Norah Vincent – Adeline

norahvincent-adelineOn April 18, 1941, twenty-two days after Virginia Woolf went for a walk near her weekend house in Sussex and never returned, her body was reclaimed from the River Ouse. Norah Vincent’s Adeline reimagines the events that brought Woolf to the riverbank, offering us a denouement worthy of its protagonist.

With poetic precision and psychological acuity, Vincent channels Virginia and Leonard Woolf, T. S. and Vivienne Eliot, Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington, laying bare their genius and their blind spots, their achievements and their failings, from the inside out. And haunting every page is Adeline, the name given to Virginia Stephen at birth, which becomes the source of Virginia’s greatest consolation, and her greatest torment.

Intellectually and emotionally disarming, Adeline—a vibrant portrait of Woolf and her social circle, the infamous Bloomsbury Group, and a window into the darkness that both inspired and doomed them all—is a masterpiece in its own right by one of our most brilliant and daring writers.

Virginia Woolf is one of the icons of twentieth century British literature. She and her fellow writers of the Bloomsbury Group are some of the most influential authors of the previous century and every student of English Literature has been assigned at least one of their works to read for class. As was I. As it was, I liked some of the Bloomsbury Set’s works, and those of their contemporaries, I had to read better than I did others—couldn’t get through Joyce’s The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, really enjoyed Eliot’s The Waste Land and Woolf’s Into the Lighthouse, and adored E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View and Howard’s End. So when I discovered that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was publishing Adeline by Norah Vincent, a historical novel about Virginia Woolf focusing on her mental state and the events that drove her to choose her final journey into the Ouse, I was intrigued to read it and when I was offered a review copy I happily accepted.  Read More …

Author Query – Danielle L Jensen

danielleljensen-hiddenhuntressDanielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird was one of Angry Robot’s late and lamented Strange Chemistry imprint biggest successes. I very much enjoyed the story and as such was saddened by the fact that we might not get its sequel for the foreseeable future. When Angry Robot announced that they had picked up the entire trilogy and planned to publish Hidden Huntress on schedule, I was stoked. To celebrate Hidden Huntress‘ publication next week today Danielle drops by the blog for an Author Query.

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Let’s start with the basics. Who is Danielle L Jensen?

I’m a human living in Calgary with my other half and our newly minted progeny. I used to work in finance, but it wasn’t a career that rewarded daydreaming about dragons, so I jumped ship and turned to writing. I haven’t regretted that choice once!  Read More …

Katherine Clements – The Silvered Heart

katherineclements-thesilveredheart1648: Civil war is devastating England. The privileged world of Katherine Ferrers is crumbling under Cromwell’s army and, as an orphaned heiress, she has no choice but to marry for the sake of family.

But as her marriage turns into a prison and her fortune is forfeit, Katherine becomes increasingly desperate. So when she meets a man who shows her a way out, she seizes the chance. It is dangerous and brutal, and she knows if they’re caught, there’s only one way it can end…

The mystery of Lady Katherine Ferrers, legendary highwaywoman, has captured the collective imagination of generations. Now, based on the real woman, the original ‘Wicked Lady’ is brought gloriously to life in this tale of infatuation, betrayal and survival.

After her wonderful debut novel The Crimson Ribbon, which focused on the Parliamentarian side of the English Civil War, Katherine Clements presents us with an account of those on the losing side with her second novel The Silvered Heart. Using the story of the legendary Wicked Lady as a frame, Clements tells the story of Lady Katherine Ferrers, a noblewoman who lost everything due to the Civil War and as a consequence was reputed to have turned to highway robbery. It makes for an exciting story, but one that delivers a surprisingly strong emotional punch as well.  Read More …

Author Query – Katherine Clements

katherineclements-thesilveredheartLast year Katherine Clements arrived on the scene as an exciting new voice in historical fiction. As I knew I wanted to include Katherine’s books in this year’s historical fiction month on the blog, I decided to go for a triptych. So this is the second of three Katherine Clements posts, after yesterday’s review of The Crimson Ribbon and before tomorrow’s review of The Silvered Heart. Katherine chooses to write in a fascinating era of British history, the Civil War, and I was very much looking forward to asking her more about that and about her research. She also shared a surprising tidbit about Kate’s silvered heart pendant in her latest book. Enjoy the interview and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for my review of The Silvered HeartRead More …

Katherine Clements – The Crimson Ribbon

katherineclements-thecrimsonribbonMay Day 1646. The Civil War is raging and what should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn. Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell, the only home she has ever known. On the road to London, Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a soldier, the battle-scarred and troubled Joseph. But when she reaches the city, it’s in the Poole household that she finds refuge.

Lizzie Poole, beautiful and charismatic, enthrals the vulnerable Ruth, who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie’s world. But in these troubled times, Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her. And as Lizzie’s radical ideas escalate, Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country’s conflict, to the trial of a king.

The English Civil War is an era of British history that I’ve only started to learn more than the bare bones about in the past few years. Reading The Bleeding Land and its sequel Brother’s Fury by Giles Kristian and some of Andrew Swanston’s Thomas Hill novels showed me that these decades in the middle of the seventeenth century were pivotal in Britain’s history and created massive changes to British society and left deep scars on its populace. It’s a fascinating era and Katherine Clements’ debut novel The Crimson Ribbon, set in perhaps some of the most dramatic and traumatic years of the Civil War, couldn’t fail but catch my interest when it came through the mail. And though it took me over a year to read it, I’m glad I made the time, because Clements weaves a stunning tale.  Read More …

Graham Marks – Bad Bones [Blog Tour]

grahammarks-badbonesSome things are best left buried. Gabe is feeling the pressure. His family has money troubles, he’s hardly talking to his dad, plus lowlife Benny is on his case. Needing some space to think, he heads off into the hills surrounding LA. And he suddenly stumbles across a secret that will change everything. A shallow grave.

Gabe doesn’t think twice about taking the gold bracelet he finds buried there. Even from the clutches of skeletal hands. But he has no idea what he’s awakening…

Graham Marks’ Bad Bones is the fourth book in Stripes Publishing’s Red Eye series. I’ve enjoyed the series so far, so I was looking forward to the next instalment. Unlike the previous books, Bad Bones is set in the US, in LA to be exact, which makes for an interesting change of location and possible sets of problems. But while Bad Bones was a fun read, I was a bit disappointed by the narrative and the ending in particular.  Read More …

Lindsey Davis – Deadly Election

lindseydavis-deadlyelectionIn the blazing July heat of imperial Rome, Flavia Albia inspects a decomposing corpse. It has been discovered in lots to be auctioned by her family business, so she’s determined to identify the dead man and learn how he met his gruesome end.

The investigation will give her a chance to work with the magistrate, Manlius Faustus, the friend she sadly knows to be the last chaste man in Rome. But he’s got other concerns than her anonymous corpse. It’s election time and with democracy for sale at Domitian’s court, tension has come to a head. Faustus is acting as an agent for a ‘good husband and father’, whose traditional family values are being called into question. Even more disreputable are his rivals, whom Faustus wants Albia to discredit.

As Albia’s and Faustus’ professional and personal partnership deepens they have to accept that, for others, obsession can turn sour, and become a deadly strain that leads, tragically, to murder.

Deadly Election is book three in the Flavia Albia series and returns us to Rome about a month after the events of the previous book Enemies at Home. This book was a lot of fun, but in some ways far more about Albia and Faustus than about the case. We learn more about Albia’s role as her father’s representative at the family auction house, about Faustus’ past, and perhaps most importantly and most entertainingly the developing bond between Albia en Faustus.  Read More …

Lindsey Davis – Enemies at Home

lyndseydavis-enemiesathomeWe first met Flavia Albia, Falco’s feisty adopted daughter, in The Ides of April. Albia is a remarkable woman in what is very much a man’s world: young, widowed and fiercely independent, she lives alone on the Aventine Hill in Rome and makes a good living as a hired investigator. An outsider in more ways than one, Albia has unique insight into life in ancient Rome, and she puts it to good use going places no man could go, and asking questions no man could ask.

Even as the dust settles from her last case, Albia finds herself once again drawn into a web of lies and intrigue. Two mysterious deaths at a local villa may be murder and, as the household slaves are implicated, Albia is once again forced to involve herself. Her fight is not just for truth and justice, however; this time, she’s also battling for the very lives of people who can’t fight for themselves.

It’s once more unto the breech for Flavia Alba in the second book of her series, Enemies at Home. I enjoyed the first of this series, The Ides of April, but for some reason I never managed to fit in the next book onto the reviewing schedule. With book three in the series released last month, this historical fiction month seemed like a great time to catch up on both of the books. And I have to say I enjoyed Enemies at Home even more than I did The Ides of AprilRead More …

Ray Celestin – The Axeman’s Jazz

raycelestin-theaxemansjazzNew Orleans, 1919. As a dark serial killer – The Axeman – stalks the city, three individuals set out to unmask him.

Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, heading up the official investigation, and harbouring a grave secret, is struggling to find leads. Former detective Luca d’Andrea, working with the mafia, whose need to solve the mystery of the Axeman is every bit as urgent as that of the authorities. Meanwhile, Ida, a secretary at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, stumbles across a clue which lures her and her musician friend, Louis Armstrong, to the case and into terrible danger . . .

As Michael, Luca and Ida each draw closer to discovering the killer’s identity, the Axeman himself will issue a challenge to the people of New Orleans: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim.

The Axeman’s Jazz has been languishing on my TBR shelves for a year. I’d originally planned to read it for last year’s historical fiction month in conjunction with my interview with its author, Ray Celestin, but the best laid plans and all that. Thus I decided that The Axeman’s Jazz should be my first book read for this year’s historical fiction month. And it ended up making me kick myself for not reading it last year, because it was a fascinating read.  Read More …

Nick Pengelley – Ryder: Bird of Prey [Blog Tour]

nickpengelley-ryderbirdofpreyThe Maltese Falcon was no mere legend—this fabulously jewelled golden bird really existed. Still exists, according to the last words of a dying man. Ayesha Ryder is on its trail, but not just to find the Falcon itself. It is said to contain a clue to the lost burial place of King Harold of England, a potent symbol for ruthless politicians determined to break up the UK and create a new, independent English Kingdom. The Falcon may also contain a second clue, one that few would believe.

Labelled an assassin, hunted by Scotland Yard and Dame Imogen Worsley of MI5—as well as those who want the Falcon and its secrets for themselves—Ayesha joins forces with Joram Tate, the mysterious librarian known to her friend Lady Madrigal, a one-time lover of Lawrence of Arabia. As Ayesha’s attraction to Tate grows, they follow clues left by long-dead knights to the tomb of a Saxon king and to the ruined Battle Abbey. When the trail leads them to a stunning secret hidden for a thousand years beneath an English castle, Ayesha must battle modern killers with medieval weapons before confronting the evil that would destroy her nation.

Ayesha Ryder returns in this third instalment of the Ryder series called Bird of Prey. And with Bird of Prey this series has most definitely entered alternate history territory, even if at times referencing real-world developments directly, mentioning Richard III’s body being found in Leicester and some of the intricacies of  EU economic and political problems. While I greatly enjoyed parts of the narrative and I really liked the book overall, Bird of Prey was my least favourite book of the series so far.  Read More …