April 17, 2015

Author Profile: Susanna Kearsley

Quirky Bookworm: Author Profile: Susanna Kearsley. Here I'm profiling all the books of one of my recent favorite authors - they're a great blend of historical fiction and romance, with a slight paranormal twist.I first encountered Susanna Kearsley's books a little more than a year ago, when Shelf Awareness asked me to review The Splendour Falls. I loved it, and was excited to find a modern author who reminded me a lot of Mary Stewart. Since then I've read nearly all of her books, and I thought since I had so much fun profiling Rainbow Rowell's books recently, that I'd also profile Kearsley's. They're all romantic, and a bit paranormal, and so much fun!

The Splendour Falls is set in France. In the modern era Emily Braden, having given up on love, is planning to vacation with her unreliable cousin Henry in Chinon, France. But Henry never shows up at their hotel, and Emily is cast into a series of strange events, including dreams/flashbacks to the tragic life of Queen Isabelle. Her fellow hotel guests include several handsome (and single) men...

Mariana takes place in England. Julia Beckett has felt a strange connection to a house called Greywethers since her childhood. Once she moves there as an adult, she begins to slip back and forth in time; to the body of a girl called Mariana, in the 17th century. Soon Julia feels strangely connected to a man who bears a startling resemblance to Mariana's lover; forcing her to resolve things both in the past, and in her own time.

The Winter Sea might be my favorite. It's set in Scotland, during an early Jacobite uprising. I love both the modern day romance of Carrie McClelland, and the romance in the novel that Carrie is writing. Carrie's visions of the past influence her writing strongly, and the Scottish setting is just lovely, causing me to add Slains Castle to my Literary Bucket List. 

The Firebird begins at Slains, but the storyline expands to include Russia, and some lovely scenes set in 18th century St. Petersburg. I found the modern romance less compelling in this one, but I loved Anna, the 18th century heroine. This one involves straight-up ESP, rather than dreams or visions, which was interesting at first, but got a bit repetitive after a while.

The Shadowy Horses - I haven't actually gotten this one from the library yet! I'm excited to read it, since there was a slight reference to this one in The Firebird. I love it when authors subtly connect their books. This one centers around an archaelogical dig, and a young boy who can see the Roman legion who used to be stationed there.

Season of Storms is set in Italy, in a lovely palazzo called Il Piacere. Strange things keep happening when young Celia Sands, a modern actress named after an earlier Celia Sands, goes to Il Piacere for a summer theatrical production. Servants vanish, artwork goes missing, actors squabble and Celia could swear that Celia the First haunts her bedroom. She finds herself turning to the handsome Alex for answers--answers that may not be Alex's to share.

The Rose Garden is my other contender for favorite. (You may remember that I couldn't stop listening to it.) Eva's recently lost her beloved (and famous) sister Katrina, who was an actress. Eva leaves LA to go back to Cornwall to spread Katrina's ashes. To her surprise, Eva finds herself jerked back in time 300 years, to the Jacobite era, and starts falling in love with a handsome smuggler. 

Every Secret Thing is a departure from Kearsley's other books: it's a straight up thriller, not paranormal at all. (And it also shows the heroine's face! Not just the back of her head, ha.) It starts out quite like her others, but then all of a sudden the bodies start dropping, which caught me off guard. But I adored the parts of the book set in Lisbon - I don't think I've ever read a book set in Portugal before.

Named of the Dragon has a 15 year old English edition, but won't be published in the US till this fall. The main character has been struggling with nightmares since the death of her child, which makes me a little nervous. Ever since having kids, I've really had a hard time reading/watching things where children die. I think I'll have to make sure not to read this one right before bed.

A Desperate Fortune came out a couple of weeks ago. I was trying to wait for the library to get it, but I couldn't resist buying it. In the modern day Sara, who has Asperger's, has been hired to decipher a coded journal kept by Mary, a young woman caught up in the French Jacobite cause in the 1730s. I really liked the novelty of a heroine with Asperger's, and the French setting, although I am getting a wee bit tired of Jacobites.

Have you read Susanna Kearsley?
What's your favorite title?

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April 15, 2015

The Books I'm Packing on Vacation

We're headed to San Francisco for four days soon! I'm a bit unsure about how much reading I'll actually get to do. On the one hand, I'm sure I won't get to read on the plane, because Juliet is lap-sitting. On the other hand, I might get to read a LOT in the hotel room, because we're all sharing one room for the first time (we typically do Airbnb, I just got an unbeatable deal on a hotel room). Anyway, once the girls go to sleep, Noel and I are going to have to either watch tv on mute or read.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. I was obsessed with Big Little Lies, so when this one popped up in a Kindle sale, I snapped it up. I think it's fun that it's about triplets! My college roommate has triplets a few months younger than Eleanor, so I'm always interested in triplety things.

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani. This was another sale book. I've never read any Trigiani books, but I always admired the covers when I used to stock them (when I worked at Bookmans).

That's Not English by Erin Moore. I love nerdy word and etymology books, so I'm super excited about this one. I got an ARC from the publisher a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't had a chance to get to it yet. It's the only print book I'm packing, since it's paperback and lightweight.

If You're Not the One by Jemma Forte. I have an e-galley of this one, which will come out in June. It's an It's-a-Wonderful-Life type romance, where a woman in a coma gets a glimpse of what life would be like if she'd married someone else. Looks like fun, and perfect for some light vacation reading.

I'm proud of myself for not overpacking this time! Amazing how having the Kindle has changed that... I don't feel the pressure to take ALL THE BOOKS just in case, since I know I can always log into the library website and download something else.

Do YOU take lots of books on vacation?

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April 13, 2015

Book Review: Into the Savage Country by Shannon Burke

Shannon Burke (Black Flies) sets Into the Savage Country at a pivotal moment in American history. In the late 1820s, American, Spanish and British trappers and adventurers are battling for supremacy in the western territories. These ragtag and fiercely loyal mountain men understand that their triumph or failure may affect the future for their respective nations.

Young William Wyeth, resolved to make his fortune in the West as a means to win the hand of the lovely widow Alene, sets out on a trapping expedition of breathtaking scope. The small brigade Wyeth joins is determined to trap in untouched Crow lands, but they are drawn into disputes between the Crow, Blackfoot and Gros Ventre tribes. With the British backing some tribes and the Spanish refusing southern passage, it will take all their wits to escape back to St. Louis, Mo., with their furs and their lives.

Told from Wyeth's point of view, Into the Savage Country pays homage to an often overlooked period in American history. There to witness the destruction of buffalo herds and the decimation of fur animals, Wyeth muses on the changes in both the burgeoning United States and himself. And as the months pass, Wyeth's bonds with his fellow brigade members cause him to rethink his ideas of friendship and bravery.

A quiet little novel, written in a spare style that belies the excitement between its covers, Into the Savage Country is a glimpse back to an almost forgotten lifestyle, and an era in which the wealth of a continent beckoned the adventurous. It's not my normal style at all, but I enjoyed it. It reminded me a bit of The High Divide, or some of Cormac McCarthy's books. (I told Noel I thought he'd like it, since he's a big McCarthy fan.)

The part that kept blowing my mind is that it takes place only 40 years after the Revolution. Nuts to think how fast America changed. 

Do you like Western American fiction?

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness.