Blog Tour: Tiger in my Soup

Hello, hello! It's time for another Peachtree blog tour! Emily has been one busy bee this spring (late winter? it certainly doesn't feel like spring here!), setting up all kinds of wonderful blog touring fun. Today, I've got a review of the adorable Tiger in my Soup, and after you check out my two-cents, swing by the main schedule and pop along the rest of the tour.

Tiger in my Soup
Kashmira Sheth & Jeffrey Ebbeler (illustrator)
Peachtree, 2013

This is the story of a boy and his sister, an unread book, a bowl of soup and a tiger. Yup, a tiger.

When his big sister is too busy with her own book to read to him, our persistent young narrator spends hours looking at the pictures of his book - about a big, hungry tiger. Then he gets hungry, so his sister makes a bowl of soup, but still won't read the book. Suddenly, the steam rising from the soup gives way to a large, ferocious tiger, and an adventure is afoot in the kitchen! Meanwhile, big sis is still totally oblivious to her brother's antics, and calmly re-microwaves his soup. With a screech and a shout, about the hungry tiger in his soup, our brave young hero finally manages to get his sister to read the story -- but tigers are tricky, and you never know when they'll show back up.

The illustrations are bright and fun, the tiger leaps off the page -- he's awesome (I want one!) -- and the placement of the text really helps make the story come to life. A simple story, but one I think most of us can relate to: having to wait and wait and wait and wait, and then your imagination gets the way and boy, what a ride! Tiger in my Soup would make a really fun rainy day story, while eating soup of course.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Cover Reveal

Hello, hello! It's a beautiful -- but COLD! -- first Friday of spring here, so what could be better than a fun, adorable cover reveal?

Libby Mercer, author of Unmasking Maya (which was totally fun), has another novel coming later this spring, and I've got the cover and blurb for you today.

What is the universe up to?

Guilty of nothing more than working too much - or so they say - Adam Stowe is dumped at a "wellness center" in the middle of nowhere by a couple of concerned colleagues. When he meets Lorraine, the beautiful and bewitching yoga instructor, his spirits start to lift, but once he discovers what a flighty fruitcake she is, they drop back down to subterranean levels.

For Lorraine Jameson, Luna Wellness Center was a beacon of solace when her life was falling apart, and she can't stand the way Adam's toxic energy is poisoning the peace. He embodies everything negative about the life she discarded eighteen months ago. Despite being fiercely attracted to the arrogant man, she's determined not to let Adam Stowe anywhere near her heart.

Adam and Lorraine couldn't be more unsuitable as a potential couple... so why is the universe so dead set on uniting these two?

The Karmic Connection is a different kind of love story with a cast of quirky characters and a mystical, magical New Age-y flavor.

Sounds totally fun, right? And the greens of the cover make me think spring ... happy sigh ...
For more information, you can connect with Libby here:


Never Gone

Never Gone
Laurel Garver

When her father dies following a lengthy battle to recover from a horrific accident, Dani is understandably distraught. Struggling to deal with her grief, and desperately missing her most understanding parental figure, Dani is shocked to discover that she can see her father. She thinks. After the first unsettling encounter, she begins to hope that maybe - just maybe - he's not really gone after all, and can help her sort through the family mysteries coming to light.

Never Gone deals with some pretty tough, raw, gritty emotions. Dani's grief over her father's unexpected death is compounded by the frustration she feels from trying (and failing) to communicate with her mother. She doesn't know what to do with all the hurt, nor how to handle the surprising secrets about her family history that are coming to light. To top it all off, she's been sent to Dad's hometown in ENGLAND?, where everyone's memories of him are crowding in and seeming to come to life. But Dani has a surprising source of strength and support in this, and his name is Theo. His gentle persistence, and keen perceptions, help Dani see things in a different light -- she even learns to see Theo in a different light. A story of redemption, of hope in the face of intense sorrow, and of great personal growth, Never Gone is a touching read.

eBook provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: Q&A with Kate Forsyth

Yesterday I posted a review of Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book tour. Today, I'm pleased to share a Q&A session with Kate Forsyth. After you read it, click the banner above to check out the full schedule.

When you were writing Bitter Greens, did the whole story come together at once, or did you write the stories of Margherita and Charlotte-Rose separately?
BITTER GREENS is told in three separate narrative threads and I wrote each one separately. The story told from Charlotte-Rose de la Force's point of view was written first - from beginning to end - with breaks at the points I thought the other narratives would be inserted. Then I wrote Margherita's narrative, from beginning to end, inserting it into the breaks as I went. I then wrote the third section, the narrative told from the point of view of Selena, a Venetian courtesan and witch. My initial plan was to entwine all three narratives like a braid, but when I began to do this it became clear to me it wouldn't work - it made Selena's story too jerky and dissipated the power of its impact, plus it weakened the other sections too. So I changed my plan, and inserted Selena's section as one piece in the middle of the book. I thought of it as the dark heart of the novel. Charlotte-Rose and Margherita's stories weave into her story, and then out of it again, but everything is changed by the revelations we get in Selena's sections. 

The "interludes" throughout the novel, how were they selected? I love the way they sort of "lead in" to the story.
I was reading a lot of poems inspired by the Rapunzel fairy tale while I was writing the book and some of them seemed so beautiful and extraordinary that I wanted to share them. They also seemed to add another dimension to a book that is essentially about the power of telling, and retelling, stories. 

What was your favorite aspect of the background research for the writing of Bitter Greens? (Personally, I'm jealous of time spent in Italy).
The research trip was very special, I must admit. My three children and I stayed in Paris, and visited Versailles, and then flew to Italy for a fortnight in Venice, the Italian lakes, and Florence  Then we had another week in the south of France. It was absolutely wonderful, and helped make the book so much more vivid and alive. I loved all aspects of the research, though. It was all so fascinating and I learnt so much.    

Do you see yourself approaching other fairy tales for future projects?
Oh yes. I've written another book called THE WILD GIRL about Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told the Grimm brothers many of their most compelling and famous stories. I've woven the tales she told - stories like "Hansel and Gretel" and "Six Swans" - into the narrative. Then I'm planning to retell another of her stories - a Beauty an the Beast variant called "The Lilting, Leaping lark' - as a novel set in Nazi Germany. 

What is your absolute favorite fairy tale? (I know, tough question, hehe)
I love so many, but 'Rapunzel' always haunted me - partly because of all the mysteries in the tale. 

When you read, what is your favorite snack and/or drink?
A cup of tea during the day, a glass of fine red wine at night. 

What is your number one go-to "comfort book"? "Comfort movie"?
Whenever I'm sick or exhausted, I'll read something by Georgette Heyer. She never fails to lift my spirits.

Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain, Kate! After the wonderful reading journey of Bitter Greens I am definitely looking forward to The Wild Girl and the Beauty & the Beast novel as well (that's one of my particular favorites!).

More information about Kate:
Kate Forsyth is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 books for adults and children, translated into 13 languages. She was recently named in the Top 25 of Australia's Favourite Novelists. Since The Witches of Eileanan was named a Best First Novel by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for many awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Gypsy Crown series of children's historical novels. Kate’s latest novel, Bitter Greens, interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’ and ‘an imaginative weaving of magic, fairy tale and history’. A direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairy tales at the University of Technology in Sydney, where she lives by the sea, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.
Please visit Kate Forsyth's WEBSITE and BLOG for more information.  You can also find her on FACEBOOK and follow her on TWITTER.


Blog Tour: Bitter Greens

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be a stop on the Bitter Greens blog tour hosted by the wonderful Amy over at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours! This has been on my wishlist since the initial release date in Australia last year, and when Amy offered me the opportunity to join the tour -- oh giddy gumdrops. After you read my review below, click the banner above to check out the complete tour schedule. And swing back by tomorrow for some Q&A with Kate Forsyth!

Bitter Greens
Kate Forsyth
Allison & Busby, 2013 (UK publication)

Most of us fairytale nuts are familiar with 'Rapunzel,' but if you're anything like me you have a tendency to think more along the lines of carefree whimsy (think Tangled). Bitter Greens is an intricate retelling of Rapunzel's story, weaving it into a historical context that makes the familiar tradition live and breathe in unexpected ways. This is a fairytale for adults and historical fiction lovers.

Charlotte-Rose has been exiled from the court of the Sun King, sentenced to finish out her days in a nunnery after losing the favor of Louis XIV. Fighting violently against her new life, Charlotte-Rose finds she can no longer ignore her memories or run from her past. Her story is one of heartache and lost love, missed opportunities and the fickle gaiety of court. It's lush and extravagant, yet also threadbare and built upon a fragile base of shifting allegiances. At the nunnery, Charlotte-Rose meets a nun - Sœur Seraphina - who extends a hand of mercy and friendship, and offers a welcome distraction from her troubles. The story Sœur Seraphina tells is a strangely fascinating one to Charlotte-Rose, about a beautiful young Venetian girl, Margherita, stolen from her parents by a strega - a witch - and locked away in a convent. When the strega comes back for Margherita (whom she calls Petrisonella), she whisks her away to a remote tower, sewing a strange, abnormally long collection of hair into Margherita's own bronze locks. And so begins the Rapunzel story.

Forsyth does a masterful job of weaving Margherita's story into that of Charlotte-Rose, even working in a piece that addresses the history of the strega - Selena - who has a fascinating story of her own. Rich in historical detail and intricately-fleshed out characters, Bitter Greens gives new insight into several different historical periods, and is a testament to the power of Love. It's a beautiful retelling of a classic fairytale, with raw, rough emotions and just enough "harsh reality" to make the story strong, believable. The connections between the three, stunningly different women -- it's masterfully written. Worth the wait.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Attempting Elizabeth

Attempting Elizabeth
Jessica Grey
Tall House Books, 2013

Raise your hand if you've ever wished you could meet Mr. Darcy. Not just "a Mr. Darcy," but the Mr. Darcy. (I really hope I'm not the only one with my hand up...) Forget, for a moment, that he's just an epic, dashingly broody and romantic hero in literature. Forget about the small detail that Mr. Darcy - and Elizabeth, Bingley, Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine - exist only because one Jane Austen had the incredible genius to dream them up. And imagine, if you will, that it's somehow possible to live their story. Mmhmm, you know what I mean. And Jessica Grey (whose forays into the fairy tale realm have kept me giddy) offers us a winning heroine - Kelsey - who manages to jump into Pride and Prejudice. Talk about living the dream ...

Not everything is picture perfect for Kelsey though, especially when she first realizes she's in the book. No matter which character she gets tossed into (the first is Georgiana), Kelsey has to "perform" true to the book's pattern -- or else she has to repeat the scene over and over again. And yet, as she learns to navigate the finer art of book-jumping, Kelsey is drawn to the concept again and again. The ultimate goal: becoming Elizabeth, and thus gaining Mr. Darcy. Because let's face it: in the real world, Kelsey's life seems comically awry. What she doesn't realize is that her experiences in the book are helping her get a better handle on reality. So when her real-world misadventures collide with the book - well, let's just say it's the ultimate reality check. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself).

Not only is the story itself fascinating and addicting, but Jessica does such an amazing job of working in geeky references. I was beside myself. Kelsey is the ultimate geeky fangirl, and I was able to identify with her on. all. the. things. Truly awesome. Plus, it's just too much fun to read an Austenesque novel that has Star Wars commentary. I mean, seriously. Tell me that's not awesome.

eARC provided by author for review.


All Things New

All Things New
Lynn Austin
Bethany House, 2012

Normally, the Reconstruction period is not my favorite (perhaps because I had a particularly Reconstruction-obsessed prof for that course), but All Things New is a take on things that I really appreciated. Beginning just as the Civil War is ending, and Richmond is falling, we see the toll the War has taken on the Weatherly family. This dramatic shift in fortune is made even clearer when they return to their beloved home plantation, and struggle to make ends meet in this new way of living.

What I really liked about Austin's handling of a less-than-prefered time period is that in All Things New, she really is focusing on the new beginnings. How hard it must have been to know only one way of life -- for both the white plantation owners and their newly-freed slaves -- and suddenly have that lifestyle end. Just like that. The adjustment process would have been even more difficult when compounded with the huge losses people suffered during the Civil War. These very real struggles are realistically portrayed, as well as the inner struggles of the main characters. Getting to watch Josephine sort through all her own prejudices and mindsets, dealing with her griefs any way she can, and fighting for the right to recover and start again in her own way -- her story is real, and at times raw. She's human, very human. And that same humanness is seen in the other characters as well: Austin has a wonderfully created cast.

All in all, I finished this book wishing more Reconstruction texts were this interesting, and handled things in a way that focuses so much on the human heart, human recovery, human existence side of things rather than fighting to keep everything politicized (and yes, I know this is fiction. But still.).

ARC provided by publisher for review.


Loving Miss Darcy

Loving Miss Darcy
Nancy Kelley
Smokey Rose Press, 2013

Remember the totally awesome Austenesque novel, His Good Opinion, that told us Darcy's side of the story? And remember how throughout that novel, you picked up on threads of something rather interesting as relates to Colonel Fitzwilliam? Well, Nancy Kelley had mercy on us and told his story. Although it's also Georgiana's story. And, curses, it also sets us up for another waiting-interval, until someone else's story is ready for the world. (Don't you hate when an author creates characters you don't want to leave?)

Loving Miss Darcy picks up a bit after His Good Opinion ends -- the Darcys are happily ensconced in married life at Pemberley, and Georgiana has blossomed into a glowing young lady ready for her Season. Col. Fitzwilliam - Richard - and Darcy are uncertain about their personal preparedness for said Season, but enter into the planning with all the good interfering intentions of proper guardians. Georgiana herself is nervous and anxious about the Season, but having Kitty Bennett along for the adventure helps. Things seem to be settling into a happy - and successful - pattern, especially once Georgiana realizes she doesn't have to marry any of the young men she meets: her brother will allow her to follow her heart in this case. Meanwhile, as the parties and gaiety continue, both Richard and Georgiana start to uncover the hidden truths behind their reluctance and resistance to the changes wrought by the Season. And then the real intrigue starts, and all is placed in great risk by a circulating rumor. But who has such a malicious intent to ruin not only Georgiana Darcy, but also to injure her guardians? Who indeed ... Did not expect that little plot twist!

A quick, delightful read that feels "true to Jane" in continuing the story of some of literature's most beloved characters, Loving Miss Darcy was thoroughly satisfying. Minus the whole "now I have to wait to find out about [female character] and [male character]"-bit. I have it on good authority however, that Nancy is working on the next installment, and it promises to be worth the wait. (If you really want to know, you can check out her website. But it's more fun if you read the existing books first and then indulge your curiosity).

eARC provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: A Natural History of Dragons + Q&A

Today I am happy to be a stop on the A Natural History of Dragons blog tour, hosted by Tor! This book definitely caught my attention early on, and the read -- well, you'll get to my review in a moment. On the books today: my review and an interview with author Marie Brennan. So grab a drink and enjoy the read!

A Natural History of Dragons
Marie Brennan
Tor, 2013

How to describe this book ... It's a (fictional) memoir, of a proper young gentlemwoman with a distinctly improper fascination with science. Specifically: dragons. Thankfully, in a purely accidental (and somewhat mortifying, in terms of being a proper young lady in Society) manner, this fascination resulted in her finding the perfect husband. Not only did he share her interest in the mysterious dragons, but he encouraged her research. Which is how they both ended up joining a dragon search party into the wilds. One part Victorianesque novel, one part tongue-in-cheek memoir, one part natural history text, A Natural History of Dragons is all parts delight.

Labratory, by Todd Lockwood
Isabella is a girl after my own heart: she just can't help being true to herself, even when it means treading on the lines designated for her by Society. She's spunky and clever and gifted -- she has an eye for scientific observation that comes in rather handle. As does her insatiable curiosity (or is it simple nosiness?). In creating Isabella's world, Brennan has done a masterful job of mimicking Victorian society, while placing it in a world wholly not our own. I mean, there are dragons in this world. Granted, they're still rather mysterious and unknown, but that's the whole point of the read: the delightful willing suspension of disbelief as we, as readers, accompany Isabella and Company on their quest to learn more about dragons. There's a science-y flavor, a human-character study, and a story that kept me up reading way too late. Plus, there are simply gorgeous illustrations throughout the novel.

Book provided by publisher for review.

And now, I was able to do an interview with Marie, which I am happy to share with you!

The first question that immediately came to my mind is simply: Why dragons?
 Because the sources that inspired me -- the Dragonology calendars and the D&D supplement Draconomicon -- were about dragons. Had they been talking about some other magical creature, this might have been A Natural History of Unicorns instead.
 Or maybe not; dragons do have an appeal that nothing else can quite match. Vampires and werewolves and faeries and so on are all humanoid to one degree or another, but when you look at the more animal-type creatures, nothing can really compete with dragons.
Was it difficult to create the 'science' of dragons? Or did the unknowns in the story help your creating process?
The hardest part of it is convincing myself that I’ve invented enough to pass. I need the science to be plausible enough that I can talk about what Isabella’s doing and have it hold together; if my protagonist is going to be a natural historian, I need her research to be a meaningful part of the story, not a side note that mostly gets ignored. But at the same time, dragons aren’t biologically plausible. So I have to trust that readers will accept a few notes about bone structure and clever wing design and so on, without getting stuck on the fact that nothing that big could really fly.
Sparkling, by Todd Lockwood
The fun part, though, is connecting the dragons to their environment. I’ve finished a draft of the second book, and it has savannah-dwelling dragons whose appearance and behavior are based on cheetahs, as well as swamp-dwelling dragons based on crocodiles.

Natural History of Dragons has a wonderfully Victorian feel -- do you read a lot of Victorian works?
 I had read some when I first came up with the idea, and read a great deal more in the course of working on With Fate Conspire, my previous novel. That’s a historical fantasy set in Victorian London, so it was easy to step sideways from that to a secondary world modeled on the same period. But a fair amount of credit should also go to my research for the novel before that, A Star Shall Fall. That one takes place in the Georgian period -- each of the Onyx Court books is set in a different century -- but it’s heavily focused on the Enlightenment and the early development of modern science. It gave me a good sense of whose shoulders Isabella would be standing on when she sets out to do her fieldwork.

When you write, do you listen to music or have any other "background/atmosphere" preferences?
Music, always. I make playlists for each project I’m working on -- usually multiple playlists, to suit different parts of the story. For this one I assembled a bunch of scores from pulp adventure and dragon-related movies (How to Train Your Dragon has a fabulous score), plus Eastern European music to fit the Vystrani setting. Then I sorted those into “romantic,” “adventurous,” and “creepy” playlists, plus one for sort of casual village life. And then when I was done, I assembled a soundtrack out of those playlists, as if making a score for the novel. You can find the track listing for that here -- though be warned that it may contain hints of spoilers!

What is your favorite dragon book or movie?
I have a deep-seated love for Pern. Telepathic teleporting dragons who let you ride around on them? I would absolutely sign up for that.

What is your favorite snack and/or drink to enjoy while reading?
I try not to let myself munch while reading; I’m liable not to stop. I mostly drink water -- very boring, I know. But on a cold or rainy day, my hot drink vice of choice is really high-end hot chocolate.

Books-to-movies are increasingly popular right now -- do you prefer to read the book or see the movies first?
No strong preference, really. For things outside speculative fiction, I’ll often watch the movie when the book wouldn’t interest me at all; for things inside the genre, it’s not uncommon for me to have read the book before the movie even comes out. If I had to choose, though, I’d probably go for the movie first. Books can, by their nature, include a lot more detail than films can, so the novel is likely to flesh out my understanding of the story. If I go the other direction, I’m more likely to be sad about all the things that had to be simplified or cut out to keep the movie’s run-time down. 

Thanks for indulging the somewhat random nature of my questions, Marie!

If you'd like to learn more about Marie or the book, check out these sites:
By Marie Brennan (Website, Twitter, Goodreads)
A Tor Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3196-0
On Sale: February 5, 2013
Available here:
Powells, Walmart, Overstock


Blog Tour: Prairie Chicken Little

Hello, hello! Welcome back for another Peachtree blog tour! Today I'm highlighting Prairie Chicken Little, and after you check out my review don't forget to swing by the main post and see what else Ever-Amazing-Emily has lined up for everyone!

Prairie Chicken Little
Jackie Mims Hopkins & Henry Cole (illustrator)
Peachtree Publishers, 2013

You're familiar with the story of Chicken Little and/or Henny Penny? Their heartfelt cries that the sky is falling are the stuff of legend. But they are nothing, nothing, I tell you, to the well-meaning chaos and near-misses that Miss Mary McBlicken, the prairie chicken, hears "a rumblin' and a grumblin' and a tumblin'". Sure that a stampede is a'comin', she heads to the find Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan as fast as her little chicken legs will carry her, picking up a handful of colorfully-named critter friends along the way. Stampedes are big business you know, dangerous things. Thankfully, Cowboy Stan shows up to set things straight just before Slim Brody the coyote makes the tense situation even messier.

This is a fun twist on the classic "sky is falling"-tale, and I love the rhythm of the text. The words roll so neatly, with just enough rhyming and a great pacing. It's made for storytime, and the illustrations are colorful and bright. Definitely a great addition for lovers of tall tales and other stories that grow (literally) better with time.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Turning Pages

Turning Pages
Tristi Pinkston
Inkberry Press, 2012

How do I love thee, let me count the ways ...
... You're about a girl who's going to school to be a librarian, and works in a library.
... You're a nod to my beloved Pride & Prejudice.
... You made me laugh out loud, garnering odd stares from the cat.

Seriously though, Turning Pages was a delight to read. Addie Preston is a girl after my own heart, working her way through Library School while also working to navigate life and its pitfalls. Her library is engraved deeply on her heart, in large part because it was a special place for she and her father -- whose death is still shockingly raw and new to the family. All the characters are written in the same, colorful, realistic style -- and Blake Hansen, the big city hotshot who sweeps in and steals Addi's promotion, is one amazing incarnation of our all-time favorite Darcy. The chemistry and dynamics between Addie and Blake (and the rest of the cast as well, for that matter) is fun and lively, and I really did laugh out loud at times.

With many nods to Austen's classic, you can imagine how the story will play out -- but there are shifts, and changes. Adaptations that bring the story into contemporary America, but add to the overall story experience rather than detract from the original idea. Honestly, the best way I can describe this is as a fun, breezy read that manages to handle some heavy heart-matters with a light - but effective - touch. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and I find myself wishing for more.

Book provided by author for review.