April 28, 2011

Giveaway: Surprise GEORGETTE HEYER Title!


In honor of this week's royal wedding (congratulations William and Kate!) and thanks to Beth Pehlke and Sourcebooks, I have a special surprise for two lucky readers.  Just for replying to this post, you will be automatically entered in a drawing for a surprise Georgette Heyer title!

If you aren't familiar with her, here's a little tidbit about Ms. Heyer: 

Author of over fifty books, Georgette Heyer is the best-known and best-loved of all historical novelists, making the Regency period her own. Her first novel, The Black Moth, published in 1921, was written at the age of fifteen to amuse her convalescent brother; her last was My Lord John, published posthumously in 1975. Although most famous for her historical novels, she also wrote eleven detective stories.

An intensely private person, Georgette Heyer managed to become a bestselling author without aid of publicity - -she made no appearances, never gave an interview, and only answered fan letters herself if they made an interesting historical point. 

Georgette Heyer died in 1974 at the age of seventy-one.



Be sure to leave your email address with your entry so you can be notified.  NO EMAIL ADDRESS = NO ENTRY!

No P.O. boxes. No Military APOs. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only. My apologies to my overseas friends.


Contest to end on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Sunday, May 15, 2011.

Good luck!

April 25, 2011

Book Review: MEMOIRS OF A WIDOWED MISTRESS by Megan van Eyck

BOOK DESCRIPTION:   Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is a cautionary tale about the causal relationship between marital emotional neglect and questionable choices. It is a warning for the spouse who wants to dismiss an affair as just sex or for any woman who thinks love is enough to keep a man that isn't really hers.

"You never know what happens between two people when they are alone" is a common sentiment reserved for married couples who appear to have relationships that defy the odds. The same can also be said for couples involved in long-term adulterous affairs.

Many people believe that infidelity is only about sex: two people, one hotel room, and a few hours to spare. And Megan van Eyck's extramarital affair began just like that, with lusty hours spent between hotel sheets. But within a few months van Eyck realized she had found what she and her lover did not know they were both looking for: true love.

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress offers an honest look behind closed doors. It is a forthcoming, sometimes steamy, account of both the passion and the heartbreak associated with being a mistress; about the futility of sharing a love while not sharing a life. Van Eyck is reflective as she addresses her compelling and unusual personal history, which made being the other woman an acceptable option. She makes no excuses for herself, her mistakes, or her betrayal of her husband as she recklessly pursues love. She wants everything, unabashedly.

But her priorities shift when Carlos, her lover, is diagnosed with Amyloidosis, a rare blood disorder. Her concerns shift for hoping for a life with him to hoping that he'll be able to live through treatment for this rare and incurable disease. In the end, van Eyck must not only come to terms with her loss, mistakes and regrets, she must come to terms with herself.

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is must read for anyone that has struggled with love, intimacy or self-acceptance. Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress will captivate supporters, surprise critics and change the perspective of those that have ever considered having an affair(less).


Let me preface this review with two confessions.  First, I began Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress with some trepidation.  Second, I was prepared, before I read the first line, to dislike Megan van Eyck.   And while Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress surprised me on both counts, it was not an easy read.   
 
The subject matter - - adultery - - is mature, it's highly emotional and everyone has an opinion on it.  And Megan van Eyck pulls no punches in recounting an airport meeting that was intended to be a one-night stand and instead became a passionate five year long affair.  She makes no excuses for her relationship with Carlos, instead freely admitting that if it were not for her children and her fear that they would be taken from her, she would have happily run off with her married lover.  van Eyck's husband is presented as a flawed character who blames van Eyck for their marital difficulties pre-affair but ultimately is shown as a man who is suffering with his own pain and dysfunctions.  
 
van Eyck lays bare chapters of childhood memories, which lead her on the path to destructive relationships, an unfulfilling marriage and down the road of betrayal.  I felt her shame and pain in the descriptions of her father's neglect after her parents' separation and divorce, and the appalling condition of the home she shared with her mother, as well as her mother's appearance and behavior.  If van Eyck is attempting to psychoanalyze the person she is today by looking back on her childhood environment, the window revealed in this book is a fascinating one.  I was angry with her father, wishing I could jump through the book's pages to yell at him and shake him, for teaching van Eyck  a woman's place in his world and affecting her sense of self-worth.  
 
Carlos is presented through van Eyck's eyes, as a passionate and loving man, married to a woman who neither understands him nor appears to care to try.  I liked Carlos merely because van Eyck's love for him is so saturated in the pages of this book, it's impossible not to.  Leading me to another confession - - I didn't want to like him any more than I didn't want to like van Eyck.  But like him I did - - and I felt grief upon reading of his eventual terminal illness.  As well as anger over his wife's seeming coldness toward it. 
 
Of course we don't have her side of the story, only van Eyck's.  van Eyck is so brutally honest throughout the book that I almost felt like a voyeur, peeking into her private life.   She recounts many details of her affair with Carlos, including their active sex life and the lies they each told their respective spouses and families.  I did wonder often as I read how both were able to lie so often and so easily to their families and how they were able to keep their relationship a secret for so long. I also can't help but wonder how van Eyck's family may feel now, having her betrayal so publicly memorialized. 
 
Regardless, Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is an emotional roller coaster ride of a book, shocking, disturbing, raw and heartwrenching.  And hynotizing.  It's a heavy read and yet I couldn't put it down.  It's not for the weak of heart - - there is quite a bit of descriptive sex and some language that more discerning readers might find objectionable.  In the end, though, Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is a tale of two unfulfilled people who found fulfillment, however briefly, with each other.  As the byline of the book states, "A Love Story".  And the illicit affair ended up providing van Eyck not only with a loving partner in Carlos but also, eventually, with a loving partner in her husband.  I ended up liking both van Eyck and Carlos and I think, by the last page, I understood her.
 
Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.  5% of all profits made on this book will be donated in Carlos' memory to Amyloidosis Support Groups. 
 
For more information on author Megan van Eyck, please visit her website here.
 
Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.
 
Thank you to Dorothy Thompson and Pump Up Your Book Promotions for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour. 
 

Author Interview: ERICA JAMES

Today I am happy to welcome Erica James, author of the newly published The Queen of New Beginnings, a sweet and honest look at a male/female friendship, to Psychotic State Book Reviews. She has most kindly answered some questions about her new book, share her feelings on Love Story and her secret desire to be a Formula One driver.

Hi Erica! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.  You are the author of more than a dozen books but I understand you didn’t start writing until you were in your late twenties. What inspired you to pick up a pen, so to speak, then?

EJ:   It’s true, I didn’t pick up a pen with intent until I was in my late twenties and with hindsight I can see I did it as a means to escape.  I didn’t realize it at the time but my marriage was going wrong and subconsciously I was looking for a way to keep myself from confronting the truth.

Many of your books deal with life changing events, such as infidelity and bereavement. What draws you to tell tales about such “heavy” subjects?

EJ:   When starting a novel I rarely set out with the idea to write about ‘heavy’ subjects – such as infidelity and bereavement - I simply write the story that’s inside me and which wants to be told.  On the other hand, I do like the two sides of the coin, in as much as I love light and shade, balancing a happy scene with a poignant scene.  After all, that’s what life is like.  One minute we’re laughing, the next we’re crying.

Your newest book, The Queen of New Beginnings, has both a male and female central character. Do you find expressing the male voice or female voice easier through your writing?

EJ:   I’ve always enjoyed writing from a male perspective, perhaps because I have a lot of very good male friends.  I don’t know how else to explain why it comes so naturally to me.

What do you most hope that readers will take away from your books?

EJ:    I receive a lot of letters and emails from my readers saying they’ve just finished one of my books and that it helped them to get through a bad time in their lives, that it took them to a better place.  I can’t think of anything better for an author to hear.

When you begin writing a book, do you have an exact concept and outline before you start or do you let the characters themselves shape the story?

EJ:   When I start a novel all I have in my head is the opening chapter and a feel for where my characters might end up.  I don’t have anything more tangible than that.  It’s the interaction of the characters that drives the story.  For me, working in this way ensures the storyline stays fresh and spontaneous.

Let’s talk about your work area! Do you have a devoted office space or do you write wherever the urge strikes you?

EJ:   When I’m at home in Cheshire, England, I have a dedicated work area, my study. It’s not a particularly large room but it’s full of books, files, photographs (of my sons) and mementoes. I like to be surrounded by what I call my creative clutter. The best aspect of the room is that it overlooks my garden and when I’m stuck for an idea I can pop outside and go for a wander to clear my head.

When I’m at my apartment in Italy – Lake Como – I have a much smaller dedicated work space, but even so I’ve still managed to cram in some book shelves and a couple of photographs. I have to work with my back to the view of the lake, though, as otherwise I wouldn’t get anything written!

Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Erica James?

EJ:    I’m afraid a normal day in the life of Erica James sounds very dull.  I try to start work at 8.30 in the morning and work through the day until 7.30 in the evening.  I stop for a short lunch break but often I eat at my desk and keep on writing.  See, I said it sounded dull.

Are you working on a project now?

EJ:  I've just finished writing my sixteenth novel.  It's called The Real Katie Lavender and is due to be published here in the UK in hardback this autumn.    

If you could take writing credit for one book of your choosing, be it a classic, chick lit or nonfiction, what book would it be and why?

EJ:    Without question, Love Story by Erich Segal is the book I wish I’d written.  It’s such a simple story yet so beautifully moving.

Physical book, e book or audio book?

EJ:   I’ve recently discovered the joy of the Kindle but it will never fully replace a physical book.  Sorry, audio books don’t work for me.  My mind wanders too much.  Not sure what that says about me.

If you weren’t a writer, what path would you choose for yourself?

EJ:   If I wasn’t a writer?  Racing car driver.  No, seriously.  To be a world class Formula One driver would be the coolest thing.

And lastly, what one word would you use to describe The Queen of New Beginnings?

EJ:   Quirky.  There are a lot of eccentric characters in the book and I love them all!   

Thank you so much, Erica, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with The Queen of New Beginnings!

For more information on author Erica James, please visit her website

THE QUEEN OF NEW BEGINNING BY ERICA JAMES
ON SALE NOW!

Alice Shoemaker habitually goes to great lengths to avoid telling the truth about herself and her past. After agreeing to help out a friend, by shopping and cleaning for the unknown man staying at Cuckoo House, she soon becomes suspicious that her strange and obnoxiously rude client has something to hide…

Clayton Miller’s life is a mess. His career as one of the country’s best comedy scriptwriters has stalled and his long-term girlfriend has left him for his ex best friend and ex writing partner. Just when he thinks his life couldn’t get any worse, he commits a spectacularly public fall from grace and with the press hounding him, his agent banishes him to the middle of nowhere until the dust has settled. And there he meets Alice…

When Alice and Clayton discover the truth about each other they form an unlikely friendship – until Alice discovers Clayton has betrayed her in the worst possible way.

To purchase The Queen of New Beginnings, click here

MAILBOX MONDAY: April 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting during the month of April.

This is the goody I received last week:

The Girl Who Died Twice by Andrea Kane from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for review

SYNOPSIS:  Despite all her years determining the fates of families, veteran family court judge Hope Willis couldn't save her own. She never saw the car containing her kidnapped daughter, struggling to get out. Now she's frantically grasping at anything that might result in Krissy's rescue. Her husband dead-set against it, she calls Casey Woods, the head of Forensic Instincts, a renegade team of investigators, with a reputation for doing whatever it takes to solve life-or-death crimes.

A behaviorist. A techno-wizard. An intuitive. A former Navy S.E.A.L. A retired FBI Victim Recovery dog. All unconventional operatives. All with unique talents, skills, and personal reasons for being part of Casey's team.

Now they're up against what appears to be a precision kidnapping of a five-year-old. A strange distraction belies Hope Willis' desperation. Her husband, a cut-throat defense attorney, has a clear agenda of his own. Together, they have more than their fair share of enemies. Motives and suspects abound. But beneath the surface, lies a decades-old secret that threatens Forensic Instincts' investigation, along with any hope of finding Krissy.

Time is running out, and even with the little girl's life on the line the authorities are working round the clock within the confines of the legal system. Casey knows that staying within those confines is not enough. Not when the difference between bringing Krissy back alive and disappearing forever could be as shallow as a suspect's rapid breathing, or as deep as Hope's dark family history.

Publication Date:  June 2011

What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?


April 24, 2011

Book Review: A HEARTBEAT AWAY by Michael Palmer

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  The New York Times bestselling author and master of suspense delivers another novel at the crossroads of politics and medicine in this shocker of a thriller. 

On the night of the State of the Union address, President Max Hilliard expects to give the speech of his career. But no one anticipates the terrifying turn of events that forces him to quarantine everyone in the Capitol building. A terrorist group calling itself “Genesis” has unleashed WRX3883, a deadly, highly contagious virus, into the building. No one fully knows the deadly effect of the germ except for the team responsible for its development—a team headed by Hilliard, himself. The only one who might be able to help is virologist Griffin Rhodes, currently in solitary confinement in a maximum security federal prison for alleged terrorist acts, including the attempted theft of WRX3883 from the lab where he worked. Rhodes has no idea why he has been arrested, but when Hilliard offers to free him in exchange for his help combating the virus, he reluctantly agrees to do what he can to support the government that has imprisoned him without apparent cause.

Meanwhile, every single person in line for presidential succession is trapped inside the Capitol—every person except one: the Director of Homeland Security, who is safely at home in Minnesota, having been selected as the “Designated Survivor” for this event. With enemies both named and unnamed closing in, and the security of the nation at stake, Griff must unravel the mysteries of WRX3883 without violating his pledge as a scientist to use no animal testing in his experiments…and time is running out.

Tense, thrilling, and entirely plausible, A Heartbeat Away will make you reflect, wonder, and be truly afraid.


This is my second novel by Michael Palmer and he continues to impress me.  Palmer takes his medical thriller genre, throws some politics in and what emerges is a book that is nearly impossible to put down.  The storyline of A Heartbeat Away is simply stellar, beginning with a terrorist group and the night of the State of the Union address when a lethal virus is released in the Capitol building, putting everyone at risk - - including the President.  The lives of all involved, if not the entire country, rest in the hands of a man a world away . . . a man who is bitter and has every reason to walk away from the challenge of a cure. 

The character of Griffin Rhodes is the heart of A Heartbeat Away (no pun intended). His virologist character, accused unfairly of terrorism and placed in solitary confinement, who must work jointly not only with his former girlfriend, a journalist on the prowl for a newsworthy story, but also with the very President who placed him in solitary confinement, makes for an amazing protagonist and a hero this reader could really root for. Especially exciting was the very real sense that Griffin was working against the clock to save not just the lives of the people already exposed to the virus, for whom time was quickly running out, but humanity as a whole.

I loved the plot and I loved how Mr. Palmer created such an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride from start to finish.  Nowhere in the book will you find predictability. A Heartbeat Away is definitely not a book you can get comfortable enough with that you believe you know what's coming next.  I gasped in several places, so surprised with the plot twists and turns.  And don't expect to put this book down to do anything else (sleep, eat) because this is the type of book that you need to read in one sitting, if possible, or as quickly as you can.

If you like medical thrillers, this is your kind of book.  If you like your books to have intrigue, action, terrorist groups and politician corruption, you will be in literary heaven.

A Heartbeat Away is is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Michael Palmer, please visit his website here

Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

HAPPY EASTER!


Wishing you all a very Happy Easter, whether you are working, celebrating or curled up with a good book. Hope the Easter Bunny has been very generous to you!


April 23, 2011

Giveaway: NERVE by Taylor Clark


BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Nerves make us bomb job interviews, first dates, and SATs. With a presentation looming at work, fear robs us of sleep for days. It paralyzes seasoned concert musicians and freezes rookie cops in tight situations. And yet not everyone cracks. Soldiers keep their heads in combat; firemen rush into burning buildings; unflappable trauma doctors juggle patient after patient. It's not that these people feel no fear; often, in fact, they're riddled with it.

In Nerve, Taylor Clark draws upon cutting-edge science and painstaking reporting to explore the very heart of panic and poise. Using a wide range of case studies, Clark overturns the popular myths about anxiety and fear to explain why some people thrive under pressure, while others falter-and how we can go forward with steadier nerves and increased confidence.

"This is an improbably charming and witty book about a disturbing and flummoxing subject. More than that, though, Taylor Clark has made me less afraid of being afraid."-Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives

"[A] smart and entertaining account...Nerve is intelligent, very well-written and generally persuasive." (John Strawn, The Oregonian )

"Hilarious, approachable and certainly enlightening... Clark manages to make Nerve pack a seriously entertaining punch... it's clever, relevant and amusing." (Katelyn Schmidt, Tampa Tribune)

"Intelligent and sharp-witted...the best book on fear I've ever read." (Therese Borchard, PyschCentral )

Thanks to the lovely Anna Balasi at Hachette Book Group and Little, Brown and Company I have a copy of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool to give away to a lucky reader.

To enter, simply leave me a comment with your name and email address (or at least indicate that your email address may be found in your profile).  NO EMAIL ADDRESS = NO ENTRY!

For additional entries: 

+2 New blog followers

+1 Current blog followers
+2 New subscribers to Psychotic State Book Reviews via Feed Burner
+1 Current subscribers to Psychotic State Book Reviews via Feed Burner
+2 New Psychotic State Book Reviews Facebook follower
+1 Current Psychotic State Book Reviews Facebook follower
+2 New Twitter follower
+1 Current Twitter follower
+5 Repost or re-Tweet giveaway (leave link)

Please be sure to note if you are a current follower, new follower, etc. so that you get proper credit. Please leave a separate comment/post for EACH entry and a valid email address with each entry.

No P.O. boxes. No Military APOs. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only. My apologies to my overseas friends.

Contest to end on Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winner drawn by randomizer.org on Sunday, May 8, 2011.

Good luck!




British Babes Book Brigade: ROYAL WEDDING FEVER!

If you weren't already aware, the fabulous Sourcebooks has a Facebook page for its Brit lady authors aptly titled "British Babes Book Brigade".  If you are a fan of Elizabeth Chadwick and Jill Mansell, to name but just two, I highly suggest you check it out.  The page can be found here

In honor of the upcoming royal wedding, now less than a week away, the British Babes Book Brigade is throwing a very royal celebration.  Starting Monday they will be doing a giveaway every day until the big celebration on Friday. But these are no ordinary giveaways – these are royal wedding prize packs!

Three winners will be randomly picked each day: 

- The 1st place winner will get a William & Kate wedding memento (it is top secret for now  - -just like Kate’s dress) but check the page out on Monday to find out.  Yhey are all different so there will be a different memento each day. Along with that the winner will also get their choice of three books from any of our British Book Babes.

- The 2nd place winner will have their choice of any two books from any of our British Book Babes.

- The 3rd place winner will have their choice of one book from any of our British Book Babes.

Doesn't this sound incredible?  So don't wait - - get yourself across the pond (at least virtually) and let's start celebrating!

April 22, 2011

Author Interview: CIJI WARE

Today I am pleased to welcome Ciji Ware, author of the newly published A Race to Splendor, a look at San Francisco during and after the 1906 earthquake, to Psychotic State Book Reviews. She has most kindly answered some questions about her new book, writing historical fiction and female architects.

Hi Ciji! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers. Your newest release, A Race to Splendor, is about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. What led you to base a story around it?

CW:  When I look back at the six historical novels I’ve done, I realize a certain theme has emerged: basically I’m answering the question “What were the women doing?” in a particular historical period. In A Race to Splendor, I wanted to create a novel around the first licensed women architects in America, and since Julia Morgan built some 600 structures in the San Francisco Bay Area, the spine of the story became the ten-month period when this 34-year-old trail blazer rebuilt the wounded Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire—a disaster similar in scope to the scenes of devastation in the recent Haiti and Japan disasters.

I know that the characters of Julia Morgan and Donaldina Cameron were real people; did you base any other characters from A Race to Splendor on actual individuals?

CW:  Weaving in historical figures with fictional characters is one of my most favorite pastimes! In addition to the amazing Julia Morgan and the intrepid Donaldina Cameron, in A Race to Splendor you will also meet author Jack London, and the indefatigable reporter of that era, James Hopper—known to San Franciscans for his Rock-‘em-Sock’em journalism at a time when San Francisco sometimes had a very thin veneer of civility.

There is an incredible amount of architectural detail in A Race to Splendor. Was architecture an interest of yours or did you immerse yourself in research on architecture?

CW:  I currently serve as a co-chair of an architectural preservation society where I live, so I think I have absorbed a bit of knowledge through that interest of mine. When I began researching Splendor in earnest, I delved into the architecture of the early 20th century like a madwoman, and also was really interested to learn about institutions both in America and abroad that were teaching architecture students in that era. I had a chance to go to Paris to walk the halls of L’Ecole des Beaux Arts—the postgraduate school where the young Julia Morgan was trained at the end of the 19th century. I also have a number of women friends who are architects, so I ran a lot of my questions by them as I went along. Any mistakes I may have made, however, are my own!

What do you most hope that readers will take away from A Race to Splendor?

CW:  I really hope readers will come away with a passion for—and delight in-- the city of San Francisco, and also gain an appreciation for the terrible fate that befell the town of some 400,000 souls in the wake of the quake and firestorm. The temblor left 400 city blocks obliterated; 250,000 of some 400,000 San Franciscans homeless for up to two-and-a-half years; and some 3000 dead, and counting because the city officials tried to cover up just how horrific the disaster had been. (The fatalities among Chinese population were listed as a dozen, when in fact, it’s now estimated that at least 500 were killed and left uncounted).

Just as with Hurricane Katrina when some voices said to abandon the place and forget about rebuilding the Ninth Ward, there were people after the ’06 quake and firestorm that declared that San Francisco was “Pompeii—never to rise again.” Heroines like Julia Morgan, and my fictional architect, Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, along with others who engaged in a competition to get the primary hotels open by April 18, 1907--the first anniversary of the disaster-- showed courage, determination and just plain old moxie daring to “put humpty-dumpty together again.” I want my readers to be totally in awe of these men and women when they come to the last page in the book.

When you are writing historical fiction, do you have an exact concept and outline before you start or do you let the characters talk to you while you’re writing?

CW:  First, of course, comes extensive research. In the case of my latest book, I haunted San Francisco’s Chinatown; prowled around the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill, and generally pawed through hundreds of documents in various libraries. Once I think I’m ready to start writing, I’m probably take a very old-fashioned approach. I not only outline before I start writing, but also do what I call a complete series of story beats—scene-by-scene-by-scene. The ideas for what’s going to happen in the plot comes from in-the-field research, of course. As I indicated, a central theme in Splendor centered on what happened to the Chinese population in San Francisco in the aftermath of the 1906 quake.

I tend to tell stories on a “big stage” with events like earthquakes or wars interwoven in the plot. I love examining well-known events through the lens of everyday people whose adventures will reveal that particular time in history. Weaving real history and historical figures into my tale requires that I know what’s happening—and when--so I can use a timeline as a sort of “skeleton beneath the skin” of the novel.

Lots will change from my original outline before I’m through, but I think the outline is my security blanket to prevent my getting lost in the weeds of the “big events” that I usually incorporate into my fictional work.

In addition to your historical fiction novels, you have also written and published nonfiction books. Which genre is tougher to write and why?

CW:  Oh, historical fiction, hands down is the toughest to do well—but it’s also the most fun to write. I was trained as a journalist and reporter and worked for ABC radio and television in LA for eighteen years, so I know the routine of nonfiction pretty well: Accurately answer the questions Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How Much Did It Cost?—and you’re pretty much across the finish line, as I was with Rightsizing Your Life that came out in 2007. In nonfiction, a writer is chasing down facts, which are there to be found—especially thanks to Google, Bing, etc . In fiction, novelists are “chasing and chiseling mist” as my write-father used to say. Fiction is a lot more challenging than nonfiction in my opinion. 

Your family tree is blessed with writers and artists. Were you ever drawn to do anything outside the creative field?

CW:  I remember my father (Harlan Ware) saying, “Darling, the creative life is the only life truly worth living”—and for him, it meant being a writer I guess his words stuck with me, especially given the fact that he, my two uncles, and half my ancestors were published writers of short stories, films, plays, print articles, novels, and even religious tracks! Some families produce a lot of plumbers or lawyers…we ran in wordsmiths. Go figure. However the one area in the creative world I would have loved to master, but couldn’t because I honestly can’t draw a stick figure, is costume design. I love the theatre and can sew pretty darn well, but because I couldn’t draw worth beans, I gave up early. I do make hats for events and local shows, so I’ve had a taste of what that life would have been like. At the book launch party for A Race to Splendor held in the Penthouse Suite of the Fairmont Hotel, I made thirteen of the hats you see here, including my own.

So tell us about your work area . . . do you keep it nice, neat and work oriented only or do you have lots of personal touches and knick-knacks?

CW:  I am saddled with having written the nonfiction work Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most (Springboard Press, 2007) and am known around town as “The Rightsizing Queen.” When I’m working I am messy—but then I have these fits of “getting organized” and “straightening this place out” so I won’t be mortified when people come by. It’s very exhausting….

Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Ciji Ware?

CW:  As a former professional dancer until I was in my early twenties, I’ve always known how essential exercise was, especially if one’s profession requires hours of sitting as writing does. So, three days a week before I write a word, I join my “Walking Group” and we march downhill with our dogs on leash about a mile and a half and stop for coffee at a wonderful place called Poggio’s. Then, if we’re really good, we go the long way home and trudge along San Francisco Bay and then up a steep hill home—another mile and a half. I get to my desk by about 9:45 and work until lunch, around one. Then I get back at it around 2:30 and go until “teatime” at 4. After that, I work until 5:30 when the news comes on. I also take a stretch yoga class and swim, maybe once a week in an indoor pool with my husband, who swims three times a week. At night, I watch a lot of BBC historical series via Netflix, or we head across the Golden Gate Bridge to go to a million and one great events going on in “The City.”

Since our child is an adult, now married, and about to become a father, my husband and I quintessential “empty nesters” now. Our time is much more our own than it was in years past.

Are you working on a project now?

CW:  I guess you could say I’m in the “noodling phase”…. mulling over which of several projects I’d like to do. My sister-in-law who is a producer in LA wants me to write the screenplay for my paranormal/historical novel A Cottage by the Sea. I’ve written two (not produced, alas) before this, so I’m raring to go—but since I’m a working writer who pays her light bills from her work, I may have to do another project first, or at the same time. Stay tuned…

If you had the ability to time travel to one period in time, what era would you choose and why?

CW:  That’s hard to answer because, having researched the 18th, 19th, and now early 20th centuries for my work, I have a less romantic view of those eras…especially when it comes to how women were treated. Until my most recent novel, I was an 18th century gal, even to the point of dressing like Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon, the heroine of my first novel, Island of the Swans. However, casting that aside, I think I’m most drawn these days to the early twentieth century--the era I wrote about in A Race to Splendor--through the period between World War I and II. It was an exciting time, full of change regarding the rights and roles of women. Plus, it felt great getting rid of those pesky corsets, and besides, who doesn’t like doing the Charleston?

And lastly, what one word would you use to describe A Race to Splendor?

CW:  Compelling—I hope!

Thank you so much, Ciji, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with A Race to Splendor!

So, readers, what do you think?  What era would you choose to travel to?  Do you agree with Ciji or would you go further back in time?

April 18, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: April 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting during the month of April.

This is the goody I received last week:

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard: A Tale of Tide & Prejudice by Belinda Roberts from Sourcebooks for review


SYNOPSIS:  Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard replaces ballgowns with bikinis, country mansions with luxury yachts and the militia with a fiercely competetive squad of local lifeguards...

The Bennet family is enjoying their seaside home in Salcombe when Mrs. Bennet hears that the nearby magnificent villa Netherpollock has been taken by a young man of great fortune. She is determined that one of her daughters will go out with him, until Mr. Darcy glides into the harbour on his yacht and she decides he would be the better catch.

Publication Date:  June 2011

What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?



Author Interview: AMANDA GRANGE

Today I am pleased to welcome Amanda Grange, author of the newly published Wickham's Diary, a look at Pride and Prejudice's bad boy before meeting the Bennet girls, to Psychotic State Book Reviews. She has most kindly answered some questions about her new book, stepping into Jane Austen's literary shoes and who is the best Wickham. 

Hi Amanda!  Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews.  You are quite revered in the Austen-inspired fiction world for your “diary” series of characters like Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Colonel Brandon. What made you decide to turn your focus to Wickham?

AG:  I´ve always had a sneaking liking for Wickham, in fact when I first read Pride and Prejudice (a long time ago now!) I spent the first half of the book thinking that Wickham was the hero. And he could so easily have been a hero. He was handsome, charming and he had a good life handed to him on a plate in the form of a wealthy Darcy living. But instead of accepting this, he bit the hand that fed him and betrayed the Darcys in the most infamous manner by trying to run off with Georgiana. That was an interesting turnabout for me as a reader, and irresistible for me as a writer.

By writing Wickham’s Diary, did you hope to shed some sympathy on the Pride and Prejudice bad boy or were you hoping to explain the impetus behind his actions that readers weren’t privy to?

AG:  I was really writing my version of Wickham and his journey from Darcy´s "companion of my youth" to Darcy´s greatest enemy. I was intrigued by his childhood, with a respectable father and an extravagant mother. In fact, as Wickham´s Diary is a prequel to Pride and Prejudice, and written in the short novella form, I focused on his childhood and his young adulthood, tracing his descent from indulged boy to rascally man.

Did you feel a heightened sense of responsibility or expectation by taking on the beloved Jane Austen’s characters in Wickham’s Diary and other Austen-inspired works?

AG:  Yes, I´ve always felt a responsibility to Jane Austen when writing the diaries. I stick closely to her plots and characters, but I turn them round and look at them from a different angle, going behind the scenes, so to speak. In contrast, I went off at a tangent in Mr Darcy, Vampyre, which is my paranormal sequel to Pride and Prejudice. There, I changed the characters and put them into the mould of an early nineteenth century Gothic novel, the sort of book that Jane Austen would have been familiar with as a reader. It was a lot of fun to write, but it takes a lot of liberties. I just hope Jane will forgive me!

So far as your series goes, and I know you have an upcoming book on Henry Tilney as well, what has been your favorite character to diary-ize?

AG:  That´s really hard to say, because I like the one I´m writing at the moment the best. But having now finished them, I think I would have to go for Colonel Brandon. He comes over as such a dull man in Sense and Sensibility, and I know a lot of readers don´t like him, so it was very satisfying for me to flesh out his backstory. Jane Austen herself tells us his history, but in just a few paragraphs, and I turn it into half the book in Colonel Brandon´s Diary. I know that Colonel Brandon´s Diary is one of readers´ favourites, too.

Any particular reason that you have chosen to focus on Jane Austen’s male characters versus the females?

AG:  The females already have a voice in the original novels, as they are told from the female point of view, so I wanted to give the men a chance to speak. Who wouldn´t want to know what Mr Darcy was thinking when he made that disastrous first proposal, or what Captain Wentworth thought when Anne broke off their engagement?

Before you began your “diary” series, you wrote historical romances. What drove you to change your writing style and why did you choose to write “diary” style?

AG:  It was really an accident. I was reading Pride and Prejudice again and I thought, this is so modern I´m not surprised it´s still so popular. The only thing it doesn´t have is sections from the hero´s point of view. So I started writing them. I got engrossed and the result was Mr Darcy´s Diary. I liked doing it so much, I did it again, and then I couldn´t stop! As to why I wrote in diary style, it was a happy accident. It just felt right because it gave readers a `you are there´feeling which I really liked. And which, fortunately, readers really like!

How much research goes into writing a Regency style or era book?

AG:  An awful lot to begin with. I had to research the clothes, houses, furniture, modes of transport, in fact everything about everyday life. Then I had to research the customs etc. But now I´m very familiar with the world and I have stacks of notes to turn to if I get stuck, so I don´t need to do a great deal of research for new books.

Do you prefer to outline your books from start to finish or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of gal who writes what comes to her?

AG:  I plan the diaries meticulously because I have to work out the timeline and of course I have to stick to all the events in the original novel. It´s a time consuming and complicated process. But when it comes to my historical romances I´m more of a pantser! They´re all now being reissued as ebooks and on Kindle and the Nook, if anyone wants to give them a try!

Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Amanda Grange?

AG:  There´s no such thing as a normal day for me. If I´m starting a new book I tend to write for ten or twelve hours a day, interspersed with boring things like housework. If I´m in the middle of a book I usually don´t spend so much time writing, but I spend quite a bit of time thinking or working out difficult bits of the plot. Then, when a book´s nearing completing I´m usually at the computer all hours I´m awake.

Are you working on a project now?

AG:  I´m just reading the proofs for a short story which will appear in October, in an anthology called Jane Austen Made Me Do It. The story is about Mr Bennet´s courtship of Mrs Bennet.

Personal favorites . . . As Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen? As Elizabeth Bennett, Jennifer Ehle or Keira Knightley? As Emma, Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Beckinsale? As Wickham, Adrian Lukas or Rupert Friend?

AG:  As Mr Darcy, David Rintoul! He was Darcy in the first TV adaptation I saw, and my love for him sticks! As Elizabeth I would also have to choose Elizabeth Garvie, who played opposite David Rintoul. As Emma, I love Gwyneth Paltrow, I thought she was perfect. And as Wickham, Rupert Friend.

You have one hour to spend with Jane Austen. What would you do?

AG:  I would like to say, indulge in witty conversation, but I would probably be star struck and babble incoherently.

And lastly, what one word would you use to describe Wickham’s Diary?

AG:  Fun!

Thank you so much, Amanda, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with Wickham's Diary and your future projects!

AG:  Thanks for inviting me!

WICKHAM'S DIARY BY AMANDA GRANGE - IN STORES APRIL 2011

This prequel to Pride and Prejudice begins with George Wickham at age 12, handsome and charming but also acutely aware that his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is rich, whilst he is poor. His mother encourages him to exercise his charm on the young Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh in the hopes of establishing a stable of wealthy social connections.

At university, Darcy and Wickham grow apart. Wickham is always drinking and wenching, whilst Darcy, who apparently has everything, is looking for something he cannot find. Wickham runs through the money Darcy gives him and then takes up with the scandalous Belle, a woman after Wickham's own greedy, black heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire and spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She has had eighteen novels published, including six Jane Austen retellings which look at events from the heroes' points of view.

Woman said of Mr Darcy's Diary: "Lots of fun, this is the tale behind the alpha male," whilst The Washington Post called Mr Knightley's Diary "affectionate". The Historical Novels Review made Captain Wentworth's Diary an Editors' Choice, remarking, "Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula." Austenblog declared that Colonel Brandon's Diary was "the best book yet in her series of heroes' diaries." Her paranormal sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy, Vampyre, was nominated for the Jane Austen Awards.

Her books are on sale in the Jane Austen Centre, Bath, and the Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton, as well as regular book outlets. Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire.

April 6, 2011

Book Review: ONLY MR. DARCY WILL DO by Kara Louise

http://thebookbuff.blogspot.com/p/jane-austen-is-my-homegirl-reading.html


BOOK DESCRIPTION:  In this fresh and original retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet’s greatest fear comes to pass — Longbourn is entailed to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth finds work as a governess in London, widening the social divide between her and Mr. Darcy and making it more difficult than ever for them to find their way to each other...




 
Jane Austen retellings and sequels are a hot commodity but it's not easy to step into Ms. Austen's literary shoes.  Author Kara Louise does so seamlessly and with the beautiful and romantice Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, solidifies her position on my list of "Must Read" authors. 
 
Ms. Louise takes Jane Austen's familiar and beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice and transports the reader to the time after Mr. Darcy makes his first, failed proposal to Elizabeth and before she makes her trip to Pemberley with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner.  In this retelling, Mr. Bennet has unexpectedly died, leaving Mrs. Bennet and her daughters to the mercy of her family, as the Longbourne estate is now entailed to Mr. and Mrs. Collins.  Jane and Elizabeth are now governesses in London while Mrs. Bennet, Mary, Kitty and Lydia are living with Mrs. Bennet's sister and her family in Meryton. 
 
Despite her now reduced social standing, Ms. Louise's Elizabeth retains her sparkle, her wit and the wonderful verve that Ms. Austen originally bestowed upon her.  Jane, similarly, is as sweet and even tempered while silently pining away for Mr. Bingley.  Lizzy, too, is having her own pains as she regrets turning down Mr. Darcy's proposal and, worse, she is forced to confront her decision as her employer, the Willstone family, is acquainted with Mr. Darcy and invited to spend part of the summer as his guests at Pemberley.
 
The interactions between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are the very best sections of this lovely and lively book.  Their initial interaction in Mr. Darcy's private study at Pemberley is awkwardly sweet and leaves the reader aching for more.  Their veiled insinuations and witty interchanges during their chess match, in full view and hearing of other guests, is clever and great fun to read. 
 
While Miss Bingley is not present in this retelling, and only mentioned in passing, Ms. Louise brings on a new character as a rival for Mr. Darcy - - Mrs. Willstone's younger sister Rosalyn, who has the social standing to catch Mr. Darcy's eye and aims to do just that.  And unfortunately for Elizabeth, an unknowing Rosalyn solicits her help to win the supposedly aloof Mr. Darcy's heart.   
 
My own heart broke for Elizabeth, as Ms. Louise so adeptly made her hurt, sadness and longing radiate off each page, as each confessional session with Rosalyn made any chance of a future with Mr. Darcy seem more unlikely. 
 
I found myself completely engrossed in this story, which was incredibly romantic.  And while the conclusion was wonderfully rewarding and sure to satisfy any Jane Austen lover, I was sad to close the book and leave the story behind.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book to any lover of Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and/or heart-thumping romances.  You will not be disappointed.  Beware though, you will become a fan of Kara Louise and your wallet may suffer under the requirement of purchasing all of her books. 

Only Mr. Darcy Will Do is is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Kara Louise, please visit her website.  For a recent guest post by author Kara Louise at Psychotic State Book Reviews, please go here


Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

This book qualifies toward my JANE AUSTEN IS MY HOMEGIRL READING CHALLENGE.

April 4, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: April 4, 2011

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting during the month of April.

These are the goodies I received last week:

Life After Forty by Dora Heldt from Amazon Vine for review

SYNOPSIS:  When Christine’s husband of ten years dumps her over the phone while she watches a Hugh Grant film she is sent spinning on a cathartic, self-medicated journey to the land of self-acceptance and self-reliance. Surrounded by her sister and a strong support group of friends, Christine learns how to deal with the horrors of dating, finding new appliances, and the exhilarating feeling of shopping without consequence.

An uproarious look at the suddenly single life of a divorcee, Dora Heldt’s first book to appear in English captures the zeitgeist of the new millennium with searing insight while never deigning to take itself too seriously. Sparkling dialogue and unforgettable characters create a vibrant world of sardonic, take-no-prisoners women who hold their own in a world geared toward acceptance of their younger selves. Not since Bridget Jones’ Diary or Sex in the City has anything like Life After Forty so accurately and thoroughly expressed the modern female point of view with such startling clarity.

Publication Date:  April 19, 2011

My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park by Cindy Jones from Amazon Vine for review

SYNOPSIS:  Lily has squeezed herself into undersized relationships all her life, hoping one might grow as large as those found in the Jane Austen novels she loves. But lately her world is running out of places for her to fit. So when her bookish friend invites her to spend the summer at a Jane Austen literary festival in England, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself.

There, among the rich, promising world of Mansfield Park reenactments, Lily finds people whose longing to live in a novel equals her own. But real-life problems have a way of following you wherever you go, and Lily's accompany her to England. Unless she can change her ways, she could face the fate of so many of Miss Austen's characters, destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

My Jane Austen Summer explores how we fall in love, how we come to know ourselves better, and how it might be possible to change and be happier in the real world.

Publication Date:  March 29, 2011



What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?