The Bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson #review (@TLCBookTours)

About the book, The Bookseller The Bookseller

  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (March 3, 2015)
  • A mesmerizingly powerful debut novel about the ways in which past choices can irrevocably define the present—and the bittersweet confrontation of what might have been

    1962: It may be the Swinging Sixties in New York, but in Denver it’s different: being a single gal over thirty in this city is almost bohemian. Still, thirty-eight-year-old Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She was involved, once—with a doctor named Kevin—but when things didn’t work out the way she had hoped, she decided to chart her own path. Now she dedicates herself to the bookstore she runs with her best friend, Frieda, returning home each evening to her cozy apartment. Without a husband expecting dinner, she can enjoy last-minute drinks after work with her friends; without children who need to get ready for school, she can stay up all night reading with her beloved cat, Aslan, by her side.

    Then the dreams begin.

    1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They live in a picture-perfect home in a suburban area of Denver, close to their circle of friends. It’s the ideal place in which to raise their children. Katharyn’s world is exactly what Kitty once believed she wanted . . . but it exists only when she sleeps.

    At first, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. Even though there is no Frieda, no bookstore, no other familiar face, Kitty becomes increasingly reluctant to open her eyes and abandon Katharyn’s alluring life.

    But with each visit to her dreamworld, it grows more real. As the lines between the two worlds begin to blur, Kitty faces an uncertain future. What price must she pay to stay? What is the cost of letting go?

    Buy, read, and discuss The Bookseller

    Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndieBound | Goodreads


    About the author, Cynthia Swanson Cynthia Swanson

    Cynthia Swanson is a writer and a designer of the midcentury modern style. She has published short fiction in 13th Moon, Kalliope, Sojourner, and other periodicals; her story in 13th Moon was a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and three children. The Bookseller is her first novel.

    Connect with Cynthia

    Website | Facebook


    My Thoughts

    Because I read quickly, it’s actually pretty typical for me to pick up a book and read it straight through in a matter of a few hours. Last weekend, in fact, I read four novels that way, because it was rainy and I wasn’t feeling well, and …well, you get the idea.

    When I picked up The Bookseller (well, opened the file on my Kindle) at 3 AM on Thursday night/Friday morning, I thought, oh, I’ll just read a chapter while I sit here in the bathroom (oh, come on, you all do it, too). So entranced was I, however, by Kitty/Katharyn’s story that I found myself unable (once I’d returned to bed) to actually sleep. Instead I inhaled Cynthia Swanson’s writing, while my husband snored blissfully next to me. I was bleary by dawn, but I was bleary with a completed story settled into my consciousness.

    Swanson has created a set of characters that are plausible in both realities depicted. In the reality where our protagonist is called Kitty, her life seems a bit lonely, but charming, and and she has a good friend in Frieda and supportive loving parents. In the reality where she is Katharyn, she has the perfect husband and three adorable children, though one of them isn’t quite like the others.

    It’s obvious from the start that one reality has to go in order for the other to stay, but until the very end, I was not entirely certain which it would be, and I love that Swanson kept me guessing that long.

    As someone who spent a chunk of her childhood in suburbs (Arvada, Golden) and relative exurbs (Georgetown) of Denver, CO, I appreciated the authors level of detail. As I told a friend, “There are scenes when she shops at May D&F! I remember my mom driving there to bring home the first ‘Patty & Jimmy’ and ‘Hello Kitty’ puffy stickers, when those things were brand new to America.”

    I also appreciated that each reality was not without flaws.

    Swanson has a knack for writing complex, interesting, human characters, and for writing a book that is both technically a period piece, but at the same time, completely contemporary. I really hope she has another book in process, because hers is a voice I’d like to hear more from.

    Goes well with Hot coffee and a Navajo-style burrito (mostly because that’s what I remember eating as a kid in Colorado).


    Cynthia’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

    Tuesday, April 7th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

    Wednesday, April 8th: The Discerning Reader

    Wednesday, April 8th: Read Lately

    Thursday, April 9th: A Chick Who Reads

    Friday, April 10th: 5 Minutes For Books

    Monday, April 13th: West Metro Mommy

    Tuesday, April 14th: Reading Reality

    Wednesday, April 15th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

    Thursday, April 16th: Kritters Ramblings

    Monday, April 20th: BoundbyWords

    Tuesday, April 21st: Readers’ Oasis

    Wednesday, April 22nd: Vox Libris

    Thursday, April 23rd: Read. Write. Repeat.

    Friday, April 24th: Always With a Book

    Monday, April 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom

    Tuesday, April 28th: A Bookish Way of Life

    Thursday, April 30th: Bookshelf Fantasies

    Friday, May 1st: Bibliophiliac

    Wednesday, May 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book

     

Miramont’s Ghost, by Elizabeth Hall – #Review #Bibliotica

About the book, Miramont’s Ghost Miramont's Ghost

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (February 1, 2015)

Miramont Castle, built in 1897 and mysteriously abandoned three years later, is home to many secrets. Only one person knows the truth: Adrienne Beauvier, granddaughter of the Comte de Challembelles and cousin to the man who built the castle.

Clairvoyant from the time she could talk, Adrienne’s visions show her the secrets of those around her. When her visions begin to reveal dark mysteries of her own aristocratic French family, Adrienne is confronted by her formidable Aunt Marie, who is determined to keep the young woman silent at any cost. Marie wrenches Adrienne from her home in France and takes her to America, to Miramont Castle, where she keeps the girl isolated and imprisoned. Surrounded by eerie premonitions, Adrienne is locked in a life-or-death struggle to learn the truth and escape her torment.

Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, this hauntingly atmospheric tale is inspired by historical research into the real-life Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Buy, read, and discuss Miramont’s Ghost

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Elizabeth Hall Elizabeth Hall

Elizabeth Hall spent most of her life in the mountains of Colorado, working as a teacher, writer, and radio show host. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes and plays with fiber.


My Thoughts:

I always enjoy a creepy story, especially if I can relate to it in some way. Having spent a significant portion of my childhood in the mountains of Colorado, I know first-hand the sorts of mansions, castles, and spooky houses that are tucked into the Rockies, and I’ve even toured some of them, so the latter half of this novel, in which Adrienne is in such a place – the castle in the title – and is feeling trapped really resonated with me. Author Hall did a good job of contrasting the scope of historical Colorado with the confines of a single stone building.

That’s not to say there aren’t some great moments in the first half of the novel, because there are. We meet Adrienne as a young child, and see how her clairvoyance affects not only her, but those around her. Compounding the more typical problems of a child prone to blurting out anything she thinks or feels or ‘sees,’ there is also the mystery surrounding the specific circumstances of her grandmother’s death. Adrienne’s clairvoyance, it seems, was inherited from her.

Of course, Adrienne isn’t the only character, there’s her cousin, who is a priest when we meet him, and who builds the titular castle, there’s her Aunt Marie, a strong-willed woman not afraid to pull strings behind the scenes, and the girl’s mother, Genevieve, who probably means well but is rather weak.

Most especially, there is also Adrienne’s grandfather, the Comte, who gives every appearance of being a kindred spirit of the best kind.

Moving between joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, relative safety and constant jeopardy, Miramont’s Ghost is much akin to a modern gothic. It’s spooky enough to leave a hint of a tingle on your skin if you’re reading it all alone after dark, but it also offers enough explanations to keep the story grounded when it’s required.

Goes well with: Hot tea and butter cookies.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour organized by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Tuesday, February 3rd: Bookchickdi

Friday, February 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, February 9th: Life is Story

Tuesday, February 10th: History from a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, February 12th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Friday, February 13th: Book Nerd

Monday, February 16th: 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, February 18th: Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, February 23rd: Reading Reality

Tuesday, February 24th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, February 26th: Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, March 2nd: WV Stitcher

Tuesday, March 3rd: Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, March 5th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Friday, March 6th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, March 9th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, March 11th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

TBD: Mary’s Cup of Tea 

 

 

The Druid Knight Tales, by Ruth A. Casie (@RuthACasie) – #Cover #Reveal #giveaway #bibliotica @hfvbt

Join author Ruth A. Casie on her Cover Reveal for The Druid Knight Tales: A Short Story, from February 23-March 13, and enter to win an eBook of the first book in the Druid Knight Series, Knight of Runes. The Druid Knight Tales

Publication Date: February 23, 2015
Publisher: Timeless Scribes Publishing, LLC
eBook: 57 pages
ISBN: 0986246425

Series: The Druid Knight Series
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Romance

She would give her last breath for him. He would give up everything to guard her well and love her more.

Maximilian, the druid Grand Master, was given a year to find his soul mate. On the final day, the sacred mistletoe has shriveled and died—proclaiming his failure. He must do what no other Grand Master has done before and journey to meet with the Ancestors formally relinquish his title.

Ellyn of Brodgar has the gift of healing. But each use of her magick, through a kiss, depletes her energy and brings her closer to death. Time is running out as she searches for a way to continue saving lives—especially her own.

Max and Ellyn are tossed into the Otherworld together—a place filled with magick and wonder, it’s also fraught with danger, traps, and death. They have only until the third sunset to find the Ancestors, or be lost to the world forever. The domineering druid must work with the stubborn healer, not only for survival, but for the promise of the future—a future together.

Pre-Order the eBook

Amazon

Excerpt

Penetrating blue-gray eyes stared out from the cocoon of dark wool that enrobed the woman. The cheeks on her porcelain-white face appeared tinged with a splash of pink. Her natural berry-red lips were turned up in a welcoming smile. “Grand Master.” She dipped a well-executed curtsy.

Fendrel’s healer was much different than the old crone he had anticipated. This woman was regal and beautiful. The gleam in her eyes was calm and comforting. He had a strange sensation, which made no sense at all, that he had known her for a long time. At ease with her, he allowed himself to relax and returned her open smile with one of his own.

“This is Ellyn of Brodgar,” said Fendrel. “She has been our healer for the last year. Our situation was grave. It was her healing skills that kept us alive. I would like you to accept her into our clan.”

The knuckles on Ellyn’s hand turned white from grasping her staff firmly. Her head whipped around at Fendrel.

Max observed, fascinated the elder was oblivious to the daggers the woman’s eyes flung at him. So, Fendrel hadn’t told her of his plan and if Max wasn’t mistaken, she wasn’t pleased.

“Thank you, Fendrel,” said Ellyn. “Your request is a great honor. I will be your healer for as long as I am with you.” She turned to Max, her face serene. Her iron grip on the staff relaxed.

Fendrel sputtered.

“You are welcome into Fendrel’s clan for as long as you see fit to stay with us,” said Max. He was certain he saved Fendrel from getting his head bashed with the staff the woman carried. “Brodgar is in the Orkneys. You are far from home.”

“I go where I am needed.” Her voice was soft—her tone evasive.

Max gave her a benign smile. She was tall and graceful. Loose tendrils of curls softened her face. Dark lashes swept down against her cheekbone. She gazed at him with bright, intelligent eyes. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He sensed her trying to press in on his mind and blocked her attempt so fast she winced in pain. He’d made his point. She would not try that again.

“If you will excuse me.” She turned to leave. “I would like to look in on Dimia and the baby to make certain they’re settled in for the night,” she said to the new father.

“Of course, Ellyn. I will see you back to camp.” Fendrel approached the two men. “Thank you, Grand Master. Doward. We will see you tomorrow.” He and Ellyn went back down the small rise.

“Interesting girl,” remarked Doward after they were gone. “You didn’t have to be rough on her. She was only curious.” Doward chuckled.
Max stared after her.

She wasn’t at all what she seemed.

Titles in The Druid Knight Series

Knight of Runes – Available Now!
Knight of Rapture – Coming March 30, 2015
Knight of Redemption – Coming Fall, 2015

Druid-Knight-Series-3-Book-Spread

About the Author Ruth A. Casie

Ruth A Casie is a seasoned professional with over twenty-five years of writing experience but not necessarily writing romances. No, she’s been writing communication and marketing documents for a large corporation. Over the past years, encouraged by her friends and family, she gave way to her inner muse, let her creative juices flow, and began writing a series of historical time travel romance novels.

When not writing you can find her home in Teaneck, New Jersey, reading, cooking, doing Sudoku and counted cross stitch. Together with her husband Paul, they enjoy ballroom dancing and, with New York City close by, going to the theater. Ruth and Paul have three grown children and two grandchildren. They all thrive on spending time together. It’s certainly a lively dinner table and they wouldn’t change it for the world.

Ruth is a Trustee and on the Executive Board of Shelter Our Sister (SOS) in New Jersey. SOS is Bergen County’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence. She frequently speaks at various functions around Bergen County on behalf of the Shelter.

For more information visit Ruth A. Casie’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sign up for Ruth A. Casie’s newsletter.

Giveaway!

To enter to win an eBook of Knight of Runes please complete the giveaway form below.

– Giveaway starts on February 23rd at 12:01am and ends on March 13th at 11:59pm EST.
– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner will be notified via email.

Knight of Runes

The Druid Knight Tales at HFVBT

Introducing: A Home For Christmas by M.K. McClintock (@mkmclintock) with Giveaway

A Home for Christmas Book Blast

About the book, A Home for Christmas A Home for Christmas


Publication Date:
November 5, 2014
Trappers Peak Publishing
eBook; 74 pages
ASIN: B00NE43C0O

Settings: 19th Century Montana, Wyoming, & Colorado
Genre: Christmas Short Stories/Western/Sweet Romance

Includes three historical fiction short stories to delight and entertain this holiday season.

CHRISTMAS MOUNTAIN
In search of family she barely knows and adventure she’s always wanted, Katherine Donahue is saved from freezing on a winter night in the mountains of Montana by August Hollister. Neither of them expected that what one woman had in mind was a new beginning for them both.

TETON CHRISTMAS
Heartache and a thirst for adventure lead McKensie Stewart and her sister to Wyoming after the death of their parents. With the help of a widowed aunt and a charming horse breeder, McKensie discovers that hope is a cherished promise, and there is no greater gift than love.

LILY’S CHRISTMAS WISH
Lily Malone has never had a real family or a real Christmas. This holiday season, she might get both. From an orphanage in New York City to the rugged mountains of Colorado, Lily sends out only one wish. But when the time comes, can she give it up so someone else’s wish can come true?

Praise for A Home for Christmas

“5 stars! I have just finished reading three short stories written by M.K. McClintock, part of her collection A HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. I really enjoyed these charming historical fictions CHRISTMAS MOUNTAIN, TETON CHRISTMAS and LILY’S CHRISTMAS WISH!” – Nicole Laverdure

“Heart-warming and inspiring.” – Kat Cambron

“A delightful collection of stories sure to warm any reader’s heart.” – Elizabeth Loftus

Order the eBook

Amazon | Kobo

Watch the Book Trailer

(Or click HERE.)


About the Author, M.K. McClintock MK McClintock

MK McClintock is the author of bestselling historical western romance and award-nominated historical romantic mystery. She spins tales of romance and adventure inspired by the heather-covered hills of Scotland and the majestic mountains of home. With her heart deeply rooted in the past and her mind always on adventure, she lives and writes in Montana.

Learn more about MK by visiting her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


A Home for Christmas Book Blast Tour Schedule

For the complete tour schedule, see below, or click HERE.

Monday, November 3
Literary Chanteuse

Tuesday, November 4
Unshelfish

Wednesday, November 5
Book Nerd
The True Book Addict

Thursday, November 6
So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, November 7
Bibliotica
Let Them Read Books

Monday, November 10
Susan Heim on Writing

Tuesday, November 11
What Is That Book About

Wednesday, November 12
Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, November 14
Passages to the Past


Giveaway

Giveaway

To enter to win the following prizes, please complete the form below. Giveaway ends on November 14th at 11:59pm EST. One winner per giveaway item.

– PB Trilogy of the Montana Gallagher Series + Woolrich Rough Rider Throw (Open to US residents only)
– Ebook Trilogy of the Montana Gallagher Series (International)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To open the Rafflecopter form separately: click HERE.

Review: The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty

About the book, The Bone Church The Bone Church

Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Pier’s Court Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback

In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

Buy, read, and discuss The Bone Church

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Add to Goodreads


About the author, Victoria Dougherty Victoria Dougherty

Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere.

Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Connect with Victoria

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter


My Thoughts

I was expecting The Bone Church to be a bit dark, a bit gritty, and incredibly honest, and this novel was all of those things. What surprised me was that amidst all the grit and darkness, there were these great moments of lyrical beauty and haunting spirituality.

Some of these moments were small – a comparison to the scent of coffee and oranges, the description of the texture of one of the many, many “Infant of Prague” statuettes that glutted the market, but it’s in those small moments, in those details, that Victoria Dougherty’s work really shines.

The story itself is gripping. We are sympathetic to Magdalena’s plight from the beginning, watching as she loses her identity and later, her marriage. We root for Felix, even when his behavior becomes a bit questionable. All of the other characters, many of whom would be easily interchangeable “stock” cold war figures in another author’s hands, have their own complications, secrets, and truths as well.

Put together, the setting, the characters, the period, even the weather, give us a picture of a part of history we typically only see from the point of view of much greater powers, and also serve forth a meaty story, rich with depth and intrigue.

Read this if you want something that manages to combine the best of LeCarre with the best of Sue Monk Kidd – a weird blending, but that’s how it felt to me. Read this if you want to be both entertained and enlightened.
Read The Bone Church if you want a good story that will linger with you for days after you’ve read it.
But definitely, read it.

Goes well with Lapsang souchong tea and navel oranges.


Bone Church Blog Tour

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours (HFVBT), who graciously arranged for me to have a copy of the book. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click the banner above, or just click HERE.

Review: Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim

About the book, Last Train to Paris

Last-Train-to-Paris-192x300

Inspired by the story of a distant cousin who was murdered in Paris in 1937, award-winning author Michele Zackheim’s Last Train to Paris is a gripping epic about a half-Jewish female reporter from Nevada who writes for the Paris Courier in the 1930’s. The sole woman in the newsroom, she lives with both sexism and anti-Semitism. Then she meets Leo, a German radical and anti-Nazi and realizes that while Paris is interesting, the truly vital historical story is taking place across the border. Rose undertakes an assignment in the Berlin press office, where she is initially happy and in love until Kristallnacht and the growing threat of Nazism. When World War II is declared, Americans are forced to leave the country and Rose must make an agonizing choice: Who will go with her on the last train to Paris?

Zackheim, acclaimed author of Einstein’s Daughter, tells her story from vantage point of Rose as an elderly woman, Last Train to Paris is at once a historical epic, a love story, and a psychological portrait of one woman’s gradual discovery of who she really is after years of being invisible to herself.

Last Train to Paris will enthrall the same large audience that made In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson and Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky bestsellers.

Buy a copy

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the author, Michele Zackheim

Michele Zackheim

Michele Zackheim is the author of four books.

Born in Reno, Nevada she grew up in Compton, California. For many years she worked in the visual arts as a fresco muralist, an installation artist, print-maker, and a painter. Her work has been widely exhibited and is included in the permanent collections of The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; The Albuquerque Museum; The Grey Art Gallery of New York University; The New York Public Library; The Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum, and The Carlsbad Museum of Art.

She has been the recipient of two NEA awards, and teaches Creative Writing from a Visual Perspective at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her first book, Violette’s Embrace, was published by Riverhead Books. That book is a fictional biography of the French writer Violette Leduc. Her second book, the acclaimed Einstein’s Daughter: The Search for Lieserl (Penguin Putnam, 1999), is a non-fiction account of the mystery of the lost illegitimate daughter of Mileva and Albert Einstein. Broken Colors (Europa Editions, 2007) is the story of an artist, whose life takes her to a place where life and art intersect. Her fourth novel, Last Train to Paris, will be published in January 2014. Zackheim lives in New York City.

Connect with Michele

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts

When it comes to armchair traveling, one of my most frequent destinations is France (in general) and Paris (specifically). Outside of my imagination, I’ve never spent much time in Paris, as most of my trips to France take me to places like Montpelier, Bezier, and Carcassone. Like most people, especially those of us who love words, Paris holds a special place in my heart, and I’ll read almost anything that takes place there.

Michele Zackheim’s novel has only increased that love. Bookended by glimpses of the main character as an elderly woman, the novel takes us to the Paris of the late 1930’s, where the echoes of Hemingway’s footsteps still ring out, though they’re being slowly overtaken by the marching cadence of black-booted Nazis.

First in Paris, and later in Berlin, we get to witness history through R. B. Manon’s eyes, to an often-chilling result, but even before things get grim there are descriptions of people and places that simply sing. In the first few pages of Last Train to Paris, for example, Zackheim describes the hotel where R.B is living, and we meet a host of people who share common spaces with her. Some of them, we may never see again, and some go one to become important, but either way, I felt as if I could see the neighbor waving, smell the cabbage, hear the cacophony of life in crowded residential hotel in a crowded, bustling city.

If you, as I did, loved Midnight in Paris, or if you’ve ever, as I have, watched old movies and fantasized about being a foreign correspondent, then you simply must read Last Train to Paris. You will not regret it.

Goes well with espresso with a twist of lemon on the side, and a butter croissant.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For the tour page, click here.

Review: By Fire, By Water, by Mitchell James Kaplan

By Fire, By Water

By Fire, By Water
Mitchell James Kaplan

Description (from Publishers Weekly, via Amazon.com):
Kaplan, a screenwriter, sets his debut novel in 15-century Spain, amid the Inquisition, the attempt to unify the kingdoms of Spain under Christian rule, and the voyage of Christopher Columbus to what the seaman expects will be the Indies. The action centers on the historical figure of Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the king of Aragon and a converso, a Jewish convert to Christianity at a time when the Inquisition sought to repress judaizing. Santángel is friend and financier of Columbus, surviving parent of young Gabriel, and more curious than is prudent about his Jewish heritage. While he learns about Judaism in clandestine meetings, a parallel story unfolds, centering on Judith Migdal, a beautiful Jewish woman who learns to become a silversmith in Granada, located in the last part of Spain under Muslim rule. Santángel’s attraction to Judith grows, even as the Inquisition closes in and the prospect of another world to the West tantalizes. Kaplan has done remarkable homework on the period and crafted a convincing and complex figure in Santángel in what is a naturally cinematic narrative and a fine debut.

Review:
When the author of By Fire, By Water, Mitchell James Kaplan, contacted me about reviewing his amazing novel set at the dawn of the Spanish Inquisition, I said yes, even though period novels really aren’t my thing, because the story intrigued me. I started reading it immediately, and loved it. I hadn’t planned for my life to go into a tailspin before I could write the review.

Still, this story, which is part history, part social commentary, and part romance, has stuck with me. It’s about religion and faith, and how they differ, and how they’re similar, but it’s also about wealth and politics and passion. The love story between Judith and Luis is poignant, but written with a lot of truth.

Maybe it’s Kaplan’s background as a screenwriter, but this book sings it’s vividness to the world. Reading it, I had such strong senses of place and time – I could see it as a movie in my head. (I could totally see this film as a Merchant Ivory production.)

This review is vague and disjointed not because I didn’t love the story – because I did. If all historical novels were this interesting and well crafted, and relevant to modern times, I’d read more of them. It’s just that I read it very quickly several months ago, and the details have blurred.

I do remember thinking, however, that if this book were a movie, the after-the-credits cookie would be a time jump to modern times and a connection to the Hidden Jews of New Mexico, or some such.

Anyway, buy this book. It’s brilliant. Epic, even.

By Fire, By Water
Mitchell James Kaplan
320 pages, Other Press, May 2010
Buy this book from Amazon.com >>

Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway

Austen is pervading my life in roundabout ways, and while it’s nice to watch a movie without the work part of my brain peering at the cars to see what sort of dash kits might be installed, I feel like I’d be much better served by reading her actual work. To that end, I’m declaring April “Jane Austen Month” here at Bibliotica, and will be working my way through her…works.

Meanwhile, however, I’ve seen the movie Becoming Jane, which I found to be warm, funny, a little bit provocative, and really rather interesting, and not just for continuing the trend of American actresses playing British literary figures (c.f. Renee Zellwiger in Mrs. Potter, which I also found enchanting.)

I quite liked all the casting, especially James Cromwell and Julie Walters as Austen’s parents. Cromwell, especially, charmed me with his crusty affection.

My aunt suggests I should begin my own revisit with Miss Austen with Pride and Prejudice. What does everyone else think?