First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane AustenFirst Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett

A thrilling literary mystery co-starring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale

Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield.  Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is certainly a book that will pique the interest of Jane Austen Admirer’s as well as warm the heart of bibliophiles. It is a book very much about books, but also has an unexpected mystery at its core.

As a love story, I enjoyed this book for the fact that it showed many different facets of love, not just the romantic type that readers usually encounter.

Charlie Lovett is good with words. He knows how to bend them and craft them carefully until he has chosen just the right ones. This was true in his first book, and now again in his second. He seems to understand what we as readers, want to see in a character and a story and ensure that we do not leave disappointed.

I found myself caught up in this novel quickly and was more than pleased with it overall. Both of the stories were interesting and the way the author co-mingled the past and the present was sheer talent.

I’d definitely recommend this book to other book lovers.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley, all opinions are my own.

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The Carpathian Assignment by Chip Wagar

The Carpathian Assignment: The True History of the Apprehension and Death of Dracula Vlad Tepes, Count and Voivode of the Principality of TransylThe Carpathian Assignment: The True History of the Apprehension and Death of Dracula Vlad Tepes, Count and Voivode of the Principality of Transyl by Chip Wagar

Kalvary Istvan, widower and former Hungarian cavalry colonel, hopes for a quiet life when he accepts the position of chief of police in the Carpathian city of Bistritz. It’s no less than a man deserves after years of service to his Kaiser and king. Sadly, Istvan’s going to be disappointed. Someone or something haunts the streets of Bistritz and the surrounding Transylvanian mountains. Ask Istvan’s new colleague, Gabor Kasza of the Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, and he’d say evidence points to a well-established serial killer, possibly hidden among the oppressed and reviled Roma, who call the nearby Borgo Pass home. Ask Freudian devotee Baron Krafft-Ebing and he’d agree, although his interest lies more in studying the psychopath’s mind than bringing him to justice. Ask the mountain people of the Carpathians, however, and they’d disagree. They’d point to the long history of killings and disappearances in the region, which stretch back longer than any one man’s lifetime. They’d speak in hushed voices of the Roma’s supposed master, and an abandoned castle where he lives with his demonic wives. The bravest residents might even risk whispering a name: Dracula. Kalvary Istvan, like Kasza and Krafft-Ebing, considers himself a modern nineteenth-century man, with little time for legends and superstitions, but as he and Kasza pursue their investigation, reason and deduction begin to give way to dark, ancient truths and local belief. At once a thrilling detective yarn and intriguing backstory to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Carpathian Assignment immerses readers in the rich setting of the Hungarian kingdom at the end of the nineteenth century, a nation in which science and logic clash with centuries of cultural conviction and superstition.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So…this is possibly the best sort-of-Dracula-like-book I have ever read. It is also possibly the worst ARC copy that I have ever bloody seen. Through no fault of the author, there are large chunks of text missing and most of the beginnings of each paragraph. The Final copy, of course will not look like this, so it is of no real concern to the final book readers, but I would have felt bad if I didn’t mention that there were parts of the book I did not get to read.

As far as the story goes, this is very well written and has the historical backing that most books of the sort completely lack. It is obvious that Chip Wagar is familiar with the geography of the places he writes about as well as the historical matter. This was a nice change from many books that simply have Dracula featured as a bloodthirsty vampire.

This story progressed nicely and at a good clip, with lots of mysteries to be solved and a villain that did not simply skulk off into hiding or get defeated at the drop of a….wooden stake. I liked that the historical angle was used to back up the story and flesh it out.

The only thing that irked me about this novel, were the sex scenes. It wasn’t that they were poorly written, but they seemed misplaced, as though they were an afterthought. People have been dying for years due to this monster, we should have sex! Really, it just didn’t work for me.

An entertaining romp into the remote Carpathian wilds, exciting for a girl from Romania. If you are interested in the historical Dracula, then you will likely enjoy this novel.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

The Moonlight PalaceThe Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.

Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lovely novel. The voice of the narrator is not only strong but makes you feel compassionate from an early point in the book. Those qualities, mixed with the exotic setting and torrid family history (although somewhat imagined–see chapter two) made this a very interesting book.

This was a story that I was sorry to see end. The main character is such fun and her observations about life and her family are often times hilarious. I felt like I was walking alongside a friend during this book and that made it special.

I loved the strong sense of family and culture in this novel. I never knew quite what to expect next as the story takes unexpected turns in places that I wouldn’t have imagined.

If you enjoy stories that come from true storytellers, this is a perfect example. The author has a gift for making you see pictures through her chosen words. I will happily read another book by this author and recommend that you check this out.

Really enjoyed it.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

How to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein

How to Climb the Eiffel TowerHow to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein

A moving, surprisingly humorous, sometimes snarky novel about life, friendship… and cancer

Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first read the blurb for this book I had my reservations about it. I am a cancer survivor as well and I was really hoping that this book would not fluff up the experience. It doesn’t and on top of that, it is just a genuinely well written and entertaining book. I later read the author bio and saw that the author is a cancer survivor as well, so I really felt like although this was fiction, she wrote it from a place of personal knowledge and that made it even better.

The things that the main character goes through in this story are written with sincerity and realistic qualities that make you feel close to her and her situation. She struggles to understand why the things that have occurred in her life have happened and comes to new understanding about herself throughout the course of the story.

This book will make you laugh, make you cry in places but also make you realise that no matter what adversity there is in life, there is a way to overcome it. The strong female characters in this book do not come off as abrasive or intentionally feminist. They represent real women with real lives.

I was impressed by the pace and flow of this novel as well as the way the author chose to end her story. If you enjoy women’s fiction and like books that border the line between fiction and reality, this would be a good one to choose.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Mirror Interview with Tim Therien

“Mirror, Mirror on the ceiling…”

Now that I have your attention, I don’t actually have a mirror on the ceiling. In fact, the only mirror in my apartment is the one in the bathroom. I take a quick look at myself once a day to make sure I’m presentable to the world, other than that I avoid mirrors with the fervor of a vampire. After reading the clever, witty and intelligent “mirror interviews” featured her at “Readful Things” I have to admit to being a little intimidated. For starters I am not a big fan of tooting my own horn. If I took tooting my own horn I might just have to get that mirror for the ceiling. That said; let’s get on to the crux of it, shall we?

On Poetry

Poetry is very near and dear to me and perhaps I will always be a Poet first and a Writer second. I do make a distinction between the two. Both may be mediums of the written word, but I believe Poetry is more akin to Music than to Prose, especially in its connection to the soul. While Prose may be poetic, it does not make it Poetry.

I am a big proponent of writing in Form, or at least having the ability to do so. I don’t think someone should be able to call themselves a Poet without first being able to express themselves in at least one of the Fixed Forms of Poetry. I am not anti-Free Verse, in fact most of what I have written was without thought of form, but I do believe most Free Versed Poems would have been better served being put into Prose.

On Writing

I take writing very seriously, probably more seriously than I should. I was almost illiterate when I left school at age 15 and taught myself to read and write. I take great pride in that accomplishment. People have called me a “Natural Talent,” but they did not witness the long hard years I’ve dedicated to this craft. It has taken more than thirty years to get from barely being able to fill out a job application to penning these words you now read. This in my mind is not talent, but perseverance. Writing has been my Life’s Labour and my Life’s Love.

Writing is so much more than sitting in a room and putting pen to paper. That is only a small part of it. The bulk of writing is living life, experiencing things, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. It is these things that allow the Writer to relate to the reader. If someone cloistered themselves off from the world and wrote, none but the humble hermit would identify to the words.

The best advice I’ve ever received concerning writing would have to be “write like you speak.” It was in applying this advice to my writing that I discovered my literary voice. If I were to impart this advice myself, I would expand upon it and say “write what you think, but write like you speak.” In my opinion, just as important as literary voice is to a writer so too is the ability to express the things that are oft not expressed. Also I would tell the would-be writer to challenge themselves in all things writing. Lastly, write with the Reader in mind, but write the story you want to read.

On Editing

I am not a big fan of editing and not too long ago I refused to edit anything I had written outside of spelling errors and typos. I wanted to remain as true to the essence of what I had written as I humanly could. I do believe a lot of the soul of a piece of writing can be lost in the editing process. I write from the heart and rely on my gut and editing in my mind puts both into doubt. Editing is a game of second guessing ourselves and our instincts.

I have since moved on that position, at least as far as prose is concerned, but I still try to keep as much of that original draft intact as I can. I would call what I do now “Shading” and not editing. It is more akin to the artist who works in charcoal, first outlining his form and then filling it in to give it depth and three dimensions. The original lines remain, even if they have been shaded over.

On Marketing

I think it’s ridiculous to think that a writer must personally interact with every reader and potential reader out there. Really, it is unrealistic for an author with even a modest bit of success to be at the beckon call of their target market. It puts too much pressure on a writer. It also takes up too much time, time which could be better used to relate to the reader the way a writer should relate to a reader, through the written word, through Storytelling and through Poetry.

Writing, for me, has never been about commercial success. Truth is I am resigned that my success, if I am to have it, will most likely come after I have departed from this world. Many great and beloved writers have been misunderstood, even loathed in their own lifetimes. For me, my success will be measured by the ability of my words to stand the test of time.

I am not a big fan of self-promotion. It is, I’m afraid, a necessary evil for the self-published author, but it still feels like I’m pimping myself out and prostituting myself when I engage in the practice. So how then to gain exposure without selling my soul? This is something I haven’t found an answer for. I have contented myself with the belief that if I write something and if I put it out there and if it is truly worthy it will find its way into the hands and hearts of the Reader. That is a lot of ifs, but Life is full of ifs.

On Future Works

Since my move back to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, after over a decade in the Eastern Townships in Quebec, things have been very hectic. I have spent most of the summer working on a book of Poetry (“Crossing Main”) and a Romance (“Forever: The First Epoch”) simultaneously and haven’t been getting very far with either. My life has settled down a little now and I have turned my focus to the Romance until November 1st when I will turn my attention to and again take part in NaNoWriMo to write the second installment of “The Scrolls of Sion.” I have also couple of other projects on the back burner that will see light at the first opportunity.

In 2015, at least two books can be expected from me. “The Scrolls of Sion: Broken Bloodlines” and “Forever: The First Epoch.” If at all possible I will also publish “Crossing Main.” Beyond that, I cannot say.

The opinions expressed here reflect the man in the mirror, me and no one else. In no way is what I say a reflection, or judgement of anyone else. In closing, I would like to thank Ionia for having me here on her wonderful blog.

Links to Books

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/434284

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-scrolls-of-sion-t-j-therien/1119459677

Links to Blogs

http://insidethepoetsmind.wordpress.com/

http://thescrollsofsion.wordpress.com/

The Bellingham Bloodbath by Gregory Harris

The Bellingham Bloodbath (Colin Pendragon Mysteries, #2)The Bellingham Bloodbath by Gregory Harris

After a captain in Her Majesty’s Guard and his young wife are brutally murdered in their flat, master sleuth Colin Pendragon and his partner Ethan Pruitt are summoned to Buckingham Palace. Major Hampstead demands discretion at all costs to preserve the repuration of the Guard and insists Pendragon participate in the cover-up by misleading the press. In response, Pendragon makes the bold claim that he will solve the case in no more than three days’ time or he will oblige the major and compromise himself.

Racing against the clock – and thwarted at every turn by their Scotland Yard nemesis Inspector Emmett Varcoe – Pendragon and Pruitt begin to assemble the clues around the grisly homicide, probing into private lives and uncovering closely guarded secrets. As the minutes tick away, the pressure – and the danger – mounts as Pendragon’s integrity is on the line and a cold-blooded killer remains on the streets…

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gregory Harris quickly became one of my favourite authors when I read the first book in this series. This book reinforced why I love his work, although I did find the lack of his dealings with the apparition of Sherlock in this book mildly disappointing. I thought the connections he made to the famous sleuth in the first one gave it a special quality that this one did not possess. Also, I missed Oscar.

Still, that being said, this was another witty, engaging romp through a dual mystery that kept me smiling and curious as I read. I love that he used pugs as the central stars of one mystery–my favourite dog breed.

The murder mystery (and the crime itself) was more detailed this time than the first go and I felt like the author was more comfortable in his skin. The homosexual angle of the book is still mild, although more prominent in this book and I think his two main characters work really well together and have the type of dynamic you want in a long term partnership–both professional and personal.

The thing that makes me love these books so much is the wit and charm of the characters. Ethan is full of wry observations and often makes me laugh out loud. Colin, seen mostly through Ethan’s eyes, is daring and crass, and often seems to pull clues out of thin air and make them work, and together they are an unstoppable force.

The mysteries are always intriguing and have lots of possible culprits at the heart of them, so it take a while to draw a conclusion. Overall, I just really like these books.

If you like mysteries that follow the Victorian England rules of proper gentleman and high society mischief, you can’t go wrong with these novels.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Mirror Interview: Jacob Airey

So Ionia had a brain fart. What? What you may say? How can this be? To tell the truth it happens all the time. I went on holiday and forgot the notebook that had all the scheduled interviews in it. So the 20th of August rolled around–also my birthday, coincidentally–and I didn’t seem to have an interview for that day. Since I forgot the book I couldn’t check to see who it was that was supposed to be the guest. Apparently the email was eaten in one folder or another. 3,000 plus emails a week that aren’t spam and another few thousand that are will do that, but no excuses. I goofed up. So thankfully, Mr. Airey is a kind soul and has offered me another chance to post his interview. I’m going to actually do it this time. Promise. I apologise for keeping you all from a great interview and to him for not posting as scheduled. :)

 

 Where are you from?

I was born in Beaumont, Texas, but I was raised in Dallas.

 

When did you first have an interest in writing?

I read an kid’s abridged version of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when I was 8. About a year later, I read the full version and I loved it. I soon read all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and then I got into JRR Tolkien, Frank Peretti, Brandilyn Collins, HG Wells, CS Lewis, and on and on and on. These writers inspired me to tell my own stories.

Have you ever written a full novel?

Not like an eight-hundred page epic. I’ve written three novellas. One is a mystery, one is a supernatural thriller, and the last is a fantasy story. Plus, several short stories and poems.

Of the three novellas you’ve written so far, which is your favorite?

I would have to say the newest one. It’s about a prince and his fellow crown royals who are in a magical world filled with dragons and unicorns. The prince, however, is immune to magic of all kinds. To make matters worse, his kingdom gets taken over by an evil emperor and a sorcerer. That’s all you get.

Are they standalone?

The first two are, but the newest one is meant to be the first in a trilogy.

You do book reviews on your blog Lone Star Inspirations. Why is that?

Often times, critics are not writers, so they review from a consumer perspective which is great, but it often gives way to bias. I review fellow authors from a creative perspective without seeing them as competition, so it eliminates some of my bias. No bias can be totally erased, but I try to give everything I review a fair outlook.

What kind of headway are you making to get yourself noticed as an author?

I started another blog called Jacob Airey’s Librarium which is where I’m going to self-publish poems and short stories. I also have art gallery on there for my paintings.

Do you have a favorite genre?

I would say it’s a tie between science fiction and mystery, but I’ll read anything. I love period fiction, dramas, medical, thriller, fantasy, etc. I want to write in several genres as well.

Did you ever try to get one of your books published?

I tried to get the first one published and even got an agent. We were negotiating a deal with a publisher. Unfortunately, my agent abandoned my manuscript and the publisher wouldn’t talk to me without representation. After that, it fell to pieces. It was very discouraging.

Wow! Did it affect your writing?

In the worst way. I had already finished the second manuscript and done four drafts of it, but I was so discouraged, I stopped writing all together except for poems. I would start a project, but ultimately abandon it. I did this for about five years.

Five years? Whoa. What made you get out there again?

One of my teachers found out I was a writer and forced me out there. I did a creative project where I did my fifth draft of the second book and renamed. After that, I got the fire back and I started my third project which is completed, but I’m still drafting it.

What would you say to authors who have had that encounter or worried they could be next?

I would say, do not repeat my mistake. I stopped writing and that was terrible. I mean, my poems were great, but it felt like something was missing. Writing is something I did to make me feel alive and for other writers out there, don’t let discouragement haunt you and keep you from writing like it did me. That is the worst thing you can do! Sit up straight, fix your eyes, shake it off, and then grab a pen or laptop! Let it flow from you!

That’s all the time we have for today! Thank you for joining us.

There’s only one person here.

Say what? Hey, no one’s laughing.
Yeah, that was a bomb.