Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s An Unsuitable Princess weaves a unique combination of fiction and memoir as it tells two stories at once, stories that span the distance between a Renaissance fairy tale and a young woman’s experience coming of age in early-1970s Hollywood. This unusual pairing is achieved through a creative rendering of the book’s format. Foremost is a fantasy story about a mute orphan and her love for a blacksmith’s apprentice; in moments where the fantasy takes particular inspiration from her life, LaForge adds footnotes marked by flowers, which lead the reader into the second part of the book: her true account of young adulthood, Renaissance faires, and the boy who changed her life. As both stories unravel at the same time, the reader is introduced to a new and heady type of literary adventure, one that touches the heart and feeds the imagination.

One would expect, given such a unique style, that An Unsuitable Princess would require some particular skill or endeavoring on the reader’s part in order to best appreciate the book as a whole, but it’s a testament to LaForge’s ability – and perhaps her confidence therein – that the experience of reading this dual narrative feels surprisingly natural. Her alternating accounts are separated from each other by both the clarity of their unique atmospheres and the author’s dedicated tone. In the fantasy, the story of mute orphan Jenny and the young blacksmith Samuel is unraveled in a style that quickly draws the reader into its setting amid Renaissance England. Her characters – from the determined Sir Robert to the imposing Queen Marion – take vivid shape as the story follows Samuel’s determination to survive war and the unknown to be with Jenny. At comfortable and seemingly quite natural transition points, triggered by certain phrases or scenes in the fantasy, we’re brought forward in time to the real-world Laurel Canyon of the author’s childhood and young adult years, where she documents first her adventures in school and life before eventually getting to the heart of the matter, and the stories’ crucial point of relation: a boy named Sam. LaForge recounts their meeting as character volunteers at one of California’s renowned Renaissance faires in the decade when it was known more as a source of bawdy liberation than a family-friendly atmosphere; she explores the experiences they shared before finally resigning herself and her reader to the tragedy that waited at the end of their relationship. In this, the memoir that inspired the fantasy, her narrative is fast-paced and witty, but ultimately profound, infused with pop culture references that bring the world of her memories even more to life.

LaForge handles both the memoir and the fantasy story of An Unsuitable Princess with a caring and intimacy that strikes the reader’s emotions; it is clear in the words, in both the heartrending reality and the blissful imaginings, that the author is baring her deepest, most candid truth to her audience. Her efforts are applied with insight and heart; the combined nuances manifest into a gift as much for her reader, her family, and herself as it is for the memory of an imperfect time and the beauty of a young soul. Through a remarkable execution of prose and memory, LaForge unfolds her tales of fantasy and reality before the reader simultaneously and the result is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind experience.


Title: An Unsuitable Princess
Author: Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Genre: fantasy, memoir
Publisher: Jaded Ibis Press
Release date: April 15, 2014
Source: Book Savvy PR (c/o)
Buy the book: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
Connect with the author: Website/Blog | Facebook | Twitter

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In fiction this week Tatiana de Rosnay is back with a new novel, as is Kimberley Freeman. In mystery, Nancy Atherton has a new Aunt Dimity book and Val McDermid spins a retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. In sci-fi and fantasy, Diana Gabaldon releases an Outlander novella (which includes a sneak peek of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) while in romance Lisa Renee Jones has two new releases: a collection of Inside Out stories and a new novel. Also in romance is new work from Nora Roberts and Robyn DeHart. There are lots of happenings in young adult, from Alivia Anders’s new series, The Black Symphony Saga, to new work from Jennifer Armentrout and others. In new adult, series additions from Heidi McLaughlin, Jessica Sorensen, and many more. Meanwhile in nonfiction, Liel Leibovitz examines the life and work of the legendary Leonard Cohen, John Masson considers Shirley Temple’s impact on 1930s America, plus Tabatha Coffey teaches us how to Own It! and Maya Van Wagenen shares some “Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek”. Last but not least, new in paperback are Andrew Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, the late Iain Banks’s final novel, The Quarry, and more. Enjoy!

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The fifth and final installment in John Heldt’s Northwest Passage series, The Mirror, follows twin sisters Katie and Ginny Smith on a journey through time, the likes of which happens to run in the family. The daughters of Joel Smith and Grace Vandenberg – the hero of Heldt’s The Mine and heroine of The Show – Ginny and Katie never believed their parents’ stories of accidental time-travel, at least not until a visit to a carnival house of mirrors on their nineteenth birthday sends them from their everyday lives in 2020 Seattle to an entirely different Seattle: that of 1964. Armed with cell phones that haven’t been invented yet and driver’s licenses that read a birth year of September 11, 2001, Ginny and Katie have to start from scratch as they wait for an opportunity to get back to the world they once knew. As they take in a time engulfed in civil rights activism and Beatlemania, the twins juggle the lives they had with the lives they’ve been given, finding friendship, love, and even family in the past.

With The Mirror author John Heldt brings his Northwest Passage series to a close with a strong finish; in many ways the charm and wit readers have come to know are presented twofold here, thanks to the novel’s twin protagonists. Heldt evokes the ever-relatable nature of siblings in Ginny and Katie, polar opposites in all but appearance. Ginny, sassy and outgoing, becomes a stalwart focus of the story while Katie, the play-it-safe sister, offers a quieter and decidedly emotional edge. Despite their outward similarities, each of the twin characters come to life in a fully realized individuality that lets the reader connect with them on an even deeper level. Ginny’s friendship with James, a young African American man, sparks a fiery pursuit of civil rights and social justice in the time-traveler’s heart, while Katie’s love for grocery store clerk Mike seems to have a history all its own; one that defies even Katie’s wildest imaginings. The love stories and phenomena of The Mirror cover some new and slightly bigger territory than the past novels in the series, and they do so with the same charisma that has made Heldt’s novels so enjoyable. The comfortable familiarity of the narrative and the warmth of the prose lull the reader into Heldt’s unique brand of literary escapism with ease; once there, the story grabs hold and doesn’t let go.

At once a fusion of romance, science-fiction, and history, The Mirror brings the ‘60s to life while at the same time offering an affecting portrait of family and devotion. The familial dedication Ginny and Katie feel for each other breaks the reader’s heart when their sisterly bond is tested, while Mike’s devotion to his ailing mother and James’s responsibilities to his family all echo the novel’s core sentiment of how far we’ll go for the ones we love. In five novels Heldt has continued to deliver surprises within his stories and The Mirror offers some of the best suspense in the series with a final act that will have readers riveted to the pages. One becomes truly captivated by the author’s vivid depictions of history – this one complete with a concert scene starring a very young John, Paul, George, and Ringo – and his unique, dependable characters create very special emotional connections within their audience. With humor, grace, and a touch of magic, The Mirror is a worthy conclusion to an unforgettable series.


Title: The Mirror (Northwest Passage #5)
Author: John A. Heldt
Genre: sci-fi, romance
Publisher: John A. Heldt
Release date: March 1, 2014
Source: John A. Heldt (c/o)
Buy the book: Kindle
Connect with the author: Website/Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Shelfari

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Kicking things off in fiction this week, Seating Arrangements author Maggie Shipstead is back with a new novel, Astonish Me; there’s also new work from Susan Lewis, Sandra Galland, Marina Fiorato, and others. In mystery M.J. Rose releases the sixth in her Reincarnationist series, and Lisa Scottoline, Stuart Woods, and Ann B. Ross all have new novels. I also had absolutely no idea that Gene Hackman (yep, that Gene Hackman) has been writing books for the last decade – he has a new novel out on the 9th. In sci-fi and fantasy there’s new work from several different writing teams, among them Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, David Weber and Eric Flint, among others. In romance Kristen Ashley is launching a new series, Felicia Tatum and Cary Phillips have new series additions, and Elizabeth Lowell also has a new novel. In young adult Ann Brashares is back, plus series additions from Darren Shan, Laini Taylor, and Theo Lawrence. In new adult there’s new work from S.A. Wolfe, Devon Ashley, Molly McAdams, and others. Nonfiction has a posthumous essay and short story collection, The Opposite of Loneliness, from the late Marina Keegan (so sad!). Gabrielle Bernstein lifts the spirits with Miracles Now, following up her bestselling May Cause Miracles, and perpetual costar Judy Greer shares stories in I Don’t Know What You Know Me From. Last but not least, new in paperback is John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys, Hannah Weyer’s On the Come Up and more. A very full week!

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