Shelf Envy [29]: Santa Montefiore

 


My mouth literally fell open when I saw this gloriousness in my mailbox.

I have Ms. Santifiore today to talk about what she’s been reading nowadays. It looks like she’s fast at work with the fourth Deverill novel! The work of a writer never stops. But seriously, though. Your bookshelves are to die for. Sigh.

I’m researching my new novel at the moment, which is the fourth in the Deverill series, based in Ireland and London in 1992.   So, Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy, which is about the wealthy American girls who came over to do the London Season and catch aristocratic Englishmen. It’s a really fun book, with wonderful anecdotes. As well as research, it’s a really entertaining read; The Diary of Lady Carbery – this is a fascinating diary giving insight into the daily life of an Anglo Irishwoman who lived in Castle Freke in West Cork.

I’m also reading for pleasure: Joe Dispenza’s Becoming Supernatural, this is a really amazing book. Joe Dispenza is a brain scientist who teaches you how to manifest the life you want and to heal your body with your mind. For people who enjoy books by Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle like I do, Joe Dispenza is one of the best. I went to a workshop of his last week here in London and I am so inspired. Meditation is the key – with a new puppy in the house, it’s difficult to find the time to do it, but I know that, if I do, I can take control of my life. I highly recommend this book!

Thank you so much for stopping by. Love, love your bookshelves! And your book. 🙂

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[739]: Bachelor Girl by Kim Van Alkemade

A captivating page-turner that successfully combines baseball history, romance & friendships while ambitiously highlighting social issues of the times.


Bachelor Girl
Kim Van Alkemade

This was such a bountiful surprise.

Before there were doping scandals in professional baseball, there was Babe Ruth. He was the beacon of excess in the sport. His personality was so big – too big for any baseball field in America. He was a womanizer, a gambler, and was even rumoured to have died of a sexually transmitted disease. He liked to party and had a bit of a diva personality. When Boston Red Sox wouldn’t meet his demands, they sold him to the Yankees. This was where the legend was born, regardless of the titles he’d helped the Sox win.

Colonel Jacob Ruppert was the owner of the Yankees. A shrewed business man who has the nose for his opponent’s weaknesses. He made the Yankees a brand that’s synanymous to American baseball – even to this day. When he died, he left the majority of his fortune, and ownership of the team to one Helen Winthrope.  Bachelor Girl imagines her story that brings out to light all the whys of Colonel Ruppert’s intentions.

As I was saying, this was a bountiful surprise. I knew next to nothing about the Yankees as I’m barely a baseball fan. (I do follow the Blue Jays, but not as fanatic as say, the San Diego Charges). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it over and over again. When the book you just read made you dive into the oblivion that is internet research, you know the author did an outstanding job. And that is exactly what I did after reading Bachelor Girl. I sought out all what I can gather about Colonel Ruppert. And while I probably didn’t do such an extensive job as the author, I thought it was pretty interesting to find so many parallels to the real thing vs. Bachelor Girl.

Helen Wintrophe had so many stories to tell. She’s a dichotomy sometimes. A feminist when it comes to her rights and abilities but at the same time, she fell prey way too easily to other men. Which made her as close to being real, in my opinion. This is the Jazz Age – in New York City. And while New York was progressive with some stance, there were still social issues that the state lagged on. I love how Ms. Van Alkemade tackled them in a way that was quite possibly appropriate for the era. Like a relationship between Helen and her friend, who was an African American wouldn’t come to anything just because. But Helen still fought for him and remained her friend right to the end, even after he married somebody else.

Gay rights, social cast differences, abortion, gender inequality, and prohibition were also tactfully explored.

Overall, Bachelor Girl was both informative and entertaining. It’s about secrets and what they’ll do to keep them if only to prevent hurting the people they love. I vacillated between frustration and anxiety while waiting for the truth to be revealed. And while I didn’t get the resolution that I selfishly wanted, it was the way Helen’s story needed to be told.

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[738]: Songs of Love And War by Santa Montefiore

A sprawling saga of love and family spanning generations of people connected by friendships and their entanglements.


Songs of Love and War
by Santa Montefiore

Admittedly, this book was intimidating at first glance. At 528 pages, I didn’t think I was going to finish reading this in time to write a review for my blog tour stop. To my surprise, Songs of Love and War was readable enough that I barely notice time passing by. It was that captivating.

As a child, Kitty Deverill grew up barely interacting with her parents. Her fiery red hair and her “plain face” didn’t encourage the kind of love from her mother. Her father, on the other hand, was too busy having an affair to notice the bold and brave little miss. Despite the lack of paternal affections, her childhood didn’t lack for love. Her grandparents gave her more than enough. She also had the friendships of Birdie – the cook’s daughter, and Jack, the son of the town’s veterinarian.

Growing up in the Castle Deverill also was hardly a tedious living. Having inherited her grandmother’s ability to communicate with the dead, she’s entertained by the ghosts of the Deverill men who were cursed to haunt the castle. All in all, she managed to grow up a well-adjusted, opinionated, and intelligent woman.

But a war was brewing between Anglo-Irish and the Irish. And since her family was English who owned a castle in an Irish land, things were turbulent. Kitty will find herself sympathizing with the Irish and forming an alliance with a person she least expects.

Meanwhile, Birdie has suffered one heartbreak after another. From the death of her father and unfathomable losses, she was left with no choice but to leave Ireland and find her fortunes in America. There, she would once again be a servant; forever regretting the choices she made and thinking about the family she left behind.

In truth, this book is hard to break down. It simply is impossible. The only thing you should anticipate is how easily their stories will captivate you. The Ireland she described will make you pine for a country as much as the Irish pined for the loss during the invasion of England and their fight to take it back. There are plenty of romances here, but also some difficult scenes of rape. Both of which are not connected, to be clear. On the flipside of those romances are heartbreaks as well. Kitty was not spared from this; not Jack, and especially not Birdie.

And if that’s not epic enough, there is also a supernatural aspect here. The castle itself felt like a living, breathing character in the background. The curse of the Deverill men being trapped in the castle forever was not the focal point, but certainly an interesting and integral part of the story.

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Genevieve Graham on the Inevitability of Writing About Nazis.


I’m sensing a theme with my questions. I can’t help it. I’ve always been curious about a book’s conception and giving it the story its life. So my questions with the authors that stop by my blog are always about the process involved. Today’s Timeless Tour stop is pretty much the same. I have Ms. Genevieve Graham, whose work, Come From Away just came out this past Tuesday. You can read my review of her book here.

What kind of research is involved in writing your stories?

Approximately fifty per cent of the time it takes for me to write a book (eight to ten months) is spent on research, so where is all that time being spent? Well, once I’ve chosen my topic, my first stop is always the library. Those folks know what I’m going to write about before anyone else does. Fortunately, they’re very understanding when I forget to renew … I take out non-fiction books, some fiction books—though in general I don’t read many of those because I don’t want to risk being influenced, and even some books written for children. I’m not very good, to be perfectly honest, with straight non-fiction. Just like when I was in high school, dry facts tend to put me to sleep. But I glean all I can from them, then I move on to the internet. The most wonderful things about the internet are a) the plethora of sites you can find on specific items/events/time periods/people b) the wonderful, dedicated contacts you can make online, and c) the Rabbit Hole. Of course the downsides of the internet are a) conflicting information and b) too many distractions. All that means is that I have to dig deeper to confirm the truth … and I need to shut down facebook.

In addition to the initial research I’ve done up front, my fact-finding continues throughout the creation of the book. My characters lead me along the story, then they stop short and point out a historical fact that requires my attention. For example, if someone needs to sail somewhere, what kind of ship was it on? Where were the ports of departure and arrival? How many people were on that ship? What did they eat? Where did they sleep? Those details may sound minute, but they are actually what bring a story alive. Anyone can look up dates and names and places, but “the devil’s in the details”, as they say.

You seem to have a love for the Canadian East Coast and particularly set in that period. Do you think you would be inspired to take your stories elsewhere?

The first three books I wrote were set in 1745 and took place in Scotland and the colonies. That was because my initial inspiration to write happened after I read the Outlander series over and over again, and I was fascinated by that time period. Then my family and I moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia in 2008, and everywhere I looked I came into contact with history. I wanted to learn about it, and when I write my books my characters will experience this history first hand, with me by their side.“Tides of Honour” happened because I didn’t know anything about the Halifax Explosion until I moved here, and digging into the Explosion automatically led to learning about WW1. “Promises to Keep” came along after my husband and I visited the Grand Pré Historical Site and in my head, the incredible story of the Acadian Expulsion was crying out to be told. “Come From Away” actually began because so many of my readers asked (and I was wondering, too) what happened to the Baker family after “Tides of Honour”. I realized the children from the first book would have grown up and become a part of the next world war. I needed to know how Danny would react, considering his own deep, painful memories of war, but the story (as usual) took on a life of its own and the spotlight went to the younger generation instead.

Would I be inspired to take my stories elsewhere? Definitely! I already am. My plan is to write Canadian Historical Fiction about all regions in Canada. The next book will be set in the West with the early Mounties and the Klondike Gold Rush, then I have at least one story set in Ontario (already in the works). As recently as yesterday I saw a news article that may inspire yet another Ontario book. I’m always open to suggestions!

Lately, there’s been a backlash on authors writing a romance novel that features a Nazi soldier. Was this a factor in making your character an ex-Nazi?

I actually had no idea there was a backlash. Why? I have a couple of issues on that, now that you ask. First off, I don’t consider my books to be “romance”. Yes they are love stories, but they are within the Historical Fiction framework (you’ll notice I don’t write sex – I’ve tried, but it always seems so cheesy when I’m reading it after!). And since they are Historical Fiction, it is imperative that I stick to the truths of history. Otherwise, why not just call it fiction? And well, Nazis were a part of history that simply cannot – and should not – be forgotten. So no, that wasn’t why Rudi ended up an “ex-Nazi”. Rudi was who he was because of his upbringing, then he adjusted due to the situation that landed him in Nova Scotia. Would he have been an ex-Nazi if he hadn’t ended up here? Who knows. We know he was uncomfortable with some of the things he’d seen, heard, and done, but he was raised to be loyal to the military. It would have taken something extreme to make him question everything.

ADDENDUM: “Backlash” may be the wrong word to use. But it’s come to my attention a novel featuring a Nazi romantic hero usually gets the quirk of a brow at the least. I have read Come From Away and agree that Rudi was the way he was because of how he was raised. I sent this question before I had a full grasp of Rudi’s character. I would’ve omitted this question & Ms. Graham’s answer but I feel it would be remiss of me.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Genevieve!

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Genevieve Graham and Her Love for Canadian History

In high school, I had no interest in history. Now that I’m an adult, there’s a lot I don’t know. Non-fiction usually puts me to sleep, so I turned to historical fiction. My obsession with the genre started with “Outlander”, and I never stopped reading.

I’d never written anything, never dreamed of it, but in 2007 I made my first attempt and my Scottish historical trilogy became a bestseller. In 2008, my family and I moved to Nova Scotia, and it was full of history! My first eye-opening lesson was about the Halifax Explosion, the largest manmade explosion before Hiroshima. Despite my excellent education, I had never heard of it. I needed to know all about the Explosion, and I learn by visualizing. I dropped my fictional characters into the setting and walked beside them, writing as we went.

I have become addicted to the little known or untold stories in Canadian history and am determined to tell more. “Promises to Keep” covered the Acadian Expulsion. “Come From Away” returns to Nova Scotia during WWII, and soon I will get back to work on three more books which are already partially written: the Klondike Gold Rush (and the early Mounties), the British Home Children, and more.

My agent once told me the secret to successful publishing is to “write a really great book.” Well, I want more than that. I want to write a good book and I want to bring history back to life … so no one sleeps through class anymore.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Genevieve. As a Canadian, and as someone who didn’t have the opportunity to study here, I try to glean as much history as I can from the books I read. So reading your books is something that I look forward to with great interest if only to learn about the country that have embraced me and my family so warmly. Thank you for all you do and for taking the time to write this piece. 

@GenGrahamAuthor | Facebook | Website

Buy her books here: Amazon | Chapters Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

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[608]: And Again by Jessica Chiarella

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 I’ve been looking for a novel that will challenge the way most of the cloning novels are being written. I want to see a story that shows them as more than a product of a successful lab project. Neither mechanical nor sterile; definitely not automatons devoid of human emotions. And Again delivered that for me.

This book was surprisingly fast and easy to read. Jessica’s writing felt comfortable, like a warm blanket or a comfy chair. And even though the story revolves around four people and four different perspectives, each character told their stories with ease. There’s Hannah who has lung cancer; David, a Republican congressman with a brain tumor; Linda who’s paralyzed from the neck down; and Connie a once big-time Hollywood actress who was dying from an aggressive strain of HIV. All four of them won the lottery and were chosen subjects for SUBlife. Cloning or in essence, a second chance at life. This is their story. Four narratives seamlessly connected to show us that tricking death might just be borrowing another set of troubles.

Each one of them grapples with the new life that they were given. A fresh start it may be, but they all felt awkward and uneasy. Their train of thoughts was full of doubts like they’re uncomfortable with their new bodies. This book is a bit more thoughtful rather than scientific. It didn’t ask me what my moral stance is on cloning, nor did it question the religious and social implications when one messes with the natural order of things. It’s the introspective process that these four characters went through as they try to pick up the pieces of their old lives. They couldn’t run away from the flawed life that they used to live no matter how perfect they all seem.

This book was such a lovely surprise; unexpectedly captivating in a sense that a reader will be ensconced in the characters’ new lives. I wanted them to move forward as they were before their illnesses and accident, but I saw and felt their struggles as they try to reacclimate to their surroundings.


GOODREADS | Touchstone | January 12, 2016 | Amazon | Chapters !ndigo 


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