A New Poirot Mystery

The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery” by SOPHIE HANNAH from WilliamMorrow was long-awaited at our house.  It is a rare book that my other half and I fight over but he stole this one, hid it and now these are his thoughts…

Monogram

I was very interested in reading this book as soon as I heard about it. The editorial reviews were very positive….so I put another book aside, and I dived in! After reading this book, I have a better appreciation of just how hard it must be to write a convincing pastiche. Many Sherlock Holmes pastiches, although pretty good stories, seem to miss the mark a bit. I feel the same about Sophie Hannah’s first effort at Poirot; pretty good book but not quite Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Sophie Hannah’s Poirot is not as charming as one is used to and comes across a little boring. In addition, the story itself seems at times to be overly complicated.

I may be overly critical here, but remember – we are comparing Ms. Hannah to Ms. Christie. The Poirot novels I have always enjoyed the most are those which include Captain Hastings. Hastings is missing in this novel, but the author does do a good job of utilizing Scotland Yard policeman Edward Catchpool for much of the narration. The portions of the book I enjoyed the most are those that highlighted Catchpool’s investigation (and did not include Poirot)!

Bottom line – I was interested enough in the book that I quickly read it to the end. Although not as satisfying as a Christie novel, it was good enough that I will be reading Sophie Hannah’s next Poirot novel when she makes her second effort. Hopefully, the Poirot we have enjoyed all of our lives will emerge in book #2.

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A Visit to Chestnut Street

My first Maeve Binchy read and oh what a treasure. I actually listened to this book thanks to Random House Audio and I could not have asked for better company on the ride to and from work.  Sile Bermingham was the perfect narrator to transport me to Ireland.

Chestnut Street

This collection of short stories written by Binchy on a fictional street that she was saving for later have now come to life in this book.  Each story stands on its own and allows for easy listening if you are not sure about making a commitment to the audiobook world or only have short interludes for listening in. Bermingham is really to be applauded as this collection has so many characters that she has to bring to life in the audiobook.

When I finished a disc I would often find myself going back to listen to one of the stories  again.  This is the kind of listen/read to visit again and again.

These stories were both touching and humorous and there was something special in each one. Ms. Binchy I tip my hat to you posthumously and thank you for CHESTNUT STREET and the body of work you left for myself and others to read now and for years to come.

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War Has Two Faces Endearingly Captured by Anthony Doerr

allthelight-209x300Anthony Doerr has crafted a book that is chapters and chapters of short stories somehow melded together into a story about WWII. Expressed through two characters on opposite sides of the war, it provides a window into the history and emotions of this war.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father the locksmith of the Museum of Natural History.  Werner is an orphan living in a house with other orphans including his sister Jutta in a small town in Germany.

Marie-Laure’s father builds his daughter is model of their neighborhood so that when a disease takes her sight she can get around the city.  She spends many hours with him at the museum. Torn from their happy life when the Germans invade Paris, they flee first to a safe house that is compromised and then to a great-uncle’s home in St.-Malo.

Werner develops a talent for electronics. He can see how to make it work in his mind. Eventually he is invited to an academy for Hitler’s Youth. He ends up in St.-Malo at the tail end of his mission to track down those in the resistance sending messages that plague the Germans.

Marie-Laure’s father builds her a model of St.-Malo so she can navigate this new home. Soon he is taken prisoner and now she is alone in this strange town that soon is under siege by the Germans. Her father and great-uncle have provided her a way to stay alive.

Marie-Laure and Werner lives briefly intersect when they need each other the most in the war. If they hadn’t found it other they might both have perished.

I was not surprised to find that Doerr has a history in short stories as these chapters read just that way.  Yet Doerr has my admiration as he was able to craft these chapters into a beautiful novel. And while there was some choppiness due to the format this chapter reader did not mind.  Doerr even committed the cardinal sin of time jumping in the sections of the book but it still did not diminish my adoration for this book.

Thanks to Scribner for taking a chance on this interesting format and for providing me with a copy this book. Thanks to the Hashtags Book Club for making this selection for our August read. I loved musing about it during our weekly twitter chats.

 

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A Second Helping from Hazel Gaynor – Cover Reveal

I had the chance to read the first novel from Helen Gaynor about the Titanic http://poofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/a-titanic-memory-the-girl-who-came-home/, that too had a beautiful cover. Next up from Gaynor is A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and it too has a cover that will catch your eye.

Gaynor

From the author of the USA Today bestseller The Girl Who Came Home comes an unforgettable historical novel that tells the story of two little sisters – orphaned flower sellers – and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.

‘For Little Sister … I will never stop looking for you.’

1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden’s flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by the presence of each other. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.

1912. Twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, taking them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start; a chance to leave her troubled past behind.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora’s entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her sister. Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

About the Author: Hazel Gaynor is the author of The Girl Who Came Home (William Morrow Paperbacks; ISBN: 9780062316868; 04/15/2014). She is also a freelance writer, writing regularly for the national press, magazines and websites in Ireland and the UK. Her writing success has been featured in The Sunday Times Magazine and Irish Times and she has also appeared on TV and radio. Hazel is a guest blogger and features writer for national Irish writing website writing.ie for which she has interviewed, among others, Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks and Cheryl Strayed. Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference and the Historical Novel Society Conference in 2014. You can reach her at https://www.facebook.com/hazelgaynorbooks.

You have to wait till it arrives in February but you can pre-order from any of the places below:

Barnes & Noble / Amazon / IndieBound / Books-a-Million / iTunes

William Morrow Trade Paperback; February 3, 2015; $14.99; ISBN: 9780062316899

 

 

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Dark Dark Tale in the Time of the Bard

Dark AmeliaI love book covers/art that is not a secret but I often do not think twice about the title.  With this novel DARK AEMILIA I was drawn to the title but expected something more.  I think the title was far darker then the woman that was driven to the brink by the time and circumstances she found herself in.

Aemilia Bassano is born in the time of Queen Elizabeth and with the death of her musician father coupled with her beauty she finds herself a plaything in the Queen’s court. William Shakespeare is not my favorite, sorry to those who study and appreciate his works. I often felt I was in a Shakespeare work with Sally O’Reilly capturing this time so well in the pages of this novel.

While Aemilia is a beauty and just wants to be with the love of her life it was not meant to be.  Instead she is married off and raises a son by another man. Aemilia will do anything for her precious son Henry perhaps because he reminds her of the man she loves. Sorry to say this book was just too dark for me.  And the sorcery I was hoping to find did not materialize until hundreds of pages into the book. By then it was just too dark and there were not any characters I had forged any connection to.

My favorite aspect of this book was gaining a new understanding of a time and its complications and in turn a real life person that is little known.  O’Reilly’s style is academic but I trusted her pen and always felt in good hands. I am appreciative to learn about Aemilia Bassano aka Lanyer and have spent some time learning more about this woman and her struggle.

I thank Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for allowing me a turn at this tour for DARK AMELIA.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.  You should see what other tours are in the works, there is something for everyone. http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/

 

 

 

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Another in A Series of Delicious Novels

SweetshopEarlier this year I read my first Jenny Colgan novel The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris and I ate it up one chocolate treat at a time. I jumped at the chance to join the Sourcebooks Landmark book tour for Colgan’s newest WELCOME TO ROSIE HOPKINS’S SWEETSHOP OF DREAMS a novel with recipes. There were a couple of options and one was author Q & A and at the time I thought that sounded like fun.  What was I thinking posing questions to a smart, funny author????

Q: Your cartooning self must love the covers for your books, was that purely by accident or do you have some input in that?

A: I don’t have any input into the covers, I’m always impressed by what the professionals come up with! They know their stuff: it’s a tricky job, covers. I like seeing different covers from round the world. My Japanese ones are amazing. (POOF: I have to go look them up now…I often judge books by their cover.)

Q: Is it difficult for your writer self to flip from genre to genre let’s say from this novel series to Dr. Who?

A: Honestly, no, not really. That sounds big-headed, and I don’t mean it to be, but when I’m working on two different projects, I’ll take a break between them, then it’s kind of like switching channels on the television. I don’t have any control over which project takes up the most head- space though, when I’m out and about. At the moment it’s something I have no time or business writing or even thinking about, which is slightly driving me crazy. (POOF: She definitely knows how to get one’s curiosity up.)

Q: Did the treat novels inspire you to spend more time experimenting in the kitchen or does your time in the kitchen drive the next treat novel?

A: It’s a bit of both really. I go through phases. It was bread, bread, bread for ages, then I got obsessed with making the perfect potato scone! I have to test everything I make in the kitchen first. I will tell you now, if you are tackling the marshmallow in Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams, it’s not for the fainthearted. Maybe start with the tablet. (POOF: GASP! This comment about the marshmallow came from a tweet, she remembered.  JC is so fun to tweet with, try it @jennycolgan.)

Q: You are lucky that your stand up experience/sense of humor can be expressed in this treat novel series but do you ever get carried away and have an editor reel you back in?

A: Not in my books really because they’re meant to be light-hearted, but often in journalism they’ll just take the jokes out, and I always get a bit cross. If you want someone to write a piece without any jokes, well, loads of people can do that, don’t call me! Ha, now I shall NEVER WORK AGAIN. (POOF: Her sense of humor makes these light but smart novels really special.)

Q: Is Rosie made up in your head or is Rosie inspired by a real or fictional person.

A: She’s made up, but I will say, people who care for the elderly with kindness and patience are absolute heroes. It’s amazing what they do. Caring for a baby is one thing, but looking after older people can be a very tough gig, and they have my admiration. And of course, I’ll be one of them one day if my parents dare to get old. Fortunately they’re refusing to do so at the moment. I would like to think I could approach the job with as much patience as Rosie, but I think that is very, very unlikely.

Q: Do you have something you do on publication day to celebrate?  Does it always look the same or is it different?

A: I used to, back in the old days when I only had one book out a year. Now I have more than that, so I just never get round to it. My husband says I’m too prolific to make it special. Then I look all sad and he takes me to Festival de la Mer for dinner.

Q: Can you describe the feeling you get when you receive the first copy of your new published book?

A: Actually the first time you see it out in a shop on display is the real buzz. I’ll be standing in an airport going, ha, this is ME YOU GUYS. I don’t say it out loud though. My dad does, he tells everyone. I’m also an utter optimist: if a book store has loads of copies I’m delighted and if they don’t have any I tell myself they’ve sold out.

Q:  Can we expect another treat novel and if so do you have a plan in your mind to end this series and switch to something else?

A: Aha, I can’t tell you at the moment I’m afraid! But lots of cool stuff coming up!

Q: What is the one thing you miss about the process of writing or publication that has changed since you launched your career as a published author?

A: I miss seeing books in the street. I love my e-reader as much as anyone does, it’s great carrying a library in my pocket, but I miss seeing what other people are reading, what looks good or interesting or has a terrific cover. Also I think it’s a bigger loss than just nosiness; I think fewer books around us means books are culturally simply less evident and less a part of our world, and I miss that.

But I am relieved: I used to think once everyone could watch films and play video games wherever they wanted, that would be the end for the book, but actually of course it isn’t: people still read. There’s nothing really quite like that brain- to -brain connection with a writer you like. (POOF: Long live the physical, wonderful smelling gorgeous cover art books!)

Q: What are three things you would tell an aspiring novel writer today?

A: Oh lordy, I don’t know it seems so much harder now. When I started you could have a dud book and still hope to come back from it, but it’s got tougher and tougher out there. On the other hand, there are loads more ways into print- self pub and all of that. So it’s not all bad. I would say don’t censor yourself or try to write for the market- write exactly what you would love to read. And if you’re submitting or self-pubbing, get that proofing right!  And number three, the absolute answer to every problem in writing is, in my experience, a very long walk.

Book Synopsis: Rosie Hopkins’s life is…comfortable. She has a steady nursing job, a nice apartment, and Gerard, her loyal (if a bit boring) boyfriend. And even though she might like to pursue a more rewarding career, and Gerard doesn’t seem to have any plans to propose, Rosie’s not complaining. Things could be worse. Right?

Life gets a bit more interesting when Rosie’s mother sends her out to the country to care for her ailing great aunt Lilian, who owns an old-fashioned sweetshop. But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what’s comfortable might not be so great after all.

Author Bio: A former columnist for The Guardian, Jenny Colgan contributes regularly to national BBC radio and is the author of more than eleven bestselling novels, including her recent international bestsellers The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris published in 2014 and “Welcome To Rosie Hopkins’s Sweetshop of Dreams”, which won the 2013 Romantic Novel of the Year award from the Romantic Novelists Association. She is married with three children and lives in London and France.

If you are looking for a fun light novel or a new series be sure to pick up WELCOME TO ROSIE HOPKINS’S SWEETSHOP OF DREAMS or any of her other novels.

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1olMqiK
BAM: http://bit.ly/1mfejsZ
B&N: http://amzn.to/1olMqiK
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/WWlEbB
Indigo: http://bit.ly/1nkyZ2m
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1p4HWlS

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On Your Mark, Get Set – Q & A with Deborah Harkness

A CONVERSATION WITH DEBORAH HARKNESS

Author of the Book of Lost Souls Triology

Book Three out Tuesday, July 15 2014Book of Life

 
Q: In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research. What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up on while reading THE BOOK OF LIFE? There’s quite a bit more lab work in this book!

A. There is. Welcome back to the present! What I hope readers come to appreciate is that science—past or present—is nothing more than a method for asking and answering questions about the world and our place in it. Once, some of those questions were answered alchemically. Today, they might be answered biochemically and genetically. In the future? Who knows. But Matthew is right in suggesting that there are really remarkably few scientific questions and we have been posing them for a very long time. Two of them are: who am I? why am I here?
Q: Much of the conflict in the book seems to mirror issues of race and sexuality in our society, and there seems to be a definite moral conclusion to THE BOOK OF LIFE. Could you discuss this? Do you find that a strength of fantasy novels is their ability to not only to allow readers to escape, but to also challenge them to fact important moral issues?

A. Human beings like to sort and categorize. We have done this since the beginnings of recorded history, and probably well back beyond that point. One of the most common ways to do that is to group things that are “alike” and things that are “different.” Often, we fear what is not like us. Many of the world’s ills have stemmed from someone (or a group of someones) deciding what is different is also dangerous. Witches, women, people of color, people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations—all have been targets of this process of singling others out and labeling them different and therefore undesirable. Like my interest in exploring what a family is, the issue of difference and respect for difference (rather than fear) informed every page of the All Souls Trilogy. And yes, I do think that dealing with fantastic creatures like daemons, vampires, and witches rather than confronting issues of race or sexuality directly can enable readers to think through these issues in a useful way and perhaps come to different conclusions about members of their own families and communities. As I often say when people ask me why supernatural creatures are so popular these days: witches and vampires are monsters to think with.
Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family: unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.
Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.
Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.
Q: Diana and Matthew, once again, move around to quite a number of locations in THE BOOK OF LIFE, including New Haven, New Orleans, and a few of our favorite old haunts like Oxford, Madison, and Sept-Tours. What inspired you to place your characters in these locations? Have you visited them yourself?

A. As a writer, I really need to experience the places I write about in my books. I want to know what it smells like, how the air feels when it changes direction, the way the sunlight strikes the windowsill in the morning, the sound of birds and insects. Not every writer may require this, but I do. So I spent time not only in New Haven but undertaking research at the Beinecke Library so that I could understand the rhythms of Diana’s day there. I visited New Orleans several times to imagine my vampires into them. All of the locations I pick are steeped in history and stories about past inhabitants—perfect fuel for any writer’s creative fire.

Q: Did you know back when you wrote A Discovery of Witches how the story would conclude in THE BOOK OF LIFE? Did the direction change once you began the writing process?

A. I knew how the trilogy would end, but I didn’t know exactly how we would get there. The story was well thought out through the beginning of what became The Book of Life, but the chunk between that beginning and the ending (which is as I envisioned it) did change. In part that was because what I had sketched out was too ambitious and complicated—the perils of being not only a first-time trilogy writer but also a first time author. It was very important to me that I resolve and tie up all the threads already in the story so readers had a satisfying conclusion. Early in the writing of The Book of Life it became clear that this wasn’t going to give me much time to introduce new characters or plot twists. I now understand why so many trilogies have four, five, six—or more—books in them. Finishing the trilogy as a trilogy required a lot of determination and a very thick pair of blinders as I left behind characters and story lines that would take me too far from the central story of Diana, Matthew, and the Book of Life.
Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the secrets contained in the manuscript are at long last revealed in THE BOOK OF LIFE. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation. What was the story behind your discovery? And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.
Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.
Q: Shadow of Night and A Discovery of Witches have often been compared to young adult fantasy like Twilight, with the caveat that this series is for adults interested in history, science, and academics. Unlike Bella and Edward, Matthew and Diana are card-carrying members of academia who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A Discovery of Witches, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.

THE WAIT IS OVER TOMORROW…

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