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Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Haul~Week of April 18th

What a great week for books this was!  I'm delighted to get some of these, and can't wait to get to reading them.  It's such an burst of excitement to hear my little Yorkie barking when the mailman drops off a book.  She's all prancing and dancing around the door and I'm in a flurry to find out what's been sent by the very generous publishers.  My health has steadily been improving, and these books keep me encouraged and busy.  So, let's see what's new!

“Maeve Kerrigan [is] a fascinating and plausible character…What she has is persistence, integrity and emotional intelligence, and a very deft way of insinuating herself into a reader's affections.”—The Irish Independent (UK)
Vast wealth offers London defense attorney Philip Kennford a lot of things: a gorgeous house with a pool in the backyard, connections in the top echelons of society, a wardrobe worthy of Milan runways. But his money doesn’t provide a happy marriage, or good relationships with his twin daughters…and it does nothing to protect his family when someone brutally murders his wife and daughter in their own home.

*Many thanks to St. Martin's for this one!


At the height of the Cold War, Marilyn Monroe was the most infamous woman in the world. But what if she was also a secret Soviet spy?
In 1947, a young, unknown Norma Jeane Baker meets a mysterious man in Los Angeles who transforms her into Marilyn Monroe, the star. Twelve years later he comes back for his repayment, and Marilyn is given her first assignment from the KGB: uncover something about JFK that no one else knows...

*With thanks to Weinstein Publishing and FSB Media Associates for this opportunity to review.


In 1860, Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur evolutionary scientist, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the remote Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies—mermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the north of Scotland for centuries. He has a more personal motive, too; family legend states that Alexander is descended from seal men. As he struggles to be the good pastor he was called to be, his maid Moira faces the terrible eviction of her family by Lord Marstone, whose family owns the island. Their time on the island will irrevocably change the course of both their lives, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after they are gone.

It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together—a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? To heal her own demons, Ruth feels she must discover the secrets of her new home—but the answers to her questions may lie in her own traumatic past. The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford is a sweeping tale of hope and redemption and a study of how we heal ourselves by discovering our histories.

*Most graciously sent by St. Martin's Press, thank you!


Edgar Award finalist and international bestselling author Brian Freeman brings the long-awaited return of Lieutenant Jonathan Stride to the bitter cold of Duluth, Minnesota.

Sixteen-year-old Catalina Mateo shows up unannounced one night in Detective Jonathan Stride’s home, dripping wet from a desperate plunge into the icy waters of Lake Superior. Her sodden clothes stained with blood, Cat spins a tale of a narrow escape from a shadowy pursuer.
*Thanks to Quercus and author Brian Freeman for sending this one for a review.  Thank you!

Overview :

"Every note of the characters' correspondence rings true."—Le Nouvel Observateur
"A page-turning novel with a skilfully woven plot."—Page des Libraires
"Rich in deftly turned prose and subtle character study."—Sud-Ouest
"A wonderful book about the archaeology of memory."—Le Magazine Littéraire
"Elegant, restrained, and poetic."—France Inter

The three figures in the photograph are frozen forever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight . . .

The chance discovery of a newspaper image from 1971 sets two people on the path to learning the disturbing truth about their parents' pasts.

Parisian archivist Hélène takes out a newspaper advert calling for information about her mother, who died when she was three, and the two men pictured with her in a photograph taken at a tennis tournament at Interlaken in 1971. Stéphane, a Swiss biologist living in Kent, responds: his father is one of the people in the photo. Letters and more photos pass between them as they embark on a journey to uncover the truth their parents kept from them. But will the relics of the past fill the silences left by the players?

Winner of fifteen literary awards, this dark yet touching drama deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love.

*Many thanks to Meryl Zegarek Public Relations Inc. and Gallic Books, for this very exotic little book.


The New York Times bestselling author John Hart raved that “If you like stories of good people struggling to do right in the world’s forgotten places, there is no one better suited than Corban Addison to take you on the ride of your life.” In The Garden of Burning Sand, Addison, the bestselling author of A Walk Across the Sun, creates a powerful and poignant novel that takes the reader from the red light areas of Lusaka, Zambia, to the gilded chambers of the Washington, D.C. elite, to the splendor of Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

Zoe Fleming, an accomplished young human rights attorney, has made a life for herself in Zambia, far from her estranged father—an American business mogul with presidential aspirations—and from the devastating betrayals of her past.

When a young girl with Down syndrome is sexually assaulted in a Lusaka slum, Zoe joins Zambian police officer Joseph Kabuta in investigating the rape. Piecing together clues from the victim’s past, they discover an unsettling connection between the girl—Kuyeya—and a powerful Zambian family who will stop at nothing to bury the truth.

As they are drawn deeper into the complex web of characters behind this appalling crime, Zoe and Joseph forge a bond of trust and friendship that slowly transforms into love. Opposed on all sides, they find themselves caught in a dangerous clash between the forces of justice and power. To successfully prosecute Kuyeya’s attacker and build a future with Joseph, Zoe must risk her life and her heart—and confront the dark past she thought she had left behind.

*This one was sent by Quercus, as well.  Interesting book...


It's October in Buffalo as four long-time friends, The In Accord Book Club, gather around a fireplace while a fierce windstorm amasses strength outside. They are deeply disappointed with the unfaithful characters and lackluster resolution of the novel they've met to discuss. When they agree to each write a richer, more satisfying conclusion in lieu of their next month's selection, none has any idea of the tempests about to erupt in her own world.

*Also kindly sent by Kelley & Hall book publicity and promotions.  Thanks, Jocelyn!

I now have lots of work on my hands!  Maybe you'll choose one or two of these books to read alone with me.  Keep reading and hope to see you back here as I continue my reviewing journey...


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"The Red Lily Crown" by Elizabeth Loupas~Author Interview!


Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...

April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secret s…even to love her …or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?


Published by:  Penguin Group
Pages:  448
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Elizabeth Loupas
Website:  http://www.elizabethloupas.com


Elizabeth Loupas held various positions in radio and television, and worked as an editor, writer, and marketing consultant.  She holds degrees in literary studies and library/information science.  She lives with her husband and two beagles. She is the author of The Second Duchess and The Flower Reader.


The Bookish Dame is delighted to host Ms Loupas today with an author interview.  Thank you so much for joining us, Elizabeth!  Love your interesting life, and it's so great to share it with our readers.  Let's get right to it...

1)      Tell us something about yourself, please.  How do most people describe you?

Most people would probably describe me as kind of solitary and stay-at-home. I suspect I’m the only writer in the world who grew up reading Little Women and wanted to be Beth.

                Briefly, from where did the idea for your novel come from?

When I was researching The Second Duchess, I learned that Barbara of Austria and her younger sister Joanna traveled south from Austria together and were married at virtually the same time—Barbara to Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Joanna to Francesco de’ Medici, Prince of Florence. This intrigued me, and in early drafts of The Second Duchess, there were actually scenes in which Joanna (in Florence called Giovanna) visited Barbara in Ferrara. Those scenes were cut (primarily because they would have been historically inaccurate), but I didn’t forget Giovanna. A little reading about Francesco uncovered the fact that he was historically obsessed with alchemy, and the story pretty much exploded from there.

2)      Who first told you that you could write well, and how did it affect you?

The first person who encouraged me to write stories (as opposed to school “reports”) was my junior high school home room and English teacher, Maida Dugan. How I adored her! I wrote rambling romantic tales (even then I loved historical fiction) for her and she commented on them very kindly and patiently. I wish I could talk to her today and coax her to tell me what she really thought!

She also assigned us poems to memorize, and I always chose the long story-poems—Poe and Browning and Longfellow. To this day I’ll start reeling off lines and lines of poetry when something jogs my memory, much to the amazement of my husband.

3)      Which contemporary authors do you most admire?

This will vary from day to day, depending on my mood. Some contemporary authors I’m reading at the moment are Deanna Raybourn, Lisa Brackmann, Kate Quinn, Sharon Kay Penman, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Kate Morton. I hate making lists like this because I want to include hundreds of authors!

4)      Who are your favorite classical authors?

This is another case of wanting to make a huge list of thousands of names. The swashbucklers, of course—Dumas, Baroness Orczy, Sabatini, Shellabarger, Dunnett. My beloved comfort reads—E.F. Benson, Angela Thirkell, Miss Read, E.M. Delafield, Flora Thompson. Jane Austen, the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, Nathanial Hawthorne. The Pre-Raphaelites—the Rossettis, Swinburne, and Browning, of course, although he wasn’t technically a Pre-Raph. Oh, and now that I’ve strayed into poetry, Edwin Arlington Robinson. Sorry, I’ll stop now.

5)      What was your first book as a child?  What’s your all-time favorite book?

The first books I owned were Little Golden Books. (Am I dating myself?) I remember The Pokey Little Puppy and one that had a fuzzy yellow cat—the pictures of the cat were flocked with velvety stuff so you could actually pet them. I was enthralled. I don’t think I have one all-time favorite book. Perhaps the six books of the Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett—it’s all one story, so that would count as one book, right?

6)      Best book you’ve read in the past 6 months?

The one I got lost in most deeply was a re-read, ...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. It’s enormous and reading it is like living a whole alternate life.

7)      What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

The one (which shall remain unidentified) where I was shouted at repeatedly by my boss (who shall remain nameless). Or even worse, was trapped into sitting by while he shouted at someone else. I don’t do shouting well at all. See above about me wanting to be Beth March.

8)      What’s your earliest memory?

Being sick with the measles (according to my mother I was about three at the time) and “coloring”—scrawling all over with a bright red crayon—a drawing my older brother brought home from Sunday School. I swear I can still see all those loopy red scribbles. My brother was not amused.

As a child who liked to draw and color, in a family with musical talent, I called myself the “artical” one. I suppose now I’d describe myself as “writacal.”

9)      What’s your most treasured possession?

Barring the beagles—and I’m probably more their possession than they are mine—the first thing I’d grab in a fire would be a banker’s box filled with pictures, including the baby book my own mother lovingly created, and my own scrapbooks through the years. Oh, and I suppose the external hard drive I use for computer back-ups, so I’d have all my digital pictures and documents.

10)   Are you working on a new novel?

I am! It’s still in very early stages, so I don’t want to talk too much about it, but it will have something to do with the introduction of chocolate to Europe, and a priceless casket of cacao beans that was a Spanish princess’s betrothal gift to a French king...
Oh, so delightful!  You certainly are the "artical" one, Elizabeth.  I look forward to the next book in your cache.  I'm a huge fan!
This is a delicious book of intrigue, mysticism and glamour.  Ms Loupas never fails to pull us into a story.  She had me from the first chapter with her brave and brazen young Chiara, and her introduction of the strong and stand-offish Englishman, Ruanno.  The chemistry in this book isn't just alchemy!!
Brilliant in details about the time and place of the Medici in Florence, this novel is vivid and engaging.  I couldn't help visualizing as I read. Elizabeth Loupas is an alchemist herself with the use of color-effects and characterization.  These characters are fiery and beautiful to read about.  It's a sophisticated novel, not fluff.
The plot of the story is well-developed with intrigue and mystery.  I learned a great deal about the tools and mystique of alchemy, the House of Medici, and the culture of Florence.  And the enchanting love story had me turning pages, as well.
This is a "must read" for historical fiction aficionados.  You will love the depths the story brings you into.  I dare you not to identify with Chiara! I dare you not to be obsessed with the House of Medici in all its glory and madness!
5 stars                Deborah/TheBookishDame


Monday, April 14, 2014

"Days of Blood and Starlight" by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Published by:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages:  544
Genre:  Fantasy
Author:  Laini Taylor
Series:  Daughter of Smoke and Bones #2
Author's website is www.lainitaylor.com
Purchase this book:  Barnes & Noble  and  Amazon


Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of Days of Blood & Starlight, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter, Clementine.

An Award-Winning Trailer for "Days of Blood & Starlight"

Not having read the "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" all the way through puts me at a disadvantage to review this sequel.  I decided to try it, however, because I had heard such accolades about Laini Taylor and her writing style.  I have to tell you this book was a mixed bag for me. 
I thoroughly enjoyed her world-building and her prose in places.  Although the density of her lovely prose was just overwhelming at times and diminished her story.  I wanted more about the angelic beings to be described and thought I'd probably missed out on that in the first book.
Her main characters were engaging and beautifully created so that they held my attention throughout.
Absolutely a book of strong characters, but I don't think the story befits them.  It's a book of beautiful descriptions of places and magical things, but I don't think the story itself is particularly moving.  Probably because I'm not much on demons and battles...and the love story got lost for me.
I suspect this is a great sequel to those young readers who loved "Daughter of Smoke and Bones," however. It had all the makings of being that kind of book.  So, if you're one who would like to start a new series, I would say go for this one, but start from the beginning.  It's gotten rave reviews from those who are familiar with the series.
I would give it a 4 stars for one who hasn't read the first book, but who finds magical prose and angelic beings interesting. And, I do like the way Ms Taylor writes. Laini leaves a cliff hanger at the end that portends the third book in the series for all her many fans.
4 stars                             Deborah/TheBookishDame


Sunday, April 13, 2014

"The Winter People" by Jennifer McMahon~Scary Story!

The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.
West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.


Published by:  Knopf Doubleday
Pages:  336
Genre:  Fiction/Gothic/Mystery
Author:  Jennifer McMahon
Find this book:  Amazon  and  Barnes & Noble
Website:  http://jennifer-mcmahon.com


I was born in 1968 and grew up in my grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where I was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. I wrote my first short story in third grade. I graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and I decided to take some time to think about whether I wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, I wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with my partner, Drea, while we built our own house. Over the years, I have been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness — I quit my last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, I gave birth to our daughter, Zella. These days, we’re living in an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont. Some neighbors think it looks like the Addams family house, which brings me immense pleasure.

It's been a while since I've read a really good scary story.  Jennifer McMahon writes that kind you'd hope to hear around a fireplace on a wintry evening in Vermont...fitting since that's her personal surrounding.  It's the perfect novel if you want a gothic mystery that's a page turner when you're alone some night or weekend.  It simply draws you in and makes you feel as if you know the creaky floors of the old Victorian farmhouse you're walking about in, you can see the dense, craggy woods beyond the farmland, and you sense the presence of ghostly beings.
I've lived in the North Country of New Hampshire and Vermont and know very well the type of landscape, snow, rock formations and lonely old farmhouses Ms McMahon writes about, but even if you haven't, or aren't a native of that area, you can't help falling into the pace of this book.  It's an old-fashioned gothic with a mystery that runs the gamut of several generations.  It's creepier than a modern witch story because it seems more set in reality.
The characters are well drawn and vivid.  The women in particular leap from the pages.  Neurotic, deeply loving mothers, risk-takers, committed wives, these women are tough and tender at the same time.  It's difficult not to identify with them and their heart-felt run for saving their children at all costs.  The men characters are crafted more shadowy.  While their emotions are told, they are not as strong as the women involved in the story.
If there's anything to complain about, it would be that I found it difficult to follow all the different voices and timeframes bouncing back and forth in the novel since I read it in ebook format.  I find I loose the context when I read from ebooks.  I don't think the same thing would have happened had I had the actual book in hand.
This is a great book with the perfect timing of a gothic, ghostly mystery.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and strongly recommend it.  Unlike anything else I've read this year.  It's a book that kept my attention firmly in place to the end.
4.5 stars                       Deborah/TheBookishDame

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"The Jade Temptress" by Jeannie Lin~Exotic Historical Mystery


Welcome to the infamous Pingkang li—home of the celebrated Lotus Palace courtesans, and a place of beauty and treachery….

Charming and seductive, Mingyu is the most sought-after hostess in the pleasure quarter. She has all men wrapped around her finger—except Constable Wu Kaifeng, the one man she can't resist, the only man to have placed her in chains.

Wu Kaifeng's outwardly intimidating demeanor hides a reluctant, fierce attraction to beautiful Mingyu. But the passionate temptation she presents threatens to destroy them both when a powerful official is murdered and they find themselves on a deadly trail. Amid the chaos, a forbidden affair could change Mingyu's fate forever, for following her heart is bound to have consequences.…


Published by:  Harlequin
Format:  ebook
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical fiction/Mystery
Author:  Jeannie Lin
Purchase:  Barnes & Noble  or  Amazon


For news on new releases and events, sign up for her newsletter at: http://conta.cc/1b2M4NP
Find out more about Jeannie Lin online at http://www.jeannielin.com

USA TODAY bestselling author Jeannie Lin grew up fascinated with stories of Western epic fantasy and Eastern martial arts adventures. When her best friend introduced her to romance novels in middle school, the stage was set. Jeannie started writing her first book while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles.

Jeannie is known for writing groundbreaking historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China starting with her Golden Heart award-winning debut, Butterfly Swords. Her Chinese historicals have received multiple awards and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

She currently writes historical romance Chinese warriors and scholars, courtesans and swordswomen. Beginning in 2014, she will be starting a steampunk series set during the Opium Wars.

Titles by Jeannie Lin:
The Jade Temptress (The Lotus Palace #2)
The Lotus Palace
Butterfly Swords
The Dragon and the Pearl
My Fair Concubine
The Sword Dancer


From Booklist

While it is true that Lady Mingyu didn’t love General Dang Zhi, she didn’t hate him enough to murder him either. However, Mingyu discovers that someone else truly did despise Dang when she arrives at his home in Changan and finds his headless corpse. The only man Mingyu can turn to for help is the one man she has never been able to charm: Constable Wu Kaifeng. Discovering that Mingyu is involved in yet another murder case convinces Wu that the beautiful courtesan is nothing but trouble, and this proves to be even truer once Wu realizes his feelings for Mingyu are seriously interfering with his mission to find the killer. The colorful sights, sounds, and even scents of Tang Dynasty China provide a fascinating backdrop, and romance readers tired of cookie-cutter settings will devour this expertly crafted novel. By incorporating some intriguing investigative details into the plot, Lin also gives historical-mystery readers an incentive for giving this captivating series a chance. --John Charles
Exotic and engaging, this murder mystery is a particularly enticing one to solve while we get a gorgeous glimpse of the orient in delicious detail, and a sexy love story between a courtesan and a constable.  I highly recommend this book to all those who love a story set in ancient China, but also to those looking for a little change in the ordinary murder/suspense novel.
Ms Lin creates a magnetic push-pull chemistry between her characters, Constable Wu Kaifeng and Lady Mingyu.  Mingyu is a beautiful courtesan from the pleasure house, Lotus Palace, who finds herself enmeshed in the murder of one of her "clients."  Since this is not the first time Kaifeng and Mingyu have found themselves solving a murder together, it is interesting and exciting to see how they interact.  A course in the cultural differences and the setting!
I was glued to the pages of this novel.  I rarely read an ebook for review, but found this one on netgalley and couldn't stop racing through it.  It's one of those you'll be happy you picked up.
5 stars                      Deborah/TheBookishDame

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"The Promise" by Ann Weisgarber~Author Interview


From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and long listed for the Orange Prize.

1900. Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him, but when Catherine travels to Oscar's farm on Galveston Island, Texas—a thousand miles from home—she finds she is little prepared for the life that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and Oscar's little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit uncomfortably between them. Meanwhile for Nan Ogden, Oscar’s housekeeper, Catherine’s sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For not only did she promise Oscar’s first wife that she would be the one to take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar which she is struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before.


Published by:  Skyhorse Publishing
Pages:  320
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Ann Weisgarber
Website:  http://www.annweisgarber.com


"A gripping, beautiful story of loyalties and hidden loves. Ann Weisgarber's pitch-perfect characters will break your heart and keep you guessing right to the very end."
—Carol Rifka Brunt, New York Times bestselling author of Tell The Wolves I’m Home

“In this superb novel, Ann Weisgarber has created voices so convincing it is as if the dead themselves have arisen to tell their story. The Promise is a novel that, once started, few readers will be able to put down.”
— Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena

"Ann Weisgarber's The Promise is set against the backdrop of the worst natural disaster of the 20th century in the U.S., but the weather is no match for [this] story of two women's love for the same man. The coastal isolation of Galveston shows Weisgarber's ability to make a place come alive, and the real storm in the book is the demand of family, the hope of love, and the impossibility of reinvention. Fans of A Reliable Wife will find The Promise to be a book they can latch onto."
—Alexi Zentner, author of Touch and The Lobster Kings

"Set against the worst natural disaster in twentieth century American history, The Promise is a riveting tale, told in lean luminous prose, of the power of love and the frailty of the human condition. Weisgarber knows storms, those that devastate the land and those that rage in the human heart. Her characters will live in your imagination long after you’ve turned the last deeply moving page."
—Ellen Feldman, author of Next to Love and Scottsboro

"Weisgarber's conjuring of Galveston Island at the turn of the 20th century is miraculous--a sensory feast. Narrated by a pair of compellingly divergent female voices, The Promise is at once an American story of second chances, an achingly felt love triangle, and a psychological tour de force. I am stunned. Rarely do novelists so happily marry depth of insight to unflagging suspense."
—Lin Enger, author of Undiscovered Country

The Promise is a gripping drama, at once personal and macrocosmic, a powerful recreation of the hurricane that devastates Galveston in 1900--and the fragile but hopeful life that a young woman is rebuilding there after fleeing from a scandalous past. I was captivated by Weisgarber's deft use of voices, her careful delineation of character, and her ability to pull the reader into a different time and place.
—Chitra Divakaruni, author of Mistress of Spices and Oleander Girl

"The Promise is a thrilling and heartbreaking novel. Told in alternating voices, with perfect pitch, it brings the past alive with a vivid sense of place and time. This is a story of the enduring bonds between people, of shame and redemption, of promises kept. No one has ever dramatized a cataclysmic storm better, the fury and aftermath. It is a novel of the struggle, the work, and the power of love."
—Robert Morgan, author of The Road From Gap Creek

The Promise takes a historical premise, The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, but makes the story of two women and the way they try to live and love in a hard hard world as affecting and evocative as any storm."
Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here and Highwire Moon


Ann is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree.  She was nominated for England’s 2009 Orange Prize and for the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers.  In the United States, she won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction.  She was shortlisted for the Ohioana Book Award and was a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writer. Ann serves on the selection committee for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction.

The Promise was inspired by a dilapidated house and by an interview Ann conducted when she was writing articles for a Galveston magazine.  She wrote much of the novel in Galveston where pelicans glide along the surf and cows graze in pastures. 

Her debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree was inspired by a photograph of an unknown woman sitting in front of a sod dugout.  It was published in England and France before being published in the United States.

Ann was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton.  She graduated from Wright State University in Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Houston.  She has been a social worker in psychiatric and nursing home facilities, and taught sociology at Wharton County Junior College in Texas.

In addition to Ohio and Texas, Ann has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa.  She now splits her time between Sugar Land, Texas, (home to Imperial Sugar Company), and Galveston, Texas.   She and her husband, Rob, are fans of America’s national parks and visit at least one park a year.   Ann is currently working on her next novel that takes place in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, during the winter of 1888.

*Note:  Photo by Christine Meeker


We are so thrilled to bring you this Q&A interview with Ann today.  She's an extremely interesting person, but also one you'd love to have as a next door neighbor!  Welcome, Ann!

Tell us something about yourself, please.  How do most people describe you?

            My innate shyness kicks in whenever I’m asked to talk about myself but I’ll take a deep breath and give it a try.  I grew up in Kettering, Ohio, and came from a family that had stacks of library books in the house.  Owning books was a luxury and I saved my allowance to buy them from the drugstore.  I make that sound so simple but in reality I’d debate and deliberate for days about which book to buy. 

            Reading, spending time in libraries, and buying books - but now in bookstores rather than drugstores - are still important to me.  So is baseball.  My husband and I go to Houston Astros games as often as we can, and I’m one of those crazy fans who keeps score.  I’m also a fan of national parks and the more remote, the better.  While writing my first novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, the U.S. Park Service gave me a four-week writing residency at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  I lived in ranger housing and didn’t have television or Internet services.  I didn’t miss either one.   

            I don’t know how people might describe me.  I’m afraid to ask them!        


Briefly, from where did the idea for your novel germinate?

            After I finished my first novel, I freelanced for a Galveston magazine, The Islander.  My articles were about people with unusual jobs and for one assignment, I interviewed a brother and sister who owned a small grocery store on the rural end of the island.  They’d moved there with their parents in 1963, and their stories about rural island life fascinated me.  The tap water was rusty and not safe to drink, electricity went out frequently, and there were more rattlesnakes than people.

            If that was life in 1963, what was the rural end of Galveston like during 1900 when a massive hurricane hit the island and killed over 6,000 people?  That question drove me to the Galveston library where I found very little information about the people who once lived outside of the city limits.  It seemed that Galveston’s dairy farmers, ranchers, and fishermen had been forgotten, and that felt like an injustice.  The Promise is my way of remembering those people.  

Who first told you you could write well and how did that affect you?

            My freshman composition instructor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, pulled me aside at the end of the quarter and told me she thought I was a good writer.  I was shocked; no one had told me that before.  Years later when I decided I wanted to write a story about a woman I’d seen in a photograph, the instructor’s words gave me the confidence to try.  I can’t begin to measure the impact her words had on my life.  She made me think I could write a book.    


Which contemporary authors do you admire?

            There are so many but novelists Ellen Feldman, Robert Morgan, Paulette Jiles, and Alexi Zentner are big favorites.  For unexplainable reasons, novelist Jennifer Hritz has been overlooked, and I love her books.  I keep a collection of poet Billy Collins’ work on my bedside table so I can end each day with a poem.               


Who are your favorite classical authors?

            Two of the classics that I love are Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I received both as gifts when I was a child, and I’ve read them countless times.  They’re on my desk now as I write this and I long to read them again.  They’re considered children’s literature but these stories of friendship, sacrifice, and loyalty touch my adult heart.   

What was your first book as a child?  What is your all-time favorite?

            I don’t remember specifically my first book but I’m willing to bet it was a Little Golden Book.  I especially liked the ones about Mickey Mouse, Minnie, and Daisy. 

            My all-time favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I’ve read it many times and I always marvel at the author’s wisdom to confront injustice, racism, and mental illness through the eyes of a child. 


Read any good books during the last six months?

            Gary Schanbacher’s Crossing Purgatory is absolutely wonderful.  It takes place in eastern Colorado prior to the Civil War, and the voice of the narrator – a man whose family has died – is haunting.  A few weeks ago, I read the advanced reading copy of Before the Fall by Juliet West.  She’s from the UK and it’ll be a great loss if this outstanding novel about a young East End woman during World War I isn’t published in the States. 

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

            After I graduated from high school, I didn’t want to go to college.  Instead, I took a job as a secretary.  It was a disaster.  I was the youngest person in the office by twenty years, I made a mess of an important document I had to prepare for my boss, and I got the shakes every time the sales team asked me to handle their expense receipts.  I quit after a few months and no one begged me to stay.  I found another job as a proofreader and applied for admission at Wright State University in Ohio.   


What’s your earliest memory?

            I distinctly remember my brother’s birthday party.  He was five, I was three, and my mother wouldn’t let me play some of the games.  Not only was I too young but I was the only girl.  I stood at the back door and watched the boys play tag in the yard.  I was not a good sport about being left out. 

What’s your most treasured possession?

            This might sound sappy but it’s my library card.  It represents all that’s good about America – free and equal access to knowledge and literature.    

Are you working on a new novel?

            I’m working on a novel that takes place in Utah’s canyon country during the winter of 1888.  The narrator is a 37-year old woman who helps polygamists hide from U.S. marshals.  I’m not all that far along and the plot could change so I won’t say more.   
Ann,  I can't believe you have a memory that early in your life.  That really must have impacted you.  I'm looking forward to your new book.  Polygamists really interest me these days...  Thank you for stopping by!


This is a rare book.  The author is outstanding and the story is captivating.  I was swept up in the telling of it and with the very distinct characters that inhabit the pages.  Truly one of those "you can't put it down" books of the season.  It's luminous and heart-rending.

I don't know much about Galveston, Texas, having never been there, but Ms Weisgarber brings it to life vividly.  She sharpens our senses to the salty air of the beach, the weathered landscape and the beaten habitations of Oscar's farm.  I became anxious as Catherine first crossed the waters in her train and throughout her trip there.  And I felt the anxiety and terror throughout the storm the whole family faced...both real and psychological.  Matchless writing that garnered many visceral and emotional reactions from me!

The characterization is strong here.  I truly felt the isolation of Catherine as she faced first her deceptions, and then her personal fears and love.  I struggled with Oscar as he tried to understand and find a heart's balance.  And I sensed the longing and pain in Nan.  The confusion in little Andre.  And much more.  Ann Weisgarber is a master at rendering the perfect beat needed for each character in their settings.

This is a beautiful book full of longing, love, heart-breaking reality and a sense of lost life regained.  I loved it.  I hope you'll give it a try.  It's the perfect book group book...lots of meat here...lots of situations to discuss.

5 stars                     Deborah/TheBookishDame

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"Elephant in the Sky" by Heather A. Clark


Widely acclaimed for her ability to tell emotionally powerful stories that capture the real lives of women, bestselling novelist Heather A. Clark tackles the subject of childhood mental disorders. Elephant in the Sky is told from both nine-year-old Nate’s point of view and that of his mother, Ashley, an overworked ad executive who struggles with a demanding workload and the worry that she’s not spending enough time with her family — especially as her son’s battle with mental unbalance and paranoid delusions escalates. The two narratives converge in a deeply moving tale of a family dealing with mental illness.

Elephant in the Sky is a story about unconditional love, and it articulates a complicated, real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity. It looks at what it means to be different in our society and beautifully explores the distance a mother will go to protect her child.

Published by:  ECW Press
Pages:  326
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Author:  Heather A. Clark
Purchase this book:  Amazon


Heather A. Clark is the author of the bestselling novel Chai Tea Sunday. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Visit her online at heatheraclark.com.


This is one of those books that is startling in its raw truth while it is heart-warming in conveying love and family bonding.  I blitzed through this novel hardly stopping for a breath it was so good!

Heather A. Clark is brilliant in telling a story while making it so real we believe every note of it.  I was deeply moved by the child in the novel as well as the mother who believes in him.  The boy and his innocent way of being "lost" was so authentically expressed.  I wondered if Ms Clark actually knew a child from whom she took this story, if felt so real.

This is not a tear-jerker of a story.  It has substance and solid writing behind it.  It's one of the best I've read on the subject of childhood mental illness since Clark doesn't choose to make us pity the boy...just love and respect him.

Highly recommended to everyone.  This would be a perfect book for a gathering of friends to discuss.

May be pre-ordered on Amazon for a May release...

5 stars                    Deborah/TheBookishDame

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"The Midnight Witch" by Paula Brackston


Midnight is the most bewitching hour of them all…

From Paula Brackston, the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch, comes a magical tale that is as dark as it is enchanting.  Set in high society Edwardian England, The Midnight Witch is the story of a young witch who faces the choice between love and loyalty to her coven…

Lady Lilith Montgomery is the daughter of the sixth Duke of Radnor. She is one of the most beautiful young women in London and engaged to the city’s most eligible bachelor. She is also a witch.
When her father dies, her hapless brother Freddie takes on his title. But it is Lilith, instructed in the art of necromancy, who inherits their father’s role as Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. And it is Lilith who must face the threat of the Sentinels, a powerful group of sorcerers intent on reclaiming the Elixir from the coven’s guardianship for their own dark purposes. Lilith knows the Lazarus creed: secrecy and silence. To abandon either would put both the coven and all she holds dear in grave danger. She has spent her life honoring it, right down to her engagement to her childhood friend and fellow witch, Viscount Louis Harcourt.
Until the day she meets Bram, a talented artist who is neither a witch nor a member of her class. With him, she must not be secret and silent. Despite her loyalty to the coven and duty to her family, Lilith cannot keep her life as a witch hidden from the man she loves.
To tell him will risk everything.

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Brackston follows The Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch with another sturdy historical paranormal. In 1913 London, on the eve of WWI, Lady Lilith Montgomery takes the title of Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven after her father’s death. Lilith and her fiancé, fellow witch Louis Harcourt, must defend the secret of the elixir of life from rival sorcerers, but both are distracted when impoverished artist Bram Cardale wins Lilith’s heart. War and the schemes of her enemies leave Lilith isolated, but loosening social conventions allow her to find love with Bram and success in her pursuits. Brackston lightly layers in unusual historical locales, like war-torn Uganda, but otherwise provides the expected charms of Edwardian balls, decadent slumming in opium dens, and repentant work in wartime soup kitchens. Her characters also fit convention (unsure prodigy, flighty socialite, spurned yet noble suitor) but their sincerity and humor make them worth following to the end. (Mar.)
“A sensitive, beautifully written account… If the Brontë sisters had penned magical realism, this would have been the result.” –The Guardian (London)

“There’s a whiff of Harry Potter in the witchy conflict—a battle between undeveloped young magical talent and old malevolence—at the heart of this sprightly tale of spells and romance, the second novel from British writer Brackston (The Witch’s Daughter, 2011)…. Love of landscape and lyrical writing lend charm, but it’s Brackston’s full-blooded storytelling that will hook the reader.” --Kirkus

“Brackston delivers an intimate paranormal romance that grounds its fantasy in the reality of a 19th century Welsh farm.” –Publishers Weekly

“Brackston's imaginative story is fascinating, polished and intriguing.” –CurledUp.com

“Paula Brackston’s Winter Witch is a whimsical and mystical tale that’s part romance part mystery part fantasy and all extraordinary. Her beautiful narrative moves flawlessly throughout the story… This unique novel will appeal to fans of a multitude of genres from historical to fantasy and will engage fans of all ages as well.” -- www.thereadingfrenzy.blogspot.com/
Published by:  St. Martin's Press
Pages:  352
Author:  Paula Brackston
Genre:  Fiction
PAULA BRACKSTON is the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Lancaster University in the UK.  She lives in Wales with her family.
The book trailer:
To put it short and sweetly:  I loved this book.  It's been a while since I've read such a bewitching witch novel.  Paula Brackston is a captivating author with a gift for storytelling that is sure to keep even the most skeptical of readers wide-eyed!

Not only is the book a great story, but the details of a coven and witches were so realistic. Beautifully cast, the finest outlines of persons, clothing and places make this novel come alive.  I was spellbound.  I could see the vivid colors, the ghostliness of the coven's inter sanctum, and the fearsomeness of some of the characters.  Ms Brackston leaves no stone unturned to give us a gorgeous picture of her characters and their settings.  I also appreciated so much the secondary story of the artists, their sensibilities and passions. 

The love story of Lilith and Bram is wound elegantly throughout, and it's difficult not to fall in love with both of these main characters.  Bram, as an artist, appealed to me because of this additional dimension and his compassion.

This is a novel with much to offer.  Not the run-of-the-mill story...  It's a study in the sacred bonds of family and lovers, vows and secrets.

Not to be missed!!  I highly recommend it on many levels:  Excellence in writing, great characterization, descriptive detailing, background and ambience, love story, bewitching tale and more.

5 stars                          Deborah/TheBookishDame