Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Review: The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb

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About The Beautiful Possible

Spanning seventy years and several continents, this enthralling novel tells the braided love story of three unforgettable characters. In 1946, Walter Westhaus, a German-Jewish refugee who spent the war years at Tagore’s ashram in India, arrives at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where he meets Sol Kerem, a promising rabbinical student. A brilliant nonbeliever, Walter is the perfect foil for Sol’s spiritual questions . . . and an alluring paramour for Sol’s free-spirited fiancée, Rosalie. Months later they shatter their impossible bond, retreating to opposite sides of the country—Walter to pursue an academic career in Berkeley, and Sol and Rosalie to lead a congregation in suburban New York. A chance meeting years later reconnects them—catching three hearts and minds in a complex web of desire, heartbreak, and redemption. With extraordinary empathy and virtuosic skill, The Beautiful Possible considers the hidden boundaries of marriage and faith, and the mysterious ways we negotiate our desires.

My Review

I was challenged by this book, a few elements were appreciated, however, the overall feel didn’t agree with me eclipsing the areas I enjoyed.

The deep friendship the trio shared, their individual struggles regarding faith, belief/disbelief, loss, choices, expectations and self acceptance were palpable and raw. Religion played such a vital and passionate part, the Jewish faith references were enlightening and lovely. The ending was well crafted.

What I had trouble with was the overly melodramatic feel, it was just too thick for my taste distracting from the entire narrative making the characters appear as actors rather than protagonists in a story with great potential. I understand the trios connection but I never grasped what the magnetic pull Walter possessed causing Rosalie to cling to almost obsessively, it was never fully explored, instead it was assumed to be understood by the reader. The presentation felt clunky, the timeline was linear but the protagonists appearances where scattered, you must pay attention or you’ll be lost in erratic transitions.

A triangular love story of lifelong friends with a weighty dramatic feel, ambiguous pockets allowing the reader to reach a conclusion. Unique in its delivery. Gottlieb’s style stands out, certainly interested in reading more from her in the future.

About Amy Gottlieb14108036

Amy Gottlieb’s fiction and poetry have been published in many literary journals and anthologies, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. She lives in New York City.

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Published by Harper Perennial (February 16, 2016)

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Filed under 2016, February, Fiction, Review

Review: The Renegade Queen (Rebellious Times Book 1) by Eva Flynn

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About The Renegade Queen

Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History

Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.

She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.

He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.

Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.

Who were they?

This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.

Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.

It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.

But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.

When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.

Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

My Review

Victoria Woodhull is a woman known to few, I find this astonishing but not completely surprised since poignant women in history are rarely introduced in classroom environments.

Flynn does a wonderful job of introducing and reintroducing this amazing woman. Woodhull was a product of a controversial and horrifically dysfuntional family. Constantly battling obstacles she carved a path for herself and became a ‘first’ in many positions unheard of for women. Her passion and commitment along with numerous sacrifices led to championing for the right for women to vote. Her relentless efforts cost her dearly, despite what written history states Woodhull was a major player in gaining voting rights for women, truly an unsung hero against the backdrop of more familiar and known names – Stanton, Anthony, Hooker.

With an election looming, you can’t help but pause and give a sigh of gratitude for this woman and for the other pioneering women fighting for the female right to vote.

Flynn’s research and display really create a riveting read, you understand the toughness and determination possessed by memorable Woodhull. Great read for those seeking to learn more of women in history and those familiar with this trailblazing fearless spitfire.

About the Author03_Eva Flynn

Eva was raised on bedtime stories of feminists (the tooth fairy even brought Susan B. Anthony dollars) and daytime lessons on American politics. On one fateful day years ago when knowledge was found on bound paper, she discovered two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull in the WXYZ volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. When she realized that neither of her brilliant parents (a conservative political science professor and a liberal feminist) had never heard of her, it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination not only with Victoria Woodhull but in discovering the stories that the history books do not tell. Brave battles fought, new worlds sought, loves lost all in the name of some future glory have led her to spend years researching the period of Reconstruction. Her first book, The Renegade Queen , explores the forgotten trailblazer Victoria Woodhull and her rivalry with Susan B. Anthony.

Eva was born and raised in Tennessee, earned her B.A. in Political Science from DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana and still lives in Indiana. Eva enjoys reading, classic movies, and travelling. She loves to hear from readers, you may reach her at eva@rebellioustimes.com, and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.

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 Publication Date: December 15, 2015 Omega Press

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Filed under 2016, February, Fiction, Review

Review & Guest Post: In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

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About In Another Life

It is January 1208 and in a village on the border between Provence and Languedoc, a monk whispers a benediction over the body of a slain papal emissary. The Cathars—followers of a heretical faith—are blamed for the assassination. The Pope declares a holy war and Languedoc is forever changed.

Eight hundred years later, historian Lia Carrer returns to southern France to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. Instead of finding solace in Languedoc’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, the woman trying to heal risks love, and loss, again.

Reincarnation is familiar ground for Lia—an expert in the mystical beliefs of the ancient Cathar faith—but to reconcile the truth of that long-ago assassination, the logical researcher must accept religious fantasy as historical fact. Three lost souls enter her life, each holding a key to the murder that launched a religious crusade in the heart of Europe.

In Another Life is set amidst the medieval intrigue of thirteenth century Languedoc and Paris, intertwined with Lia’s modern quest to uncover the truth of an ancient murder and free a man haunted by ghosts from his past.

AMAZON |  BARNES & NOBLE

My Review

Thank you Julie Christine Johnson for taking me on such an amazing reading journey. Exploring the Languedoc region of France and Catharism penned by your exquisite writing as you deftly threaded Science Fiction, Fantasy with love, religious persecution, loss, redemption.

Alternating between past and present with gripping characters searching for answers made for an enthralling read. The languid pace intensifies with the turn of every page as the story unrolls, I caught myself holding my breath as the adventure and excitement continues.

I felt such empathy for Lia. Lia is a woman stricken with sorrow and grief finding herself caught between the past and the present, sucked into the past through another’s life and thrust into the present with an answer to a question lingering in history. Incredibly three-dimensional you sense Lia’s turmoil and calm as she pieces everything together.

Memorable story leaving you lost in thought for quite a while. Impressive ambitious debut from a very talented authoress. Anxiously awaiting Johnson’s next undertaking. You’ll be left breathless and measured simultaneously, enigmatic.

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Raven Haired Girl extends a warm welcome to Julie Christine Johnson. Thank you for joining Raven Haired Girl, Julie 

Guest Post

The Soundtrack of a Novel: In Another Life

by Julie Christine Johnson

I write to music. A low murmur in my headphones to cancel out the chatter around me if I’m in a public place, or a soft swirl of sound at home to break the silence. Typically I write to mellow, dreamy tunes without words or too much of a beat: chillwave, ambient, the gentler side of classical—Albinoni, Chopin, Debussy.

That’s what I write to.

But each of my novels has a soundtrack, music that puts me inside the characters’ souls so that I feel their longing, confusion, joy, anger, passion, wonder. Certain songs wrap tendrils of emotion around my heart and squeeze, until I gasp a story onto the page, releasing the pressure of characters struggling to be heard.

Are you familiar with the Welsh word hiraeth? How about the Portuguese saudade? German’s Sehnsucht? Words that have no direct translation in English, but each expresses an essential longing of the soul, homesickness for a place never visited, a melancholy that sinks so deep, you gasp in pain while your mouth waters in pleasure; an unrequited longing for the ghost of a dream, castles built in clouds.

It is this sense of longing that I most wanted to convey through In Another Life, where a woman loses her beloved husband and wanders lost, without love or a sense of self. The sirens of hiraeth call her back to her spiritual home, the southern French region of Languedoc, but melancholy follows in her wake.

For In Another Life, the song that most evokes the novel’s emotional core, the song I think of as Lia’s song, came years before the novel. I heard it years before I would dare call myself a writer. But this song became the genesis of a character, a woman aching with longing that she can barely allow herself to express: Tori Amos’ “Sleeps with Butterflies”, from her 2005 album The Beekeeper.

I’m not like the girls that you’ve known
But I believe I’m worth coming home to

They are the words a woman offers tentatively to a new love, wondering, ‘Is it me you want?’

Are you having regrets about last night?

It is a subtle dance between confidence about who she is, what she wants, but uncertainty—in these early days of new and delicate love—if her lover reciprocates the same intensity of feeling.

If you don’t know the song, bring it up on iTunes or Spotify. Imagine this is Lia singing, the morning after her walk with Raoul in the frozen wonderland of vineyards buried under snow, remembering their first kiss, their shared longing and hesitation. Imagine this writer waiting for just the right story to bring that woman, in all her longing and hesitation, to life.

Other artists that form In Another Life’s soundtrack: French folksinger Francis Cabrel, who sings in both Spanish and French; Damien Rice, Sarah McLachlan, David Gray, M83, The Swell Season.

What about you—writers and readers—what are the songs that make your skin tingle with emotion, your solar plexus reverberate with feeling, fill you with inexplicable longing?

About Julie Christine Johnsonimage004

Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt, and the anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs.

Her second novel, The Crows Of Beara, a finalist in the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, has sold to Ashland Creek Press for publication in fall 2017. In this work of women’s fiction, a struggling American PR executive and an enigmatic Irish artist face off over the development of a copper mine in rural Ireland, finding love and redemption amid the rugged, mystical land.

A runner, hiker, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State with her husband. In Another Life is her first novel.

Find out more about Julie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter, Goodreads.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark – February 2, 2016

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Filed under 2016, February, Fiction, Guest Post, Review

Review: The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

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About The Golden Son

An unforgettable story of family, responsibility, love, honor, tradition, and identity, in which two childhood friends—a young doctor and a newly married bride—must balance the expectations of their culture and their families with the desires of their own hearts.

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.

Tender and bittersweet, The Golden Son illuminates the ambivalence of people caught between past and present, tradition and modernity, duty and choice; the push and pull of living in two cultures, and the painful decisions we must make to find our true selves.

My Review

Great story, compelling protagonists.

Gowda provides a fabulous glimpse into Indian culture, along with the obligations and duties an eldest son faces. She also shares the oppression Indian women face and the contrast of their lives from males along with the expectations of daughters especially those hostage in a volatile marriage. Lena and her family’s story was halting, nothing less than heartbreaking.

The narrative is not romantic or sugar coated in any way, rather it’s a realistic look into the challenges immigrants face abroad. Anil was challenged and a bit disillusioned with his position, he was also taken aback by acceptable social norms versus those of his home country. Assimilation for Anil came at a price as his naivety was cracked. I liked the way he constantly struggled with the new ways and old ways, new home and old home.

The ending was a very pleasant surprise, the twist was well done, Gowda delivers another fabulous story.

A wonderful story of a rekindled friendship facing choices of freedom and responsibility as well as loyalty and love

About Shilpi Somaya GowdaShilpi-Somaya-Gowda-AP

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto to parents who migrated there from Mumbai. She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage. She has lived in New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and currently makes her home in California with her husband and children.

Find out more about Shilpi at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Filed under 2016, Fiction, January, Review

Review & Interview: Platinum Doll By Anne Girard

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About Platinum Doll

Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, Platinum Doll tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.

It’s the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She’s chasing a dream—to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights. In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want—a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends—except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition—to be an actress on the silver screen.

With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she’s thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth—that fame comes at a price, if only she’s willing to pay it.

Featuring a glittering cast of ingénues and Hollywood titans—Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes—Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.

AMAZON  |  BARNES & NOBLE

My Review

Girard captures Jean Harlow in such an intimate light. There was much more to this sultry siren than her sex appeal and good looks as we quickly discover. It’s a coming of age story parallel with the rise of a star cum icon. Girard demonstrates the two most influential people in Harlow’s life and career, equally causing her joy and sorrow.

I appreciated the way Girard captured closure for Harlow in both relationships with her mother and with Chuck. The closures allowed Harlow peace, a burgeoning voice and served as showing this woman’s tender side and what was most important to her, through the ashes rises a woman – plausible and after spending time with Harlow more than appropriate.

I do wish Harlow possessed a backbone, sadly she was a people pleaser causing her much strife. I was hoping she would use the word ‘no’ especially in regards towards her mother. Eventually she resigns to accepting her position with her mother and takes a quasi stand, still not enough but given her personality understood to a certain degree.

Girard does a fabulous job with facts and fiction creating a wonderful historical fiction focusing on the personal and professional rise of Jean Harlow.

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Raven Haired Girl extends a warm welcome to Anne Girard. Thank you for joining Raven Haired Girl, Anne

For starters, please tell us a bit about Platinum Doll.

The book is based on the true story of Harlean Carpenter McGrew, who went to Hollywood and by her early twenties, became screen legend Jean Harlow. The book follows her journey from mid-western teenager and idealistic newlywed through the beginning of her career in the exciting heyday of early Hollywood. It focuses on the challenges she faced along the way, both personally and professionally, as well as her triumphs. It also explores her friendships with wonderful characters like Clark Gable, Clara Bow, Howard Hughes, and Laurel and Hardy.

Why Jean Harlow as opposed to others during the Golden Age?

Initially, I just loved the idea of bringing to readers the real flesh and blood girl behind the iconic platinum hair. Then, as I began doing the detailed research, I was really moved by the compelling elements of her private life; the fragile young marriage that Hollywood threatened, their love story, and the over-bearing stage mother who insisted she was more than just another pretty face. Many of that era’s other stars have faded into obscurity with the years, but Jean Harlow still has her legions of fans. Marilyn Monroe idolized her, and even now so do stars like Madonna and Gwen Stefani. I think that’s a pretty extraordinary legacy after more than 80 years. With Platinum Doll, I hope not only to honor that legacy but to share her story with a new group of readers who may not know much about her.

While researching, did you unearth anything surprising about Jean Harlow? Any interesting bits of information to share with the audience?

She was quite well-educated, which went against her early screen image, and she loved to read. Harlow always had a satchel of books with her on movie sets so that she could put her down time to good use. It was fascinating to discover that she actually wrote a novel called Today Is Tonight, which was published posthumously. She was also a great animal lover and had dozens of pets.

If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

I would have preferred to tell the story of her entire short life rather than leaving off where I did. While Jean Harlow lost her life tragically at the very young age of 26, she had some fascinating and juicy escapades and relationships after her fame took hold.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? 

Do I plan to write a sequel? No one has asked me that yet!

What are your current / future projects?

I am mid-way through another fictional biography based on a true character from history. This one is set in England. I am also finishing a novel set in the Provence region of France.

About Anne Girard7563277

Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard (Madame Picasso), holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from UCLA. A chance meeting with the famed author Irving Stone 25 years ago sharply focused her ambition to tell great stories from history, and write them only after detailed research and extensive travel to the place her character lived. That determination has provided a fascinating journey that has taken her from the halls of Chenonceaux, to a private interview with one of Pablo Picasso’s last surviving friends, and most recently an invitation inside Jean Harlow’s home.

Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Courtesan, in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award-winning status.

Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow, is her 15th book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.

Connect with Anne:  Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Publisher: MIRA Books – January 26, 2016

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Filed under 2016, Fiction, Interview, January, Review

Review, Guest Post & Giveaway: Saved by the Bang by Marina Julia Neary

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About Saved by the Bang

Welcome to 1980s Belarus, where Polish denim is the currency, “kike” is a pedestrian endearment, and second trimester abortion can be procured for a box of chocolates. Antonia Olenski, PhD, a catty half-Jewish pianist and leading cock tease of the Gomel Music Academy, wavers between her flamboyant composer husband Joseph and a chivalrous tenor Nicholas. The Chernobyl disaster breaks up the love triangle, forcing Antonia into evacuation in the cumbersome company of her ugly eight-year old daughter Maryana. After a summer of cruising through Crimean sanatoriums and flirting with Afghan veterans, Antonia starts pining for the intrigues and scandals of the Academy. When the queen of cats finally returns home, she finds that another woman is wearing her crown. In the afterglow of nuclear fallout, artistic, ethnic and sexual rivalries emerge. How far will Antonia go to reclaim her throne?

My Review

Marina sure knows how to spin a yarn and this book is no exception. Perfect amount of comedy and tragedy as you are privy to the Olenski’s, a Soviet upper class family’s ride among the chaos and turbulence of 1990’s Russia.

Belarus is the focus as it celebrates its autonomy. Plenty of political sarcasm mixed with dark humor guide the reader gently through the brutality and harshness of the times.

Reading of Antonia and Maryana’s frantic flight from radiation fallout from the Chernobyl disaster, their lives dramatically altered from even more challenges as they eventually find their home in Connecticut is a journey not to be missed.

Antonia and Maryana are true survivors, making the best of challenges and obstacles, victorious in the end.

Wonderfully written, fans seeking satire on an autobiographical level will appreciate Marina’s story.

Guest Post

“Feminism is a game fat American housewives play to feel important.” In a nutshell, that was a very concise description my 1st grade teacher gave me in 1986 when I asked her to clarify the meaning of that word. Before you throw any rotten tomatoes at me, let’s take a step back to process that loaded statement in a historical context. There were so many myths and theories floating around on both sides of the Atlantic. Let’s take a moment to deconstruct them.

Weight issues and body image
In a society where food was scarce and public transportation unreliable, an average woman burned hundreds of calories on her way to work. Fat-shaming was rampant. Overweight individuals were perceived as gluttonous, lethargic and lacking self-control in a culture that praised mobility, industriousness and aggression. According to the late Soviet era ethos, some of the worst things you could be were fat and voluntarily unemployed aka “housewife”.

Gender roles (my favorite topic)
“Housewife” was a dirty word, synonymous with “slave” and “cripple”. Unlike their American sisters, Soviet women did not need to fight for their rights. Equality had been pretty much granted to them as result of the 1917 October Revolution. The new government took initiative to bust the old gender roles and minimize the gender gap in the workforce. From day one, girls were taught they could do everything that boys could. When asked which career path she wanted to pursue, a good Soviet girl was expected to reply, “engineering” or “space exploration” or “combat medicine”. If a girl replied “I just want to be a mom”, eyebrows would be raised. Her parents would probably get a call from the school principal.

In Saved by the Bang, my autobiographical satire, you have a fairly traditional matriarchal family, with three generations of achievement-oriented women: a civil engineer (Lily), a music professor (Antonia) and a lab technician and student body leader (Maryana). A woman’s worth is measured in her diplomas, medals, ribbons and certificates of appreciation.

Housing arrangements
Lack of housing in urban areas was – and continues to be – a major issue. You still have multi-generational families stuffed into one-bedroom apartment. It’s not unusual to have two children and a grandmother in one bedroom, and the parents in the living-room on the couch. In some families, certain members sleep on the balcony, in the hallway or in the kitchen. So home was not a place where you would want to spend too much of your time without tripping over other members. It’s a place to change your clothes, grab something quick to eat and spend the night. So if you don’t have the physical infrastructure for a home, it makes sense that you don’t have this religion around domesticity either.

Attitude towards Americans
By 1986 when the novel takes place nobody really feared that Americans were going to drop a nuclear bomb on Moscow. The Cold War was pretty much over. Still, there was a fair amount of antagonism towards American economic and social values, or at least what Soviets perceived them to be. I find it fascinating how Americans talk about the proverbial Anglo-Saxon work ethic, yet for a long time they were portrayed as fat and idle in Soviet media. Being married to one of those “capitalist fat cats” was probably the most demeaning position a woman could fathom.

Sexual agency
Soviet culture actually encouraged prudishness for men and women. The housing crisis and lack of privacy played into that doctrine nicely. Boys were taught that girls are “comrades first and foremost”, working towards the shared goal of making the Soviet Union an industrial and military leader. A model citizen was not to be overly interested in pleasures of the flesh. Until the 1990s premarital sex was frowned upon as an “extreme sport”. Adultery conviction could mean job loss. Having a colorful sex life was something “fat American housewives” did.

About Marina Julia Neary12274343_10154343296021978_2189503503859888400_n

A self-centered, only child of classical musicians, Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the US at the age of thirteen. Her literary career revolves around depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Irish Famine, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl some thirty miles away from her home town. Notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles, Neary explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut thriller Wynfield’s Kingdom was featured on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. After writing a series of novels dealing with the Anglo-Irish conflict, she takes a break from the slums of London and the gunpowder-filled streets of Dublin to delve into the picturesque radioactive swamps of her native Belarus. Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Comedy is a deliciously offensive autobiographical satire featuring sex scandals of Eastern Europe’s artistic elite in the face of political upheavals.

Don’t miss her acclaimed debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom (2009, Fireship Press).

Connect with Marina: Website | Facebook

Links to Irish books: Brendan Malone: The Last Fenian | Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916  Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels

Giveaway

Enter to win a Amazon gift copy of Saved by the Bang. Open to US residents only. Ends 1/12/16.
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Saved by the Bang by Marina Julia Neary, published by Penmore Press LLC (December 8, 2015)

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Filed under 2016, Guest Post, January, Nonfiction, Review

First Book Of The Year 2016

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First Book Of The Year 2016

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About Saved by the Bang

Welcome to 1980s Belarus, where Polish denim is the currency, “kike” is a pedestrian endearment, and second trimester abortion can be procured for a box of chocolates. Antonia Olenski, PhD, a catty half-Jewish pianist and leading cock tease of the Gomel Music Academy, wavers between her flamboyant composer husband Joseph and a chivalrous tenor Nicholas. The Chernobyl disaster breaks up the love triangle, forcing Antonia into evacuation in the cumbersome company of her ugly eight-year old daughter Maryana. After a summer of cruising through Crimean sanatoriums and flirting with Afghan veterans, Antonia starts pining for the intrigues and scandals of the Academy. When the queen of cats finally returns home, she finds that another woman is wearing her crown. In the afterglow of nuclear fallout, artistic, ethnic and sexual rivalries emerge. How far will Antonia go to reclaim her throne?

Why Saved by the Bang

I appreciate Marina’s smart solid writing and content.  I’m curious to read this particular book sinply because it’s not my usual go to – satire, dystopian, historical, plus it’s loosely biographical, needless to say my interest is piqued. No better way to start 2016 by expanding my reading background with an extremely talented authoress.

About Marina Julia Neary12274343_10154343296021978_2189503503859888400_n

A self-centered, only child of classical musicians, Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the US at the age of thirteen. Her literary career revolves around depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Irish Famine, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl some thirty miles away from her home town. Notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles, Neary explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut thriller Wynfield’s Kingdom was featured on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. After writing a series of novels dealing with the Anglo-Irish conflict, she takes a break from the slums of London and the gunpowder-filled streets of Dublin to delve into the picturesque radioactive swamps of her native Belarus. Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Comedy is a deliciously offensive autobiographical satire featuring sex scandals of Eastern Europe’s artistic elite in the face of political upheavals.

Don’t miss her acclaimed debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom (2009, Fireship Press).

Connect with Marina: Website | Facebook

Links to Irish books: Brendan Malone: The Last Fenian | Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916  Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels

 

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Filed under 2016, January, Nonfiction

Review: Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker

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About Daughter of Sand and Stone

When Zenobia takes control of her own fate, will the gods punish her audacity?

Zenobia, the proud daughter of a Syrian sheikh, refuses to marry against her will. She won’t submit to a lifetime of subservience. When her father dies, she sets out on her own, pursuing the power she believes to be her birthright, dreaming of the Roman Empire’s downfall and her ascendance to the throne.

Defying her family, Zenobia arranges her own marriage to the most influential man in the city of Palmyra. But their union is anything but peaceful—his other wife begrudges the marriage and the birth of Zenobia’s son, and Zenobia finds herself ever more drawn to her guardsman, Zabdas. As war breaks out, she’s faced with terrible choices.

My Review

Hawker does an outstanding job with time and place along with her portrayal of historic icon Zenobia.

“Because I’ve always known the gods made me for something more—more than just a wife, just a mother, just a woman. They made me for power!”

Zenobia – ambitious, headstrong, intelligent, a natural born leader, courageous, determined, a woman fighting to meet her destiny, an insatiable taste for power, accomplishing what few other women have done along with little regret. Her stellar qualities equal in her rise and fall. I couldn’t have selected a more enigmatic female fitting to build an exciting and entertaining narrative around. Her female and male peers holding her in high regard, carrying herself with grace there was no stopping Zenobia. Clearly breaking the mold of behavior and position fitting a woman, no one or nothing could have prevented her from conquering and ruling. Hawker delivered a riveting plot paying homage to an incredible woman from the pages of history unfamiliar to most.

“Accept that you’ve done what no other woman could. Not even Cleopatra was a conqueror! You’ve conquered several cities and taken Egypt out from under Caesar’s nose. Let that be enough. What more can you hope to achieve? What else is there, Zenobia?”

Hawker captured Zenobia beautifully without ignoring her softer side. My first book by Hawker and needless to say dazzled by her writing, and her strong depiction of this warrior queen possessing all the qualities I prefer my female protagonists to hold. A wonderful action packed reading journey provided by Libbie Hawker’s creativity and rich prose.

“This is her last stand, he realizes. Her final reach for her destiny—for what she believes is her destiny. If the gods do not stretch out their hands to catch her, Zenobia will now fall. There is no other possible outcome.

She has done it boldly, Zabdas knows. She has made her declaration in no uncertain terms. Whatever else the world might say of Zenobia bat-Zabbai, no one will ever be able to call her a coward.”

About Libbie HawkerUnknown-2

Libbie Hawker writes historical and literary fiction featuring deeply human characters, with rich details of time and place. She is the author of ten novels, most of which take place in the distant past among ancient civilizations. She lives in the beautiful San Juan Islands with her husband.

Connect with Libbie:  Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Published December 1st 2015 by Lake Union Publishing

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Filed under 2015, December, Fiction, Review

Review: The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

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About The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Centered on two dynamic, complicated, and compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley—this book is steeped in the glamour and perfumed and smoky atmosphere of New York’s high society. Babe Paley—known for her high-profile marriage to CBS founder William Paley and her ranking in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame—was one of the reigning monarchs of New York’s high society in the 1950s. Replete with gossip, scandal, betrayal, and a vibrant cast of real-life supporting characters, readers will be seduced by this startling new look at the infamous society swans.

My Review

It was difficult to connect with the characters. They created their own pain and suffering. The meaning of friendship for these people was lacking, it was merely based on social status, position, and doors of opportunity. Both sides used each other, and refused to see their bad behavior as a clear indicator of what was to come.

I felt absolutely zero empathy for the characters, both sides equally at fault. Motivations were insincere and their character flaws were indicators of what’s beneath. Babe deserved more, her behavior was exceptional as compared to her peers. No doubt her severed friendship with Truman was painful. Truman laid his cards on the table, a chronic gossiper, teller of secrets, social ladder climber, yet these women ignore these waving red flags, he was their pet until he became desperate and they were part of his story.

The wealthy and known behaving badly, vapid souls wanting more than they give. Seems the more status and finances one possess they are socially handicapped, never being able to reveal their authentic self for fear of betrayal and losing face – how very sad, lonely and empty. I am thrilled I am a woman of meager means understanding the value of true friendship, knowing how to be a friend, a keeper of secrets, never considering betraying or humiliating my friends.

Benjamin dishes up lots of avenues for in-depth discussions on friendship and how it’s defined along with a torturous example of betrayal and humiliation. Benjamin also lends example to the power of a story, written words can build or tear a person down as Truman and his friends achingly discovered.

About Melanie Benjamin2958717

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, THE AVIATOR’S WIFE, as well as the national bestseller ALICE I HAVE BEEN, and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB. THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE, a novel about Truman Capote and his high society “Swans,” will be out in January 2016. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two sons. She’s currently at work on her next historical novel.

Expected publication: January 26th 2016 by Delacorte Press (first published January 12th 2016)

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Filed under 2015, December, Fiction, Review

Review: Whistling Women by Kelly Romo

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About Whistling Women

Life went terribly wrong for Addie Bates in San Diego, and she’s been running from dark memories ever since. For fifteen years, the Sleepy Valley Nudist Colony has provided a safe haven for Addie to hide from the crime she committed. But when the residents pack up to go on exhibit at the 1935 world’s fair in San Diego, Addie returns and must face the thrilling yet terrifying prospect of reuniting with her estranged sister, Wavey.

Addie isn’t the only one interested in a reunion. When her niece, Rumor, discovers she has an aunt, Rumor is determined to bring her family together. But it’s not so easy when the women are forced to confront family secrets, past and present.

Set against the backdrop of the 1935 world’s fair, Whistling Women explores the complex relationships between sisters, the sacrifices required to protect family, and the devastating consequences of a single impulsive act.

My Review

I really loved the characters Romo created. Rumor was my favorite, her curiosity, smarts and stubbornness was entertaining. Addie was as enjoyable as well, her history affecting. Every character served a role with purpose in such a weighty narrative addressing serious subject matter. Daisy and Mary balance out the cast, Sal too. Papa Jack felt unfinished, his presence was powerful but dismissed far too easily.

The narrative was clever, appreciate the fact Romo dug into history and went with the Zoro Garden Nudist Colony, very original, nice touch in the historical fiction genre. The secrets were plenty, intense, however, I felt after the secrets were disclosed the plot weakened along with the ending. Romo took the easy route and speedily wrapped everything nice and neat which is not surprising given her neophyte status. Nothing wrong with Romo’s portrayal, it just wasn’t my preference or to my expectations, too many loose ends with no real solid valid resolution. Also the plot dragged, it took quite a while to reach the apex, I prefer a faster plot sans unnecessary details merely filling space.

Romo is an authoress I will read more of, fabulous debut, lovely creative eye. Definitely looking forward to her next project.

About Kelly RomoUnknown1

Kelly A. Romo currently lives in Oregon with her three children where she teaches writing, literature, and social studies. She loves the outdoors; hiking, kayaking, and camping. Kelly grew up in California running around with all her thrill-seeking cousins and siblings; jumping off cliffs into the Colorado River, exploring caves on the beaches of Mexico, riding dirt bikes, water skiing, and snow skiing.

Connect with Kelly:  Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Filed under 2015, December, Fiction, Review