All posts filed under: Reviews

alarkascending

A Lark Ascending by John B. Campbell (+ Giveaway)

Following up his 2012 debut, John B. Campbell sets his sights on Whitechapel in A Lark Ascending to tell the story of Malcolm Roberts, a young EastEnder whose curiosity leads him into the middle of a treacherous mystery. It’s the 1920s and racial tensions are high across London as Chinese locals continue to face prejudice and even danger. When Malclom stumbles across a plot by local radicals to eradicate the Chinese population of Limehouse, his simple life in the East End becomes the target of sinister shadows lingering at every corner. After a devastating murder hits close to home, Malclom must join forces with his friend Sid, a young woman named Katja, and a street urchin named Jun to solve a mystery and unravel a vicious plot. In A Lark Ascending John Campbell builds on his talent for cultivating the vivid atmosphere of an historical setting. The East End becomes at once familiar and brand new to readers as we witness its complexity and grit through the eyes of a young local. Malcolm adds particular …

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Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Mingmei Yip’s new novel, Secret of a Thousand Beauties, follows the tumultuous life of a young woman in 1930s China. Spring Swallow is only seventeen when she becomes a ghost bride. Determined to avoid a passionless life of servitude and deference, she devises an escape from her vicious aunt and conspiring in-laws. Her journey takes her to Soochow and a house full of women who create sweeping embroideries. Under the watchful eye of the admonishing matriarch, Aunty Peony, Spring Swallow unlocks a hidden talent for embroidery, and slowly she begins to build her life anew. But her quiet existence is soon interrupted when Aunty Peony’s mysterious past catches up with them all and new tragedies begin to impact Spring Swallow’s life. Memories of her ghost husband seem to linger ominously, even after she meets handsome revolutionary Shen Feng. As the trajectory of her life begins to tilt in overwhelming new directions, taking her from rural Soochow to the bustling city of Peking, Spring Swallow must rely on her own courage and newfound skills to overcome …

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A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith

Anne Easter Smith’s A Rose for the Crown shapes fiction from fact during the life of Richard III. The novel sweeps her reader up into all the romance, tragedy, and intrigue of the War of the Roses as the author spins a story about the king’s illegitimate children and the woman who bore them. There’s a fascinating marriage of history and creative exploration in the premise of the story: while the mother of Richard’s children has never been discovered, Smith has crafted a heroine for the role inspired by a woman who existed in Richard’s time and had connections with the king: Katherine Haute. Using one of history’s most convoluted monarchs and a fictional woman drawn from the silhouette of truth, Anne Easter Smith crafts a sweeping and beautiful epic of secret love and ruthless war; of the true heart of family, and most especially of the impossible bonds that connect us throughout life. A Rose for the Crown also struck me as being very much a tribute to the forgotten women of the 15th …

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A Thousand Tombs by Molly Greene

Molly Greene’s latest story, A Thousand Tombs, is the fourth mystery involving sassy private investigator Gen Delacourt, and this time Gen is up to her eyebrows in intrigue when she and her boyfriend, San Francisco cop Mack Hackett, quite literally stumble upon a teenage boy on the run for his life. Young Luca barrels into their world with a mysterious ancient coin – a priceless Italian artifact of dubious provenance – and a gang of ruthless goons on his trail. Luca is evasive about his situation, but Gen and Mack are determined to help in any way they can; which, for Gen, means getting down to business and unraveling the mystery of the coin. As she hunts for the truth, Gen will be left to question everyone around her, from the sketchy Carabinieri officers determined to cut her off to the kindly old man who reminds her of her dear grand-père, and even secretive Luca, whose plight has won Mack’s pity and left Gen in a limbo of suspicion. Greene is on an upward trajectory …

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Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

On January 8, 1839, during the eighth US president’s time in office, William A. Clark was born in a Pennsylvania log cabin. One hundred and seventy-two years and thirty-six presidents later, his daughter Huguette would be living in reclusion in the middle of Manhattan, the century-old heiress of an unfathomable fortune rendered from copper in the time of the Civil War. It’s an extraordinary story of rags-to-riches with several lifetimes’ worth of scandal, loss, and generosity in between – a story of a remarkable family and one of American history’s greatest fortunes, both fallen into the shadows, hidden in plain sight. The breadcrumbs of this forgotten piece of social and cultural history were stumbled upon in 2009 by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman who, when fanciful curiosity led him slightly out of his price range, came across an abandoned mansion while he was house-hunting in Connecticut. He soon discovered that the house, in a shambles but still handled by a manager, was owned by a woman who had never lived in it – a woman …

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The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie

In a recent conversation about Salman Rushdie’s work I said that the best word I can think of to describe him is “inexhaustible”. “Inexhaustible or exhaustible?” I was asked. “He’s an inexhaustible writer,” I said, “But his writing is exhaustible.” I’ve never read someone as positively relentless as Rushdie, and sometimes his work is borderline unreadable for me; when his narrative slips into that long-winded place, it takes a long-winded reader to be able to keep up. Even so, challenging and energy-tapping as Rushdie’s work may be, soaked as it is in his own tirelessness, the challenge and the exhausting nature (and, yes, maybe even the ego) are what keep me unable to commit to disliking his books. (On the contrary: I loved The Enchantress of Florence.) The opulence of Rushdie’s prose excites me, and there’s a thrill of standing waist-dip in one of his paragraph-long sentences that I find somewhat unique to him. There’s a hardly-veiled confidence in his writing – some will even call it conceit or narcissism – but it’s Rushdie’s blatantly …

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Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston

My review is part of the Fireship Press Hand of Fire book tour. You can find links to all the stops (including reviews, interviews, guest posts, and excerpts) at FireshipPress.com. Judith Starkston’s debut takes the reader deep into the history and mythology of ancient Greece to tell a story of love and war, mortality and immortality. Hand of Fire is the untold story of Briseis, a woman famed for her love of the half-god Achilles, but whose own history is little-known. As Starkston unfurls the early events of the Trojan War, she gives history new life through Briseis’s eyes and offers readers a chance to experience the epic legend from a fresh perspective. The novel follows Briseis through her unfortunate marriage to a harsh prince, the loss of her family and land, and eventually through her complex journey of falling in love with her captor, the fiercest warrior of her peoples’ enemy. While Briseis has come to be familiar in name to many enthusiasts of the Greek mythology, her story is often told only in …

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Crane (Legends Saga #1) by Stacey Rourke

In the first book of her Legends saga, Crane, Stacey Rourke takes on Washington Irving’s unforgettable tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s a story we’ve all seen retold many times – through animation, on the silver screen, and, most recently, for television . It would be easy for anyone handling the story to fall into issues of over-familiarity, but Stacey Rourke manages to bust through that obstacle without a hitch. Instead, she gives readers a mystifying and vastly entertaining reimagining that stays devoted to the nuances of the original characters while taking the legend we thought we knew in a pulse-pounding new direction. Meet Ireland Crane: smart, sassy, and refreshingly original. Newly arrived in Sleepy Hollow, she’s determined to leave her past mistakes behind her and start fresh as a guidance counselor at the local high school – that is, until bodies start piling up and whispers abound that the legendary Headless Horseman has made his return. The situation worsens when a scraggily old hobo shows up in Ireland’s life claiming to be Rip …