Flies by Michael Dickman

Michael Dickman‘s Flies, published in 2011 and a possible candidate for the Indie Lit Awards if it is nominated in September, won the Academy of American Poets James Laughlin Award, which is the only award for a second book of poetry.  The collection is a dark look at family, but also takes a stark look at death and loss.  However, there are lighter moments in the book, like in “Emily Dickinson to the Rescue” (page 21) that was highlighted in the Virtual Poetry Circle.

Beneath the whimsical wordplay and imagery of playgrounds and imaginary friends, there is a deep sense of unrest and yet acceptance of how things have turned out, though the narrator has many regrets.  In “Imaginary Playground” (page 27), the narrator is playing alone with his imaginary friends, but as the scene fills in, it is clear that where there once were trees and places to play, there is concrete and change.  The narrator is nostalgic for those moments, even if they were solitary moments with imaginary friends — wishing there was a way to return to the innocence of childhood and the creativity that period imbued.  “The swing sets/aren’t really/there// . . . On the blacktop/we lie down in each other’s arms/and outline our bodies/in chalk// . . . There are no hiding places anymore//” (page 27-9)

The reading of “Flies” (page 50-4) is slightly different from the printed version in Flies.

Each poem strives to revisit a memory or a loved one and shine a light on their current state, whether that is rotting beneath the ground or in the sky as a star, but these juxtapositions serve to show readers that it is not crystal clear what happens after we die.   The flies come and haunt those that remain behind with memories, regrets, and happiness, but those that die . . . vanish, never to be haunted by the past or present again. The recurring image of flies transforms from something that is friendly to something that is annoying and horrifying.

Translations (page 64-6)

My mother was led into the world
by her teeth

like a bull
into the 

She only ever wanted to be a mother her whole life and nothing else
      not even a human being!

One body turned into 
another body

Pulled by the golden voices of children

A bull 
out of hell

Called out
her teeth out in front of her
her children


First I walk my mother out
into the field
by a leash
by a lifetime
she walks me out
our coats

I brush her hair

Wave the flies away from her eyes

They are my eyes

Who will ride my mother
when we aren't around

Turned from one thing into another until you are a bull standing in
     a field

The field
just beginning
to whistle us


I am led by the mouth
out into the 

Light turning
to water in the early evening
the insects dying
in the cold and 
in the morning

I put on my horse-head

Led by a bit

A lead

My leader is tall and the hair on her forearms is gold

We lower your eyes
into the tall grass
and eat

Dickman is relentless in his long poems with their ever-changing images that repeat and twist. Readers are exposed to the ways in which memories are recalled bit-by-bit and slapped together and rearranged until a full, clear image is presented. At first these lines are confusing, and some readers may step back from the lines, but only by pressing onward will they see the full impact of the memories he taps. Flies by Michael Dickman is a captivating collection that may require greater attention, but the sharp imagery and twists-and-turns will keep readers riveted even as the poems and memories expand over several pages. On a side note, the book cover is very indicative of the memory recall the poet experiences — it is haphazard and vivid.

About the Poet:

Michael Dickman was born and raised in the working-class neighborhood of Lents in Portland, Oregon. His first book, The End of the West, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2009. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The New Republic, and Field, among others. Dickman is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, and the Lannan Foundation. He has worked for years as a cook and has been active recently in the Writers in the Schools program.

This is my 20th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

This is my 37th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Curses and Wishes by Carl Adamshick

Curses and Wishes by Carl Adamshick uses an economy of words to address the harrowing moments of life and the happier moments.  His images are unique and playful, but his subjects are sometimes dark and eerie, like the barren tree with its barely there spinal column of vertebrae on the cover.  From “Even Though” (page 1-3), “I felt the deep bruise of a sentence/and wanted to eat/at the banquet of silence.”  Which are the curses and which are the wishes is left up to the reader, but some poems are clearly laments for those dying in the Holocaust (like the poem “The book of Nelly Sachs“) or lost by other means.

Adamshick clings to the moment, a snatch of time and draws out the undercurrent of meaning, creating a story from the unknown.  Unlike, Whitman, who used nature in his poems to extrapolate wider philosophical realities of transcendentalism, Adamshick’s poems combine industrial elements from street lights to chessboard pieces and cameras to evoke emotion and recognition in the reader, creating an Aha moment.  “The corner utility pole/holds a cone of light/to its mouth// and is screaming/at the pavement.// We are almost here/”  (page 38 from “Almost”)  However, like Whitman, there is a sense of moving beyond, gaining insight into humanity and stretching ourselves further.

Junkyard (page 7)

I never visit my younger self.
Any change I elicit
would be just that: change.
Something different in a world
of differences. A shifting
from memory to dream. Snow
falling in a barrel of rusted
engine parts becoming a day
of lightning and old fallen oak:
one life or another, mine or yours.
This is the last outpost before
things become what they are.
I was eleven when an older self,
the lord of my childhood, appeared
above the chair in my room
splendid and silent like a planet
rotating, spinning in its ellipses,
but, also, unmoving by the headboard
and the one pillow full of feathers.

There is a quiet power in these poems and this slim volume, which leave readers waiting to devour more from Adamshick.  Many of the poems are about change and what it means to be changed and keep moving onward and upward.  However, “Junkyard” raises another question about change — is change always beneficial and new or is it just a reincarnation of something that came before?  Can we really transcend the present and these bodies we inhabit?  Curses and Wishes by Carl Adamshick is a clear winner and would be an excellent candidate for the Indie Lit Awards.  Another one for the Best of List of 2011.

Copyright Jessie Sue Hibbs

About the Poet:

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Carl Adamshick grew up primarily in Harvard, Illinois.

Adamshick currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his partner of many years, Jessie Sue Hibbs.

Curses and Wishes by Carl Adamshick won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and was published by independent press Louisiana State University Press.  It is Adamshick’s first poetry collection; please check out this Oregonian article about his win.  (I received this book as a member of the Academy of American Poets, but not for review.)


This is my 33rd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.



This is my 18th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston (audio)

Aron Ralston, if you are not yet familiar wit his amazing recovery from being trapped in a Utah canyon, reads this abridged edition of his memoir, 127 Hours:  Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  In only five discs, listeners will get lessons in climbing equipment and the actual stamina and skill involved in hiking treacherous terrain out west.  Ralston is a man who often likes to hike and climb alone to commune with nature, but also to be with himself in a way that allows him to just be and assess his own life.

Listeners are walking beside Ralston as he tells his tale, climbing steep canyons with him, and feeling the agony and pain of dehydration, starvation, and major blood loss.  His enthusiasm for the outdoors and climbing are infectious.

127 Hours is a gripping real life tale of a human struggle alone in the wilderness and the enduring nature of hope and humanity.  Ralston’s struggle is immediate and harrowing.  The audio, especially narrated by the actual subject of the tragic event, is mesmerizing and even disturbing in its detail.  Overall, this is one of the best audio books of the year.  It is more than just a story about a man’s struggle and courage, but about what he does following tragedy to change his life and appreciate the friends and family he has.

My husband and I listened to this audio on the commute to and from work.  My husband says the best part of the book is how the narrator describes the process through which he amputates his arm to miss his major veins and nerves until the harder parts are severed, etc.  There is a true sense of how the human spirit seeks ways to keep the body going, and how the body keeps going regardless of moments of weakness in human will.  Ralston explains his plight really well.  Very profound and memorable.

***Thanks to Eco-Libris and the Green Books Campaign for sending us this wonderful prize.***

This is my 61st book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful, Conversations with Phil Griffin

Bon Jovi:  When We Were Beautiful, conversations with Phil Griffin came with a copy of the latest album, The Circle, as part of the Book Blogger Convention auction.

The book is chock full of behind the scenes, on stage, and recording photos, plus interviews with the band members.  Fans of Bon Jovi will be fascinated to learn about the family that is Bon Jovi.  Bon Jovi:  When We Were Beautiful is not only a look at the past, present, and possible future of the band, but also about the dedication and ambition that each member holds in unison for what they have created.

The book is a testament to that dedication and how the band continues to survive throughout the decades as the music scene changes and other bands have fallen out of favor.  The book was autographed by the band, and the book is a nice hefty hardcover.

Another fun fact about the book is that one of our very own blogger friends, Jo-Jo from Jo-Jo Loves to Read!!! is in the book on page 122 in one of the photos from a recent Bon Jovi concert.  As Jo-Jo puts it, “I also have my cell phone open thinking I would take a pic, but it didn’t turn out anyway!  I remember thinking, How in the world did I even consider NOT going to this concert?”  How could she have thought not to go, indeed!

Bon Jovi:  When We Were Beautiful is a great addition to anyone’s coffee table collection of books. One takeaway from the book is that young people interested in becoming famous singers or rock stars should dream big and not just want to be in a famous singer, but go to takelessons and start their journey to be that famous singer. Making dreams come true takes ambition, dedication, and determination.  Fans will surely read it all in one sitting and cherish every page and every photo, and others will simply enjoy perusing through its pages at a leisurely pace getting to know each of the band members one at a time.

This is my 49th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore, read by Cynthia Nixon and John Slattery (audio)

Our Choice:  A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore , which I received as a win from the Green Books Campaign with Eco-Libris, is not what readers will expect.  The foreword is read by Al Gore himself (check out the audio excerpt), but the remainder of the audio is narrated by Cynthia Nixon and John Slattery in alternating chapters.  Many will expect this volume to talk about how to save the planet, but some may mistakenly think that this is a practical guide for the average American.  Upon listening to the audio, however, readers will quickly realize that it is geared at providing larger scale solutions to the climate crisis.  However, it would be wrong to assume this book is only for policymakers, scientists, and other societal players because without support from individuals these initiatives will not come to pass.

Our Choice is a comprehensive look at the most viable solutions available to combat and reverse climate change, and it examines each solution from a variety of perspectives to determine which would be the best investment.  The book is about not only learning to conserve energy, but also about learning to use waste energy to supplant energy needs and make processes more efficient.  From deforestation in developing nations to population growth, Gore discusses many of the pressing issues facing the sustainability of the globe.  Although many of the developed nations have contributed most to the carbon emissions and developing nations find it unfair that they should adhere to caps when they have not had enough time to develop their industries, Gore makes the case that we all live on the same planet and regardless of who caused the most damage the time has passed for the blame game.  It is now time for humans to look beyond nations, cultures, and societies to save our home.

Depending on your level of enthusiasm for environmental issues or affinity for audio books, Our Choice is a deeply informative book about the broader picture of climate change and the possible solutions.  However, readers may find the narration a bit dry at times given the nature of the information provided and may prefer to read this book on their Kindle or in paperback.  Gore’s book is a must have for each American so they can learn about the crisis, make note of the possible solutions available to individuals and those for the broader society, and take action on a grassroots level.  America was built on grassroots activity, and that great tradition should continue.

OK, I’m jumping down from my soapbox.  As a bonus, I would like to do the “green” thing and pass along my copy to another reader.

This giveaway for the audio of Our Choice by Al Gore is international:

1.  Leave a comment about your feelings on the climate crisis.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or spread the word and leave a link on this post.

Deadline is July 4, 2010, at 11:59 PM

City of Refuge by Tom Piazza

I first heard about the City of Refuge by Tom Piazza from Jen at Devourer of Books and Wendy of Caribousmom. I recently received my copy from Jen at Devourer of Books when she was slated to be on That’s How I Blog! hosted by Nicole at Linus’s Blanket.  Unfortunately, it has taken me a while longer to finish this book than I expected, though the book club discussion for Nicole’s show with Jen was an enlightening experience.  OK, enough of all that . . . let’s get to the review.

“New Orleanians knew how to turn deprivation into an asset; they had the best gallows humor going, they danced at funerals, they insisted on prevailing.  They had heard it all before, and most of the time it turned out to be a false alarm.  The regular challenge made them defiant.”  (Page 28)

Tom Piazza’s own experience of being evacuated from New Orleans must have played a significant role in his writing of this novel.  The horror, the grief, the devastation, the hollowness, and a range of other emotions following the 2005 disaster, known as Hurricane Katrina, rips through readers’ hearts and puts them through the wringer alongside SJ, Craig, and their families.

“A block away water bubbling and churning from a submerged, ruptured gas line.  Below him, amid a cataract of smashed weatherboard, face-down in the water, a man, unmoving; his white T-shirt had ridden up his back almost all the way to his shoulder.  A black dog swam by.  Not twenty feet away, the sole of a sneaker stuck out of the water, held up by an ankle attached to an invisible leg, waving slightly, probably snagged on something below the surface. . .”  (Page 139)

SJ and his family live in the Lower Ninth Ward, which was the hardest hit by the hurricane’s storm surge, while Craig and his family live in a different section of New Orleans.  On the surface, both of these families are different from their skin color to where they live and from their education to their jobs, but what they have in common is a deep connection to the city, its culture, and their homes.  Beyond the moral outrage of New Orleanians against the government, insurance companies, and others, which readers will surely have seen on the news or in the papers and magazines, Piazza’s novel weaves a tale of surprising resilience — a common trait in humanity — a will to survive.

“One day he saw something he had seen every day for a month and a half, a loose hinge on the closet door.  He went downstairs to Aaron’s utility room, rummaged around and found a Phillips head screwdriver and an assortment of screws and simply replaced the screw that was in the hinge with a larger one.  That would hold it until he could really fix the hinge.  

That was how you came back, if you came back.”  (Page 285)

Each of these families has their own personal struggles and dynamics, which Piazza deftly navigates in alternating story lines weaving a tense atmosphere before, during, and after the hurricane.  Piazza’s characters are deep with their own backgrounds, personalities, and demons, and SJ is a prime example.  As a Vietnam War veteran, he’s already had enough to deal with before Hurricane Katrina.  In a way — like so many other veterans — he never made it back from the war completely and has been going through the motions of life.

“Aaron would get him to go out for walks.  Aaron, who had also been in Vietnam, knew a fair amount about the traumatic syndrome that SJ was struggling with, and exercise and talking through things could be important.  Some days they would walk and SJ was silent, some days he would talk for a while, and then get silent.  Often he had violent fantasies that would crumble apart into debilitating grief.  ‘I don’t want to be angry like this A,’ SJ said.  ‘I spent long enough dealing with it.  I never thought I’d have to be back in this.'”  (Page 273)

Piazza’s comparisons of PTSD among Vietnam War veterans and the PTSD of New Orleanians is a valid comparison, and City of Refuge brings with it an emotional tsunami that readers cannot ignore.  One of the best books I’ve read this year, and an excellent selection for book clubs because of the range of social and political issues it illuminates.

About the Author:

Tom Piazza is the author of the post-Katrina classic Why New Orleans Matters, the Faulkner Society Award-winning novel My Cold War, and the short-story collection Blues And Trouble, winner of the James Michener Award for Fiction. He lives in New Orleans.

This book is my 17th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

 FTC Disclosure: Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield

Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat is a collection of cartoons that speak volumes about cat ownership and cat psyches. The cat has a one track mind — food. The cat finds a variety of ways to get his owner’s attention, including hitting him over the head with a baseball bat, like in this video. The cat has not only become a YouTube sensation, but this book is likely to become equally successful.

Some of the best cartoons in the book involve Simon’s cat acting like a bird feeder or bird bath hoping to catch birds. Through simple lines, shapes, and caricatures, Tofield creates an instantly recognizable and lovable cat.  There are subtle changes to each image that make the laughs even bigger.  Readers should check out Simon Tofield as he discusses how Simon’s Cat developed and how he came up with the name. Readers may find that the cartoon reminds them of other cartoon characters like Garfield, though Simon’s cat doesn’t have a dog to worry about or make look ridiculous.

Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield can provide readers with hours of entertainment, laughs, and fun.  Through self-deprecating actions, Simon’s cat gets into all kinds of trouble and makes a lot of messes, but he’s still adorable.  A cartoon book for any cat lover, those that need a good chuckle, and it would make a good gift for any occasion.

FTC Disclosure:  I receive my copy of Simon’s Cat from A Circle of Books in a giveaway win.  Clicking on title and image links will go to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated to fund international giveaways.

I’m also counting this as my 8th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

Ravens by George Dawes Green (audio)

Ravens by George Dawes Green on audio, which I received from a giveaway on Peeking Between the Pages, is action-packed, engaging, and unique.  Readers are first introduced to Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, two young gentlemen fed up with the “system” and anxious to leave Ohio for the great unknown and make their mark.  Unfortunately, Shaw has a dark side and Romeo can lose control of his emotions.

The young men are traveling south and end up in Brunswick, Georgia, where they learn the identity of the state lottery winners — the Boatwrights.  Shaw concocts a plan to garner the men at least half if not more of the $318 million prize.

The narrators shift between the Boatwrights, the local police officer, Romeo, and Shaw, with Maggi-Meg Reed’s Southern accent pretty close to the real thing and Robert Petkoff slightly dramatic in his portrayal.  However, each character’s voice was easily discernible, making it easy to follow the shifting narration.  Listeners will be drawn into the plight of the Boatwrights and may even sympathize with Romeo, but Shaw is another story.  The tension is palatable, and readers will be kept guessing as to how the extortion situation will be resolved.

Ravens on audio made the commute fly by, and those that love mysteries and thrillers will find this a satisfactory listen.  My husband and I often became absorbed in the story and had to wait for a chapter to end outside my office building in the mornings before I got out of the car.  He loved the ending the best, though it is graphic, because it resolves the situation in a satisfactory way.

This is my 2nd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 1st book in the psychological thriller category for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: I received my free copy of the Ravens audiobook from a fellow blogger.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

MAX by James Patterson (audio)

James Patterson‘s MAX on audio is chock full of sound effects, drama, and thrills. MAX is the fifth book in the young adult Maximum Ride series, which centers on winged kids that range from ages 6 to 16. Max leads the flock of winged children, and in this novel, they attempt to find Max’s kidnapped mother with the help of the U.S. military.

Not only does this novel immerse readers in the angst, confusion, and desire of these kids to fit in, it also is a coming of age story for Max as she begins to understand her feelings for Fang.

Listeners will be completely absorbed in the twists and turns of this thriller as the flock flies from South America to other locations and boards submarines to locate Max’s mother beneath the ocean’s surface. Check out this audio excerpt from James Patterson’s Website to hear the sound effects and the charged voice of Jill Apple.

If you are interested in this audiobook, just leave a comment to be entered. I’ll draw a winner on July 25, 2009.

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci

I won The Whole Truth by David Baldacci from She is Too Fond of Books back in March. Hubby and I have been listening to this on and off during the commute and on our most recent drive to Massachusetts for a little bit of a vacation.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a corporation had too much power and was run by a twisted mind? How about a powerful military contracting firm? In The Whole Truth, Nicolas Creel wants to spur weapons build-up among the world powers, but to recreate the Cold War, Creel must set the pieces in motion to ensure two major superpowers or super power wanna-be nations are at odds–Russia and China. Meanwhile, Shaw an underground operative for a secretive agency wants out to marry the woman of his dreams, Anna Fischer, and lead a normal life. Katie James, on the outside looking in, is an on-the-way-down reporter who stumbles upon the story of her life and the century.

The Whole Truth is James Patterson on steroids; it’s bigger and better than most crime fiction. My hubby says this novel could easily be transformed into a summer blockbuster. Shaw is a deeply tormented character, and Katie is an ambitious journalist and idealist. Creel is as every bit as bad as Blofeld and Goldfinger in the James Bond franchise. The suspense in this novel will have readers on the edge of their seats, and the emotional undertones will have readers running the gamut from exhilaration and anxiety to deep sorrow. The fate of the world is in Shaw’s hands.

Check out these giveaways:

1 Signed Copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo, here. Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59PM EST.

2 copies of The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa, here; Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Welcome to the Savvy Verse & Wit tour stop for C.W. Gortner’s The Last Queen, which is new in paperback this month.

About the Book:

Daughter of Isabel of Castile and sister of Catherine of Aragon. Married at sixteen and a queen at twenty-five. Declared mad by history. Juana of Castile, the last true queen of Spain. Ruled by her passions, Juana’s arranged marriage to Philip the Fair of Flanders begins as a fairytale romance when despite never having met before their betrothal, they fall violently in love. Juana is never meant to be more than his consort and mother to his heirs until she finds herself heiress to the throne of Spain after tragedy decimates her family. Suddenly she is plunged into a ruthless battle of ambition and treachery, with the future of Spain and her own freedom at stake. Told in Juana’s voice, The Last Queen is a powerful and moving portrait of a woman ahead of her time, a queen fought fiercely for her birthright in the face of an unimaginable betrayal. Juana’s story is one of history’s darkest secrets, brought vividly to life in this exhilarating novel.

C.W. Gortner’s The Last Queen is a roller coaster ride of emotion dramatizing Juana of Castile’s adolescent years, her marriage to a man she doesn’t know, and her return to her homeland. Juana is an impetuous child, independent, passionate, and compassionate. Her passions often lead her astray, cause her to act outside the norms of royal protocol, and jump to conclusions. While history views Juana as loca or mad, Gortner’s dramatization examines possible explanations for her behavior. Juana witnesses the surrender of the Moors and Boabdil at the hands of her mother, Queen Isabel, as Spain reclaimed Granada.

“The lords closed in around him, leading him away. I averted my eyes. I knew that if he’d been victorious he would not have hesitated to order the deaths of my father and my brother, of every noble and soldier on this field. He’d have enslaved my sisters and me, defamed and executed my mother. He and his kind had defiled Spain for too long. At last, our country was united under one throne, one church, one God. I should rejoice in his subjugation.

Yet what I most wanted to do was console him.” (Page 11, in the hardcover)

Shortly after Spain regains its footing, Juana is informed that she must marry the Archduke of Flanders, Philip, a man she was betrothed to and does not know. Juana is adamant that she will not marry this man, until her father treats her as an adult at sixteen and explains the political situation Spain is in and how her marriage to Philip could improve it. While she is young and passionate, she is frightened of the man she will marry and what married life entails. She’s timid and accepting of her new life, which she discovers has more passion than she expected. However, even in this new, passionate existence, she is uneasy with her new role, the new customs she must learn, and the influence her husband’s advisor, Besancon, has over Philip.

“She lay against mounded pillows, her eyes closed. I gazed on her translucent pallor, under which bluish veins and the very structure of her bones could be traced. A linen cap covered her scalp; her features seemed oddly childlike. It took a moment to realize she had no eyebrows. I had never noticed before. She must have had them plucked in her youth; those thin lines I was accustomed to seeing arched in disapproval were, in fact, painted. Her hands rested on her chest. These too I stared at, the fingers long and thin now, without any rings save the ruby signet of Castile, which hung loosely on her right finger. I hadn’t realized how beautiful her hands were, how elegant and marble-smooth, as if made to hold a scepter.

The hands of a queen. My hands.” (Page 201, in the hardcover)

Gortner’s writing easily captures the fears of a young royal as she is shipped off to Flanders to be married. Readers will feel her apprehension and wish her well even as she boldly stares her fate in the eye. As the plot thickens against her and her homeland, Juana is fortified in her resolve and her passion girds her against the obstacles to come. Gortner’s characters are well developed, leaping off the page to battle interlopers, defend their family’s honor, and looking for justice when wrongs are committed by trusted advisors and family members. Readers will curl their toes in anxiety as Juana faces turncoats and ghosts and wish her triumph in the end. Overall, The Last Queen is an exceptionally well-crafted historical novel that will have readers dealing with a range of emotions from sorrow to anger. Gortner excels in building tension and leaving readers exhausted from the ride.

Also Reviewed By:
The Burton Review
Reading Adventures


C.W. Gortner’s fascination with history is a lifetime pursuit. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California and often travels to research his books. He has experienced life in a medieval Spanish castle and danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall; dug through library archives all over Europe; and tried to see and touch — or, at least, gaze at through impenetrable museum glass — as many artifacts of the era as he can find.

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, publishes The Last Queens in trade paperback on May 5, 2009. A Random House Readers Circle Selection, it features a reading group guide and Q&A with the author. C.W. Gortner is also available for reader group chats by speaker phone or Skype.

Visit the author’s Reading Group information.

He lives in Northern California. You can visit his Website.

***Giveaway Information***

1. 1 entry, comment on my review.

2. 1 entry, comment on this guest post, here.

3. Tell me if you are a follower or follow this blog and tell me for a 3rd entry.

4. Spread the word on your blog, etc., and get a 4th entry.

Deadline May 22, 2009, 11:59 PM EST


***Giveaway Reminders***

1 copy of Rubber Side Down Edited by Jose Gouveia, here; Deadline is May 15 at 11:59 PM EST

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich’s Plum Spooky is the latest of the between-the-numbers novels. Diesel makes his way back to Trenton and into Stephanie Plum’s apartment hot on the heels of Wulf Grimoire, his cousin and all around scary creep who vanishes in a flash of light and can electrocute you with a simple touch of the skin. Stephanie is hoping to save the bail bonds business by capturing the elusive Martin Munch, a genius fallen into the wrong hands.

From monkeys with metal helmets to a hippy animal activist named Gail Scanlon, Evanovich weaves a ridiculous tale that will capture readers and listeners’ attentions right from the start. Diesel and Stephanie are forced into the Pine Barrens where there is no cell reception and where unmentionable creatures dwell, like the Jersey Devil, the Easter Bunny, Sasquatch, and Elmer the Fire Farter. While the plot is a bit out there, it will have you laughing and the book moves along quickly.

I was surprised to learn that the Pine Barrens is an actual location in New Jersey and that people do believe that it is the home of the Jersey Devil.

Interested in listening to this laugh-out-loud novel on your daily commute or whenever you’re in the car, enter this giveaway: 1 audiobook copy, used once

1. One entry leave a comment for the most outrageous character name you can think of.

2. A second entry if you spread the word about the contest and leave me a link here.

Deadline is March 26, 5pm EST.

Also Reviewed by:
Reading Adventures

Girls Just Reading

***Giveaway Reminder***

1 gently used ARC of Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas; Deadline is March 20 at Midnight EST.

3 Copies of Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly for U.S./Canada residents
1 copy of Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly for an international resident
Deadline is March 24, 5pm EST