Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TLC Book Tour: Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.

In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.

Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley’s story has languished in the archives. In this impeccably researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich, moving style. (Goodreads)

I went though a bit of a CIvil War and Lincoln kick last year when the movie came out. I started to read Team of Rivals by Goodwin, watched the Ken Burns documentary on the War and of course, saw the movie Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. I'm still intrigued with that time period and that is why I signed on to do this tour. Mary Todd Lincoln is a pretty intense figure in her own right and I was curious to read a bit more about her, confident in Chiaverini's writing to depict her as close as research will offer.

It read pretty quickly. You get swept up in the political time and the relationships between all the characters. I loved reading about the dressmaking as well and how intricate and beautiful it was.

Keckley proved to be just as an interesting character as Mrs. Lincoln. I knew nothing about her before this and it was intriguing to read about her role, as a dressmaker and as a freed woman. 

This story brings just as much warmth, detail and character as does Chiaverini's quilt books. I recommend for fans of her and also historical fiction fans.

Author Info:

Other Stops on the Tour:

Monday, November 18th:  BookNAround
Tuesday, November 19th:  Always With a Book  **book spotlight and giveaway
Thursday, November 21st:  Bibliotica
Friday, November 22nd:  Books are the New Black
Monday, November 25th:  A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, November 26th:  Red Headed Book Child
Wednesday, November 27th:  Lit and Life
Friday, November 29th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Monday, December 2nd:  Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, December 3rd:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Wednesday, December 4th:  Must Read Faster
Thursday, December 5th:  The Daily Mayo
Friday, December 6th:  West Metro Mommy Reads
Monday, December 9th:  Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, December 10th:  Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, December 11th:  Bookchickdi
Thursday, December 12th:  Broken Teepee
Tuesday, December 17th:  Kritter’s Ramblings

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Monday, November 25, 2013

Q&A and Giveaway with authors, Magnus Flyte!



A Conversation with Christina Lynch
and Meg Howrey (Magnus Flyte)

Q: How did your collaboration under the name Magnus Flyte come about?

A: We met at a writers’ retreat on an island off Cape Cod and became fans of each other’s work. When we got back to California, we started getting together for mini writers’ retreats at Chris’s house near Sequoia National Park. The plot for our first novel, CITY OF DARK MAGIC was hatched on a walk with Chris’s dog Max. The name “Magnus Flyte” is a hybrid (much like our novel). “Magnus” was a usurping Roman senator (not so different from City of Dark Magic’s villain, Charlotte Yates) and “Flyte” is for Sebastian Flyte, Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful lush who, like Max in our novel, has a difficult relationship with his highborn family and the house they live in.

Q. There have been a lot of news stories lately about women who use male pen names, especially when writing genre fiction. Do you think it’s helpful?

A. Possibly helpful to the author, who may have any number of reasons to use a pen name – a desire to escape gender stereotyping, anonymity, sheer whimsy. One can only imagine how delighted JK Rowling was to watch her book get wonderful reviews without any references to Voldemort! Since we had heard that men avoid books by women, we decided to choose a male pseudonym to reach both genders. But then our identities were made public from the beginning, so we didn’t get a chance to see if “Magnus Flyte” would fool anyone. No matter, we love him anyway.

Q: In CITY OF DARK MAGIC, Prague was very much its own character as well as the setting for the novel. Why did you choose Vienna to be the setting of CITY OF LOST DREAMS?

A: Vienna was the adopted home of Beethoven and we had grown so fond of old LVB in the first novel that we were curious about visiting at least one of the 60 apartments he lived in there as, reportedly, the worst tenant ever. Also, neither of us had ever been to Vienna. And finally, we highly recommend all writers setting a novel in a beautiful European city so that one is forced to travel there and do research (eat sachertorte, visit castles) in a manner that is tax deductible. (Note to I.R.S: don’t even think about it, we have all our receipts.)

Q: You did quite a lot of research for CITY OF DARK MAGIC—visited Prague, had a great deal of notes and researched music as well.  How much research did you do for CITY OF LOST DREAMS?

A: Binders! Color-coded binders! In the first novel we had briefly touched upon the life of poet Elizabeth Weston, her stepfather Edward Kelley, and Kelley’s partner in magic, Dr. John Dee. These were all characters we wanted to explore a bit more, particularly Elizabeth, about whom not very much is known. (A fact that we believe she would find completely unacceptable-- the woman was more famous than Shakespeare in her time.) Along the way we got interested in Franz Anton Mesmer (who gave us the word “mesmerized” and the phrase “animal magnetism”). Not everything makes it in. Well, everything makes it in on the first draft, because Magnus is a terrible pack rat for obscure history, but then we prune him down a bit.

Q: As a heroine, Sarah Weston is particularly memorable. How did her character evolve in your second novel?

A: Sarah still isn’t terribly interested in winning prizes for decorum, though perhaps in the second book she is not quite as guided by certain…compulsions. In the sequel she is fighting to save the life of someone she loves, so she’s more focused. The challenges she faces are personal, and she’s questioning herself a lot more: what she believes, what she wants. But as Sarah herself says, she’s no princess. And she’s not one to look a gifted horseman in the mouth.

Q. In City of Dark Magic, the science angle had a lot to do with perception and time travel. You continue those themes in the sequel, and also mix in some ideas about healing and medicine.

A. We've both been interested in the brain's influence on disease for a while, but in August 2012 when we returned from our research trip to Vienna, Chris's dog Max was deathly ill. It turned out to be an autoimmune disease with no known cause. With great treatment at UC Davis Max went into remission and is now very healthy, but the episode raised a lot of interesting questions about what medicine is and isn't able to do, and how ultimately mysterious our immune systems are. Why does a healthy body turn on itself? How can that process be reversed? What power does the mind have? And is Chris’s dog Max really – as we suspect – the reincarnation of the 6th Duke of Devonshire?

Q: Your writing is loaded with references from the arts, history and politics. What sort of reader did you envision for this series?

A: Perhaps we think more of where our potential readers might be when they read rather than what their expectations might be. We think of what we would ourselves enjoy reading on a long plane flight, a weekend with challenging relatives, just after a bout of concentrated study, or feeling mentally frisky. We’re eccentric readers and lovers of long dinner parties where the talk ranges from travel to science to gossip to art, to dreams and dogs and music and philosophy and sex. Our ideal reader takes something away from the books that starts a conversation or a burst of laughter among friends. We’ve loved hearing from readers that were inspired to check out Prague, or listen to Beethoven, or find out more about certain historical characters. And of course we’re deeply indebted to booksellers for knowing whose hands to put the book in. Booksellers are the real celebrities.

Q: What is your process for co-writing? What are some of the challenges and benefits of writing with a partner? How has that process come to change now that you have completed two novels?

A: Both books were written in the same way, according to the rules laid down by Magnus Flyte. We alternate chapters, relay style, responding to whatever you were just sent. No rewriting until we get to the end. Trying our best to inspire, amuse, and surprise each other.
Some chapters get sent to the other person with the heading: “You might want to kill me for this one.” (Inevitably, this chapter will be received rapturously.) In the revision process there is a lot dull answer that when we disagree we just talk and listen until we come up with something that we both can live with.

Q: You have developed quite a backstory for Magnus Flyte, who “may have ties to one or more intelligence organizations, including a radical group of Antarctic separatists” and “may be the author of a monograph on carnivorous butterflies.” How did Magnus Flyte, the author, become such a colorful character?

A: Constructing Magnus’s biography (and extensive bibliography) is actually the only time we have ever written together in the same room. It was a bit like improv…or an accelerated version of our writing process.

Author A: I think Magnus wrote a bibliography of a 14th century warrior…
Author B: A warrior priest. A warrior priest named Clement. Clement something…
Author A: Clement the Bald.
Author B: Perfect.

The legend of Magnus continues to grow. He just accidentally became king of an island nation. He’s taken up smelting. He’s writing a treatise on the best way to make love in the outdoors.

Q: These books sit in an unusual space, crossing multiple genres. What are some of your individual and collective literary influences?

A: We both emerged from the womb with books in our hands and haven’t stopped reading since then, omnivorously and eccentrically. We have a lot of shared enthusiasms – from Nancy Mitford to neuroscience. Chris has always had a twisted passion for Nabokov and SJ Perelman, Meg loves Evelyn Waugh and Aldous Huxley. We both love mysteries: Simenon, Sayers, Marsh. The list is long and genres be damned.

Q: Can you give us any hints about your next novel or where the series is going?

A: Only Magnus knows.
Contest Rules:
Please leave an email address
Please reside in the United States
Contest ends December 1.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Amazing Author Events

My friends and I with Rainbow Rowell

The past month i've had the pleasure of seeing two amazing author events. Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor and Park and Fangirl, came to speak at a St.Paul Public Library event. There was a bit of controversy with her events in my neck of the woods. She was originally supposed to come to the county I live in and do several library events but due to some parent outrage against her books, her events were cancelled. I absolutely LOVED Eleanor and Park and reviewed it earlier this year. I am currently listening to Fangirl and I have to admit, I'm in little bit in love with the Levi, one of the characters. Sigh.

Rainbow was amazing; funny, kind of outrageous, a little bit uncomfortable with the attention but wholly down to earth. She had a great presence and so wicked smart. She talked about what she read as a kid and teen, her fall into Fan fiction when Harry Potter ended and her love of writing dialogue (which I can tell because the back in forth conversations in both Eleanor and Park and Fangirl are electric!). 

We waited in line to meet her and got our books signed. I did not have a book and her sister, also assistant, made Rainbow sign a homemade "bookmark" for me. It was sweet! Her sister kept saying "Don't worry, sweetie, we'll get you something!" So lovely! They both were. Here is a picture of Rainbow, me and my friends. 
Such a passionate, literary inspiring evening. Go out and read her!!! If you are a parent of a teen, read her!!!

Amy Tan, signing.

The other event I went to which I frequent a few times a year is our Talk of the Stacks Library program. They host 4-6 authors a year at the main central downtown Minneapolis Library. I've seen Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Chabon, and Lousie Erdrich there. This time around I had the pleasure of seeing Amy Tan. I have never read any of her books which still surprises the hell out of me but I knew her place in the literary world is important and I was curious as to what she had to say.
She was poised, eloquent and funny. She told stories about her grandmother and mother and where she gets her ideas and inspirations for writing. Her new novel, The Valley of Amazement is currently on the my bedside table, ready to read. 

I am so blessed to live in such a literary city. I try not to take it for granted. I seek out at least one literary event a month. That's my idea of fun. I don't go to bars. I rarely go to movies. I am a book event junkie. :) Next month is Kate Dicamillo!

Any fun author readings in your neck of the woods?

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Saturday, November 16, 2013

TLC Book Tour: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (Guest Review)

I was a bit overwhelmed by the new Stephen King to take on his son's novel, NOS4A2, so I enlisted my husband, the reader who can chomp through a thick book like this in two days, to do the honor.

I started listening to Heart-Shaped Box a few months back and it was pretty eerie. I know I will definitely embrace Joe Hill's work more at some point. 

Sean's Review:

While I may not have as much time to read, what little I get is sometimes infused with great writing. This book was actually pretty good. He has his fathers penchant for the overly descriptive scenes which I happened to grow up on, so of course it grabbed me immediately. I would say any reader of Stephen King would similarly enjoy this story. As always, I could do without the "Chester the Molester" type character but who else could better play the 'devil' than that!? Really, the book stands alone without having to ride the old man's coattails too much, even with Stephen's winking reference to his son's book in "Dr. Sleep" ; he only references the Charlie Manx (antagonist) once, but it does tie in to that twisted reality that belies the genre. Over all, I found the book quite haunting, and intend to follow future publications by this author. Thumbs up.};^)>

About Joe Hill

The author of the critically acclaimed Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill is a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and Year’s Best collections. He calls New England home.
Find out more about Joe at his website and follow him on Twitter: @joe_hill.

Joe’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, October 24th: The Best Books Ever
Monday, November 4th: Bibliophilia, Please
Tuesday, November 5th: The House of Crime and Mystery
Thursday, November 7th: Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity
Friday, November 8th: Drey’s Library
Monday, November 11th: Entomology of a Bookworm
Tuesday, November 12th: The Book Bag
Wednesday, November 13th: The Reader’s Hollow
Thursday, November 14th: red headed book child
Monday, November 18th:  The Road to Here
Tuesday, November 19th: Olduvai Reads
Wednesday, November 20th: The Scarlet Letter
Thursday, November 21st: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, November 28th: My Shelf Confessions
Thanks Sean!
Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!
red headed book child

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Review: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong? (Good Reads)

I stumbled across Diane Chamberlain on my first trip to NYC for BEA and the first Book Blogger Convention. That trip brought on a massive collection of new books and authors. The Harlequin booth was huge and filled to the brim with people. I snagged a few books there including The Lies We Told by Diane Chamberlain.

After sifting through my pile at home I picked it up. We ended up reading it for a book club selection that year and I was hooked. I went on to read three more of her books and loved each one. She is definitely  an author I wouldn't necessarily pick out because her books seem similar to so many others. But when you actually start reading her, she hooks you with her talent.

Her stories are so layered and complicated and you never know where she is going or what to expect. Necessary Lies was just the same. I read it in just a few days, eagerly going back to it every chance I could. She fills her books with lots of human drama; relationships, secrets, betrayal, etc. It's easy to fall in to it.

She has replaced Jodi Picoult for me in my dramatic adult contemporary reading pleasure. I definitely recommend her.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!
red headed book child

Friday, November 8, 2013

TLC Book Tour: The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell (Guest Reviewer)

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

Today is Christmas Eve.
Today is my birthday.
Today I am fifteen.
Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Neither of them were beloved.

Marnie and her little sister, Nelly, are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren't telling. While life in Glasgow's Maryhill housing estate isn't grand, the girls do have each other. Besides, it's only a year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.

As the New Year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? Lennie takes them in—feeds them, clothes them, protects them—and something like a family forms. But soon enough, the sisters' friends, their teachers, and the authorities start asking tougher questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls' family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.

Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for one another.

Cheryl’s review

I heard a review of this book on NPR (http://www.npr.org/2013/01/05/168558333/death-of-bees-captures-a-grim-gory-coming-of-age?sc=17&f=1032) last January and added it to my list of books to read. The opening is attention-grabbing and peaked my interest to read the book.

The book is told from three different voices: Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie. The perspectives change quickly, most are only a few pages (or less) but this doesn’t detract from following the story. Sometimes the same event is told from all three perspectives but generally the story continues to progress when the voice changes.

The Death of Bees is a tragic story and O’Donnell aptly captures the “coming of age” story. Marnie vascillates between her desire to act and be seen as an adult while longing to remain someone’s child. Both Marnie and Nelly constantly search for guidance and parent-substitutes, which they sometimes find unexpectedly and sometimes even in each other.

The story seemed to spiral downward by continually creating more challenges and obstacles for the characters to deal with. As the premise of the book started in a tragic way, that wasn’t surprising and I read wondering how the story would be resolved. The ending was abrupt and went in an unexpected direction, which was a bit jarring. Overall, it was an interesting read. It was tragic and sad but the characters were determined and resourceful. They all had the goal to survive as best as they could and also learned from each other. What perhaps they learned most was about who they really were and the meaning of family.

Author Info:
Visit Lisa at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Lisa’s Tour Stops

Wednesday, October 23rd: Peppermint PhD
Friday, October 25th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, October 28th: she treads softly
Wednesday, October 30th: Book-alicious Mama
Thursday, October 31st: Olduvai Reads
Monday, November 4th: Love at First Book
Tuesday, November 5th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, November 6th: red headed book child
Thursday, November 7th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, November 12th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, November 14th: guiltless reading
Thanks Cheryl!
Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!
red headed book child