Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 109-11

109) The World of Jennie G. by Elisabeth Ogilvie

A re-read of a childhood favorite that holds up quite well, all things considered. It's the middle book of a trilogy, but it's always been my favorite because it's the one where the protagonists fall in love.

110) Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

Another re-read, this time of a book I first read in 2010 when we were in the process of buying and moving into our current home. I could tell it had great principles, but Morgenstern advised NOT applying them in the midst of a move, because you need to settle in to your new space a bit to get a feel for how best to organize it. Mind you, I don't think she would've advocated waiting 4+ years, but here we are. I'm thinking of making 2015 the Year of Getting Organized, and maybe even beginning with my office or a closet or two this year. OTOH, next month is NaNoWriMo, then there's Christmas, AND I have books releasing 11/24/14 and 1/5/ maybe January is soon enough to start.

111) A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

A nonfiction graphic novel (which sounds like nonsense, but calling it a "graphic history" makes it sound like it's a particularly gory history instead of one told largely through illustrations, you know?) following the experiences of several survivors of Hurricane Katrina--both those who evacuated and those who stayed and rode out the storm. A short but intense read, and one that brought the nine-year-old memories of watching the storm from afar vividly back to life.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 106-108

106) Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

I think this book is even better than Code Name Verity, which I read last month. The heroine, Rose, is a an American girl just out of high school who uses family connections (she has an English uncle who's a high-ranking officer) to get a job with the British Air Transport Auxiliary in 1944. After she's captured in France, she's taken to Ravensbruck--in what's probably an unlikely scenario, but one that makes a certain sense given the chaos of the late stages of the war. What follows is a moving story of survival and then bearing witness.

107) City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles

Sara Miles is one of my favorite Christian writers, not least because she found the Episcopal Church a few years before I did, albeit coming from the opposite direction--she wasn't a believer of any kind, while I was raised Southern Baptist and spent some time as two different flavors of Presbyterian along the way.

While I didn't love this book as much as I did Take This Bread or Jesus Freak, I still found it a very moving account of finding God in the midst of a city (San Francisco) all culminating in a public Ash Wednesday service--after all, in the Bible, Heaven is the city of God, not the floaty cloud-land of popular imagination nor the cross between New Zealand, the Scottish Highlands, and the more spectacular bits of the Pacific Coast I tend to picture.

108) Cat Sense by John Bradshaw

I got this book from the library after hearing the author interviewed on NPR because it sounded like the kind of practical science-geeky book I enjoy. And it proved to be what I was expecting--an account of how the domestic cat has evolved to live alongside humans, along with biological explanations of their behavior. The only downside is it left me a little wistful, because Mr Fraser is so severely allergic to cats that we can't have one in our household. (And yes, I know there are hairless cats. I just don't think it'd be that satisfying to own a cat without nice soft fur to stroke.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 103-105

My pace of reading has slowed considerably of late because for the past two weeks or so much of my spare time has gone to first watching the TV series Sleepy Hollow in its entirety from the premiere up to this Monday's episode, then reading Sleepy Hollow fanfic and watching the first few episodes again with Miss Fraser. It's an addiction, but a fun one. I should really do a post on how Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane is a perfect historical romance hero (all the charm, gentility, and ability to work boots and a long coat of the past with none of the bigotry and misogyny!), but for now here's some eye candy:

So. I've been behind on my reading. But I haven't stopped, to wit:

103) The Shelf by Phyllis Rose

Another entry in a memoir genre I tend to find enjoyable--author takes on a quirky project, anything from cooking her way through a cookbook to living out a literal interpretation of some sacred text, and writes about her experiences. Rose takes a library shelf--fiction, with a mix of classics, modern literary fiction, and mysteries--and reads her way through it. Along the way she describes her reactions, researches the authors (even meeting two of the living ones), and digresses interestingly about issues ranging from the continued bias against women's writing to how library collections are weeded. Even though my reading tastes and Rose's don't match much beyond Harry Potter and Jane Austen, I still enjoyed her voice. I definitely recommend this for anyone who likes books about books and reading.

104) Unraveled by Courtney Milan

The final book in Milan's Turner family series--I'd read the other two brothers' stories, but awhile back, so my memory needed some jogging on their backstories. As is always the case, I enjoyed Milan's strong writing, gift for characterization, and ability to make standard romance tropes entirely her own. I tend to buy her books and hoard them on my Kindle against the point I'll be, say, stuck on an airplane or in a waiting room, because I know I'll get an excellent reading experience.

105) Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

This book, while engaging, is structured almost like a series of linked short stories, so it was easy to put down after a chapter or two and take up later, at least until the last third or so when the overall narrative picks up pace. The protagonist, Rose, is the "Phantom Prom Date," a girl killed in a car accident on the way to her prom in 1952 who's been a ghost ever since, a ghost of the road who helps travelers when she can--even if it's only easing them into the world of the dead--and who's looking for revenge against...well, the man who killed her, only it's a bit more complex than that and he's not exactly a man.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Freedom to Love has a cover!

My January 5, 2015 release, Freedom to Love, now has a cover, and I think it's gorgeous:

Granted, my first reaction to seeing a new cover is always, ALWAYS, "But that's not what they look like!" Which is only natural, since I can't download the images in my brain for the art department's benefit, and the celebrities I name on my cover art information forms as the closest approximations are unlikely to give up their lucrative careers in acting, pro football, and the like to take up romance novel cover modeling. (In this case I listed Tom Hiddleston and Rashida Jones.)

That said, this cover captures the mood of the story beautifully. I love the romance of it, the light and shadows, and especially the heroine's dress.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sign up for my newsletter!

At long last I'm doing something I should've done four or five years ago and setting up an author newsletter. I'd love to have you sign much so that I'll be offering prizes to randomly selected people who sign up before my first edition goes out on November 24th, to coincide with A Christmas Reunion's release date.

What prizes, you may ask? Why, books, of course. I have a few print copies of each of my Carina releases, since they print them for any of their authors who want to enter the Rita contest. So I'll be giving away one copy apiece of The Sergeant's Lady, A Marriage of Inconvenience, An Infamous Marriage, and A Dream Defiant. I'm also attending the Surrey International Writers Conference later this month, and I mean to pick up some more prize books at the book fair. I can't promise which books exactly, but some of the authors who'll be there include Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Boyle, Susan Fox, Anne Perry, Sarah Wendell, and Chuck Wendig.

As for the newsletter itself, I promise not to spam you or overload your inbox. I'll send one on release day whenever a new book comes out, plus a quarterly newsletter with information on what I'm working on now plus a few fun things like short stories set in my characters' worlds, a diary of my Waterloo bicentenary European trip next summer, and possibly a recipe or two. And maybe I'll send brief announcements when one of my books is discounted. But that's it. I promise!

You can sign up here or simply use the sign-up box on the right sidebar of the blog.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Christmas Reunion and Freedom to Love - now available for preorder!

It's been almost a year now since my last new release, but I'm about to have two in very quick succession. Both are now available for preorder at most major ebook retailers!

A Christmas Reunion - November 24, 2014

A Christmas Reunion is a 29,000-word Regency romance novella about a pair of star-crossed lovers reunited after a five-year separation--and just days before Cat, the heroine, is due to marry another man.

My goal with this story was to create something romantic, festive, and just the perfect length to read while flying home for the holidays or waiting for that Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey to cook.

I wrote it during January and February, when the weather was still dark and wintry but after the Christmas carols were supposed to be put away until December rolls back around. My iPhone holds a large collection of Christmas music, running heavily to carols, wassail songs, and choral pieces. I kept myself in the right mood to write the holiday by listening to carols like "The Holly and the Ivy," "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella," and "Gaudete", but only in my car when I was completely alone.

If you'd like to learn more about this story, read an excerpt, and/or preorder your copy, visit A Christmas Reunion's page at my website.

Freedom to Love - January 5, 2015

Freedom to Love releases the same week as the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans--which is only fitting, since it opens in the immediate aftermath of that conflict. My hero, Henry Farlow (whom some of you may remember as Elijah Cameron's officer friend from A Dream Defiant) is wounded and knocked unconscious during the battle. When he awakens, he wanders away in a daze, only to be taken in by Therese Bondurant, a free woman of color, and her enslaved half-sister Jeannette. They save his life--and a few days later he's able to return the favor, but in a way that forces the trio to flee into the American wilderness lest they find themselves charged with murder.

This is a full-length, 99,000-word historical romance, and among other things it has pirate treasure, a voyage aboard the steamboat Enterprize (once I saw that name, I had to get my characters aboard her), alligators, a Methodist circuit rider, and a tornado.

For more information, an excerpt, and preorder links, visit my Freedom to Love page.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 100-102

So I made it to 100 books on the year! I'm on pace for something like 140, but I'm going to try to push for 150 by 12/31.

100) The Scorpion's Sting by James Oakes.

This book was taken from a series of lectures the author gave at LSU, and it reads like it--quick, scholarly yet informal, and a good read if you come into it with a reasonably strong background on the American 19th century, in particular the Civil War and all the battles of abolitionism vs. slave state expansionism that made it inevitable.

101) No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

This isn't my usual kind of historical romance. I tend to prefer realistic, history-geek historicals, while this is more of a fantasy romp (though with enough angst that "romp" isn't quite the right word). I'm even wary of cute play-on-words titles and monochromatic covers featuring really big dresses--though I know very well how little control most authors have over titles and cover design, so that's not really fair of me.

But I decided to read it anyway, since it won this year's Rita for Best Historical Romance and because I enjoyed an interview the author gave on the Dear Bitches, Smart Author podcast. And I'm glad I did. It's a big, romantic, angsty story where the hero and heroine's chemistry and attraction are perfectly balanced by the difficult history between them (she went missing, presumed dead, and he fell under heavy suspicion for her murder). As such it was the perfect read for unwinding after a hectic week at work.

102) On Killing by Dave Grossman

Lately I've been listening to some of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcasts, and he recommended this book. I'm glad I read it, though I took some of the author's conclusions with a grain of salt based on multiple reviewer comments stating that his statistics on infantry soldiers not firing their weapons in WWII are dubious and/or subject to more than one interpretation. (And I'm really, REALLY inclined to disagree with the amount of blame he lays on video games and violent movies and TV for desensitizing civilians to violence. I think in some cases it may be AMONG the factors, but I doubt it's the major one leading to Columbine, VA Tech, etc.) But I found the many quotes from soldiers on their memories of combat illuminating, especially as someone who writes a lot of soldier characters in my fiction.