Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Fair Game

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega - Book 3) by Patricia Briggs

Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: Hardcover, 304pp
ISBN-13: 978-0441020034
ISBN: 0441020038

(Received for an honest review from Ace Hardcover)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Patricia Briggs on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the series: Cry Wolf (2008), Hunting Ground (2009), Fair Game (2012)

CoverArt: Click the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Fair Game


Patricia Briggs, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson novels, "always enchants her readers." (Lynn Viehl, New York Times bestselling author) Now her Alpha and Omega series-set in a world of shifting shapes, loyalty, and passion- brings werewolves out of the darkness and into a society where fear and prejudice could make the hunters prey...

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can't afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father's dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack's help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer's sights...


Fair Game is the third book in the Alpha and Omega series, an offshoot of the Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs. Briggs brings a lot to the table with this book, including a great crime based plot and characters that leap off the page. Fans have had to wait a very long time for this addition to the series and they won't be disappointed. Briggs turns out an excellent Urban Fantasy title and proves yet again why her writing is so popular. A can't miss for Urban Fantasy fans and supernatural enthusiasts.  

Patricia Briggs has a way with characters. I think my favorite part of her writing is her character development and that's saying a lot because I really, really like this entire series, as well as, the Mercy Thompson series. Anna has been through a lot, she was once a victim but proves she never will be again. In book three of this series, readers will see the growth that Anna has made and how Charles's love has really transformed her. She has a very strong voice, but it's kind and gentle. The way she truly cares for Charles is both sensual and honest.

Charles is the epitome of the big bag wolf. He is alpha through and through. He is the family enforcer and he has had to do a lot of things that have changed him. He is haunted by the fact that he has had to destroy other werewolves who have come against them. He has a few ghosts and he is having a hard time dealing with them. The large part of this book deals with his journey to freeing himself from guilt. It was nice to see him as vulnerable. He needed to lean on Anna a little more in this one and let her strength boost his own. I liked the depth of their caring for each other, it feel real and authentic.

The plot for this one is crime based. There is a serial killer on the loose in Boston and Bran sends Anna and Charles to help shed some light on the investigation. What they end up finding out is that the serial killer isn't targeting humans. He's targeting werewolves and Fae. The plot is very engaging and it's nice to see Charles and Anna out of their element a little bit. Briggs really does some exceptional characterization with her Fae characters. Being of Scottish descent where the Fae are often a part of legend and folklore, I always find it interesting to see how authors approach these majestic characters and I think Briggs really has done her homework. Her Fae characters are engaging, enchanting and different from the normal characterizations found in most Urban Fantasy titles.

If you are an Urban Fantasy fan, this is a series you can't afford to miss. It's very entertaining. The pace is smooth and fast. The characters are exceptional and Briggs is so good at writing atmospheric books that really resonate with readers. She knows how to set a scene, when to let it go and what the reader wants to hear. I loved this one!

Fair Game is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Patty is a prevarication professional. She lies for a living, telling whoppers and fibs so outrageous that people pay her to fib some more. Her only concession to honesty is that she tells people she's lying to them. And that is what separates a fiction author from a politician.

Patty was born in Butte, Montana, back in 1965. If you're good at math, you'll have deduced that she's currently twenty-nine. In fact, she's been twenty-nine for a while and has no intention of getting any older. Fiction authors don't obey the laws of space and time, they invent them. Don't argue, or she'll make up a dragon right behind you . . .

Patty writes writes traditional and urban fantasy, mostly novels. In her stories, there really ARE things that go bump in the night, magic is real, and sometimes the good guys actually win.
Her first book, Masques, was published back in 1993, and she's produced roughly one book each year since then. She loves to play with her imaginary friends, and meeting with readers who know her imaginary friends is a treat. Her biggest complaint with writing is that she has far more ideas for stories than time to write them.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Fair Game by Patricia Briggs.

~ You must be a GFC follower or an E-mail subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST April 14th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on this post, not the form.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review and Giveaway: Due or Die

Due or Die (Library Lover's Mystery - Book 2) by Jenn McKinlay

Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 304pp
ISBN-13: 978-0425246689
ISBN: 042524668X

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Jenn McKinlay on the WEB: website, facebook

Books in the series: Books Can Be Deceiving (2011), Due or Die (2012), Book, Line and Sinker (coming in 2012)

CoverArt: Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Due or Die (Amazon Look Inside Feature)


What is the original meaning of the word clue? *

Answering trick reference questions like this one is more than enough excitement for library director Lindsay Norris. That is, until another murder is committed in her cozy hometown of Briar Creek. Connecticut, and the questions of who did it must be answered before someone else is checked out - for good.

Carrie Rushton, the president of the Friends of the Library, has been accused of murdering her husband. The evidence is stacking up against Carrie, but neither Lindsay nor the Briar Creek crafternoon club is buying it. 

When a nor'easter buries the small coastal town, the police are too busy digging out the locals to investigate the murder. With the help of her crafternoon friends and an abandoned puppy the named Heathcliff, Lindsay has to solve the question of who murdered Mr. Rushton before the killer closes the book on Carrie...

* a ball of yarn or thread


Jenn McKinlay continues her Library Lover's Mystery series, with the second book, Due or Die. McKinlay's enchanting characters and New England coastal town setting make this one of the best up and coming cozy mystery series'. McKinlay is not stranger to the cozy world having seen success with her Cupcake Bakery series, but this one will hit the spot with readers and book lovers, with a librarian lead character and a sidekick straight out of a classic novel.

I've read several Jenn McKinlay books and I'll have to say this one is among my favorites. The Library Lover's series will definitely strike a cord with readers, much like anything involving books usually does. Set in the Briar Creek Library, Due or Die centers heavily on the happening in and about the library and a small coastal New England town in Connecticut. Main character Lindsay is the head librarian and finds herself dealing with all sorts of issues including murder.

Lindsay is one of my fav's. She is very no-nonsense and doesn't pull any punches. What you see is what you get with her and I like that in a person. She doesn't beat around the bush and she runs the library accordingly. When she finds herself in the middle of another murder mystery she takes it in stride and knows that she has to prove her friend Carrie's innocence. I liked the fact that the author shows Lindsay as capable and inquisitive. She gets herself into some typical cozies messes including a nor'easter that threatens to take her out.

One of the best additions to the second book in the series, is the new library puppy, Heathcliff. I loved Wuthering Heights as many people do and I liked the homage to the book, by naming the puppy after the main character. Heathcliff's story reminds me of Dewey the Library cat and I think having a library mascot is a perfect idea. Heathcliff added a lot of comic relief to the story and just one of those comforting little touches that make a book special.

Something that I enjoy about most cozies is the special features provided at the back of the book. Often times if there are recipes in the back, I usually try one or two so I can mention it in my review. This time however, I was still in the office and just didn't have the time, but the recipes look very tasty. There is also a crochet pattern for crafters. A reading group guide for the classic, Wuthering Heights, definitely a nice touch and a preview of the next book in the series. I always enjoy those because it kind of whets the appetite for what's to come.

This is a great series. There are a lot of cool extra features. The characters are a lot of fun to read about and the plot and mystery is somewhat unpredictable where the motive is concerned. Definitely a series for the book lover and the crafter.

Due or Die is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

The hardest decision Jenn McKinlay was what to major in during college. Then she discovered the sanctuary of the library and library science - a major that allowed her to study all the subjects. She loves working as a library. After all, what other occupation allows you to research the ethnobotanical properties of agave, perform a puppet show for twenty wiggly toddlers, and try to answer why the rabbit's foot is considered lucky, all in the same day? Jenn is the author of The Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, in a house that is overrun with books, pets, kids, and her husband's guitars.


The Publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay.

~ You must be a GFC follower or E-mail subscriber to participate
~ US addresses only
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST April 14th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on this post, not the form.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Hindsight

Hindsight (Gods of Fate - Book 3) by Sherry D. Ficklin

Publication Date: February 6, 2012
Publisher: Dragonfly Publishing
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: Paperback, 162pp
ISBN-13: 978-1936381388
ISBN: 1936381389

(Received for an honest review from the author)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Sherry D. Ficklin on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the series: Foresight (2010), Second Sight (2011), Hindsight (2012)

CoverArt: Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Hindsight


On her own for the first time, Grace has come into her full powers as an immortal and has taken up the mantle offered by her father, Prometheus. 

Leaving behind everything and everyone she loves, Grace has become a pawn in a dangerous game that threatens to undo a centuries old truce between the Gods and the Fae. 

On the brink of war Grace must choose to stand either with Chris and Phoenix of the Fae or with her father and the rest of the immortal Olympian Gods. Can Grace find a way to repair the damage that's been done? Or will she become the Harbinger that the Gods of Fate predicted?


Hindsight is the third book in the Gods of Fate, young adult fantasy series by Sherry D. Ficklin. Book three continues the story of Grace Archer, the daughter of Prometheus. Readers are treated to the return of well loved characters in this one, as well as, a satisfying conclusion to the series. Ficklin is at her best in this novel!

The final book in the Gods of Fate series, Hindsight is everything readers expect from Sherry Ficklin. Believable, realistic charcters, adventure, issues that young adults face on a daily basis, and most of all quaility, entertaining writing. I have reviewed all three of the books in this series, and Hindsight is definitely my favorite, which is saying a lot.

Ficklin has always excelled at creating characters that young adult readers can identify with. Grace is just like any other girl, except for the fact that she has some nifty immortal powers. She still faces the same things other girls face, from young love to problems with her parents. Where the changes come in, is the fact that she's in the middle of a war between the Olympian Gods and the Fae and she is learning a lot about sacrifice, the hard way. What would you be willing to sacrifice for love?

This is a book about choices. Knowing what's important to you and being willing to stand up for what you believe is right. I thought Ficklin did a fantastic job of bringing these issues to the forefront, while still keeping the book light and entertaining. I have always loved mythology and this series just seems to hit the right spot for me. Though it is a young adult book I'm sure there are other adults like myself who enjoy this kind of book. It is certainly suitable for all ages.

I highly recommend this series, and this book in particular. Ficklin is a write to keep an eye on, she's one of the up and coming!

Hindsight is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Sherry D. Ficklin can often be found haunting the racks at her local bookstore with a hot chocolate in one hand and a stack of books in the other. A former military brat and later a military wife, she grew up all over the country. She now lives in Colorado with her husband, four children, two dogs, and an ever fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. Sherry is the author of The Gods of Fate young adult fantasy series, which includes: Foresight (Book I), Second Sight (Book II), and Hindsight (Book III). 


The author is sponsoring a giveaway for a full set of the Gods of Fate series, Foresight, Second Sight and Hindsight in e-book format to one winner from Debbie's Book Bag!

~ You must be a GFC follower or E-mail subscriber to participate.
~ This giveaway is International!
~ The deadline to enter this giveway is Midnight EST April 13th.

1. Please leave a question or comment for Sherry on this post, not the form.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Bungalow

Bungalow by Sarah Jio

Publication Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Historical Romance, World War II
Pages: Paperback, 320pp
ISBN-13: 978-0452297678
ISBN: 0452297672

(Received for an honest review from Plume)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Sarah Jio on the WEB: website, blog, facebook

Excerpt from Bungalow


A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting.

In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne's determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.


Sarah Jio's sophomore effort, The Bungalow, lives up the acclaim of her debut novel, The Violets of March. The Bungalow is an atmospheric novel set in 1942 on the island of Bora Bora, during World War II. Jio continues to astound readers with her smooth elegant style and unforgettable characters. Jio has a knack for setting the scene and allowing the reader to be a part of the action. This is a romance with a historical setting that will leave readers entertained and satisfied.

Sarah Jio brings readers a very passionate and intense story of love. Anne Calloway is having doubts about her upcoming marriage. When she sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on Bora Bora she has no idea that she will fall in love with another man. Anne was such a great character. She is like most young women, she wants a love that means something, that has depth and with a man who is crazy about her, and she just doesn't have that with her fiancee. I loved the fact that she took a risk and decided to go to Bora Bora in the first place. I don't think she was running away, she was just following her heart. Jio has created a character that will resonate with female readers. We can understand Anne and that makes us like her even more.

Westry is the epitome of a hero. He is a soldier. He's strong and capable, but he also has a vulnerable side. He is willing to let Anne into his life and his heart. He doesn't seem to have any reservations about their friendship and eventually their love. I thought Jio did a good job making him accessible to the reader. He was a bit mysterious and had a side to him that was a bit shadowed. And as the story played out and Anne is sent back to the states and Westry is redeployed, it kind of makes sense.

These two characters were passionate about everything they did, whether it was remodeling and fixing up the bungalow or in their relationship. They didn't hold back and sometimes I think that's the key to a great love story. The plot proves this out, by showing Anne in her later years still thinking about what happened and wondering about a man she has loved for over seventy years. It's a timeless love story that will stay in the hearts of readers even after they turn the last page. It's a book you think about days or months later when you are thinking about love.

Jio does a fantastic job with this novel. It's very atmopsheric in the sense that there is a certain feeling that prevades the book. One of longing and passion. It's just one of those books that gets under your skin. I loved the setting. Jio brings Bora Bora to life like I've never seen it. I've always known it was an island in the Pacific, but I didn't know any details about it. I enjoyed learning about it and felt like Jio had a real grasp of setting and attention to the right details. A great second book!

Bungalow is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Sarah Jio is the health and fitness blogger for, and her articles have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine and Real Simple, among other publications. She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children.

Review: Needle in the Blood

Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower

Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 544pp
ISBN-13: 978-1402265914
ISBN: 1402265913

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Landmark)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Sarah Bower on the WEB: website

Excerpt from Needle in the Blood (Amazon Look Inside Feature)


His lust for power gave him everything. But it might cost him the love of his life.

The Bishop hired her for a simple job: embroider a tapestry. It is an enormous work, a cloth trophy of the conquest of England. But her skill with a needle and thread is legendary. It would be uncomplicated.

She plans to kill him as soon as she gets the chance. He and his brother, William the Conqueror, murdered her King and destroyed her world. Revenge, pure and clean. It would be simple.

But neither planned to fall desperately in love. As the two become hopelessly entangled, friends become enemies, enemies become lovers, and nothing in life—or the tapestry—is what it seems. An unlikely love story born of passion and intensity, crafted by critically acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Bower,The Needle in the Blood is a "story of love, war, and the tangled truth of England's birth."


The Needle in the Blood by British author Sarah Bower takes readers back in time to the mid-eleventh century. William the Conqueror has just won control of England and his half brother Bishop Odo is looking for a way to commemorate the victory. Bower uses rich historical detail, vivid imagery and skillful research to turn out a love story with political and emotional overtones. Bower's novel is both educational and entertaining.

Historical fiction is often considered boring by some readers, because of the complicated historical references and the less than adventurous plots. Being a former history major, there is just something about this genre that hits the spot for me. I enjoy books that portray historical characters and give some insight into how these real life people may have lived and felt. Bower did a fantastic job of bringing the historical characters to life, just as easily as those from her own imagination.

Bower undoubtedly has a very strong work ethic. The sheer amount of research that most likely went into a novel of this magnitude is amazing. Bower showers the reader with rich period detail and descriptions of everything from the straw pallets and mud floors to sumptuous feasts and some very steamy romantic moments. Her history accuracy is unbelievable and her imagery is impressive in and of itself. But having both in one novel is hard to come by.

Bower's plot was quite ingenious. The Bayeux Tapestry really existed and in one particular scene, Bishop Odo, who really lived is seen stroking the face of a beautiful woman. This is perhaps the story behind the story that Sarah Bower used to create this novel. I liked the fact that both Odo and Gytha had totally different plans for each other. Odo only wanted her to embroider a masterpiece, while Gytha had revenge on her mind. I liked the way the author was able to weave the love story into the fabric of history. The political events of the day, the tension and turmoil are evident in the writing, but there is also that underlying thread of passion.

I was somewhat surprised that the author got a little vulgar with this one. The wording and descriptions of the sex scenes were totally unexpected. I think of historical fiction as being straight laced and confined to some extent. Not Sarah Bower's version. I am still undecided as to how I feel about this aspect of the book. I was taken aback to say the least. The scenes get a bit long and drawn out as compared to other scenes of this kind on historical fiction. It just made me a little uncomfortable. So keep that in mind as you read. It' s not a light read, nor is it for the young reader. 

The Needle in the Blood is very intriguing and delves into some serious situations, but first and foremost it really is a love story, even though is set in history. I liked this one quite well. 

Needle in the Blood is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Sarah Bower is a literature development officer for Creative Arts East. She teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was UK editor of the Historical Novels Review for two years until the beginning of 2006, when she stepped down to make more time for her own writing. She is the author of the forthcoming novel The Needle in the Blood.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: Glow

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Publication Date: March 15, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre:Historical fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 325pp
ISBN-13: 978-0670023318
ISBN: 0670023310

(Received for an honest review from Viking)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Jessica Maria Tucelli on the WEB: website, facebook

Excerpt from Glow


In the autumn of 1941, Amelia J. McGee, a young woman of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent, and an outspoken pamphleteer for the NAACP, hastily sends her daughter, Ella, alone on a bus home to Georgia in the middle of the night - a desperate measure that proves calamitous when the child encounters two drifters and is left for dead on the side of the road.

Ella awakens in the homestead of Willie Mae Cotton, a root doctor and former slave, and her partner, Mary-Mary Freeborn, tucked deep in the Takatoka Forest. As Ella heals, the secrets of her lineage are revealed.

Shot through with Cherokee lore and hoodoo conjuring, Glow transports us from Washington D.C., on the brink of World War II to the Blue Ridge frontier of 1836, from the parlors of antebellum manses to the plantation kitchens where girls are raised by women who stand in as mothers. As the land with all its promise and turmoil passes from one generation to the next, Ella's ancestral home turns from safe haven to mayhem and back again.

Jessica Maria Tuccelli reveals deep insight into individual acts that can transform a community and the ties that bind people together across immeasurable hardships and distances. Illuminating the tragedy of human frailty, the vitality of friendship and hope, and the fiercest of all bonds - mother love - the voices of Glow transcend their history with grace and splendor. 


Debut author Jessica Maria Tuccelli brings readers a tale spanning over 100 years. Glow, is a novel set in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia during the time between the Civil War and World War II. Tuccelli tackles some big issues including slavery and racial tensions. Her narrative style is very different and the point of view shifts between several characters, making this novel unique, but somewhat complicated. Tuccelli also introduces some super natural elements that give this novel an elusive and eerie quaility.

Glow is not necessarily a modern day ghost story. There have been few writers who could pull of using a ghost as an actual character in a literary novel, but Tucelli pulls it off well. Sharyn McCrumb, an Appalachian author that is a favorite of mine, is another author who has used this technique to add msytery and a sense of timelessness to her books. Lovelady Belle Young may be a ghost but her presence is defintiely felt in this novel. She appears to two of the main characters in the novel, Amelia and Ella, though many years apart. The parts of the novel that discuss her are almost lyrical. I enjoyed that part of the story, though in some cases I felt it didn't have a huge bearing on the outcome.

Most of Glow centers around the racial tensions in the South. Tuccelli uses the view points of several characters from mixed racial backgrounds including Native American, African American, and Scotch-Irish descent to bring out the information she wants the readers to have. The shifting viewpoints were somewhat confusing, just because of the sheer number of them and the fact that some voices are not heard for long periods of the book. However, I thought Tucelli really did well, writing each character. Their voices are distinct and different, from their dialog, to the pitch and cadence of their speech. The changes in view point just seemed a bit too much at times.

Glow follows the bloodline of Solomon Bounds and his descendants from the time of slavery all the way to World War II. It's amazing to me how much things have changed since that time and yet how much things are the same. We are still fighting some of the same battles that these characters were faced with, even in light having the first black president in the White House. Anyone who says that racial tension is not an issue anymore, has their head in the sand. And I am glad that there are books like Glow to help us remember.

There are a lot of great things about this book. The plot is intricate and well written. The historical details are well researched and the atmosphere is poignant and full of mysticism. Overall I liked it a lot. The changing view points were a small draw back but nothing that the story itself didn't make the reader overlook. I loved the characters, the lyrical quaility of the prose and the fact that the author still managed to give the novel some humor and a overall positive outlook. Great first effort! I'm looking forward to more from Tuccelli.

Glow is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Jessica Maria Tuccelli spent three summers trekking through northeastern Georgia, soaking up its ghost stories and folklore. A graduate of MIT with a degree in anthropology, she lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. Glow is her first novel.

Q & A and a Giveaway: Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Today I am featuring a Q & A session with debut author, Jessica Maria Tucelli. Jessica's book, Glow is novel that spans six generations of one family from the Applachian South. It delves into issues concerning racism, mysticism and family secrets. Readers will find it gripping and full of historical detail. The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Glow, see details at the end of the post.

Q: GLOW is steeped in the geography and folklore of northeast Georgia and Southern Appalachia, yet you were raised in New York City.  Why did you decide to set your novel in this region, and how did you come to learn about this part of the world?

A: It was an adventure: I’d written the first chapter of GLOW, but I didn’t yet have a setting. The world of GLOW is an unconventional one, meaning ghosts inhabit the landscape just as easily as living beings, sometimes the two even being interchangeable. I needed an environment that could support and evoke that. My husband and I drove from Manhattan down the east coast, and when we arrived in Northeastern Georgia, I knew I had found the ideal surroundings for my story. The forest was wet and lush and fertile with spooky pockets of light and dark, and exotic flowers the likes of which I’d never seen before in the United States. There were mountains, hidden coves, cataracts, and cavernous gorges, the perfect playground for my characters, the perfect place to befriend a ghost. The confluence and clash of cultures lured me as well—Cherokee, African-American, Scotch-Irish—with such deep-rooted histories, yet still vibrantly alive.

Q: In GLOW, you write mainly in the voices of people of color (both African-American and Native American). Is it challenging to write characters that are culturally and ethnically so different from you?  What inspired you to do so?

A: I don’t think of myself as writing in the voices of “people of color.” I write the voices of people. I write in the voice of a character who exists in a given time period, grappling with her or his circumstances. And I don’t see myself as different from my characters, which is not to say I am my characters, but they all do come from my imagination.

Inspiration is elusive. I write out of drive and a visceral need to create, a need to understand the human condition, a need to understand others and myself, a need to connect to others in and outside of my community. What infuriates and ignites me is intolerance. My mother is Italian and Catholic and my father was an American Jew, and as a young girl and as a teenager, I was often on the receiving end of racial hatred and violence. At home, I struggled with being a “half and half,” a misfit who did not fit into either parent’s community. In GLOW, two of my main characters are “mixed race,” and struggle with their sense of identity and belonging. Figuring where we fit into society—racially, culturally, sexually, who we are and what we stand for despite preconceived cultural concepts and oppressions—is one of the themes I explore in GLOW.

Q: As you were completing your work on this novel, you gave birth to your first child. Did this impact your view of the story or change your approach to the final stages of the writing process?

A: Polishing certain scenes became physically and unbearably painful because I was no longer seeing through the eyes of the daughters fighting for freedom, but as the mothers with a visceral and instinctual imperative to protect their children from the demons and bullies of the world.

Q: GLOW covers a large span of time—from Andrew Jackson’s expulsion of the Cherokee to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. What kind of research did you do to get a detailed historical understanding of each period?

A: I read the history books one would expect of someone writing a historical fiction. I also read what people were reading at the time: Life Magazine, Harper’s Weekly, cookbooks and newspapers, especially the obituaries; I listened to oral histories and the music of the period, and even went up in a 1929 biplane for my barnstormer scene to get the experience of what that must have been like. But I would say what made it all come alive for me were the people I met in my travels through the Georgia mountains, in particular Robert Murray, who was Appalachian born and raised, who was a living encyclopedia and the curator of the Foxfire Museum in Mountain City, which is dedicated to preserving the traditional folkways of the Southern Appalachian people. He showed me how to hem a hog, gird a tree, make weave rope out of dog hobble, amongst many other skills of simple living. For me it’s not so much about understanding the facts of the period, but connecting to the experience of being in that period, of surviving and thriving under certain conditions and then making it personal.

Q: What would you say is the overriding theme that unites the many different threads of GLOW?

A: Glow takes place over four generations. It begins just prior to the Trail of Tears and ends just before the US entry into World War II. From one holocaust to another, linking two moments in history that people don’t generally consider in one breath. It’s the story of mothers and daughters, misfits, identity, friendships, betrayals, and love. It speaks to the power of companionship. And human connections that prevail against forces of history that no one can escape. At its core, it’s about mother love in the most primitive sense of it, as in one’s primal need for a mother, and also the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her child.

Q: You’re a graduate of MIT. How did you make the leap from that sort of atmosphere to the world of literature?

A: Science is investigation, observation, creativity, and the use of imagination. For me, there is an easy logic in going from MIT to writing. The difference, of course, is that a scientist is working on a new theory of physics, and the writer is working on inventing the physicist who is working on the new theory of physics.

Q. When did you start telling stories?

A: When I was a child, my best friend, Darice, lived miles away. So we wrote each other letters. We pretended we were twins and our parents had sent Darice on holiday to visit a quirky old aunt in Paris. Neither of us had ever been to Paris, but Darice gleaned what she could from the Encyclopedia Britannica while I filled my letters with the antics of our fictitious brother who was busy in our basement blowing up things with his new chemistry set. In this way, Darice and I would be a little less lonely. It was my first foray into storytelling.

For me, it is a most intimate of experiences, sharing my imaginary world with someone. It’s a way of connecting to my fellow human being.

Q: How did you go about crafting such an intricate plot?

A: My background is in film and theatre, and my strength is improvisation, which is the method to my madness, as the saying goes. I basically arose every morning, allowed a voice to come into my head, and wrote down what it had to say. If nothing came, I would pose a question to one of my characters. The key was to leave my desk with the scene unfinished, so that I had something to come back to the next day. My first mentor gave this advice to me, and it fuels my writing engine. It does make for a wild and unbridled first draft, but that kind of freedom is crucial to my process. When I was a little girl, my grandmother took me to the Uffizi in Firenze. As we passed a series of four unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo, the guide told us that Michelangelo believed the sculptures existed within the marble and his job was to reveal them. I like to think of a first draft like that marble, where the narrative is within the draft, and one must actively, thoughtfully, chip away and reveal it.

Q: What was it like writing from not one, but several very unique perspectives?

A: Natural. Prior to writing Glow, I had been working for many years in film and theatre, most recently crafting one-woman shows; so multiple voices came naturally to me. Also, my ear is drawn to the nuances of language. The music, the beauty or ugliness of words, the cadences and tropes—these are my toys and my tools. The challenge for me was writing beyond dialogue. Subtext is the lifeblood of a script, and the actress and her connection to her inner life feed those unsaid words.

Q: Do you have any particular authors or favorite novels that have played a prominent role in your reading life?

A: Most definitely. Toni Morrison for her use of language, her themes of mother love and identity, and her daring with language and the narrative form, especially in the Bluest Eye. Alice Walker for her entire oeuvre. Edward P. Jones for The Known World, one of my favorite novels, a masterpiece in storytelling. I especially enjoy experimental writing, including Finnegan’s Wake, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, most of Gertrude Stein, and all of William Faulkner. For magical realism, Gabriel García Márquez. For the art of detail, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. For her eloquent and powerful short stories, Flannery O’Conner. For economy and potent images, the poets Victoria Redel, Billy Collins and T.S Eliot.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Believe It or Not

Believe It or Not by Tawna Fenske

Publication Date: March , 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Pages: Paperback, 364pp
ISBN-13: 978-1402257186
ISBN: 140225718X

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Tawna Fenske on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Believe It or Not



Numbers never lie, so Violet McGinn found safe haven in the most boring profession she could find. Until her renowned psychic mother lands in the hospital and Violet has to run her business. Now you can have your taxes filed and your aura read, in one convenient location.


Drew Watson is the jaded owner of a local hot spot next door, and doesn't need a single thing except a good crowd to dance to what he's spinning on Saturday. 


The only thing Violet and Drew seem to have in common is that neither believes in that psychic hoo-hah. Except Drew seems to play exactly the right song at exactly the right time. And the way they can't seem to resist each other just can't be a coincidence...


Tawna Fenske brings readers a quirky comtemporary romance with laugh out loud moments and some underlying tender moments that will pull at the heart strings. Fenske's pace is fast and her tone is light. She uses music and psychic abilities interchangably and her characters are real, fallable and easy to relate to. This is a romantic comedy that will have readers in stitches with tons of one-liners and a lot of to think about.

Violet McGinn is trying to live down her spiritually enlightened past. She picks the most boring job she could possibly imagine and moves half way across the country. Everything is going just the way she planned until her mother ends up in the hospital and it's up to Violet to keep her psychic business afloat. I liked Violet, she is determined to get away from her past, yet she is still willing to come back to it to help her mother. She doesn't believe in psychic abilities and thinks she can fake it. She even uses the thumping music from the bar next door to help her keep up the sham. She's resourceful to say the least. She was easy to relate to, she had her quirks and she didn't always do the right thing. I liked that the author made her less than perfect, but still very lovable.

Drew is the male lead in this book. A bar owner, who's club features exotic male dancers on the weekend. Not what you'd expect from a straight guy, but he was good at it. I loved all the musical references that the author adds into the story through Drew's club. Drew himself isn't about to get mixed up with a stuffy accountant. That's not his style. Plus the fact that she's the daughter of his loony psychic neighbor. Not a good sign! If opposites really attract these two certainly fit the pattern. I liked Drew a lot. He was a great lead and his career really added to the plot.

As many of you know, I'm not the biggest fan of contemporary romance. My educational background is in history and I tend to like books set in the past. But everyone once in awhile an updated romance with strike a cord with me. This one did. It hit my funny bone head on. There is so much humor in this one and quirky characters and just a great positive tone, that it was hard to put done. I kept wondering what in the world was going to happen next. It was quite unpredictible and I liked that. I loved the charcters. They were honest and real. Fenske does does a great job of giving the reader a very enjoyable read. And let me tell you, you've got to check out her blog. She is a riot!

I recommend this one to readers who enjoy romantic comedies. It's a thouroughly entertaining read with a mish-mash of fun charcters. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting from a book about male strippers, but I'm glad I went ahead and read it. It's not so over the top as to be considered erotic, but it does have some steamy scenes, including one that has an accident with a stripper pole. Oh My!
Believe It or Not is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Tawna Fenske is a third-generation Oregonian who revels in writing about the quirky little things that define her home state and its residents.

She's the author of the romantic comedy Making Waves and the popular daily blog Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing. a member of Romance Writers of America. Tawna holds a degree in English lit and makes a living pretending she knows something about marketing and corporate communications.

Tawna lives in central Oregon with a menagerie of well-loved (albeit ill behaved) pets, Believe It or Not is her second novel.