Posted in Reviews 2013 What's In A Name Challenge

Review & Giveaway – The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker

vanishng thief
The Vanishing Thief
(A Victorian Bookshop Mystery)

Brand New Cozy Series
The Berkley Publishing Group (December 3, 2013)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Teresa Fasolino
Cover Design by George Long
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0425266601
E-Book File Size: 1592 KB
ASIN: B00BDQ39I0
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Georgia Fenchurch appears to be an unassuming antiquarian bookseller in Victorian London, but the life she leads is as exciting as any adventure novel. For Georgia is a member of the Archivist Society, a secret association of private investigators led by the mysterious Sir Broderick.

When a frantic woman comes to Georgia claiming that her neighbor, Nicholas Drake, has been abducted by the notorious Duke of Blackford, Georgia and the Archivist Society agree to take the case. But Drake is no innocent—he is a thief who has been blackmailing many of the leading members of London society. To find Drake and discover who is behind his abduction, Georgia and her beautiful assistant, Emma, will have to leave the cozy confines of their bookshop and infiltrate the inner circles of the upper crust—with the help of the dashing but dubious Duke of Blackford himself.

But the missing thief and his abductor are not the only ones to elude Georgia Fenchurch. When she spies the man who killed her parents years ago, she vows to bring him to justice once and for all…at any cost.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

There is a lot happening in this debut. A man is missing, a cold case (the murder of our protag’s parents) is brought to the forefront when the killer may have been spotted out and about in London and a death of a young woman is being questioned.

There are also a slew of characters from Georgia Fenchurch, to her employee and best friend Emma, Phyllida, their “aunt”, who all live together.  The members of the Archivist Society including Sir Broderick, Lady Westover and her grandson Inspector Grantham. Add to that Drake, the missing man, the frantic woman searching for him and all the members of the upper crust who could be responsible for his disappearance including the Duke of Blackford. There are many more supporting characters too.

At first all of this was a little hard to follow but then the story hits a rhythm where all 3 stories and all the characters come together.

I really like several characters. The dialogue at a formal dinner party between Georgia and her table mates was quite humorous. The Duke and Georgia are quite suitable despite of their different classes. Seeing her rub shoulders with the Lords and Ladies shows she is very intelligent  and resourceful and not just a woman who inherited a bookshop. 

The story has more than the expected number of twists and turns for a book of this type, keeping the reader on their toes.

I enjoyed this trip back to Victorian times. A time before phones, cars, and many things we take for granted. When a trip to the country took days and to call the authorities you had to send a person with a message or find a bobbie on the street.

This is my first Kate Parker novel but according to her website she started out writing Romantic Suspense.  She has made a fine transition to cozy mysteries by combining all her strengths  – history, suspense, humor and romance. The Vanishing Thief is a nice blend of all four. I anxiously await the next Victorian Bookshop Mystery.

just you and a friend

4 STARFISH

Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

To find out more about Kate Parker check out her webpage here.
Like her on Facebook here.
Become her Fan on GoodReads here.

Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 1 copy to give away!

Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US or Canadian mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
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If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End December 27, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST
Winner Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

WIN6

Posted in Reviews 2013 Wisconsin Author

Review: The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

the spymistress
The Spymistress
Dutton Adult
Published by The Penguin Group
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Historical Fiction
Hardcover: 368 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0525953623
E-Book File Size: 2576 KB
ASIN: B00C1N96PY
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Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time…

Set in Virginia during the Civil War. When the state had seceded in April 1861, Elizabeth Van Lew dedicates herself to do anything she can to defy the new Confederate regime.

A fiction story based on a real woman that few people know about. Chiaverini takes us into the life of a woman inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
We know Jennifer Chiaverini for her wonderful Elm Creek Quilt series. This is her second book away from the series the delves into a special woman in history. I absolutely loved Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker.

Again she has intensely researched and brought us a story of another strong woman with courage and intelligence that put her life on the line to fight for this great country. She was a spinster, losing the man she loved way too soon. A woman who had no vote. A woman abolitionist, Unionist, loyal to President Lincoln living on the wrong side of the civil war. An independent woman who fought to give even a small amount of care and comfort to the Northern soldiers being held prisoner, many times with her mother by her side. 

There is a lot of content in this book. Each battle, each setback, each triumph. Elizabeth Van Lew was a smart, cunning woman who could think on her feet and was able to make Confederates believe what she was doing was good for the South while passing information and more to the North. The woman seemed to have no fear. 

The author’s story may not match to what others have written about Elizabeth Van Lew.  I have seen her referred to as “Crazy Bet” in other books covering this time but Chiaverini explains that her “crazy”  manner may have just been a way to avoid suspicion.  

I love the way this author writes but I have to say I enjoyed Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker more than the Spymistress. While both very worthwhile reads this one just had so much information I felt until overwhelmed at times. It is a very interesting and though fictionalized it is very educational. Jennifer Chiaverini has a way that makes her characters jump right out of the pages and you forget that these happenings they are enduring really took place.  I am so proud this writer calls Wisconsin home.

just you and a friend

4 STARFISH

Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About This Author
Jennifer Chiaverini lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to the sixteen volumes in the Elm Creek Quilts series and four books of quilt patterns inspired by the novels, she designs the Elm Creek Quilts fabric line from Red Rooster Fabrics. For more information about Jennifer, please visit her website at www.elmcreek.net

Jennifer may be coming to a bookstore near you. Check out her event schedule here.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Alphabet Soup - A - Z Reading Challenge Giveaways Guest Posts Reviews 2013 Wisconsin Author Wisconsin Setting

Special Guest – Christina Schwarz – Author of The Edge of the Earth (Giveaway too!)

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Christina grew up in rural Wisconsin so I am thrilled to have her visit today. She has a new book out, The Edge of the Earth, was released April 2. Check out my review after Christina’s post and be sure to enter the giveaway.

  118930089_Christina_Schwarz             In An American Childhood, Annie Dillard writes about how the books she read as a girl led her away from the Midwest that had nourished her and that she loved with its “big hardwood trees outside the windows, and the terrible Midwest summers, and the terrible Midwest winters.”  She says that the Midwest lovingly wills its children to “stay and find a place among its familiar possibilities.”  In the end, though, she sorrowfully left it, “having grown strong and restless” in the very act of opposing that will.  The theme in The Edge of the Earth that feels most tightly tied to my real life is the idea of feeling compelled to leave a loving world of familiar possibilities for who knows what.  When I decided that my character was going to travel to a strange and isolated lighthouse in California, I knew instantly that the other side of that story—the known and civilized world that she would leave—would be Milwaukee.

the edge of the earthHowever long I live in California—or elsewhere (I’ve flitted back and forth across the country several times)—I will forever identify myself first as a Midwesterner.  Perhaps distinctions of geography are less powerful than they once were, but to me there’s still a detectable difference.  The Easterner has a degree of sophistication and the Westerner conveys an uncomplicated self-confidence that I will forever lack.  Instead, I possess the down-to-earth quality of the Midwesterner, a trait I’m convinced is not unrelated to a matter-of-factness that comes from thinking that it’s perfectly normal to move through air chilled to 40 below and then superheated to 97 humid degrees within a six month period.

Wisconsin settings are key elements in three of my four novels, and even in the book that has no scene in the literal Midwest—All Is Vanity —I deliberately incorporated a California town, Glendale, that has for me a Midwestern flavor.  The Midwest is where I learned to see and appreciate the world.  That its beauties are often subtle, softened by rolling hills and dense layers of green, has made me a careful observer, alert to fine detail.  That drama in the Midwest is often understated, cloaked by polite cheerfulness, gives me a keen understanding of the complexity of people’s motives and behavior.

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carroway finds himself unable to fully enter into the excesses of the east coast, but because he has the perspective of a Midwesterner, which in his case might boil down to a clear sense of who he is, he’s able to clearly perceive and tell the story of Gatsby, Daisy and Tom (other Midwesterners who lose their way).  For me, too, the Midwest is the grounding place, the essence of home.

~Christina

About This Author
Christina Schwarz, author of three previous novels, including Oprah Book Club pick Drowning Ruth, grew up in rural Wisconsin. She has lived in Washington D.C., New York City, England and New Hampshire, and now lives in Pasadena, California. To capture the atmosphere of the central California coast for The Edge of the Earth, she dragged her husband and son (along with a passel of dogs and a cat) to Big Sur for months at a time.

the edge of the earth

The Edge of the Earth: A Novel
Historical Fiction
Atria Books (April 2, 2013)
A Division of Simon & Schuster
Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1451683677
E-Book File Size: 741 KB
ASIN: B008J2BZVY

The Edge of the Earth


In 1898, a woman forsakes the comfort of home and family for a love that takes her to a remote lighthouse on the wild coast of California. What she finds at the edge of the earth, hidden between the sea and the fog, will change her life irrevocably.

Trudy has been raised to marry her childhood sweetheart and make her home in Milwaukee but she yearns for a more adventurous life and she falls in love with Oskar. He plans to travel far away from the Midwest and she believes she has found an escape to her preordained life.

But she never imagined a life like this. Alienated from friends and family the couple moves to Point Lucia, California. A desolate outcropping between the ocean and inaccessible wilderness. Oskar is the new assistant lighthouse keeper and the only other inhabitants of the area are the Crawleys who are very set in their ways. Trudy will find that nothing is as she might have predicted, especially as she discovers what hides among the rocks.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
Schwarz is a truly gifted storyteller. Her descriptive style of writing gives this poignant story a life that was pure pleasure to read.

She has created rich and realistic characters and placed them in an extraordinary place. Imagine days filled with talking with 4 other adults and 4 children for months and months on end. The tender only brings supplies every few months.

Trudy goes from a life where practically everything was done for her to taking care of herself and her husband and even teaching the children. Oskar is a stubborn, selfish man. He has dreams for a great invention but he loses interest before any come to fruition. Euphemia Crawley is a woman hardened by her isolated life. She tries to keep rein on 4 wild, rambunctious children who have frequent “mermaid sightings”.

The story takes some unexpected turns and this reader was surprised by the ending. I enjoyed The Edge of the Earth. It is a story that will stick with you.

a perfect escape

5 STARFISH

Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

I am giving my gently read review copy to one lucky winner.

U.S. and CANADIAN RESIDENTS
You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Christina for 5 Bonus Entries !

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End May 2, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Posted in Alphabet Soup - A - Z Reading Challenge E-Book Challenge Giveaways Reviews 2013

Review: Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby (Giveaway too!)

SPARE CHANGE

Spare Change
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
Bent Pine Publishing (September 27, 2011)
Paperback: 280 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0983887911
E-Book File Size: 455 KB
ASIN: B005SHN43A

Spare Change


“The Good Lord don’t do things that way- when He sees a person’s flat out of hope and feeling dead broke, He slips a bit of spare change into the bottom of their pocket; not a lot maybe, but enough for them to get by.”

Olivia Westerly disowned by her father when she bucks tradition and holds down a job and decides not to marry and have children. She was 26 years old and considered a spinster and that was just fine with her. Olivia is very superstitious as well – Eleven is the unluckiness number ever and opals mean a disaster is about to strike. Then forty years later she meets Charlie Doyle and he sweeps her off her feet. Then life takes an unexpected turn. Olivia is alone again and there is n eleven year boy at her door in search of his grandfather.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

What a moving story!!! Full of emotion and heartwarming!!

Told from several points of view Bette Lee Crosby has written a story that will stay with you long after you reach the final word. What starts as two stories slowly merges into one. Olivia is a woman very set in her ways with absolutely no desire to have children “weigh her down”. Then Ethan Allen, a young boy who has fought and survived everything that was thrown at him including seeing something no child should have to witness, enters her life and turns her world inside out. An 11 year old, with a very foul mouth and no trouble slipping whatever he wants in his pockets could easily send Olivia over the edge.

Woven into this story is also a crime to be solved. It is not really a mystery because the reader knows the criminal but it takes the courage of a character to come forward all the while knowing their life is in danger.

With a definite Southern voice – dark at times, a bit of humor, a touch of religion, fantastic characters for the reader to love and hate, and an unexpected twist, this book gets my highest recommendation. The book has won several awards and readers will know why. This one is a keeper, a story you will want to read again and share with your friends.

a perfect escape 5 STARFISH

Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About This Author

Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to works of fiction–the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away.

Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since that time, she has gone on to win several more awards, including another NLAPW award, three Royal Palm Literary Awards, both the 2011 and 2012FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal and most recently the 2010 Reader’s View General Fiction Literary Award, Southeast Regional Fiction Award and the Jack Eadon Best Contemporary Drama Book Award.

Born in Detroit and raised in a plethora of states scattered across the South and Northeast, Crosby originally studied art and began her career as a packaging designer. When asked to write a few lines of copy for the back of a pantyhose package, she discovered a love for words that was irrepressible. After years of writing for business, she turned to works of fiction and never looked back. “Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”

Find out more on Bette’s webpage here.

Would you like to win a copy of this wonderful book?

The author is giving away 1 E-BOOK COPY!

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find something you like here and become a follower.

Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook plus anywhere you will receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Link.  (Limit 3 Links)

Contest Will End February 22, 2013 at 12:01 AM CST

Winners Will Be Chosen By Random.org

Winners Will Be Notified By Email and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Posted in Giveaways Reviews 2013 Wisconsin Author

Spotlight: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini with Review and Giveaway

mrs. lincolns dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
Historical Fiction
Dutton (January 15, 2013)
Published by The Penguin Group
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0525953616
E-Book File Size: 716 KB
ASIN: B008BM4NFC

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

This story tells of the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley. Lizzie, a slave who bought the way out of slavery for both herself and her son did so using her sewing talents. She went on to sew for some of the elite woman in Washington D.C. When Mrs. Lincoln moved to The White House she chose Lizzie over many applicants to be her her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire she created for the first lady. Their friendship quickly evolved and she became part of the fabric of the Lincoln White House. She was there to see Mary through the loss of her son and the assassination of her husband.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
Chiaverini has written an in depth look at an important time in history from the women’s point of view as only she can. It is well researched and flows smoothly into the reader’s heart and mind. This being her first novel away from her characters in the Elm Creek Series there were a bit of growing pains in places. She is writing about real people and tries to keep all the facts straight even though the book is fiction which can be extremely difficult. Readers should know this is not a quilting or a quilter’s story but Lizzie does create a quilt from the scraps leftover from her creations for Mrs. Lincoln. This is a very small part of this novel.

The author has a reputation of writing strong woman and Elizabeth Keckley is one strong woman. She definitely went above and beyond for Mrs. Lincoln. Chiaverini has captured her excellently and it is easy to forget Lizzie was a real person. Her insight into Mary Todd Lincoln was enlightening as well. Reading stories like this one are superb ways to learn more about the people the history texts forget about or only mention in passing. 

This book is everything I expect a Jennifer Chiaverini novel. Wonderful characters in a fascinating time and exciting places.  Fans of historical fiction will absolutely love this book. I sure did!! I can’t wait to read her next novel due out in October. The Spymistress features Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union loyalist who was a spy for General Grant.

a perfect escape

5 STARFISH

Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

 

 

A CONVERSATION WITH

JENNIFER CHIAVERINI

AUTHOR OF

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

Picture by Steven Garfinkel
Picture by Steven Garfinkel

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker chronicles the friendship between First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, who was born a slave and earned her freedom through her skill with a needle. What brought this story to your attention, and how did it inspire your first stand-alone historical novel?

More than a decade ago, I was researching antebellum and Civil War era quilts for my fourth novel when I discovered a photograph of an antique masterpiece. Arranged in the medallion style, with appliquéd eagles, embroidered flowers, meticulously-pieced hexagons, and deep red fringe, the quilt was the work of a gifted needleworker, its striking beauty unmarred by the shattered silk and broken threads that gave evidence to its age. The caption noted that the quilt had been sewn from scraps of Mary Todd Lincoln’s gowns by her dressmaker and confidante, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley. I marveled at the compelling story those brief lines suggested—a courageous woman’s rise from slavery to freedom, an improbable friendship that ignored the era’s sharp distinctions of class and race, the confidences shared between a loyal dressmaker and a controversial, divisive First Lady. What I would give, I thought, to have been present as Elizabeth Keckley measured Mary Lincoln for a new gown, to overhear their conversations on topics significant and ordinary, to observe the Lincoln White House from such an intimate perspective. From that moment, my interest in their remarkable friendship was captivated, and it never really waned.

Readers may be surprised to learn that Elizabeth Keckley was not only an accomplished modiste and businesswoman, but also a published author. Was meeting a historical figure through her own words different than encountering her via more distant historical sources?

A few years after I learned about the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt, I was researching a Civil War novel set on the Pennsylvania home front when I realized that many of my secondary sources cited the same work—Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, a memoir published in 1868 by Elizabeth Keckley. Struck by the familiar name, I immediately found a reprint and plunged into her story, which told of her harrowing years as a slave, her difficult struggle for freedom, and her ascendance as the most popular dressmaker of Washington’s social elite, including the new president’s wife. Sewing in the Lincoln family’s chambers within the White House, dressing Mrs. Lincoln for balls and receptions, Keckley observed Abraham and Mary Lincoln in their most private, unguarded moments, and with them she witnessed some of the most glorious and most tragic events in the nation’s history. Reading the story of her life in her own words made her experiences more immediate and more compelling, and for a long time afterward, I longed to delve more deeply into Elizabeth Keckley’s history, to learn about the woman she was beyond her friendship with Mary Lincoln, to discover what had happened after the closing passages of her memoir, and to uncover the details of everyday life in wartime Washington she had omitted.

President Lincoln is often characterized by his calm, thoughtful, and wise demeanor. The same, however, can’t be said for Mrs. Lincoln. In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, you paint a picture of a complex, yet fascinating woman with mood swings and emotional outbursts but who also possesses a strong and confident presence.  Can you describe your insights on her character? Why is she such an intriguing person, not just in your book but also in history?

Despite the volumes of historical and psychological research devoted to Mary Lincoln, she remains an enigma. She was the first wife of a US president to be called First Lady, and she was then and remains to this day one of the most controversial. Regrettably, descriptions of her tend to fall into the extremes of caricature: She is either portrayed as an unstable, shrill, vicious, corrupt shrew who made President Lincoln utterly miserable, or as a devoted wife and mother and a brilliant, shrewd, political helpmeet whose reputation was savaged by biased male historians. As a friend and confidante who observed Mary Lincoln closely in moments of triumph as well as tragedy, Elizabeth Keckley knew her as a real woman, full of flaws and virtues and surprises like any other. It was this far more nuanced woman that Elizabeth Keckley depicted in the pages of her memoir, and since Elizabeth Keckley is my narrator, I shaped the character of Mary Lincoln according to her perceptions.

Mrs. Lincoln chose Elizabeth Keckley first for her superior dressmaking skills; later for her confidence and friendship. Despite differences in temperament, status, and race, each woman made profound sacrifices for her country. Was it shared experience that cemented their bond?

Shared experiences certainly strengthened their bond, and for as long as their relationship endured, it was, for the most part, mutually beneficial. Mary Lincoln provided Elizabeth Keckley with opportunities for social and economic advancement she probably could not have even imagined during her years as a slave, while Elizabeth offered Mary the loyal, steadfast friendship she craved but had always found so elusive. But Mary assumed that the faithful Elizabeth would keep their shared experiences confidential. Loyalty meant everything to Mary, which is why their friendship could not survive the publication of Elizabeth’s memoir. Elizabeth claimed to have written her memoir in part to place Mary “in a better light before the world,” but since she was determined to write the truth, her portrayal was often unflattering. As publication day approached, Elizabeth worried that she might be criticized for revealing too much about the private lives of President Lincoln and the First Lady. “I have been prompted by the purest motive,” she defended herself in the book’s preface. “A breach of trust—if breach it can be called—of this kind is always excusable.” Understandably, Mary did not agree, and her sense of betrayal was so profound that she abruptly severed ties with the woman she had once considered her “best and kindest friend.” For the rest of her life, she rebuffed Elizabeth’s attempts to reconcile.

History has a way of offering its lessons in the way of recognizable trends and patterns. Elizabeth Keckley’s story was largely lost to history, yet it has recently been restored, through efforts to restore her gravesite, and now your novel. What do you regard as her legacy? 

Certainly her writing is a significant part of her legacy. Despite the vitriol of her critics and Robert Lincoln’s efforts to rid the world of Behind the Scenes, Elizabeth Keckley’s memoir, so denounced in its time, is today respected for its invaluable insights into the Lincoln White House. The influence she had upon President Lincoln—not in any official role of advisor, but rather through her presence and conversation, making him better aware of the needs of the African-American community—and how it might have informed his opinions and thus guided his policy decisions is another. Another part of her legacy—perhaps impossible to measure—springs from her role as a teacher, not only in her later years, when she worked as a domestic arts instructor at Wilberforce University, but also and especially when she taught sewing, reading, and other important skills to the former slaves living in Washington’s overcrowded refugee camps. She helped countless numbers of women gain the skills and knowledge they needed to build better lives for themselves and their families in the new world of freedom.

Entertainment Weekly has recently described President Lincoln as “having a moment.” Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed film Lincoln has renewed interest in this renowned figure in American history. From your experience in writing about him and his era, what has brought his Presidency back into cultural consideration?

Although interest certainly has escalated recently, Abraham Lincoln has always loomed large in the American imagination, perhaps because his story is so quintessentially American—from humble beginnings, through hard work and perseverance, he rose to success and renown. His tragic assassination just as the dawn of peace rose above the horizon only enhances his legend, because we will forever wonder what might have been, what else he would have accomplished had he lived. He consistently ranks at or near the top in national surveys rating the presidents on their greatness, their achievements, their leadership, and even those who disagree with his methods acknowledge that he saw the country through its most serious national crisis. The story of his presidency is especially relevant today, as the United States grapples with many of the same issues President Lincoln faced—matters of race, of the gulf between socioeconomic classes, of the role of government and the presidency, and of the challenge of fostering democracy in a nation of deeply divided citizens.

Your New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series has frequently drawn on history to great acclaim, and your passion for the American people, their struggles and triumphs, shines through. What is it about the antebellum and Civil War eras, especially, that intrigues you as a writer?

The antebellum and Civil War eras were a tumultuous and transformative time for our nation, showing the best and worst of humanity in stark contrast. Looking back, we discover great moral failings alongside true heroism in the struggle for justice, equality, and freedom. My personal heroes are people who face adversity with moral courage and dignity, whose hunger for justice and compassion for others lead them to stand up for what is right even at great risk to themselves. My favorite characters to write about either possess similar qualities, or are given the opportunity to summon up these qualities and do what is right but fall short. What slavery, the Underground Railroad, secession, and the Civil War say about our country—that we are capable of both great moral failings and tremendous goodness—resonates strongly even today, perhaps especially today, and as a creative person, I am drawn to explore and try to understand that conflict.

What is your next work of fiction? Can readers expect to meet another remarkable yet little known figure from America’s past?

My next novel, The Spymistress (Dutton, October 2013), will explore the suspenseful, clandestine life of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union loyalist who was General Grant’s most valuable spy in her native Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital during the tumultuous years of the Civil War.

I loved this book and would really like to add it to my Keeper Shelf
but I am going to share it with one lucky person.
Thank you to the people a Dutton for this copy!
The book hits shelves in exactly one week
so this is going to be a quick giveaway
so if you haven’t won the copy you can rush out and purchase the book!

YOU MUST BE A FOLLOWER OF THIS BLOG TO ENTER!

There will be no Bonus Entries to give everyone a fair chance.

CONTEST ENDS SUNDAY NIGHT JANUARY 13 AT 11:59 P.M. CST
Winner will be notified by email and will be posted in the sidebar of this blog.
Good Luck Everyone!!

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Just For Fun Challenge Reviews 2012 What's In A Name Challenge

The Darling Dahlias and The Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert

This is my Just For Fun Read for April and I just had to share it with you! The second book in the series in also screaming from my To-Be-Read shelf.

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree
The Darling Dahlias Mysteries
1st in Series
The Berkley Publishing Company
Published by The Penguin Group

Set in the Spring of 1930, the garden club of Darling, Alabama is celebrating the life of the founding member, Mrs. Dahlia Blackstone, by renaming their club in her honor.” Henceforth and forever, the would now as the Darling Dahlias.”

The club was also left the Blackstone home and gardens to use as their clubhouse. The home isn’t too large but the gardens have been written about in the Montgomery Advertiser and the Selma Times Journal. There is also a large cucumber tree in front and another in back of the house. Town librarian and Dahlia club member insists they be called by their proper Latin name, Magnolia acuminata, but they are now and will forever be cucumber trees to the people of Darling. Both the house and the gardens need work as Mrs. Blackstone health was failing she was unable to keep up with everything. Inheriting the home was totally unexpected by the group but they will do what they need to do to restore everything.

Life in Darling isn’t all a garden party though. A convict has escaped from a nearby prison, a car is stolen, there are rumors started about the local bank being in trouble and a ghost has been sighted digging in the backyard of the Dahlias new home. The Dahlias start digging themselves for information to see if the can get to the root of all these mysteries.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
While reading this I was struck at how similar life is today with what was going on in 1930. We keep hearing that this economic downfall is as bad as the “great depression”. This story shines a light on the struggles being faced then and it is glaring in the similarities being faced by people today.

The author has created wonderful characters that are each vastly different but come together through their love of gardening. They also come together to help each other when without the garden club they may not even be friends. We are introduced to each and learn how the fit together while they use their individual talents to solve a series of problems plaguing their beautiful town.

A wonderful debut to what I am sure will be a wonderful series. Susan is a very talented author and I would expect no less. This is the perfect time of year to curl up with the Darling Dahlias and their mysteries.


Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About This Author
Susan Wittig Albert is the author of An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days, recently released by the University of Texas Press, and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place.

Her fiction, which has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige. Previous nonfiction includes What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (winner of the 2009 Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction); With Courage and Common Sense; Writing from Life: Telling the Soul’s Story; and Work of Her Own: A Woman’s Guide to Success Off the Career Track.

She is founder and past president of the Story Circle Network and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Find out more at http://susanalbert.com/


This book was from my private collection.

Posted in Alphabet Soup - A - Z Reading Challenge Literary Escapes Reviews 2012

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Yellow Crocus: A Novel
Flaming Chalice Press

It’s 1837, Mattie is summoned to the “big house” where newborn Elizabeth (Lisbeth) Wainwright is thrust into her arms to nurse, care for and nurture. It is supposed to be a great honor to get to work in the owner’s home but Mattie had to leave her own baby and her family behind in the slaves quarters. But slaves do what they are told or face cruel punishment so she tries to make the best of it, visiting her family for a few hours on Sundays and glimpses she can catch out the nursery window. Maddie and Lisbeth become as close as a mother and daughter and their journey has just begun.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
This is a beautifully written chronicle of one of the worst times in American history. The story takes place on the Wainwright plantation and while they work their slaves very hard the punishments did not seem to be a severe as at other plantations during this time. Lisbeth took time to learn what life was truly like for the slaves and her innocent awakening to life beyond the “big house” was very engaging. She really led a sheltered life with Maddie. Maddie was a strong woman that never complained and lived with the life she was dealt, even though it was filled with much hardship. Lisbeth grows in strength too by the end of the story.

The reader gets to travel through both women’s journey that at times brought tears to my eyes and others that made me smile. This is a perfect springtime read as the yellow crocus just starts to bloom and the earth is renewed after winter. I really loved this story and think you will too.

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This book is available in both paperback and e-book. Right now you can get the e-book for Free if you are an Amazon Prime Member or just 99 cents if you are not. B&N.COM has the paperback but does not offer the e-book at this time.


*This book was from my private collection.

Posted in Alphabet Soup - A - Z Reading Challenge Giveaways Literary Escapes Reviews 2012

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli Review and Giveaway

Glow: A Novel
VIKING
Published by The Penguin Group
Available Today!

This story spans the years 1836 to 1941 following the female descendants of Solomon Bounds.

Amelia McGee, a young woman of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent, is an outspoken pamphleteer for the NAACP and when her home was vandalized in the middle of the night she decides to put her eleven year old daughter, Ella, alone on a bus home to Georgia from Washington, D.C. But when the local bus is out of commission Ella is left walking the last part of her journey. She is preyed on by two drifters and is left for dead on the side of the road with just her dog.

Ella is found by Willa Mae Cotton, a former slave and Mary-Mary Freeborn. They take her back to their cabin to nurse her back to health. While there she learns the secrets of her lineage, she is the youngest of Solomon Bounds kin.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
This is a poignant narrative of an important time in history.  In 2012 we are still talking about race, it is still a hot button issue even as we have the first president of mixed race.

The author takes us on a journey through Solomon Bounds family tree and each branch and leaf gets to tell us their part of the story. White, African-American, Native American, even mixed together, they all have their own voice in this family. Their words have a lyrical quality that makes the story real and engaging.

It is a story full of history and local customs of the Northeast Georgia. The settings of the mountains and forests surrounding the story are described lovingly, as is the weather endured, the heat, the winds, and the rain.

The theme throughout is love, a mother’s love for her child, the lengths we go to to maintain that relationship as well the other relationships in our lives, even relationships that society would deem forbidden. The women in this adventure are very strong and continue to grow throughout their story.

Again, I am amazed that this is a debut novel for this author. She is definitely an author to watch.

This is a beautifully composed novel spanning over 100 years, the readers will definitely see and feel the “Glow”.



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Thanks to the wonderful people at Viking
I have 2 copies of this book to give away!!

U.S. and CANADIAN RESIDENTS
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Finish The Series Challenge Literary Escapes Reviews 2012 Wisconsin Author

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini

Sonoma Rose (Elm Creek Quilts)
Dutton
Published by The Penguin Group
An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
18th in the Series
Available Today!

What a Beautiful Cover!

In previous editions we were reminded that some of Sylvia Berstrom’s relatives had migrated to California. Sonoma Rose starts with a little of that history, picking up where The Quilter’s Homecoming, that was published in 2007 left off.

We meet Elizabeth Bergstrom Nelson’s  friend, Rosa Diaz as the country is coping with all the restrictions of Prohibition. Mother to eight children, Rosa mourns the loss of four who succumbed to the mysterious wasting disease currently afflicting young Ana and Miguel. Her abusive husband refuses to take them into the city so the children can see a doctor. His mind is clearly on other things, like his fancy car and keeping secrets about his business dealings from his wife. When an act of violence shatters Rosa’s resolve to maintain her increasingly dangerous existence, she flees with the children and her precious heirloom quilts to the mesa where she last saw her beloved mother alive.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
This is the Jennifer Chiaverini I love to read. I think she lost her way a little bit wrapping up the current characters in The Wedding Quilt.This story shines a brilliant light on her masterful storytelling talent.

This is Rosa’s story. She is yet another strong female heroine created by Chiaverini that has you engaged from the moment we step back into her life. You will feel a wide range of emotions during her story, anger, fear, hope and joy. The bonds of friendship are as strong as all the other books in this series. The power of love from a mother’s love for her children to the enduring love between a man and a woman are woven wondrously through these pages. This story was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t put it down.

Jennifer Chiaverini has created some very memorable fiction characters and has allowed us to go along with them on the journeys not only in current time but into the past and into the future. I am really wondering what is next in this series. I have loved all of these characters and will miss them if this is where the journey ends. I sincerely hope she has some more Elm Creek Quilts stories in that big sewing basket of hers.

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Giveaways Literary Escapes Reviews 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey with Giveaway!

2012 best historical fiction
The Snow Child: A Novel
Reagan Arthur Books/ Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
Just Released

Set in the 1920’s, Jack and Mabel need a change. They are missing the child they lost and it is just too painful to be around friends and relatives and all their children. They set their sights to the Northwest, Alaska to be specific, to set up a homestead and a new life. The work and isolation feels good at first, but they are still longing for a child. Can their marriage stand the trials they have in front of them? Will their love see them through?

All the sudden it starts to snow, a thick wet snow, they venture outside and build a child out of snow, complete with a scarf and mittens.  The next morning the snow child is gone and a tiny trail of footsteps lead into the woods. For weeks they catch glimpses of something in the woods but both of them think they are only seeing what they wish for, not anything really there. Until a little girl shows up at their doorstep.

 

Dollycas’s Thoughts
This story was so much more than I originally thought it would be. I had heard of a fairy tale about a snow child so I thought I knew where this story was going. I was so wrong. This book is full of love, loss, friendship, trust, pain, suffering and joy.

I would have gone crazy in the wilderness all alone with just my husband. Love is wonderful, but I was so glad that a boisterous, blustery, neighbor family befriended Jack and Mabel. Imagine having only one person to talk to do day in and day out for days on end, it’s freezing cold outside, and the land is full of moose, bears and coyotes. The people of that era had a strength I can only imagine.

You can tell the author is an Alaskan native as Alaska is not just a setting, it is another character in this beautifully written story. It contains a certain magic that transcends imagination while still giving a real look at how hard homesteading in Alaska was in the 1920’s. I can see how the fairy tale I remembered The Snow Child: A Russian Folktale was a bit of the inspiration but Ivey transforms it into an extraordinary story all her own.

This is the author’s debut novel. I can easily see it becoming classic.


The publisher is generously giving several blogs copies of this novel to giveaway.
I will add my gently read review copy so I have a total of 4 copies to giveaway.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”