies and triumphs as anyone else, but his are enriched by the students and the school that seem to cushion the bad times and magnify the joys of his life.

This is a rich and complex story. Though I found parts of it a little slow, there can be few books that describe so clearly the point of view of a dedicated teacher as they watch successive generations come and go. And I'm glad that I read through until the end, because the author brings the story full circle in a charming way.

It is also a wonderful historical novel of England between the wars, the author does an excellent job relaying the shock and dismay of ordinary people watching yet another deadly conflict building. I enjoyed this novel and I think anyone interested in English history, teaching or historical fiction would enjoy it, too.

To Serve Them All My Days is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-1824-8

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Giveaway: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out....

Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family's past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe - in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

~Synopsis from the publisher

Here's your chance to win a copy of one of my favorite books! The Historian was an instant success when it was published in 2005, and for good reason. It is part mystery, part classic Gothic novel and all fascinating, intriguing fiction. And now is a great time to spread the word about The Historian. Halloween is coming up and everyone needs a good spooky read for our favorite haunted holiday! This book would make an excellent choice for book clubs (lively discussion awaits), you will find the reading group guide here. Plus, Elizabeth Kostova's eagerly awaited second novel, The Swan Thieves, will be out in January. It has been VERY eagerly awaited...I can't wait to get started on it!

Valerie at Hachette Book Group has provided five copies for me to give away (Thank you, Valerie)!! To enter, leave me a comment here telling me what you favorite Halloween memory is. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address and will be drawn at random. Enter through midnight eastern on October 21st. 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
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: The Shimmer by David Morrell

Santa Fe, New Mexico police officer Dan Page tries hard to forget the violence that he sees in his everyday life, keeping as much of it from his wife, Tori, as he can. It is a total surprise to him when he returns home one day to find her gone, a note she left says that she is going to visit her mother, who lives 800 miles away. She never said a word about the trip to him, why she would abruptly leave like that is a mystery.

He tries not to worry about it, but after two days she still hasn't arrived at her mother's and no one has heard from her. He is beginning to be frantic and files a missing persons report. When a Sheriff from the small Texas town of Rostov calls, Dan fears the worst. But he says that Tori is fine, though he won't give any other information. He insists that Dan must come to Rostov and see for himself what is going on.

When Dan arrives in Rostov, he is confronted with a mystery that has intrigued and frightened people for hundreds of years. The strange Rostov Lights are a phenomenon that occur out over the badlands, on the mesa towards the Mexico border. They appear at night, hover and shine, changing colors and size, merging into one another and breaking apart again. But not everyone can see them. Those that can are transfixed, caught by their beauty, like Tori. Those that can't see them are either disgusted or annoyed, sure that the viewers are making it all up. Sometimes reactions are completely unexpected.

While Dan talks to Tori and begins to unravel the reasons that she left and why she stopped in Rostov, outside events overtake the couple and they are swept into a violent maelstrom, which is caused by the lights. Putting their own problems aside, they join forces with the local police to try to uncover the source of the lights and the reason they sometimes incite uncontrollable behavior or worse in the people who see them.

This book is non-stop action from the first page, I couldn't put it down. I was intrigued by the premise, the author based the story on lights seen in the real life town of Marfa, Texas. They occur in other places in the world, too: Norway, Thailand and Australia all have areas where similar lights are seen. The phenomenon has never been explained, though there are lots of theories. David Morrell took the fact of the lights and built an intriguing story around them. Part action, part suspense, part mystery, and a taut thriller, The Shimmer has it all. I really enjoyed this fast-paced book!

David Morrell has been called the father of the modern action novel (he created Rambo, after all). You can find out more about him and his books at his website and more about The Shimmer at http://www.shimmerbook.com/ .

The Shimmer is published by Vanguard Press, ISBN 978-1-59315-537-7

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review and Blog Tour: The Promised World by Lisa Tucker

Fraternal twins Billy and Lila have always had a very close relationship. Since losing their parents when they were teenagers, they have built independent lives but remain devoted to each other. They live close to each other and see each other regularly. Since Lila can't really remember anything about their past, she relies on Billy to hold the memories for the both of them. And he has, weaving elaborate stories that fill in all of her blank spaces and create the happy reality he promised her years ago.

When Billy is dies violently, Lila's world is torn apart. She is unable to function without him, her compass for interpreting the world has been lost. She loves her husband of eleven years, Patrick, very much, but she can't seem to break out of the spiraling grief that has engulfed her. The fragmented memories that start to surface totally confuse her, as they are at odds to all she has believed to be true. She desperately wants custody of Billy's three children, he and his wife had been going through a bitter divorce, but Lila's mentally fragile state make such an attempt impossible.

So, Lila turns to sleeping pills to numb her pain. Patrick can't seem to get through to her or do anything that helps to life her out of the despair that she is in. He goes to see Billy's wife, Ashley, hoping to find some way to help Lila. Instead, Ashley shows him a sympathy card...from Billy & Lila's mother. He is shocked but thinks it must be some sort of prank. His wife couldn't have lied to him about a thing like this for so many years, could she?

Why would two adolescents claim that their parents were dead, when one of them at least is very much alive? What could have happened to cause them to construct a fictitious past and cut all ties to home and family? These are questions that they must all find the answers to, for the sake of the entire family. When Lila's splintered memories finally begin to emerge, will she be strong enough to accept what they contain?

I was completely riveted to the pages of this story. It is a fascinating psychological look at the lengths the mind will go to in order to protect the self. The relationships between Billy and Lila, their spouses and children, were intricate and interesting. The author explores the adult difficulties that result from the psychological abuse of children, the kind of abuse that doesn't leave any marks but twists and destroys just the same. A moving story with a depth of seriousness, I truly enjoyed this novel.

I received this book as part of the Blog Tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For a complete list of the blog stops, please click here. For more information about the author and her novels, please visit her website.

The Promised World is published by Atria Books, ISBN 978-1-4165-7538-

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review: The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

As a five year old child, William Marshal was sent by his father to the court of King Stephen...as a hostage. His father must have expected to never see his son again, with the bloody civil war that was raging it was likely that little William would be executed. But King Stephen took a liking to the brave little boy and couldn't bring himself to kill him. From that experience, William learned the loyalty and sense of duty that he would live by for his entire life.

During his training as a knight, William was a bit of an outsider. Soon though, his talent with horses, plus a bit of luck, bring him to the attention of the new royal family. Henry I and Eleanor of Aquitaine take notice of the young knight and when William saves Eleanor's life during a surprise raid, he earns her lasting goodwill. He is placed with the heir to the throne, Prince Henry, and given the responsibility for his training and instruction.

As the young Prince and his brothers grow, turmoil begins to boil and the relationship between the brothers and their father sours. During the strife that pits each of them against the other, William steadfastly stands beside Prince Henry, even though he agrees with almost nothing that the young man decides to do. Despite many terrible actions on the Prince's part, William is there to support him and help him, he is loyal almost to a fault.

When the unthinkable happens, William is shattered. He departs on a two year pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he tries to reconcile his past and find a way to move forward with his life. After his return, all his service is eventually rewarded when he is given the hand of Isabelle de Clare, a rich but lonely young heiress. Despite the fact that William is years older than Isabel, the two form a surprisingly happy and supportive marriage.

William Marshal's Tomb

Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick has given us a rich and detailed historical fiction novel, filled with excellent research and lively characters. William is a complex man: loyal, committed, giving, but with a sore spot in his heart that keeps him from a close bond with his family. He is definitely his own man but his is a lonely life. He had quite a view of the volatile Plantagenet clan, Ms. Chadwick's envisioning of his experiences there make for a fascinating read.

As I finished this book, I marvelled at how one man could fit so much into one lifetime. But it turns out that The Greatest Knight is not the end of the Marshal story! It will be continued in her next book, The Scarlet Lion, which should be released in the Spring of 2010.

For more information on Elizabeth Chadwick and all of her fantastic books, visit her website. She also has a wonderful blog, Living the History, where you will find all sorts of interesting historical information and photos. Her blog is one of my favorites! She recently posted twenty of her favorite historical fiction novels (from her "Keeper" shelf...I have one of those, too! Do you?). About half of them were new to me, so I was thrilled to add them to my wish list. I always love discovering new (to me) historical fiction!

The Greatest Knight is published by Sourcebooks, ISBN 978-1-4022-2518-5

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Review: God Is An Englishman by R.F. Delderfield

It is 1857 and British soldier Adam Swann has been in the service of England for years, serving in numerous countries of the empire. But the battle that leads him to break free of the Army, and his family's long service in it, occurs in India. When a wild horde of natives attacks his troop, knocking him senseless and off of his horse, he begins to see the futility of his life as a career soldier. There was one small thing that helped him to decide, though. When he awoke briefly in the dust of the road after being knocked out, he happened to see a necklace of large rubies that had been in the lead attacker's possession. Through the daze he is in, he manages to slip the necklace into his pack before losing consciousness once more.

That necklace is the key to Adam's future. He resigns his commission and returns to England, where the germ of an enterprising idea is born during a trek on horseback through the country he has been away from for so long. He wants to create a delivery company that will haul goods in the areas that the railway doesn't reach. On the same trip he encounters a young woman, Henrietta, who has run away from her father and his plans to marry her off for his own personal gain.

Henrietta turns out to be unlike the women that Adam has previously known. She is bright and has an unusual way of looking at the world. She even dreams up the logo for his yet-to-be company. They are soon married and then Adam is off to make his commercial dreams a reality. He seems to have either an extraordinarily clear eye for business or the devil's own luck, because he succeeds and founds an empire in the booming world of Victorian England.

This book is a grand family saga, the first in a trilogy that is followed by Theirs Was the Kingdomand Give Us This Day. I thought it was fantastic: a big, meaty, complex book that delves into the lives of the main characters and numerous side characters, as well. It vividly paints the world of Victorian England, the effects of the industrial revolution and arrival of the railway. It is intricate and interesting, with enough technical detail to please male readers and enough romance to keep women happy. A fine balance.

For some reason, though I have long known about R.F. Delderfield books, I have never read one before. It is always such a pleasure to discover a new (to me) historical fiction author, especially one who wrote close to twenty books....a whole list of promising reads for me to discover. If you love historical fiction, R.F. Delderfield is an author you won't want to miss!

R.F. Delderfield

I came across an old 1971 Pocket paperback copy of God is an Englishman and I thought the "About the Author" section was so interesting, I wanted to share it with you (the author died in 1972):

R.F. Delderfield was born in London but has lived much of his life in Devon, where he started writing as a reporter on his father's newspaper, the Exmouth Chronicle. During World War II and immediately thereafter he achieved quite a success as a West End playwright (one of his plays ran five and a half years). Then, at the age of forty, he stopped to take stock of his life. "What I really wanted was to be a novelist," he told one interviewer, "to project the English way of life in the tradition of Hardy and Galsworthy." Out of that resolve have come his great family sagas- The Avenue, A Horseman Riding By and its sequel, The Green Gauntlet, and now his latest and most ambitious saga which begins with God Is An Englishman.

In preparing himself to write one of his vast family chronicles, Mr. Delderfield draws a detailed map of the territory, county or city that he will cover, placing the houses where his characters will live and adding the place names and details that will build up into a rich and convincing background. Then he steps back and lets inspiration take over. He writes regularly in the morning, averaging about 4,000 words a day, then takes the afternoons off to go strolling over the moors.

God Is an Englishman is published by Sourcebooks, ISBN 978-1-4022-1821-7

You will find some other reviews at Books are my only friends and Bookfoolery and babble.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BBAW Giveaway #5: The Hidden Life of Deer by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

In the fall of 2007 in southern New Hampshire, the acorn crop failed and the animals who depended on it faced starvation. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas began leaving food in small piles around her farmhouse. Soon she had over thirty deer coming to her fields, and her naturalist's eye was riveted. How did they know when to come, all together, and why did they sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete?

Throughout the next twelve months she observed the local deer families as they fought through a rough winter; bred fawns in the spring; fended off coyotes, a bobcat, a bear, and plenty of hunters; and made it to the next fall when the acorn crop was back to normal. As she hiked through her woods, spotting tree rubbings, deer beds, and deer yards, she discovered a vast hidden world. Deer families are run by their mothers. Local families arrange into a hierarchy. They adopt orphans; they occasionally reject a child; they use complex warnings to signal danger; they mark their territories; they master local microclimates to choose their beds; they send countless coded messages that we can read, if only we know what to look for.

Just as she did in her beloved books The Hidden Life of Dogs and Tribe of Tiger, Thomas describes a network of rules that have allowed earth's species to coexist for millions of years. Most of us have lost touch with these rules, yet they are a deep part of us, from our ancient evolutionary past. The Hidden Life of Deer is a narrative masterpiece and a naturalist's delight.

One of the most widely read American anthropologists, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has observed dogs, cats, and elephants during her half-century-long career. In the 1980s Thomas studied elephants alongside Katy Payne—the scientist who discovered elephants' communication via infrasound. In 1993 Thomas wrote The Hidden Life of Dogs, a groundbreaking work of animal psychology that spent nearly a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Her book on cats, Tribe of Tiger, was also an international bestseller. She lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on her family's former farm, where she observes deer, bobcats, bear, and many other species of wildlife.

~Synopsis & author biography from the publisher

I have two copies to give away, courtesy of Harper Collins (thank you, Kyle!!). Winners will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address. To enter, just leave me a comment here that includes your email address. Enter through midnight eastern on September 25. 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


Be sure to check out all of the fantastic giveaways going on this week to celebrate
BBAW! Click the link or the button on the top left to see the ever growing list!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BBAW Giveaway #4: Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Spring 1938. After nearly two years in prison for the crime of stealing his own grain, Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko is a free man. While he was gone, his wife, Maria; their five children; and his sister, Anna, struggled to survive on the harsh northern Canadian prairie, but now Teodor—a man who has overcome drought, starvation, and Stalin's purges—is determined to make a better life for them. As he tirelessly clears the untamed land, Teodor begins to heal himself and his children. But the family's hopes and newfound happiness are short-lived. Anna's rogue husband, the arrogant and scheming Stefan, unexpectedly returns, stirring up rancor and discord that will end in violence and tragedy.

Under This Unbroken Sky is a mesmerizing tale of love and greed, pride and desperation, that will resonate long after the last page is turned. Shandi Mitchell has woven an unbearably suspenseful story, written in a language of luminous beauty and clarity. Rich with fiery conflict and culminating in a gut-wrenching climax, this is an unforgettably powerful novel from a passionate new voice in contemporary literature.

~Synopsis from the publisher

I have two copies to give away, courtesy of Harper Collins (thank you, Kyle!!). Winners will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address. To enter, just leave me a comment here that includes your email address. Enter through midnight eastern on September 21. 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

Be sure to check out all of the fantastic giveaways going on this week to celebrate BBAW! Click the link or the button on the top left to see the ever growing list!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BBAW Giveaway #3: The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim



A sweeping debut novel, inspired by the life of the author’s mother, about a young woman who dares to fight for a brighter future in occupied Korea.

In early-twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother—but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country. When he seeks to marry Najin into an aristocratic family, her mother defies generations of obedient wives and instead sends her to serve in the king’s court as a companion to a young princess. But the king is soon assassinated, and the centuries-old dynastic culture comes to its end.

In the shadow of the dying monarchy, Najin begins a journey through increasing oppression that will forever change her world. As she desperately seeks to continue her education, will the unexpected love she finds along the way be enough to sustain her through the violence and subjugation her country continues to face? Spanning thirty years, The Calligrapher’s Daughter is a richly drawn novel in the tradition of Lisa See and Amy Tan about a country torn between ancient customs and modern possibilities, a family ultimately united by love, and a woman who never gives up her search for freedom.

~ Synopsis from the author's Website

I have five copies of this fantastic novel to give away, courtesy of Jason at Henry Holt (thank you, Jason!!). To enter, just leave me a comment here that includes your email address. The winners will be drawn at random and must have a US mailing address. Enter thru midnight eastern on September 20. 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

Be sure to check out all of the fantastic BBAW giveaways going on this week!! Click on the link or the button in the upper left corner to join in the fun!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Great American Taste Test

This was so much fun! Today is the day for The Great American Taste Test, sponsored by Atria Books, to celebrate the book: America's Most Wanted Recipes: Delicious Recipes from Your Family's Favorite Restaurants by Ron Douglas. The author has been on television quite a bit recently, he worked for years to put together this cookbook that is filled with recipes that duplicate dishes that you order in your favorite restaurants.

When I got my copy, I immediately looked to see if my favorite restaurant dish was included. Guess what? IT WAS! I love P.F. Chang's Chicken-Lettuce Wrap...I always order it when I go there (which is not very often, unfortunately). So I was excited to see if I could make my favorite thing at home with my limited cooking skills.

I got everything together and sent my hubby out to get the real thing. (It is quite a trip to the closest PF Chang's, so I had plenty of time). The recipe was easy to follow, even though there were quite a lot of ingredients, some that I am not used to cooking with. The result was indistinguishable from the original...and I got to eat my favorite thing in my own home. I can't wait to try some of the other recipes in the book, I think Red Lobster's Cheddar Cheese Biscuits might be next...

America's Most Wanted Recipes: Delicious Recipes from Your Family's Favorite Restaurants is published by Atria Books. ISBN 978-1-4391-4706-1

Review: The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan...and BBAW Giveaway #2


At the age of seventeen, as she is finishing her junior year at high school in 1915, Bess Heath's father loses his job as Director of the Niagara Power Company. As she returns home from boarding school, the realities of the family's situation begin to sink in. Bess's mother comes to fetch her alone, without her father or the car. They make their way home by streetcar, lugging Bess's heavy trunk. A young working man gets off when they do and offers to carry the trunk up to the house. Bess is smitten immediately.

Life at home has become grim. Bess's father is away all day, drowning his troubles in whiskey. Her older sister, Isabel, is very ill, refusing to eat and wasting away. Her mother has turned to her talent at sewing to provide a small income for the family, who are now living in a house they can't afford. Bess does what she can to assist her mother, sewing and caring for Isabel. The young man who carried the trunk begins to appear on the road daily with his fishing catch, on his way back from the river. He gifts Bess with fish and soon she is eagerly anticipating his visits. Her mother is appalled and insists that Bess stop seeing him.

The young man's name is Tom Cole and he has spent all his life around the river and the famous falls. His grandfather, Fergus, was famous for rescuing people from the falls and for having a kind of intuition where the river was concerned. Tom seems to have inherited his grandfather's gifts and knows the river and falls better than anyone else. So he is extremely unhappy about the plans of the electric companies to harness the power of the river. He knows that it will affect everything about the ecosystems around the water and drop the level of the water, too.

Though she is in love with Tom, Bess buckles under pressure from her parents and agrees to marry an old family friend who can afford to restore Bess to her former lifestyle. Shortly after that, Isabel disappears. Tom is the one who pulls her body from the river and comes to tell Bess. Through her grief, she realizes that she can't live without Tom, no matter what the cost.

With World War I looming and the world changing as the electric age dawns, Bess and Tom start their lives together. Their fate will be intricately entwined with the river and the falls.


First time Canadian novelist Cathy Marie Buchanan won my heart with this love story. I so enjoyed the setting and the way she brought the Niagara river to life until its presence in the book was equal to Bess and Tom, a character in its own right. It is a love story in so many ways: the love between man and wife, parent and child, family members, humans and the natural world. Love of country, too, the author's pride in Canada shines through the passages about the War and its aftermath. The character of Tom is loosely based on the legendary Niagara riverman William "Red" Hill and the story has a realistic feel to it. It could be an old diary you are reading, complete with struggle and despair, joy and elation. An excellent debut novel...I'll be waiting for more from Cathy Marie Buchanan!

The Day the Falls Stood Still made its debut on the New York Times bestseller list at #31! It is published by Voice/Hyperion, ISBN 978-1-4013-4097-1. For more information about the book, please visit the author's website. Here is the trailer:






I have one copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still that will go to one randomly drawn winner! To enter, just leave a comment here that includes your email address. Contest is open to US and Canada residents. You can enter thru midnight eastern time on September 19th. Be sure to check out all the the other fabulous giveaways happening during BBAW, click on the link or the button on the upper left for a complete list! Thanks so much for visiting and entering!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Literary Road Trip: Grace Metalious (New Hampshire Author)


Literary Road Trip, dreamed up by Michelle at Galleysmith, is a project in which bloggers showcase their local authors. I am going to be featuring New Hampshire authors, for a small state we have some fantastic writers and I am so excited about this project!

For my first author I am showcasing Grace Metalious. Don't know who that is? Go ask your parents, or even your grandparents. Go ahead, I'll wait...I'd be interested to hear some of their responses.

Grace Metalious was the author of four books. Her first, and most famous, was Peyton Place. She later published Return to Peyton Place, The Tight White Collar and No Adam in Eden. She was born in 1924 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Her family was poor and life was difficult. But Grace had a wealth of imagination and she grew up with a wry wit and ideas that were unconventional and rebellious for her time.

"If I'm a lousy writer,then an awful lot of people have lousy taste."
-- Grace Metalious

Grace married George Metalious in 1943 and by the mid fifties the couple had three children and a meagre existence. In desperation, she sat down and wrote Peyton Place, a book about the seedy underside of life that the chirpy fifties wanted to sweep under the rug. It was a smash hit, it ripped the veneer of respectability off of the decade and revealed the secrets and hypocrisy underneath.

The book was a huge bestseller. She did as much for the publishing industry at the time as Dan Brown (another NH author) did with The Da Vinci Code or J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter. The popularity of the book spawned a sequel, the film Peyton Place was nominated for nine academy awards and then it was made into a prime time television serial, the first of its kind. She not only created a publishing sensation, she changed conventions and minds in America.

Of course, that kind of change is never easy. Grace was the focus of adulation and success as well as revulsion and hatred. She began to drink and by the age of 39, she was dead.

Opinions very, but I think she was a great writer. Here are the first two paragraphs from Peyton Place:

"Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay. In northern New England, Indian summer puts up a scarlet-tipped hand to hold winter back for a little while. She brings with her the time of the last warm spell, an unchartered season which lives until Winter moves in with its backbone of ice and accoutrements of leafless trees and hard frozen ground. Those grown old, who have had the youth bled from them by the jagged edged winds of winter, know sorrowfully that Indian summer is a sham to be met with hard-eyed cynicism. But the young wait anxiously, scanning the chill autumn skies for a sign of her coming. And sometimes the old, against all the warnings of better judgment, wait with the young and hopeful, their tired, winter eyes turned heavenward to seek the first traces of a false softening.

One year, early in October, Indian summer came to a town called Peyton Place. Like a laughing, lovely woman Indian summer came and spread herself over the countryside and made everything hurtfully beautiful to the eye."

Grace Metalious is buried not far from where I live, and a friend of mine lives in the house that the Metalious family lived in when Peyton Place was written. That's about as local as it gets!

If you haven't read any Grace Metalious, give Peyton Place a try. You don't even have to buy it, the entire thing is available free online (click here), courtesy of Google Books. I thought you would like to see a glimpse of the television show:




Guest Post: Sallie Day, author of The Palace of Strange Girls (and BBAW Giveaway #1!)

Today I want to welcome Sallie Day, author of The Palace of Strange Girls! I recently received this book and my review is not finished yet, so here is the synopsis from the publisher:

Blackpool, England, 1959. The Singleton family is on holiday. For seven-year-old Beth, just out of the hospital, this means struggling to fill in her 'I-Spy' book and avoiding her mother Ruth's eagle-eyed supervision. Her sixteen-year-old sister Helen, meanwhile, has befriended a waitress whose fun-loving ways hint at a life beyond Ruth's strict rules.

But times are changing. As foreman of the local cotton mill, Ruth's husband, Jack, is caught between unions and owners whose cost-cutting measures threaten an entire way of life. And his job isn't the only thing at risk. When a letter arrives from Crete, a secret re-emerges from the rubble of Jack's wartime past that could destroy his marriage.

As Helen is tempted outside the safe confines of her mother's stern edicts with dramatic consequences, an unexpected encounter inspires Beth to forge her own path. Over the holiday week, all four Singletons must struggle to find their place in the shifting world of promenade amusements, illicit sex, and stilted afternoon teas in this touching and evocative novel.

I'm so excited to have Sallie here today to tell us a little bit about what inspired her book! Welcome, Sallie!!

The idea for the novel sprang from an impromptu trip back to the Lancashire mill town where I was born. During my long absence everything was so changed as to be unrecognizable. The smoking mill chimneys that had once dominated the skyline were no longer standing and Clean Air legislation of the 70s had put an end to the blanket of smog which used to percolate down into the dirty cobbled streets and terraced houses.

I decided on impulse to go on a walk around the mill area of the town (cotton mills, originally dependent on water power were sited beside fast flowing streams and later weaving sheds were built by the canal and within easy reach of rail / road links. The canal tow path had once passed the backs of several weaving sheds but now all the mills were demolished. Only one mill remained standing, and a passing local told me that even this was due for demolition the following week.


I stood and looked at the weaving shed I had known as a child when my father worked there as a manager. Soon I was lost in memories of the late fifties and sixties when the town was busily engaged in importing cotton from Africa and America and exporting finished cotton goods to the rest of the world. From this memory came more - where we lived, what we wore and our annual holidays in Blackpool.

I was still a small child 1959 and so there was a great deal of background reading to do for the novel - and this in turn inspired more and more memories, all bursting to be set down in writing. However I didn’t want to write a biography. I wanted to write a novel. Fiction is an altogether different beast and requires imagination added to a taste for drama.

Jack Singleton may have begun life as a portrait of my father but very soon he became a character in his own right with an exciting war record, and, in the face of an undemonstrative wife, a weakness for a pretty face. My father was very straight laced in comparison! Nevertheless some of the characters were real - Connie was based on a waitress whom I worked with for the whole of one summer. Other characters, among them Tiger Woman and Cora, were total invention. I had no idea where the story would lead me. I put the Singleton family in a relatively plush hotel and stood back to see what they might do next.

I was prepared to take a back seat where the plot was concerned and content to ‘go with the flow’. Each chapter contained some new discovery, not all of them pleasant. I was saddened by Beth’s isolation and illness but I was downright horrified by Jack’s one night stand with an underage waitress. In the end the novel seemed to have written itself - as if it had been there in my subconscious all the time just waiting for an opportunity to surface!

Thank you so much for joining me here today and giving us a peek at the story behind the story!! I'm always interested in the author's inspiration. In celebration of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I have five copies to give away, courtesy of Hachette. To enter, just leave me a comment here that includes your email address. The winners will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes). Enter thru midnight eastern on September 18.

There are many giveaways going on this week to celebrate BBAW, I myself will have several more posted as the week goes on. Be sure to check out the complete list at the BBAW website by clicking any of the BBAW links in this post or the button in the upper left corner.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Giveaway: The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson



I have always been fascinated with Ancient Egypt, so when I saw this book at BEA in May, I immediately wanted to get my hands on it! It is out this month and Hachette has provided five copies for this giveaway. Here's the synopsis from the author's website:

Master of suspense James Patterson reopens the ultimate cold case—the unsolved death of King Tut.

A secret buried for centuries: Thrust onto Egypt's most powerful throne at the age of nine, King Tut was challenged from the first days of his reign. The veil of prosperity could not hide the bitter rivalries and jealousy that flourished among the Boy King's most trusted advisers. Less than a decade after his elevation, King Tut suddenly perished, and in the years and centuries that followed, his name was purged from Egyptian history. To this day, his death remains shrouded in controversy.

The keys to an unsolved mystery: Intrigued by what little was known about Tut, and hoping to unlock the answers to the 3,000-year-old mystery, Howard Carter made it his life's mission to uncover the pharaoh's hidden tomb. He began his search in 1907 but encountered countless setbacks and dead ends before he finally discovered the long-lost crypt.

The clues point to murder: Now, in The Murder of King Tut, James Patterson and Martin Dugard dig through stacks of evidence—X-rays, Carter's files, forensic clues, and stories told through the ages—to arrive at their own account of King Tut's life and death. The result is an exhilarating, true crime tale of intrigue, passion, and betrayal that casts fresh light on the oldest mystery of all.

I have five copies to give away, courtesy of Hachette. To enter, just leave me a comment here that includes your email address. The winners will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes). Enter thru midnight eastern on September 24. 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). Thank you for visiting and entering!!

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Guest Post: Elizabeth Chadwick, author of The Greatest Knight (Plus, of course, a Giveaway!)

Today I am thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Chadwick, one of my favorite Historical Fiction writers (I've read just about all of her fantastic books)! Her new book, The Greatest Knight, has just been released and I was curious to know a little bit about her writing process. It is quite a lot of work, as you will see. Welcome, Elizabeth and thank you for joining me!


Thank you for inviting me to your blog, I’m delighted to be here.

Last year I signed a new contract to write two historical novels, each of around 160,000 words. With the security of the done deal in place, all I had to do was put those words on the page. If only it were so simple! Here, below, is the anatomy of what it takes for me to write a historical novel.

First of all, I choose my subject. I will usually decide this while writing the previous work. As I was finishing Shadows and Strongholds, I knew that two books on William Marshal would be my next project. I read up as much as I could about him so that when the time came, I would be ready to begin.

Still researching, I write a study of the main characters, a 20 page synopsis, a shorter synopsis, a back of the novel blurb and a shout line. These are all preliminaries that will help with the writing process later on. They help me to pin-point my focus and they deepen my knowledge and awareness at the same time. I write the first three chapters and polish them hard.

I send the above material to my agent and editor for comment and approval and then begin writing in earnest. I do the research and the writing alongside each other. I never look back when writing a first draft, but forge on to the end. It’s a bit like doing a painting starting with a rough black and white pencil sketch. Each layer lays on colour and defines and refines.

Once the first draft is finished, I go back to the beginning and work on the second draft. This is where the bulk of the work is done and where the most alterations occur. I probably cut around 10% of the wordage at this stage. While all this is being done at my PC, I am still researching. This doesn’t just involve reading. It includes visiting locations and taking photographs, it involves working with my re-enactment society and finding out about medieval history in a ‘hands on’ sort of way. So for example, I know how to spin wool and cook medieval recipes. I’ve worn a mail shirt and a jousting helm and know what a sword feels like in my hand. The first draft and the above preparation probably take up about 9 months of the 16 month process.

I print out the second draft and read it as if it’s an ordinary book. Instead of looking across at the PC screen, I am looking down at the written word, and that makes a difference to the part of the brain in use and helps build an extra layer into the editing process. I make notes in pen on the manuscript. This is now draft 3 and will take about 3 months.

I transfer the pen alterations to the PC and read through again – draft 4. I print out again and read the manuscript aloud to my long suffering husband! This again is a different way of absorbing the story and shows up things such as favourite phrases and repetitions that need pruning. It’s also good for getting a sense of pace, and since my listener is a man, I can gauge if I have the male mindset right! This will add another month to the schedule.

Returning to the PC, I key in any alterations noticed while reading aloud and read the manuscript again a final time (takes around a fortnight). I then send the manuscript electronically to my agent and editor. The waiting begins! If all is well, we go to the production process which will take around 9 months to a year and will involve two more read-throughs from me. During this time, I will already be hard at work on the next novel!

I work 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, but I don’t always work 8 hour days. Sometimes it’s less, occasionally it’s more. I probably work about 5 hours a day on the novel itself, and several hours a week on peripheral things such as blogs, answering reader letters, keeping in touch on forums, making movie trailers for the novels etc. It is more than a full time job!

I forgot to mention that one of my inspirations while writing is music. I love modern rock, folk-rock, grunge, and hard-edged pop. I listen to music while away from my writing, and the emotional words and resonances in songs sink into my subconscious and help when writing scenes. I provide a soundtrack each time I hand a novel in – my agent and editor expect it now! The Greatest Knight soundtrack has around 25 songs including Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright, Everybody Knows by Don Henley, and Bring me to Life by Evanescence.

One of the most surprising things that I found out while writing the greatest knight is a small, but telling detail. I discovered that they had clear, sparkling wine like champagne. I do know that at the court of Henry II, the wine was reported to have the consistency of mud and that people filtered it through their teeth, shuddering, so I was fascinated to read in a primary source research book that at the other end of the scale there were wines that were ‘clear, soft on the palate and sparkling.’ I’ll raise a toast to that, and a completed manuscript!

About the Author
Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, A Place Beyond Courage, The Scarlet Lion, The Winter Mantle, and the Falcons of Montebard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel.




I have two copies of The Greatest Knight to give away, courtesy of Sourcebooks (thank you, Danielle!!) To enter, just leave me a comment here. The winners will be drawn at random and must have a US mailing address. Enter thru midnight eastern on September 19 (that's my birthday!). 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). Thank you for visiting and entering!!

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 new Feedburner subscribers

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cool Sourcebooks Contest Announcement...And a Giveaway!


Calling all Georgette Heyer fans (I include myself in that group!)...Sourcebooks has teamed up with Barnes and Noble to promote their new release of Georgette Heyer's The Foundling. For the month of September, The Foundling will ONLY be available at Barnes & Noble. If you buy it there (either in store or online), you can send your receipt in for a chance to win a $200 gift card! Plus, if you leave me a comment here you can be entered to win your choice of one book from the list below. Two winners will be drawn at random, you can enter until midnight eastern time on September 20th. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address. Best of luck everyone!!

Sourcebooks B&N Heyer Receipt Promotion

This September, Sourcebooks is exclusively releasing The Foundling by Georgette Heyer in Barnes & Nobles stores Nationwide!!

Sourcebooks is holding a fabulous receipt promotion! Send us your receipt/proof of purchase of The Foundling from your local Barnes & Noble to our office or a scanned receipt in an email to danielle.jackson@sourcebooks.com and you’ll be entered to win a $200 Barnes & Noble gift card! Receipts must be dated between September 1 – September 31, 2009, and can be from an in-store or online purchase. Any questions please contact mailto:hdanielle.jackson@sourcebooks.com.

But WAIT—you can win a book from Sourcebooks now! As a thank you to The Tome Traveller for helping spread the word about our B&N Heyer Receipt Promotion, Sourcebooks is giving away 2 books from the list of books below! Leave a comment about your favorite Heyer moment and you’ll be entered to win your choice of book! 2 winners—US and Canada addresses only please.

Sourcebooks is so excited about the warm embrace everyone has given the Georgette Heyer reissues! Good luck—we look forward to hearing from you!

Send your Barnes & Noble The Foundling receipts to
Sourcebooks, Inc.
c/o Publicity
PO Box 4410
Naperville, IL 60567

Remember: Leave a comment! Two lucky commenters will be able to choose a book from the following:

The Spoken Word Revolution edited by Mark Eleveld
Poetry Speaks Expanded edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby
Letters From Pemberley by Jane Dawkins
How (Not) to Have a Perfect Wedding by Arliss Ryan

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake by Laurie Brown
A Chain of Voices by Andre Brink
First Lady by Michael Malone
The Ultimate Bartenders Guide by Ray Foley
Improvisation for the Spirit by Katie Goodman
The Successful Novelist by David Morrell

Join our Georgette Heyer mailing list!: http://www.sourcebooks.com/spotlight/georgette-heyer.html
(Edited to clarify that this giveaway is NOT for a Georgette Heyer book. Winner will get their choice of book from the list above).

Guest Post: Michelle Moran (and Cleopatra's Daughter Givaway)!!

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming one of my favorite authors, Michelle Moran! I'm so excited to have you here today, Michelle, and am sooooo looking forward to the publication of Cleopatra's Daughter (coming up on September 15)! I'm interested to know what gave you the idea that became your new book...


It began with a dive. Not the kind of dive that people take into swimming pools, but the kind where you squeeze yourself into a wetsuit and wonder just how tasty your rump must appear to passing sharks now that it looks exactly like an elephant seal. My husband and I had taken a trip to Egypt, and at the suggestion of a friend, we decided to go to Alexandria and do a dive to see the remains of Cleopatra’s underwater city. Let it be known that I had never done an underwater dive before, so after four days with an instructor (and countless questions: Will there be sharks? How about jellyfish? If there is an earthquake, what happens underwater?) we were ready for the real thing.

We drove to the Eastern Harbor in Alexandria. Dozens of other divers were already there, waiting to see what sort of magic lay beneath the waves. I wondered if the real thing could possibly live up to all of the guides and brochures selling this underwater city, lost for thousands of years until now. Then we did the dive, and it was every bit as magical as everyone had promised. You can see the rocks which once formed Marc Antony’s summer palace, come face to face with Cleopatra’s towering sphinx, and take your time floating above ten thousand ancient artifacts, including obelisks, statues, and countless amphorae. By the time we had surfaced, I was Cleopatra-obsessed. I wanted to know what had happened to her city once she and Marc Antony had committed suicide. Where did all of its people go? Were they allowed to remain or were they killed by the Romans? What about her four children?

It was this last question which surprised me the most. I had always believed that all of Cleopatra’s children had been murdered. But the Roman conqueror Octavian had actually spared the three she bore to Marc Antony: her six-year-old son, Ptolemy, and her ten-year-old twins, Alexander and Selene. As soon as I learned that Octavian had taken the three of them for his Triumph in Rome, I knew at once I had my next book. This is how all of my novels seem to begin – with a journey, then an adventure, and finally, enormous amounts of research for what I hope is an exciting story.

I, for one, am grateful for all of your hard work, Michelle, since it means another of your books for us! Thank you so much for joining me here today. And we have great news for my readers, too. Michelle will send a signed copy of Cleopatra's Daughter to the winner of my drawing! To enter, just leave a comment here that includes your email address. This contest will be open WORLDWIDE and the winner will be drawn at random. You can enter until midnight eastern on September 14. If you blog or tweet about this giveaway, become a follower thru Google or Feedburner, or fave at Tecnorati, I'll give you an extra entry for each one. (Anyone who already does any of those will get the extra entries too, just mention them in your comment). Best of luck everyone and, as always, thank you for visiting and commenting!!

Michelle is holding some great contests to celebrate the publication of Cleopatra's Daughter. Check out her Digging for Cleopatra's Daughter contest by clicking on the link. And she has a special contest for teens (they can win a $250 gift certificate!), click here for details.

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

My photo
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.