• Historical Fiction
  • General Fiction and Women Writers
  • YA Fiction
  • Suspense and Thrillers
  • Memoirs and Non Fiction
  • Classics and Mashups

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Emma and the Vampires" Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson ~ Just Another Tall Tale

"What better place than pale England to hide a secret society of gentlemen vampires?"


In this hilarious retelling of Jane Austen’s "Emma," screenwriter Wayne Josephson casts Mr. Knightley as one of the most handsome and noble of the gentlemen village vampires. Blithely unaware of their presence, Emma, who imagines she has a special gift for matchmaking, attempts to arrange the affairs of her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. But when her dear friend Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightley, Emma realizes she’s the one who wants to stay up all night with him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightley has been hiding a secret deep within his unbeating heart-his (literal) undying love for her… A brilliant mash-up of Jane Austen and the undead.

Well, what can we do but rush to get this freebie from Amazon this weekend?  I had to have it for my crazier-than-a-bedbug collection of books that crush and carry on about famous vampires, ghouls, zombies and such taking off where our beloved classical authors feared to tread.

Go there if you dare.  We need something to occupy our minds off-hours after Halloween has happened and we've collapsed in our favorite chairs.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Out of Breath" by Blair Richmond ~ Runners & Vampires! New YA Fiction for Halloween Release!!

Published by: Ashland Creek Press
Pages: 268
Genre: YA Fiction
Ages: 12 and Up


Nineteen-year-old Kat Jones has been a competitive runner since she was young, but after her mother’s death, her life begins to crumble around her. One day, she finds herself on the run in a literals sense, in a race for her very life...

Both a paranormal love story and an environmental allegory, OUT OF BREATH takes readers beyond the world of vampires and into the worlds of competitive running, of Shakespeare, and of the staggering beauty of nature.

A Dame's Fanciful Thought or Two:

One of the very wonderful things about reading books is that they take us into worlds we might never be able to experience and into the heads and hearts of characters we wish we could be. That being the case, it was a fascinating place to find myself inside the head and physical surroundings of Kat Jones.

I'm not and never have been a runner. It's something that has interested me over many years because I've come across friends and acquaintences who love to run. What makes "Out of Breath" so unique is the experiences shared about this lifestyle and its character building benefits. It was an educational and emotional experience to read.

From the perspective of strictly a YA novel, you'll find this one a treat because it's much along the lines of a "Twilight" venue. There is the dark and handsome vampire, Roman; the somewhat innocent and caring nature-boy, Alex; and Kat, who is new to town, a loner and quietly beautiful. But from that point the novel takes a direction that is explosive in character pulling us into the world of running, vegan lifestyles versus blood-feeding, and murder in the woodlands above the town called "Lithia" for its calmning drinking water.

Blair Richmond is a very strong author. Her style is not only agreeable, but engaging and it has a flow that makes one want to keep digging for answers that she poses in her story. I was hooked from the beginning, and I found the mysteries she posed in the novel grabbers! Her characters are also likeable; even the strangest of the vampires, and I'm anxious to know more about all of them.

This is the first in a series around Kat, Roman and Alex. I'm very much looking forward to reading more about them and the town of Lithia. There are open-ended questions I have and I'm dying to know the answers to.

Ease of reading and a great story will make this a sure-to-be loved novel and series. I recommend it for those who love vampires!

4 stars a running


Monday, October 24, 2011

Anne Rice~A Retrospective and Hope for "The Wolf's Gift" coming in February 2012

A Visual Anne Rice Expose~She's An American Icon

As she appears today

Her primary home in The Garden District of New Orleans prior to her move to CA
It's become a major attraction to fans
Ms Rice hosts Halloween parties

Rose patterned iron gate entrance to her mansion  in New Orleans
It's been hinted that this house was the model for many of her books including "The Witching Hour"

Ms Rice in contemplation:  She collects antique dolls and loves french interior design
She also has a bent toward the gothic
See one of her doll cabinets to her side...

Dolls:  These play a part in "Claudia's" life as well as Anne Rice's
Do the faces remind you of hers?

"Claudia" the child vampire turned by Louis in "The Vampire Lestat" to his eternal regret.  She loved dolls and was angry to forever be a child...  Ms Rice lost her only daughter to lukemia when she was a very little girl.
Kirsten Dunst
The dazzling boys of "The Vampire Lestat"
Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt was a gorgeous, perfectly realized Louis and stole the show from Cruise

Tom Cruise did not exemplify Lestat.  It was well known that Anne Rice was disappointed with the casting, but was turned around by the "powers that be" about Cruise.  She saw Lestat as more a...Viggo Mortensen type.  So do I!!  Tom Cruise neither had the body nor the attitude right to play Lestat and it spoiled the movie for fans which made the box office a failure, though it remains a cult movie today

Some of her famous books to date, though I think some of her Mayfair Witch series are the best of her writing, as well.
She bought an old convent in New Orleans, restored it and then began to collect and restore old saint statuary.  Here are some of her favorites I suppose, probably in her home collection.

The wise and wonderful Anne Rice

Her display of dolls and furnishings for them.  Nearly alive...

Early picture of Anne Rice when her Vampire series was at its peak of popularity

Caricature of Rice as a Medieval saint? Probably in reference to recent novels about angels and Christ, but could be a fall-back on her collections of saints, as well.

The return to her roots of Christianity through the Catholic church prompted her to write the books on the life of Jesus as a human-being

Just one of her recent novels having to do with seraphim

Current News and The Dame's Take:

I'm so delighted to hear that Anne's going to be coming out with a new book called "The Wolf's Gift" in which she prospectively returns to her previous style of writing when giving us the Lestat and Witches volumes. Those of us who first fell in love with her through those books will be knocking down doors to get this one, and hoping to see more in a series, I'll bet.

One of the many things drawing my age group, and those who immediately come after; that is particularly those of us in the 1950's, and '60's is that we grew up watching Saturday morning scary movies...Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and more. Most of the ones I watched and preferred were about vampires because they were the ones with the beautiful girls in them. That's where my passion for vampires began, then, as a teen-ager after school I came home and watched "Dark Shadows" with Barnabe Collins and the troupe. Although Barnabe wasn't the most handsome of all vampires, he was the man who got the beautiful women, once again. As I got to college (and before, actually) I read "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. And, you can see where this is going. As a tired and isolated young mom, there was Anne Rice with Lestat and Louis. Ms Rice has filled in all the gaps for me for years!

Here's the latest on her; not vampires, perhaps, but we can hope there are some mixed in:

"With her next novel “The Wolf Gift” scheduled for publication on February 14, 2012, one can only imagine the fantastic places that her readers will be transported to and the descriptive surroundings that will, only, add to the mythology of her latest character.

Perhaps, the character will be bitten in the rain forests of Brazil or that‘s where he‘ll search for a cure? Or, maybe this new character will live in the desert of California (where Anne now calls home) or have a connection to San Francisco (a recent destination of Anne’s and the place where she, and her husband, Stan, once called home for a while)?

Only time and the pages of “The Wolf Gift” will tell. But, one thing is certain; as long as Anne Rice continues to write, she will continue to travel to all those places we wish we could go and take us all with her every step of the way.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Anne Rice: On the Road - National Anne Rice | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/anne-rice-in-national/anne-rice-on-the-road#comments#ixzz1bPr9UMSu

Good luck and good reading with Anne Rice.  You can catch up by searching under her name on Amazon.com.


"Prized" by Caragh W. O'Brien Rules As Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon ~ Drew to an End

The "Read-A-Thon" drew to an end last night and I'm hung over today with regret. I fell asleep yesterday in the middle of "Fallen" for lack of sleep the night before and for pain due to my recent horrible illness that some of you know about.  Not by any fault of "Fallen" which I have to get back to and think is an awesome book!

So, I woke up in the early evening and thought I should finish reading a book I'd already started as a review book and finished it for the last in my read-a-thon series (since I'd pretty much already blow my goal!).

Here's the great book:

Published by: Roaring Brook Press
Pages:  368
Genre: YA Ficion

The Dame's Review :

Fantastic novel with a very good plot and resolution set for book #3.
This a well written dystopian about a society built around one of the remaining bodies of water after a world disater that's left the US in crisis.  The society, however, is controlled and under the dictatorship of a matriarch whom everyone fears and "trusts" at the same time.  Women are scarce, becoming prized, and those who gain them as wives are considered highly capable, regarded men.

This is a well written novel. I was completely mesmerized by the story. The author's way of drawing me in immediately took me right to the heart of the world she was creating and into the center of the struggle that was to ensue.  I enjoy a read such as this; not alot of description--just getting to the heart of the matter and descriptive text worked into it as a secondary emphasis.  It makes for a gripping novel.  This author knows what works and keeps a reader wanting to know more about her characters.
Speaking of characters--completely involved! Every character O'Brien chooses to draw in the story is complete and real.  Gaia, the strong female protagonist who comes from a former society which she's fleeing, is so interesting as a midwife, revolutionary thinker and foil to the matriarchy.  Her love interests Leon, Peter and Will (yes, there are 3 of them!) are different and infinitely satisfying as characters.  And, the matriarch herself is a character so well defined that it's not difficult to imagine such a woman in power.
Without spoiling anything for you, let me say this is a novel that will be engrossing and difficult to put down to the very end where good will triumph.  Even though it's the 2nd in the "Birthmarked" series, it does stand alone. Not perfect in every way, but certainly a contender in the dystopian genre.

4 secret-keeping stars!

Yours, though not  having met my reading goals for the weekend  :[


Darling little Calavera of the Living Dead dolls had to dress up prematurely for Halloween to let me know all was not lost in my Wickedly Wonderful reading blast...she lost her brain when she fell from concrete steps and she's still here!

What did you read over the weekend???

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Night Stranger" by Chris Bojalian ~ Wonderfully Wicked and Scary!

WoooHoooo! An Up-Date~Even if I had to stay up all night to get it!

The band is playing on in my trek today to read my wickedly wonderful witchie book for the read-a-thon. So far I'm lagging behind because the book I wanted to read next, "The Dark Glamour" expired from my netgalley ebook and now I can't read it. Unless!! One of you has a Kindle or ebook copy you can loan me, that is.

If, or until that time, here's a review of "Night Strangers."

What others said:

The Washington Post - Keith Donohue
Bohjalian has been a reliable bestseller of literary and historical fiction, earning praise from critics and a large audience, but The Night Strangers represents a more sinister turn. It boasts all the trappings of a classic Gothic horror story…Bohjalian turns the screw right up to the unexpected ending and an epilogue that's truly shocking. That thump thump you hear as you read is only your heart leaping from your chest.

What Can I Say!

Can I say, "Unexpected!" This is not your Chris Bojalian of "Midwives." Oh, no! This is a Stephen King-ish Chris comin' out of the New Hampshire woods on a dark, isolated winter to claim his place as a demented dreamer living in a wreck of an old house too far away from citified people.

Taking your psyche in your own hands, read this book over Halloween because it is so freaky and spooky. I loved the involvement of the main character, Chip, a pilot who's his own fearful failure for crashing his plane and killing many passengers; and his young, strange twin girls. First of all it's scary right off the bat when Bojalian describes a cellar door secured with 32ish bolts that's the size of my osteopathic granny! I knew right then and there we were in for some trouble and it wasn't going to be sweet and enchanting, either.

This is a book for vegans and those who enjoy herbal tea, maybe. :] This is also a book for those who like things that go "bump in the night."

I was held captive by this book...loved it all the way through to the shocker of an ending. The characters are fabulous and freaky. The narrating voice is nearly invisible making for a feeling of voyeurism that made the book even more haunting. And, the plot, while some of it may have not been entirely unfamiliar in parts, was very well put together--suspenseful, scary, leading and misleading, horrifying. All the good ingredients for a perfect "tincture." Pull up a big, over-stuffed chair and a cup of herbal tea for this one.

 5 stars a spectre-ing

Deb/TheFanciful and Freaky Speed-Reading Wickathoner

Keeping me company right beside me today is "Pixie"...such a sweet little thing. She's a living dead darling, just a tiny problem in that she likes to lure children away, but she really doesn't know any better. I'm going to be watching her closely so she'll be just fine...I just hope my tiny Clara (my Yorkie) is okay...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Witchie Wonderflly Wicked Read-A-Thon this Weekend!

So, I'm once again over-reaching in my reading to join this fabulous weekend read-a-thon. I needed a boost in the bokie to get through some of the best books I've chosen to read for Halloween, anyway, and this is the perfect way to get me going.

Such a great group of blogging friends listed on the "linky" with this Wonderfully Wicked reading extravaganza. So, you may want to go there and find some new bloggers to visit at My Shelf Confessions , as well as finding all the information about joining the Read-a-thon.

So, here's my list of books for starters today:

Let the games begin! I'm working against myself so I better get crackin'...literally! By the way, I have a little companion helping me today: the darling doll of the living dead Miss Claret. I have to be careful, she loves to bite necks. :]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moammar Gaddafi ~ Dead By Mob Killing

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Libya on Tuesday to offer a new aid package. She told students during a gathering in Tripoli, "We hope [Gaddafi] can be captured or killed soon so that you don't have to fear him any longer."

Okay, I'm not surprised about Gaddafi. I'm not even shocked about US involvement.

But I feel sorry for what Hillary Clinton has on her head with the statement she made on Tuesday. The timing was pretty horrible for her!! Wonder if she's feeling any sort of remorse about it.

Good luck to the Libyans under democratic rule with American involvement. Oh, boy...wonder if we're going to be sending "peace-keeping troops" in there to help them set up their government like we're doing in Iraq.


"Veronica's Nap" by Sharon Bially ~ Jewish Women Take Note!

Published by:  Connaissance Media
Pages: 236
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction

Summary :

Veronica Berg has everything she needs to achieve her dream of becoming a painter--a charming home studio in Provence, a hardworking husband, and a nanny who watches her two-year-old twins. Yet instead of painting, she spends her days lingering over meaningless chores and secretly indulging in lengthy naps.
When Veronica's Moroccan-born,Sephardic husband grows impatient with her aimlessness and challenges her to sell just one painting, Veronica must find a way to break the seductive rut that's overtaken her ambition and her life. Against the backdrop of the impending Iraq war, her quest triggers a surprising and often comical journey that reveals depression's sunny mask and the dark side of privilege and security.
With a cast of Sehpardic characters, Veronica's Nap gives a rare look at contemporary Jewish life in France.

Telling A Bit About Sharon:

As Authors go, Sharon Bially is a bit self-effacing, which is saying something...  She lived for 12 years in Paris and Aix-en-Provence before settling with her family in Massachusetts.  A graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, she's a public relations professional and leads seminars for the Boston-based nonprofit literary arts organization Grub Street Writers. 

She's also a mother.

The Dame's Review :

This is the kind of book I want to recommend to all of my friends and family.  Sharon Bially has captured the angst of the artist, the struggles of motherhood, the trap of luxury and a coming to grips with growing into our best selves.  What a book, and what an exceptional writer.

I had a professor in art school who came right out of the box the first day of painting class saying, "You can never be a fine artist and be married with children."  Let me tell you, them was fightin' words in the '60's and early '70's to a bunch of women/feminist fine arts students!  Several of us were out to prove that man wrong. 

But, when my children were babies, I had to put away my beautiful brushes, oils and easels, though my sweet husband bought me a huge, gorgeous oak easel to encourage me there would "be a time" for me.

In "Veronica's Nap"  Sharon Bially takes up this question of "when are you going to paint?" Through her characters, Vero and Didier, we witness this struggle for motherhood, art and person hood.  Didier plays the prod with his constant badgering of Veronica to paint, to produce "just one painting" to sell.  It's no surprise that she's backed into the proverbial corner with a shocked and sleeping muse, which she's happy to join in her escapes to la-la-land.  It's also no wonder that she's tripped up by bouts of depression.

Sharon Bially is an author we need to watch.  Her ability to draw characters so likable and real is a literary achievement...particularly since she has her own children! And, her story is one that will resonate with women and men for many different reasons. There is a humorous twist to this book, but it may actually be an irony when taken in context, because in the whole it's not funny when we struggle to push against pressures to achieve and grow. Bially recognizes and conveys these things clearly; she writes her story in such a way that we're drawn chapter after chapter to the end.

This book is grandly universal.  I'm so grateful for that.  I learned so much about Moroccan, Shephardic family customs I wouldn't otherwise have had exposure to.  I enjoy reading about cultures that differ from mine.  "Veronica's Nap" gives us that flavor as well as another look at Provence and French culture.

This is a rich and beautifully tempered novel. In it you'll find ironic humor, tellings of motherhood, artistic sensibilities, marriage and family dynamics. A book you'll breeze through and want to share.

5 truly swirling stars


Note:  This review is gratefully brought by way of "Pump Up Your Books" for an honest opinion on my part.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

National Book Award Uh-Oh Finalist~"Shine" by Lauren Myracle

Publisher: Amulet Books/Abrams
Pages: 359 
Genre: YA fiction


When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

Let Reviewers and Authors Speak Out:

A very odd thing happened with the National Book Foundation this past week in their bestowing of the National Book Award for Young People's fiction. I'm going to quote a portion of Libba Bray's blog entry here for you:

(Libba Bray, for those who need reminding, is the author of such books as the series including "A Great And Terrible Beauty," and the more recent novel, "Beauty Queens")

"In case you’ve been away from any form of media for the past several days and missed it, last Wednesday, the National Book Awards were announced. In the “Young Person’s” category (and as a sidebar, can we get rid of that utterly ridiculous name?), SHINE by Lauren Myracle, was announced as a finalist whereupon there was much rejoicing among those of us who love Lauren and her work. This joy was short-lived. Not two hours later came the announcement that CHIME by Franny Billingsley (also an excellent, worthy book) had been added. For the first time in NBA history, there were six finalists. The National Book Foundation allowed that there had been a “miscommunication” between the judges and the NBA as, for the first time, the judges’ final list had been communicated in a phone call and not in written form. Thus, CHIME by Franny Billingsley somehow (don’t ask me) was misheard as SHINE by Lauren Myracle. I’ll allow that SHINE and CHIME sound similar, but Lauren Myracle and Franny Billingsley, to my ear at least, sound nothing alike. However, the NBA stated afterward that, based on its merits as a work of excellent literature for young adults, SHINE would remain on the finalists list. Crisis averted. Or so it seemed.
What happened after that is worthy of a soap opera called “As the Incompetence Turns.” Over the next few days, a back-and-forth of “we’re keeping it,” “no, we’re not keeping it,” “it’s worthy,” “no, it’s not worthy” was played out in the media and over the Internet in a very public, very hurtful way that did not seem to take into account that at the center of all this was a real live human being, an excellent writer, whose work and reputation were being dragged through the mud as if it were no big thang while the ruffled feathers of injured egos were patted down in a backroom somewhere."
For a complete story behind the story from Libba, please see her blog at: http://www.libba-bray.livejournal.com/ Whew! It's blistering!

For the record, I must say that I'm reading "Shine" at the moment and I like the book. It's exceptional, albeit Myracle has chosen a subject that may be controversial for a young adult audience, I suppose, in some critics' eyes. I have no idea what the age or philosophical statistics are for the National Book Foundation, or if this has bearing on this subject. Should we take the "clerical error" at face value?

Easy to see why "Shine" was recognized as a stand-out book, whatever the case may be. My full review will follow this coming week. If you get a chance, you may want to take a look at the novel on your local bookstore shelf. I'll bet it's one of those books that at the very least goes down in book history, and at the very best will make a mark for itself as seriously regarded literature.

So far, so good in my estimation, if that counts for anything.

What's your opinion on the faux pas???


PS: I'm sorry that all of this is taking the bloom off "Chime" and Franny Billingsley's recognition, as well. That is another worthy book. Ms Billingsley doesn't deserve this, either.

Please Read ~ "Don't Sing At The Table" by Adriana Trigiani ~ You'll Be Transported

Published by: Harper Collins 
Pages: 224
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Summary :

From Publishers Weekly~
Fans of novelist Trigiani will be delighted with this guided tour through the author's family history via her grandmothers, Lucia and Viola. She lovingly details the women's lives and recounts the lessons she's learned while offering a fascinating look at U.S. history from the perspective of her Italian-American forebears. Both Lucia and Viola worked hard from an early age, cooking and cleaning among any number of chores, and parlayed their work ethic and expertise into strong careers. Viola started out as a machine operator and, later, co-owned a mill with her husband, while Lucia worked in a factory and then became a seamstress and storefront couturier.
Her grandmothers also took pride in passing along wisdom to others; throughout her life, Trigiani benefited from their guidance regarding everything from marriage to money, creativity to religion. She credits them with telling good stories: "I mimicked their work ethic imagining myself in a factory, layering words like tasks until the work was done. I took away more than life lessons from their stories; I made a career out of it." Here, Trigiani combines family and American history, reflections on lives well-lived, and sound advice to excellent effect, as a legacy to her daughter and a remembrance of two inimitable women.

The Dame's Perspective:

What a treasure of a small book this is. I stayed up into the wee hours of the night because I just couldn't tear myself away from the story of Viola and Lucy and how they operated in the world. To say that Adriana Trigiani benefited from having them as grandmothers is an understatement.

I loved that both grandmothers had a strong interest in some area of dressmaking. Viola in the heart and hard work of factory sewing, and then her own blouse-making business; and Lucy in her devotion to clients and perfection when she became a "storefront couturier." Talented and beautiful women, they understood the value and power behind a women dressed well in perfectly fitted, classic clothing. They also understood that keeping up their skin/beauty routine, social standing and family reputations were tantamount to good life, good health and good self-esteem; among other important things.

It seems Adriana learned so much from them about integrity and self-respect, there's no doubt about that. But, she also learned the value of manners, of going after what you want, of having a purpose in life, of minding your reputation. The specifics of these lessons are ones you'll be delighted to read.

I thought it was delightful and serious at the same time to read Lucy's lessons first on romantic love, then on keeping a marriage strong. Hers is practical wisdom. Her instructions on raising children are some we absolutely could use today. I particularly liked her dictum never to burden a child with adult problems. That lesson alone would change the mental health of so many children in these times.

There is so much to this book. It's humorous, it's character building, it's serious and it's a lesson book on how to live a life with wisdom. What a blessing Adriana Trigiani had in these two lovely women. No wonder she's a bestselling author with fragments of these things to share with her readers.

Those of us who had grandmothers like Viola and Lucy will enjoy reading about them and, possibly, taking a nostalgic trip back to our own childhoods. Those of you who didn't have grandmothers like them will gain something very special in the reading.

5 perfectly heartwarming stars

This Was A Review Made Possible By: TLC Book Tours ~ Thanks, Lisa and Trish! I loved this book!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Lantern" by Deborah Lawrenson ~ Far Cry from Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca"

Published by: Harper Collins
Pages: 383
Genre: Fiction, Suspense


A modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder—set against the lush backdrop of Provence.

Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les GenÉvriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.

But with autumn’s arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage—one he refuses to talk about—his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers—and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.

Like its owner, Les GenÉvriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?

About the Author :

Deborah Lawrenson grew up in Kuwait, China, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Singapore. She studied English at Cambridge University and has worked as a journalist for various publications in England, including the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, and Woman’s Journal magazine. She lives in Kent, England, and she and her family spend as much time as possible at a crumbling hamlet in Provence, France, the setting for The Lantern.

Provence ~ Stone Pillars/Carvings

The Dame's Impression's :

I’m having such a difficult time with this book. I’ve wanted to love it after all the hype, but it’s difficult. First, I’m turned off by the author’s trying so hard to be cultured and elegant, or making much of it. Maybe it’s our American up-bringing, but isn’t understatement preferable? So much seems contrived and overdone. It made the book move very slowly.

Also, the scents seem to permeate the story too much–no pun intended, and they often don’t make sense; the combinations she expresses are improbable. That's giving lenience for the symbolic, even! I grew so tired of hearing about them in every other paragraph. Fragrances need to be dabbed here and there to have the right impact, don’t you think? Just so in literature; they would have a bigger impact sparingly used.

It’s also a cardinal rule in literature that when an author focuses too much on description and not enough on characterization, the book will not be a good one. Is it me, or is there just too much description here? For instance, we can’t possibly know or understand Dom, the primary male protagonist, because there’s been very little character development.

Hamlet in Provence ~ Antique/Refurbished
What may be the biggest issue is that the author spent a great deal of time describing what I believe she sees out the window and inside of her “crumbling hamlet in Provence, France.” (From her bio. on the book cover we find that she lives there as much as possible.) In the novel, you can really see that she's inspired by her surroundings, but the story she's telling seems adjunct to that. This makes for a painfully slow and uninteresting story with tension and suspense that is much too drawn out.

A true story about her love of Provence, her hamlet, gardens and lower cellar would have been ever so much more exotic and interesting. It's the trying to create a story around those descriptions that makes this novel fail, to me. Provence, her hamlet, it's rennovations and discoveries would make a fascinating non-fiction account.

Hamlet Provence ~ Garden Gate
I’m worried that Ms Lawrenson has tried so hard to write a modern version of “Rebecca” that it’s fallen flat. I’m sad about it. I’m struggling to want to read this novel. I struggling to finish it because I don't like giving up. It's difficult. It would be great to have a contemporary novel in the vein of "Rebecca," but sometimes one simply can't compete with the classics. Those who hyped a comparison weren't helping Ms Lawrenson.

So far, 3 struggling stars scented by woodland violets in apple wine infusion with a hint of ash from a long-awaited crackling fire, dripping with lasting notes of a salamander's foot crossing the moss that once laid lightly on mist-drenched, mountain wood.

Deborah/TheBookishDame :[

Monday, October 17, 2011

"The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" by Joyce Carol Oates~ Will Scare You!

Published by: Grove/Atlantic
Pages: 385
Genre: Fiction, Horror


"The Corn Maiden" is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet, but somewhat slow, eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and panics, frantically knocking on the doors of her neighbors. She finally calls the police, who want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 o’clock.Suspicion falls on a computer teacher at her school with no alibi for the time of the abduction. Obvious clues—perhaps too obvious—point directly to him. Unsuspected is Judah (born Judith), an older girl from the same school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden, a girl sacrificed to ensure a good crop.The trusting Marissa happily went to a secluded basement with the older girls, pleased to be included, and is convinced that the world has ended and that they are the last survivors. Remaining an unaware hostage for days, she grows weaker on a sparse diet as Judah prepares her for sacrifice.The seemingly inevitable fate of Marissa becomes ever more terrifying as Judah relishes her power, leading to unbearable tension with a shocking conclusion.
Joyce Carol Oates
The Dame's Review:

Joyce Carol Oates hardly needs an introduction, so I've left that off in this review. It continues to amaze me that she is so prolific an author, so "current" and so singluar at the same time, while she is over 71 year old. Whether she's writing the somber story of her own widowhood, the story of a family in Niagra Falls during Love Canal days, or the story of a family torn apart by rape, Ms Oates is mesmerizing. She can also scare the life out of you! This collection of stories is well-named; they are your worst nightmares.

Classic Joyce Carol Oates
Just in time for Halloween, but even more so, "The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" is a book you can keep for those weekends when you have friends up: great food is digesting, you're drinking a last crystal goblet of wine and you just want a bit of quiet entertainment...a sort of send-off to bed...a reading, a story to remember. This quiet weekend would best be spent in up-state NY, in the Catskills, possibly in a lodge you've all leased for the weekend. Nice...friends, the Fall, wine, an old lodge and Joyce Carol Oates. Run for your bed and pull the covers over your head!!

It's difficult to imagine the psychological stealth and horror that can come from the pen of a brainy artist such as Ms Oates; but, then again, that's the joy of reading her work. She has that bent toward the gothic and the gruesome as shown in her former work pictured below. She is gifted in this genre as well as her other areas of choice. Some of her best writing is culled from her short stories.

"The Corn Maiden," the title story of this collection is creepy. The girls perpetrating unspeakable rituals upon their "corn maiden" are creepy and vile. Jude, the primary perpetrator and leader of her little band of weirdos, is suburban-insane and twisted like few other early teens you'll ever meet. Besides all of this, and mingled with the strange ritualistic purpose for their kidnapping poor, defenseless Marissa of the corn-silk hair, are the frightening unknowns that Ms Oates serves up to us: how kids today live not knowing if they're going to survive tomorrow because of nuclear threats, not knowing if parents will be there for them, not knowing why they've been abandoned, not knowing if our food is safe, not knowing if their teacher is a molester, and so on. It's a story about the horrors our children face in their nightmares.
In the reading, you'll discover what else Marissa represents; that, too, is a horror, it's all disturbing. It's all good for us to think about.

Others of the stories also confront the nightmares of disassociation , displacement and dysfunction in families, coupled with the distortions of nature and mind. We know that often the scariest tales are the ones closest to being true or plausible. Not to mention that often those stories happen in the rural places close to home. Joyce Carol Oates was born and raised in Up-State NY...think of what Stephen King does for Maine, folks... And did you know that Timothy McVey grew up not far from where Ms Oates did?

Do you believe a cat can take the breath away; smother a baby? Just because a child imagines she experienced abuse, does that make it true? Is life stranger than fiction?

All I can tell you is that this book is not for the faint of heart. Joyce Carol Oates is a seriously great author no matter what she chooses to write. You can count on this being an extraordinarily good book of nightmarish tales on many levels. Just keep a lamp on...

5 moonstruck stars


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"The Time In Between" by Maria Duenas~ Luminous and Exotic

Published by:  Atria Books/Simon and Schuster
Pages:  624
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Release Date:  November 8, 2011


The inspiring international bestseller of a seemingly ordinary woman who uses her talent and courage to transform herself first into a prestigious couturier and then into an undercover agent for the Allies during World War II

Between Youth and Adulthood . . . 
At age twelve, Sira Quiroga sweeps the atelier floors where her single mother works as a seamstress. At fourteen, she quietly begins her own apprenticeship. By her early twenties she has learned the ropes of the business and is engaged to a modest government clerk. But everything changes when two charismatic men burst unexpectedly into her neatly mapped-out life: an attractive salesman and the father she never knew.
Between War and Peace . . .
With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira leaves her mother and her fiancé, impetuously following her handsome lover to Morocco. However, she soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken in an exotic land. Among the odd collection of European expatriates trapped there by the worsening political situation back on the Continent, Sira reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: her gift for creating beautiful clothes.
Between Love and Duty . . .
As England, Germany, and the other great powers launch into the dire conflict of World War II, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid, where she takes on a new identity to embark upon the most dangerous undertaking of her career. As the preeminent couturier for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives, Sira becomes embroiled in the half-lit world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal.
About The Author:  Ms Duenas has a PhD in English Philology and has taught at several American universities. 

“Maria DueÑas is a true storyteller. She weaves a spell, conjuring the heat and the glamour, the hardship and the thrill of Morocco and Spain in the late 1930s. The world of Casablanca comes to life as war breaks and Sira Quiroga, a beautiful and betrayed seamstress, is forced to discover her own strength. At a time when everyone must do what they can to survive, some will go beyond. Resistance will be formed and history will be written. Read this book and prepare to be transported.” –Kate Morton, New York Times bestselling author of The Distant Hours

The Bookish Dame's Review:

What is it about the Spanish author that takes me up in just a word and captures me like a moth to a flame?  I can hear the storyteller's voice. I am in her very presence. I am sitting in a comfortable chair beside her while she tells the story.  I can see every detail she describes and I adore the descriptions. I'm just completely at her mercy.  This is the story of "The Time In Between."  This novel is so like having Meryl Streep read "Out of Africa" to you.  I felt exactly that way...

Maria Duenas's novel is translated for us into English.  And, since it is a translation, I can only imagine how glorious it must be in Spanish.  She has an amazing gift of words.  Her use of description is fascinating and so near perfection that fabrics, for instance, are almost tangible.  As a needlewoman, I was grappling, wanting to touch the silks, Chantilly lace, crepe de chine, georgette and embroideries she writes about.  It's wonderful to hear about the fashions Sira experiences, designs and sews through the years as she supports herself as a seamstress. To read how she's saved in her intrigues and safe-harbored by her couture-making is so awe-inspiring to someone who loves fabrics.

Ms Duenas described falling into a blind-mad love with the wrong man so perfectly that I know only one who's been there could know that kind of psychosis!  It was unbelievably beautiful.  A psychiatrist friend of mine once said that love should be called a psychotic episode because it is a chemical insanity/madness.  I thought Duenas caught that obsession with the way she walked us through Sira's reactions. To read it is to be made dizzy by her writing and to recall that punch-to-the-gut passion.

The legends and the history of the early 1900's and WWII are not heavy and boring in this novel, but are beautifully rendered.  There are interesting details, fascinating people imagined, music, theatre and art.  Cultures are wonderfully drawn for the reader, and characters are given well-rounded insights to enrich Duenas's story. Social uprisings are strangely similar to our own today, interestingly enough.  Nazi Germany is given another view from Ms Duenas's characters as they spy and work for the Resistance. All of this contributes to this compelling read.

"The Time In Between" is a book I will be keeping in my library. I hope my grandchildren will read it one day.  It's a beautifully written novel with a story we should never forget.  I'm going to put it next to my "The Winds of War" by Herman Wouk.

5 shining stars


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"You Are My Only" by Beth Kephart~A Stunning Novel of Mother Love and Loss

Published by:  Egmont USA
Pages:  256
Genre:  Literature & Fiction, YA,
Family Dynamics, Psychological

Book Summary :

Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.

Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the "No Good." One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .

Brief Introduction of Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of thirteen books, including the National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun, Undercover, The Heart Is Not a Size and Dangerous Neighbors. Kephart is a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, among other honors. You can visit her online at http://www.beth-kephart.blogspot.com/.

The Dame Tells All:

Here's the scoop: This will be the most extraordinary and probably one of the most memorable books you'll read for a long time.  I suggest going right away to buy your hard copy, first edition because you'll want it in your personal library. I predict it will be one of the Top Best Books of 2011.

It is so masterfully written that you could simply close your eyes and point on any given page, and you'll land at a beautiful turn of phrase or description.  This is a book of the heart and soul.  This is a book that only an author of the highest quality could write.

The characters we learn to love:  Emmy Rane, the delicate, damaged young mother whose baby is stolen; Sophie, the baby and teenager whom we come to know and love; Joey, her next door friend and companion-of-the-larger-world;  Autumn, Emmy's precious person who helped; the awe-inspiring Aunts; and the man who made a difference...  All of these people are believable; they come alive in the hands of Beth Kephart.  I know them.  I cried with and for them, and I laughed in joy and sorrow with them.

The structure of this novel is one I have come to favor in every instance:  the back and forth of individuals and their story lines.  In "You Are My Only" we see the story from the perspectives of Emmy and Sophie.  This kept the book running at such a pace that I held back to savour every page.  I was so sad when the book ended.  You know the feeling...didn't want it to end.  But, it ended just perfectly, as I knew it would have to.  The final line was poignant and rang with truth.

This is a novel that can't be shared more than I have without giving too much away.  This is a story that will so touch your heart and mind that you may want to reread it right after you finish it.  I loved the book and recommend it to all of my friends and readers.  It is a novel that will leave you somber, however, and I must tell you that; it's not one that you can expect to do other than make you think and hope.

5+ stars for this very beautiful book by a genius of a writer.


Monday, October 10, 2011

"The Shattered Dreams" A Midnight Dragonfly Novel by Ellie James

Published by:  St. Martin's Griffin
Pages:  352
Pre-release Review
Released:  December 2011
Genre:  YA Fiction/paranormal

Summary :

Sixteen-year-old Trinity Monsour wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But that isn’t as easy as it seems. Trinity is different. She is special. She sees visions, and for those she’s seen, it’s already too late.
Trinity arrives on her aunt’s doorstep in New Orleans with virtually no knowledge of her mysterious heritage. She begins settling into life at a new school and even starts making friends. But all too quickly her dreams accelerate; twisted, terrifying visions of a girl locked in a dark room. And when the head cheerleader, Jessica, goes missing, Trinity knows she has no choice but to step forward with what she’s seen.
But people believe that Trinity has information about Jessica’s disappearance not because of a dream, but because she is involved. She is kind-of dating Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Chase, and Jessica did pull a nasty prank on Trinity. Revenge seems like the likeliest scenario.
Nothing prepares Trinity for the dark odyssey that ensues while searching for Jessica, including the surprising romance she finds with Chase, or the shocking truths she learns, not just about the girl who has gone missing, but the past that has been hidden from her.

The Dame's Review :

This is going to be a best seller in YA fiction right out of the gate.  The cover is fabulous, the story is mysterious, it's a series, and the writing is fantastic!  I loved this book!

Trinity Monsour is a heroine that young women can be proud of.  She's strong,stands by her convictions regardless of peer pressures, and  tries to work through the painful episodes she doesn't quite understand in herself.  It's good to read about a young woman of such integrity and strength who doesn't really "need" her male counterpart, but loves him just the same!

The locale of New Orleans adds flavor to this story that hardly any other would. This ancient city of old streets and gothic houses shadowed by spanish moss and creeping vines creates the perfect setting.  Trinity's mysterious "gift" of vision hardly seems strange in a city so rife with the likes of voodoo and bloody history.  But in the contemporary setting of the local high school, she stands out.

It was difficult for me to put this novel aside today.  It's a day of personal tragedy for my family, and still I was drawn to finishing the book.  You can see how much it meant to me.  It's a good novel with good characters.  Very worthwhile reading for young adults of all ages!  I look forward to the next in this series.

5 glimmering stars