Monday, October 26, 2015

The Mystics of Mile End Review and Blog Tour

The Mystics of Mile End (422x648)The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel
Paperback: 320 pages 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 13, 2015)
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

 Sigal Samuel’s debut novel, in the vein of Nicole Krauss’s bestselling The History of Love, is an imaginative story that delves into the heart of Jewish mysticism, faith, and family.

 “This is not an ordinary tree I am making.

 “This,” he said, “this is the Tree of Knowledge.” 

In the half-Hasidic, half-hipster Montreal neighborhood of Mile End, eleven-year-old Lev Meyer is discovering that there may be a place for Judaism in his life. As he learns about science in his day school, Lev begins his own extracurricular study of the Bible’s Tree of Knowledge with neighbor Mr. Katz, who is building his own Tree out of trash. Meanwhile his sister Samara is secretly studying for her Bat Mitzvah with next-door neighbor and Holocaust survivor, Mr. Glassman. All the while his father, David, a professor of Jewish mysticism, is a non-believer.

When, years later, David has a heart attack, he begins to believe God is speaking to him. While having an affair with one of his students, he delves into the complexities of Kabbalah. Months later Samara, too, grows obsessed with the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life—hiding her interest from those who love her most–and is overcome with reaching the Tree’s highest heights. The neighbors of Mile End have been there all along, but only one of them can catch her when she falls.

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My Take:

The Mystics of Mile End is a rather intriguing book - it is about many things while telling the story of a small, broken family and how they work to put the pieces back together. Lev and his sister Samara are in a difficult spot - each is struggling with their own issues with faith and their place in the world. Their mother, who was tragically killed, was a woman of strong faith and their father is an unbeliever. 

The novel is told from each of the family members' perspective in separate sections and then a final section telling more about the neighbor's perspective. Within these sections each tells their version of events. By telling the story in this way, the reader is able to get a much fuller and more compelling vision of the family and the neighborhood. The differences and commonalities between the sections is intriguing and compelling. The novel does a great job of demonstrating just how differently we all see things and how little we really know about others. 

The novel is very much about Jewish mysticism - which I know very little about - but it is also a story about people and their complicated relationships. I found all of the characters to be complex and interesting. I was especially drawn to the neighbor, Mr. Glassman. His story is heartbreaking, but also healing. 

I found The Mystics of Mile End to be very much worth the read. It is not a fast read book. It is more of a contemplative read. I won't pretend that I got all that I should out of it, but I feel like I got what I needed. It will be one of those books that sticks in my mind and scenes  will pop up at odd times and I will find myself thinking about it unexpectedly. I would highly recommend The Mystics of Mile End to those readers who like to read challenging books, who aren't afraid to delve into weighty topics and like stories about quirky families and faith.




About Sigal Samuel

Sigal SamuelSigal Samuel is a writer and editor for The Jewish Daily Forward. She has published fiction and journalism in The Daily Beast, The Rumpus, BuzzFeed, Tablet, The Walrus, Event, Descant, Grain, Prairie Fire, Room, and This Magazine, among others. She has been a featured writer at the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival and a winner of Room’s writing contest. Her plays have been produced in Montreal, Vancouver and New York City, winning Solo Collective Theater’s Emerging Playwrights’ Competition and The Cultch’s Young Playwrights’ Competition. While pursuing her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, Sigal won the Laura Fowler Award for outstanding women in the fine arts. She received the Lionel Shapiro Award and the Chester Macnaghten Prize for creative writing from McGill University. Originally from Montreal, she now lives and writes in Brooklyn.

 Visit Sigal at her website and connect with her on Twitter.

Sigal’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 13th: Back Porchervations
Monday, October 19th: Raven Haired Girl
Tuesday, October 20th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Wednesday, October 21st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, October 22nd: Man of La Book
Monday, October 26th: A Book Geek
Tuesday, October 27th: Book by Book
Wednesday, October 28th: Novel Escapes
Thursday, October 29th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Friday, October 30th: Not in Jersey






Monday, October 19, 2015

Margaret Kerr Mystery Series Blog tour and Review of A Trust Betrayed

Please join Margaret Kerr as she tours the blogosphere for her Margaret Kerr Mystery Series, from October 12-23, with HF Virtual Book Tours, and enter to win one of three (3) Sets of A TRUST BETRAYED and THE FIRE IN THE FLINT in eBook!

A Trust Betrayed (Book One)

03_A Trust Betrayed "Thirteenth-century Edinburgh comes off the page cold and convincing, from the smoke and noise of the tavern kitchen to Holyrood Abbey under a treacherous abbot. Most enjoyable.î" - THE LIST

 In the spring of 1297 the English army controls lowland Scotland and Margaret Kerr's husband Roger Sinclair is missing. He'd headed to Dundee in autumn, writing to Margaret with a promise to be home for Christmas, but it's past Easter. Is he caught up in the swelling rebellion against the English? Is he even alive? When his cousin, Jack, is murdered on the streets of Edinburgh, Roger's last known location, Margaret coerces her brother Andrew, a priest, to escort her to the city.

She finds Edinburgh scarred by war -houses burnt, walls stained with blood, shops shuttered - and the townsfolk simmering with resentment, harboring secrets. Even her uncle, innkeeper Murdoch Kerr, meets her questions with silence. Are his secrets the keys to Roger's disappearance? What terrible sin torments her brother? Is it her husband she glimpses in the rain, scarred, haunted? Desperate, Margaret makes alliances that risk both her own life and that of her brother in her search for answers. She learns that war twists love and loyalties, and that, until tested, we cannot know our own hearts, much less those of our loved ones.

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The Fire in the Flint (Book Two)

04_The Fire in the Flint
"Intrigue abounds... Robb's captivating blend of history and mystery vividly evokes medieval Scotland." - BOOKLIST

Scots are gathering in Murdoch Kerr's Edinburgh tavern, plotting to drive out the English forces. Margaret takes her place there as innkeeper, collecting information to pass on to William Wallace-until murder gives the English an excuse to shutter the tavern. The dead man was a witness to the intruders who raided chests belonging to Margaret's husband and her father, the latest in a string of violent raids on Margaret's family, but no one knows the identity of the raiders or what they're searching for.

Margaret's uncle urges her to escape Edinburgh, but as she flees north with her husband Roger, Margaret grows suspicious about his sudden wish to speak with her mother, Christiana, who is a soothsayer. Margaret once innocently shared with Roger one of Christiana's visions, of "the true king of Scotland" riding into Edinburgh. Now she begins to wonder if their trip is part of a mission engineered by the English crown...

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A Cruel Courtship (Book Three)

05_A Cruel Courtship"This is history as it should be told!"  - GOOD BOOK GUIDE

In late summer 1297, Margaret Kerr heads to the town of Stirling at the request of William Wallace's man James Comyn. Her mission is to discover the fate of a young spy who had infiltrated the English garrison at Stirling Castle, but on the journey Margaret is haunted by dreams - or are they visions? - of danger.

He who holds Stirling Castle holds Scotlandóand a bloody battle for the castle is imminent. But as the Scots prepare to cast off the English yoke, Margaretís flashes of the future allow her to glimpse what is to comeóand show her that she can trust no one, not even her closest friends.

A CRUEL COURTSHIP is a harrowing account of the days before the bloody battle of Stirling Bridge, and the story of a young womanís awakening.

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My Take:


Unlike many who are reading the Margaret Kerr series, I haven't read the Owen Archer series, so I had no preconceived ideas going into the first novel, A Trust Betrayed. At the beginning Margaret seems like a very new and very young wife whose husband is away too much and doesn't know what to do with herself. She is insecure about her situation. However, she quickly grows up and comes into her own as she takes matters into her own hands and stops listening to the men in her life -- but she is inexperienced and makes some hasty decisions and must learn discretion.

She goes in search of her husband and to see if she can find out the truth about Jack's murder. Once in the city, Margaret finds that things are even more desperate than she had anticipated. Margaret finds her uncle less that welcoming to her and must make herself useful in order to keep a roof over her head. This is where Margaret really starts to grow up and take action on her own.

I found the novel to be very interesting both from a historical perspective with all the attention to the details of life including the dress, the social structure and the living arrangements and from a story development perspective. I liked that Margaret was allowed to grow and take on more difficult tasks and to eventually become a player in the larger events. I hope to read more of the series and find out how much Margaret discovers and grows throughout the series.

I found A Trust Betrayed to be easy to read and interesting due to the historical period and the story line. I think that this series should appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, fiction about Scotland, and historical mysteries. I will be reading the next book in the series very soon.




02_Candace RobbABOUT THE AUTHOR

Growing up, Candace Robb wanted to be a ballerina, tap dancer, folk singer, journalistóbut on the day that she walked into Liz Armstrongís undergraduate class on Chaucerís Troilus and Criseyde, that all changed. A gifted teacher, lively, witty, always laughing even when cringing at a lazy response, Dr. Armstrong launched into the opening stanzas, and within a few lines Candaceís ears adjusted to the middle Englishóand she was hooked. Chaucerís psychological study of the two lovers was a revelation to her. The next quarter was The Canterbury Tales. That clinched it. Candace went on to graduate work in medieval history and literature, and ever since sheís been engaged in bringing to life the rich culture of the period, from the arts to the politics. She is the internationally acclaimed author of thirteen crime novels featuring the sexy, brooding, clever Owen Archer, who solves crimes for John Thoresby, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England, and the young Margaret Kerr, searching for her missing husband and her role in a Scotland overrun by English soldiers. Candace is currently under contract with Pegasus Books for a new crime series set in 15th century York, the Kate Clifford mysteries, which will debut in 2016.

Writing as Emma Campion, Candace has published two historical novels about the women of the English court in the 14th century, A Triple Knot and The Kingís Mistress.

Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Candace grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived most of her adult life in Seattle, Washington, which she loves for its combination of culture, natural beauty, and brooding weather so like Yorkshire, Wales, and Scotland, which she visits as often as possible. She has taught the art of writing the crime novel in the University of Washingtonís certificate program, and offers workshops in writing the historical novel and in creating and plotting the crime series. Candace (and Emma) blog about writing and medieval topics at A Writerís Retreat, ecampion.wordpress.com.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS


BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, October 12
Interview at The Writing Desk

Tuesday, October 13
Review at Worth Getting In Bed For (A Trust Betrayed)
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, October 14
Review at Book Nerd (A Cruel Courtship)
Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Thursday, October 15
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf (A Trust Betrayed)
Spotlight at Buried Under Books

Friday, October 16
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For (The Fire in the Flint)

Monday, October 19
Review at A Book Geek (A Trust Betrayed)
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Review & Interview at Singing Librarian Books (A Trust Betrayed)

Tuesday, October 20
Review at Singing Librarian Books (The Fire in the Flint)
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, October 21
Review at Singing Librarian Books (A Cruel Courtship)
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Thursday, October 22
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For (The Fire in the Flint)
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, October 23
Review at A Chick Who Reads (A Trust Betrayed)
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective (A Trust Betrayed)
Spotlight at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

GIVEAWAY

To win one of three (3) Sets of A TRUST BETRAYED and THE FIRE IN THE FLINT in eBook, enter using the Rafflecopter Widget below.

Rules
-Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
-Giveaway is open internationally.
-Only one entry per household.
-All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
- Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. a Rafflecopter giveaway
07_Margaret Kerr Mytery Series_Blog Tour_FINAL

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Here Comes the Dreamer Blog Tour and Review

Here Comes the Dreamer coverHere Comes the Dreamer by Carole Giangrande

Publisher: Inanna Publications
Paperback
Source: Author/Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Description:


Alastair Luce is a dreamer, one of three who tell this tale.

 A Canadian expat in the 1950s, he lives in a New York City suburb with his wife, Nora, a passionate American who misses the excitement of wartime life and finds an outlet — and a lover — during the Red scare. Alastair's an artist, a quiet man who paints houses for a living, fears atomic holocaust, drinks too much and worries about his suffering child Grace. Just before the accident that kills his daughter's best friend Todd, he offers a ride to their teenage neighbour, Claire Bernard. She continues the story as a witness to tragedy, a wry observer of suburban mores and a compassionate friend of Alastair, whose talent and politics she'd long admired. Yet in the era of Vietnam, she's not prepared for his love or his anguish as she marries and leaves for Canada. In Toronto, it's Alastair's exiled daughter Grace who speaks, giving voice to her fury, an artist who works to “burn” the city down with brilliant colour, who resents Claire for hurting her dad, and still grieves the loss of young Todd. Yet Grace, Claire and Alastair are bound together by their history, and a crisis draws their painful stories to a climax. It's then that Grace ventures homeward for the first time, into a startling vision of the unknown.

Praise

Here Comes the Dreamer is a moving account of how a tragic accident changes, and haunts, the intertwined lives of a painter, his gifted and troubled daughter, and the young woman who befriends them. It astutely probes the moods and mores of suburban America in the ’50s and ’60s, and later, of Toronto. Combining rich lyrical language, inspired narration, and sensitive psychological insight, this is fiction of the most darkly illuminating, deeply touching kind. —Allan Briesmaster, author of Against the Flight of Spring and Confluences

Giangrande’s writing is warm and intelligent, honest and kind. Here Comes the Dreamer is filled with the richness of character and intersecting lives. —Irene Guilford, author of The Embrace


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My Take:

Here Comes the Dreamer by Carole Giangrande is a short, but powerful novel. At time it reads more like poetry than prose - especially during Alistair's story. The three sections of the novel are from three different perspectives and between the three stories, the reader is able to see the more complete story.

Alastair is a painter who makes his living by painting houses. He is also an artist in a bad marriage with a woman who doesn't understand him or their daughter. It is clear this marriage is doomed from the start. There will also be another, greater tragedy which will shape the rest of all their lives.

Claire is a girl from the neighborhood who is kind to Alistair's daughter Grace. She also has a crush on Alistair - Mr. Luce. Claire's section of the novel is a shift in perspective and through her memories we learn much more about the tragic events that unfolded. 

The final section is from Grace's point of view. She is grown and has become a well known street artist. She is also quite troubled. 

I don't want to explain too much about the plot -- this novel should be experienced, not described. I found the story to be heartbreaking for a number of reasons, but also honest and sensitive. It looks at mental illness, marriage and relationships, family, the aftermath of war and friendship. All are handled with the same quiet, kind manner. I would recommend Here Come the Dreamer to anyone who appreciates literary fiction.

A couple of favorite lines:
"Colour smouldered inside his fingers and he could feel the force of it, electric under the stillness of everything he touched." p. 1

"He worked alone and as he painted houses, he could feel colour humming under the bright surfaces of everything he touched as if colour were a sound, an eerie music." p. 15




About Carole Giangrande

Carole GiangrandeBorn and raised in the New York City area, Carole Giangrande is a Toronto-based novelist and author of eight books, including the award-winning novella, A Gardener On The Moon, the novels An Ordinary Star and A Forest Burning, a short story collection, Missing Persons and the novella, Midsummer. Her new novella, Here Comes The Dreamer, will be published in September. A former broadcast-journalist, she worked for CBC Radio (Canada's public broadcaster) as co-host of the popular Radio Noon program. She's read her fiction at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, at the Banff Centre for the Arts (as an Artist-in-Residence), the University of Toronto, on radio and at numerous public venues. Her fiction, articles and reviews have appeared in Canada’s major journals and newspapers and her 50-part literary podcast Words to Go has been downloaded over 20,000 times in 30 countries. She is currently at work on a novel.

Visit Carole's website at www.carolegiangrande.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.



Carole’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, September 29th: Lit and Life
Wednesday, September 30th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, October 1st: 5 Minutes for Books
Monday, October 5th: The many thoughts of a reader
Tuesday, October 6th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, October 12th: she treads softly
Tuesday, October 13th: A Book Geek
Wednesday, October 14th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Thursday, October 15th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, October 20th: Raven Haired Girl
TBD: Bibliotica





Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Other Side of Life Blog Tour and Review

02_The Other Side of LifeThe Other Side of Life by Andy Kutler

Publication Date: August 11, 2015 
Neverland Publishing Company LLC 
Formats: Trade Paperback and Kindle
Pages: 360 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review

  READ AN EXCERPT.

 December 1941, Pearl Harbor. A peaceful Sunday morning turns into a devastating attack on American soil. Naval officer Malcolm "Mac" Kelsey is severely wounded while defending his ship. A flawed man abandoned long ago by his alcoholic wife, Kelsey has been mired in despair and hopelessness following the accidental death of Lucy, the young daughter he considers the only redemptive aspect of his life. Near the point of death, Kelsey is brought to what he believes to be an afterlife where he is offered an opportunity to shed his past memories and embark upon an alternate path in another place and time. Eager to escape his torment and begin a more tranquil existence, Kelsey accepts, only to feel quickly betrayed as he soon finds himself back in the midst of battle, this time as a Union soldier at the dawn of the Civil War.

Through Antietam, Gettysburg and four years of relentless fighting, Kelsey attempts to cast aside his painful past while trying to survive the horrors of combat. He crosses paths with compelling figures on both sides of the conflict determined to persevere and return to those they left behind. Idealistic Ethan Royston, promoted from the enlisted ranks, believes in preserving the Union but is plagued by insecurity and self-doubt. His closest friend, West Point-trained Cal Garrity, remains loyal to his home state of Virginia despite his misgivings about the virtue of the Southern cause. The war will divide these friends, just as it will divide Garrity from his adoring wife, Emily, the charismatic and headstrong daughter of a prominent Norfolk shipbuilder, forced to face the onset of war alone.

Each will endure unimaginable hardship and brutality that will forever reshape their core beliefs and values. Each will find their strength and resolve tested as they search for self-purpose, humanity, and reconciliation. Most of all, Mac Kelsey will discover the very essence of life and death, and whether the new beginning he has long coveted will bring him the inner peace he has so desperately sought.

PRAISE

“Employing some new twists on the novelist's technique of time travel, Andy Kutler sends a naval officer bombed at Pearl Harbor back to the Civil War. Among his comrades in a Union cavalry regiment he absorbs the enduring values of trust, loyalty, love, and selflessness during the chaos and tragedy of a war that took place a half century before he was born. Readers will find themselves immersed in this story and captivated by its principal characters.” -- James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winner author of Battle Cry of Freedom and The War That Forged a Nation

 “Profound, smart, and entertaining – the path through The Other Side of Life is an amazing journey through history.” -- Joe Weisberg, Creator and Executive Producer of FX’s The Americans and author of An Ordinary Spy

 "Andy Kutler's war scenes are gripping, his characters vulnerable and honest, and his story ultimately triumphant --- an exciting journey back into two levels of the past." -- David Hardin, author of Emblems of Woe: How the South Reacted to Lincoln's Murder

 “The Other Side of Life imaginatively mingles brutal scenes of Civil War battlefields with thought-provoking moral issues. It describes the conflicted loyalties and sufferings of that tragic era and the spiritual growth of the book’s hero—a naval officer wounded in the Pearl Harbor attack—and those he becomes close to when he is transported to the past. The swift moving, compelling narrative grips the reader from first page to last.” -- Bernard Weisberger, historian and author of America Afire: Adams, Jefferson, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800

 “Andy Kutler has written a thoughtfully imaginative adventure across time, approaching the Civil War from a fresh perspective while creating memorable, compelling characters. The story flows beautifully and is consistently challenging.” -- Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, Now and Then Reader (nowandthenreader.com)


My Take:
I agreed to review The Other Side of Life because I thought the premise was different than other time travel type novels and it caught my interest. I didn't know what to expect, and wasn't sure it would work, but I was happy to give it a chance. I am quite happy to be able to say that I really enjoyed the novel. I am still not exactly sure about the workings of the "other side", but I was completely drawn into Mac's story.

Mac Kelsey is a grieving man who may not be living up to his potential. He has some serious baggage. However, his path is abruptly stopped and he is given a choice. The choice is to forget his current life and all that has happened and be set on another path. This is a little vague and Kelsey isn't happy with the lack of information either. But it is sufficient for this review. His new path, however, puts him in the path of someone who has ties to his former life, which despite promises to the contrary, he still remembers. This at  least gives him a goal for the short term.

From this point, the reader is introduced to some very sympathetic and interesting characters like Cal and Emily Garrity and Ethan Royston. Their lives will become intertwined with Kelsey's and will be driving forces for the story line. The characters in the novel are well developed as are their relationships and story lines. 

The descriptions of the Civil War bring out the conflicts of conscience, divided loyalties, the brutality of war and the growth of the main characters. The scenes are very vivid and the story line is quite compelling. I this that The Other Side of Life will appeal to any reader of historical fiction who is interested in the Civil War or World War II to a lesser degree and those who just enjoy an exciting story. 



AMAZON


03_Andy KutlerABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Kutler is a writer living in Arlington, Virginia. A native of Madison, Wisconsin and a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A.) and Georgetown University (M.A.), he has previously worked on the senior legislative staff of two United States Senators before serving as a senior policy officer with the U.S. Secret Service. He is working today as a consultant to the national security community. While Andy’s writings have appeared in The Huffington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Other Side of Life is his first novel. Andy's interests include travel, military history, his Wisconsin sports teams, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and two children. For more information and news please visit Andy Kutler's Facebook page.

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, September 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Sunday, September 14
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Monday, September 15
Review at Dianne Ascroft's Blog

Friday, September 19
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, September 26
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, October 6
Review at A Book Geek

Monday, October 13
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, October 20
Review at Just One More Chapter

Saturday, November 1
Review at Genre Queen

Monday, November 10
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, November 12
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, November 13
Blog Tour Wrap-Up at Passages to the Past


04_The Other Side of Life_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL