Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guest Post and Giveaway

I am so excited today to welcome author Matthew Pearl to Raging Bibilomania. Matthew is the author of the three blockbuster books The Last Dickens, The Poe Shadow, and The Dante Club. Matthew has agreed to guest post here today, and has written a very interesting post about the differences between hosting a book tour back in 1867 during Charles Dickens' time versus hosting one today in 2009.

The Charles Dickens Book Tour

In 1867, Charles Dickens came to the United States and embarked on an enormously successful reading tour. Reading tours were not unique, but the way Dickens did it, and the reception he received, was.

Approximately 115,000 people saw Dickens perform in about 75 engagements around the country. I use the word "perform" because Dickens wouldn't just read in a monotone way, as was usual then, but would act out the various characters in each excerpt. At every engagement, Dickens would read from two specially prepared excerpts, each from a different novel. Tickets were one dollar, though scalpers or “speculators” (as Dickens called them) sold them for five dollars, ten dollars or more. Dickens knew he could have charged more, but refused.

One of the very fun parts of writing my novel The Last Dickens was to recreate the behind-the-scenes operation of the Dickens tour. It was a big operation. Dickens's manager had gone to America months in advance from England to choose venues. In addition to his theatrical manager, Dickens also brought with him his own entourage: a private dresser, a ticket agent, and even a gas lighting expert to ensure the lighting in each venue was optimally flattering. Thousands of people would pack the theaters.

Dickens left the U.S. with about $150,000, which would constitute about a 1/3 of his estate when he died about two and a half years later.

We still do book tours today, though for the most part authors do not get paid. Dickens was trying to make up for the fact that he received no royalties from American book sales because there were not yet international copyright laws. Book tours today also don't come with entourages. Sometimes, we do get assigned what's called an author escort or media escort. The media escort shuttles you around to hotels, airports, readings, and interviews. If you're really nice, sometimes they'll gossip about authors who aren't. My lips are sealed on stories I've heard, or I'd get them in trouble.

Once, I was giving a talk about being a writer to a fourth grade class, while the media escort, a tall rugged man in a dark leather jacket, waited outside the room. The students asked if he was my bodyguard.

Dickens actually did need a bodyguard at times while on his tour. Someone was always stationed in front of his hotel room door.

Today, we also can promote books online through our own sites or what they call a blog tour--appearing as a guest in an interview or post on different blogs (like I'm doing right now).

I think Dickens would have appreciated connecting to readers this way. On the one hand, he was thrilled by the crowds and the adulation. On the other hand, he was left debilitated by each strenuous performance combined with general health problems. “On Monday night, after the reading,” Dickens wrote home a month into his six month American tour, “I was laid upon a bed, in a very faint and shady state; and on Tuesday I did not get up till the afternoon.”

There can never be another Dickens (which is part of the meaning of my title The Last Dickens, in addition to referring most directly to his last, unfinished book). But that aside, book tours now have to compete with a slew of entertainment that has much heavier promotion and visibility. More difficult than that, people have busy schedules and the 7pm weeknight reading is more likely to conflict with work or family than not. Online promotion can invite readers to connect with an author, through a blog or podcast, on their own time.

At one point during the Dickens tour, several women threw themselves on stage at the end of the performance to collect the flower petals that had fallen from Dickens's buttonhole. One thing that can't happen online!

The publishers of the book have generously provided me with 2 copies of The Last Dickens to give  away to two lucky winners. All you have to do is leave an e-mail address in the comments section of this post where I can get in touch with you should you win. The contest is open to everyone, so good luck to all entrants. Winners will be announced October 17th.

Many thanks to Matthew Pearl for being here today and TLC Book Tours for including me in this book tour. If you would like more information on Matthew or his books, please stop by his website:

Other tour stops for The Last Dickens:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl - 400 pgs

Book CoverPart mystery, part history, The Last Dickens spins the tale of the complex and multi-faceted fate of Dickens' last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Told primarily through a dual narrative style, the book examines the famous and difficult American reading tour that Dickens undertook in December of 1867, while also exploring the dark and dangerous forces that sought to steal the original manuscript from it's rightful publishers after Dickens' untimely death. With Dickens gone, the book, it seems, would not be able to be completed. But a few of the employees of the publishing house of Fields, Osgood and Co. believe that that the six final chapters may exist, hidden away by Dickens for its protection. In this hope, the company sends James Osgood and his bookkeeper Rebecca off to Dickens' ancestral home in England to seek out the missing chapters, knowing that if their discovery pans out, the company will be saved from financial ruin and that the author's pinnacle work will be forever preserved in history. But from the very beginning of the voyage other malevolent forces are at play, some that wish to possess the manuscript for themselves, and others who will do anything to make sure that those pages never see the light of day. Interspersed throughout the mystery is the tale of Dickens himself. A celebrity of the highest order in his time, Dickens sets out across America to give public readings to his adoring fans, scarcely avoiding illness, danger and the law. In these sections, Dickens comes to life as a reserved yet courageous man, both brilliant and humble. A man that gives his lifeblood to his creations and to the people that wait breathlessly for them. From the bustling wharf side docks of America to the filthy opium dens of England, Pearl creates an adventure not to be missed, and gives a stirring alternate history of the most widely speculated-on book in all of literature.

This was a wonderfully rollicking read, with a swift plot line. The action began immediately, with the apprehension of a curious criminal and a trip down to the docks where the newest installment of Dickens' great manuscript is anxiously anticipated. Soon the story was barreling along, full to the brim with dastardly mischief makers, all waiting for the chance to have Dickens' masterpiece in their clutches. From the first moment the affable James Osgood was introduced, it was easy to see that he definitely had the mettle with which to fight these foes. I really enjoyed the alternating story sections between past and present, and thought that it was a interesting and colorful way for the readers to get to know Dickens and have a first-hand look at his public and private persona, while also spinning the wildly embroiling fate of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The story was a great juxtaposition between two types of stories, and both halves were equally impressive and well rendered. This story was very unique in that it was a meld between a history both real and imagined.

In the last part of the book, the author explains that most of the sections regarding Dickens' American tour were heavily researched and as historically accurate as possible. I even came to find out that more than a handful of characters came straight out of history as well, including James Osgood. It was surprising to read that Dickens was so overwhelmingly popular during his time. I had known that he was considered one of the foremost authors in all of history, but I was unprepared to discover the depths of the public fervor for him. From what I understood, he was feverishly followed and lavish amounts of attention came his way, from both the famous and the unfamous alike. I can imagine that if there was such a thing a paparazzi back then that Dickens would have been one of their foremost attractions. I was both amused by this and a little taken aback by the lengths that people would go to just to touch an item the author himself had touched. Through it all, Dickens remained a consummate professional and always presented himself with a wonderful geniality to his admirers and maintained a humble attitude regarding his success.

One of the things I found most interesting about the book were the descriptions of the rivalries between the competing publishing houses of the time. Some looked at books as a business, rather than art or entertainment, and I was struck by how the attitudes of those forgotten times seem to be so reminiscent of the publishing world today. Another thing that stood out was the evocative and authentic historical flavor and ambiance of the book. The author did a great job with the small touches that gave the book a very realistic historical feel. The effect was transporting, and it was fun to be able to get lost in the details and setting of the book. The character creation was outstanding as well, with many unique and wonderful voices coming to life on the page. I got a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from all the villains in this story, for there were many, and each had their own vices and loyalties. It was very diverting trying to figure out just what each character's motivations were, and I have to admit that I was shocked when many of the characters I was sure were gentlemen revealed themselves to be scoundrels. The conclusion of the book was clever as well. It was as if the author was well aware that he could not rewrite the history of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and instead formed a credible and plausible culmination that would validate both the real and the imagined.

This was a very smart read that held me spellbound with both its twisting plot and its singular characters. There was a great deal to relish in the book, and I think the author did a wonderful job of creating a narrative that one can get invested in on many levels. I also loved getting to know Charles Dickens a little better. Whether or not you are a fan of Dickens, I recommend this novel as one that is completely enveloping. An excellent read.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles - 352 pgs

Book CoverDaria is a young woman living an oppressive life in Ukraine, where the economy is so poor that most people struggle to survive. Though she has a stable and well paying job as a secretary, her future seems uncertain; she worries that her boss, Mr. Harmon, will fire her after she refuses his sexual advances. In order to keep him at bay, she decides to set him up with a long-time friend, who immediately latches onto the man and then strangely turns on Daria. In fear for her job, Daria begins to moonlight as an interpreter for a Russian/American dating site that connects lonely American bachelors with eligible Ukrainian women. As she becomes more involved in her off-hours job, she constantly wonders if true love will ever come her way and questions whether her only opportunity will be with Vlad, the Russian mobster who relentlessly pursues her. After months of contemplation, Daria begins corresponding with a man from the U.S. and starts to dream of a future in America. But taking the plunge and leaving her friends, family and country behind is quite a big step, and one that might carry consequences that she doesn't expect. Soon Daria is leading a very different sort of life, but underneath it all she finds herself still asking the same questions about her future. Both smart and captivating, this is a tale of the the industry of modern love and a woman caught in the middle of it all.

I found that I really enjoyed this book. From the moment I started reading about Daria, I found that she was very different from your typical protagonist and that this was far from your average tale. First of all I found the main character to be very well defined and three dimensional, and I thought her personality had a lot of verve. She was both classy and intelligent and had a great independence and jocularity about her that I found appealing. I also found the supporting characters to be well fleshed out and I ended up feeling very strongly for all of them, albeit in different ways. I think that part of the reason this book worked so well for me was because it was impossible for me not to root for Daria and become invested in the situations she faced. Her plight was uncommon, which is another thing that drew me into the story, and I was constantly wondering how she was going to handle the next curve ball that life threw her.

The plot was very fast paced During the first half of the book; although there weren't very many shifts of scene, there was a lot going on and a lot to get absorbed in. By the second half of the book, the pace had slowed down a bit. Without giving too much away, I can only say that a shift took place in Daria's personality during the second half of the book and I was bit torn as to how to feel about it. She seemed somewhat less decisive and I got a little weary of her waffling back and forth in her attempts to resolve her problems. Although I recognized that she was reacting to her changed circumstances and it seemed genuine and believable, it did get a bit tedious.

I think the most interesting part of this book was the light that it shone on the Russian mail order bride industry. There was a complex web of complicity between these people and often it was unclear who was deceiving who. Most of the women seemed to look at marriage to an American man as a ticket to stability and family, though some were only moved by the desire to obtain a green card and have access to greater amounts of money. The men formed two camps as well: the ones who thought they were going to get a subservient woman who had to completely rely on them, and the ones who went into the venture hoping to make a real connection. It was interesting to see that bad intentions could litter both sides of this transaction, and though it was usually the men who were being deceptive, the issue wasn't starkly black and white.

I also enjoyed all the cultural detail in the book and felt that through the clever impregnation of the narrative, there was actually a lot of information about Ukraine imparted. I came to the book with limited knowledge about the impoverishment of this area of Russia but it was made very clear to me what it would have been like to live in a place where food was scare and luxuries were almost non-existent. From the dismal monthly sum the pensioners received from the government on which they had to survive to the daily utilities blackouts, the book gave a very clear picture of what it must be like to survive day after day in this area of the world.

It also highlighted in detail the reasons that women in this part of the world would go to such extremes to marry a man that in some cases could not even communicate with them. For them, the promises of America must have been too great to ignore, the opportunity to escape too strong. In a examination not often seen, the book also explored the lives of the women who left their native homes and just how difficult survival in their new surroundings could be. Most were alienated and found they had a crippling dependence on the men who made their escape possible. Most were very unhappy and found that the lives they were living bore no resemblance to the lives they had hoped for. Reading about it was revealing, but also cautionary.

I ended up really enjoying the conclusion of this story as well. I hadn't been expecting it, but it was what I hoped for and it was the ending that I would have written, had I penned this book. I closed the book feeling satisfied that the tale had been given a fitting and worthy ending and that Daria had finally gotten what she truly deserved.

This was a much more emotionally complex read than I had expected when I first opened the book. Though there were many light and funny moments, I think the author did a great job of examining some difficult issues, and I really enjoyed the exposure to a culture so different from my own. I also think that the book gave me a more healthy appreciation for all the little things I take for granted in my daily life and for all the little luxuries that I never even think about. I think this book would be great for a wide audience and that it would really be enjoyed by those with a hunger for information on on life in Ukraine or those who want to get a better idea about the logistics of the mail order bride phenomenon. A very interesting read. Recommended.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel: A Novel by Maureen Lindley - 304 pgs

Book CoverWhen Manchu princess Eastern Jewel is just eight years old, she is sent from China to Japan for spying on her father and his concubine. Arriving at the home of her step-father, the head of a powerful family in Japan, the girl is neglected and despised by most of her new family. The independent and headstrong Eastern Jewel, who is renamed Yoshiko Kawashima, doesn't let this bother her at all and quickly becomes enamoured of her new country, vowing to live her life loyal to Japan. As the girl grows in her adopted family's home, she becomes distressingly unconventional. From her many exploits with men, her indulgence in opium and her outspoken attitude, the young Eastern Jewel becomes notorious among the Japanese in her step-father's society. When she is finally sent to Outer Mongolia to become the obedient wife of a prince, she begins to formulate plans for escape from both her new husband and the frozen tundra she has been exiled to. Escaping to Peking, Eastern Jewel is living a life of luxury when she is approached by the Japanese government and asked to become a spy for them. Soon she is placed in ever increasing positions of import and is using her skills to influence the exiled Chinese royalty. But the clock is ticking for Eastern Jewel, and soon she will be called upon to account for her traitorous actions toward her country. Eastern Jewel's tale, rife with erotic and political intrigue, paints the story of one of the most notorious women in China's history.

Judging this book as a work of historical fiction, I would have to say that it was a bit lacking. That's not to say that this was not an entertaining book, it was just very different than what I had been expecting. The majority of the book revolved around the private life and romances of Eastern Jewel, and highlighted many of her sexual escapades, instead of focusing on her as a historical figure. The information about her role in history was there, but in this book, the portrait of her life was painted in such a way as to make those aspects seem secondary to the steamy secrets of her private life. Although I would have been interested in reading more of the actual history of Eastern Jewel, I found that I mildly enjoyed the alternate story that was presented in the book. The author wrote very knowingly and realistically about the Chinese Princesses many consorts and conquests, and I really got caught up in the drama of her personal relationships.

Eastern Jewel was a very interesting character to read about because she had a lot of qualities that made her different from most women. She was very conniving and cunning, and used her sexual prowess to her own advantage, but she didn't have the heart or sympathy to genuinely connect with anyone in her world. Though she was able to get along famously with men, she couldn't ever really love any of them in the way most other women do. She also seemed to pride herself on being cold and remote, and never let anyone gain any advantage over her through the use of emotion. All of this was very entertaining, but it was not historical in any sense of the word.

During one section of the book, she is moved into the temporary palace of the exiled emperor and his wife and begins her attempt to inveigle herself with them for political purposes. That section was really well done, and had the rest of the book followed the same format, it would have been a different reading experience. Instead the book seemed to be a chronicle of eroticism and materialism, alternately jumping between the two most of the time. The story was written with artistry and the language and details were tantalizing, but the fact remains that the historical aspects of this story paled in comparison to the libidinous tale of Eastern Jewel's bedfellows. At times I could almost begin to see the story trying to begin to change direction, but the author was never really able to come full circle and get the tale moving into the realm of historical fiction and out of the realm of eroticism.

There also wasn't a lot of cultural detail in this story. Though the story takes place in Japan, China and Mongolia, there was not really enough information in regards to the style of dress, cuisine or furnishings that surrounded the characters, which made the book seem a little flat and featureless. There was some improvement in the sections on Mongolia, which were better defined and described than any other section of the book. I would have loved to have seen more descriptions of oriental life and more details that would have given the book more cultural distinction. As it was, all these minor complaints I had began to add up into a group of items that impacted my enjoyment of the book. Although it was an interesting read and written very well, I couldn't help but feel that this could be any woman's story, and could have taken place in any locale and during any time period. There just wasn't much here to set this story apart, and I think that many people who are considering reading this book will be misled into believing that this story has historical significance, when in fact it does not.

If you are hoping to read something that really gives a an accurate perspective on historical importance of the famous Chinese princess Eastern Jewel, I don't think this is the book for you. If, however, you are looking for a subtle tale of eroticism that features an exotic area of the world and some very eclectic characters, I think this book would fit the bill. I wish that I would have known more about the true nature of this book when I picked it up because I may have had a more generous reaction to it. Taken for what it was, it was both a heady and involving read, but I feel that it was somewhat spoiled for me because it presented itself as something rather different. Recommended with reservations.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett - 288 pages

Book CoverMeet John Charles Gilkey. Gilkey is a rare book thief. Obsessed by the quest to obtain rare and valuable literature, Gilkey toils at great length to devise schemes that will net him free books. Gilkey spends much of his time researching both the books and the shops and fairs they will be liberated from, and perfecting his distressing schemes. Beginning with amateur attempts at passing bad checks and eventually engaging in voracious credit card fraud, Gilkey's passion for books is only surpassed by his belief that he should receive these books at no charge to himself.

Reporter Allison Bartlett is interested in documenting Gilkey's story, as well as the story of Ken Sanders, the "bibliodick" who has made it his job to catch thieves of this nature. Allison, having conducted numerous interviews with both the thief and the detective, begins to piece together the story of Gilkey and his exploits, as well as the story of Sanders, the man who always seems to be one step behind him. As Bartlett investigates the two men, she becomes embroiled in the heady world of book collecting and collectors, and sheds light on both the people who make their living selling the rarest of books and the people that will apparently stop at nothing to get them. A book about the love of books taken to the extreme, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is at once an outrageous and unbelievable story about one of the most appalling thieves you are likely to ever come across.

This was a sensational read in every aspect of the word. Reading about Gilkey and his literary transgressions was at times frustrating but was also very beguiling. I found Gilkey to be a ridiculously unrepentant thief, and the brazenness of his crimes caused me to have several jaw-dropping moments. He seemed an unlikely criminal, one whose charm and politeness belied his true intentions. When Bartlett begins meeting with Gilkey in an effort to better understand his motivations and compulsions, she, too, is fooled by his seemingly placid nature and overt good manners. It is only when Ken Sanders, the book detective, begins to weigh in that Bartlett begins to discover that Gilkey is in fact a profligate thief, so cocky and emboldened that he thinks nothing about stealing from the same sources time and time again, even after being convicted and sentenced to prison.

It was amazing for me to discover that Gilkey had stolen hundreds of rare books worth several thousand dollars and that most of the time he got away with it. It seemed that luck was mostly on his side, and when it wasn't, he had a way of absurdly justifying his crimes to himself that left no feelings of guilt in his mind. The most interesting aspect of this book was the in-depth look into Gilkey's behavior and background. Through the interviews Bartlett conducts, Gilkey is revealed as a man with an extremely questionable family life and very flexible morals. He doesn't seem to have a filter between wrong and right and appears almost dim-witted, which is why I found it surprising that he had been so successful as a rare book thief. At one point, Gilkey is talking with Bartlett about his plans for the future, and he mentions the idea that each person in America should send him one book, to keep him from thievery. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at his absurdity because his comment was made with total sincerity. That is the type of person he is: comically short sighted and morally underfunded. At times I really wanted to throttle him, for he never seemed to understand the basic premise that stealing books is wrong and something that most people just don't do. Instead he had an overblown sense of entitlement and felt that he was somehow owed these rare books.

I found it oddly humorous that towards the middle section of the book, Bartlett manages to become so enmeshed with his story that she questions weather she herself may be thought of as an accomplice to his strange schemes, and wonders just how she might disentangle herself from him. This book had a great cat and mouse quality, and the more I read about Gilkey and his nemesis Sanders, the more I got caught up in the web of this tale. Though Sanders comes off as a bit standoffish, he shows an amazing tenacity in his job as head of the security chair for the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, and does everything in his power to make sure that Gilkey and thieves of his ilk are caught and prosecuted for their crimes. Sanders takes Gilkey's attacks as a personal affront, and like most of the dealers who have been victims of theft, he is dogged in his pursuit of retribution.

I really loved reading about all the aspects of book procurement and collecting that this novel explored. Aside from it being a story about one man's theft of rare books, it also highlighted a great deal about the love of obscure books and delved into the haunts one might frequent when going in search of these treasures. It was quite easy for me to personally relate to the collectors. They all shared a sense of wonder and fervor over books that they wished to possess, and it was wonderful to see the sense of awe that they got when something really rare came into their sights. Although I enjoyed reading about Gilkey and his drive to steal books, I found myself more enthralled with the information about the collectors and their quarry.

I had never imagined coming across as aggravating a thief as John Gilkey, and I thought that this book deftly explored both the man and his crimes in great detail. The story was both humorous and at times troubling, but nevertheless I had a great time with it. If you are a book lover, you will surely love this exceptionally told story. It was a fast paced and extremely unique look at the world of book lovers everywhere, and a telling portrait of a very afflicted man. A great read, highly recommended.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - 432 pgs

Book CoverWhen Margaret Lea receives an unexpected letter from the famous author Vida Winter, she is a little perplexed. As an amateur biographer and clerk working in her father's bookstore, she thinks Miss Winter's request for her to create an uncensored biography of her life to be a little odd, as she has had little to no experience in writing professional biographies. In the past, Winter has been very elusive and wily regarding attempts at chronicling her life and seemed as content to feed her inquisitors a pack of lies as to ever give them the truth. Margaret, knowing this about the author and far from being a Vida Winters fan, is unsure if she is the right person for the job. Reluctantly, she agrees to take the commission and heads off for Miss Winter's large estate on the moors. When she arrives, she finds that Winter has become an invalid and that she wishes to finally tell the uncensored events of her life before her illness carries her away. As Winter beings the strange tale of her life, Margaret becomes entranced with the amazing story of the author and her twin sister. It is a Gothic tale of forbidden love, dark secrets, and dangerous jealousies that spark shocking betrayals, a tale that is full to the brim with madness. But as Margret delves deeper, she begins to discover that this tale doesn't only live in the past, for there are strange occurrences and sightings at the estate. As Margaret begins digging into the odd history of the family, she uncovers more strange and unexplained events that she must decipher for herself, and she finally discovers the secret and shocking truth about Vida Winter's past.

I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to this book. Though there were some aspects that I felt to be a bit over dramatized, I thought the author did a really great job of crafting a modernly Gothic story. The dark and fierce energy that permeated the narrative added a lot of ambiance and flavor to the story and I think that is what really gave the book its genuinely Gothic feel.

The were a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and instead of divulging them all at once, the revelations and mysteries wound themselves though the narrative to be exposed slowly. The tale of Vida Winter's life began with the story of her parents, two people who were mired in an illicit relationship and who were most certainly mad. I found that these sections were a bit bitter to digest, but beautifully crafted. Later sections dealt with the strange lives of the twins and the unbreakable bond they shared throughout their lifetime. This was where the story really picked up steam for me. The tale of the two girls was extremely unusual and interesting, while also being very sad and intense. I found they lived their lives in a very shocking and distressing manner, and it was not surprising to me that they turned out as they did after reading about their situation.

There was a lovely subtlety about this story. Some aspects of the plot were not exactly spelled out for the reader, but rather implied with hints and suggestions. I think using that technique gave the story a lot of depth and penetration, and it was one of the reasons that I so greatly admired this book. The narrative was much more focused on plot, rather than the character-driven novels that I usually seek out, but I found this to be a pleasant change. I was pleased to see that the character creation was not given short shrift even though the book was mainly focused on plot, and felt that the characters were fully three dimensional and sympathetic.

One of the remarkable things about this book was the way that the author was able to hold the tension throughout the entire narrative. As the book progressed and the suspense of the story grew, it was only slightly alleviated by minor revelations and able to continue it's growth toward the final chapters uninterrupted. This made for a very explosive and emotional climax, which I fully relished. The storytelling also had a very natural feel to it, and instead of the artificial style that you get in so may stories of this type, it was a much more organic and measured narrative. I didn't get the sense that the story was overly contrived, and despite the heightened drama, the story didn't feel manipulative.

There were also a huge number of twists in the story. I have had other reading experiences where I felt that the author tried to do too much in one book, and ended up feeling that the author had used the ploy of engaging too many plot twists as a substitute for intelligent and moving writing. This is not the case for The Thirteenth Tale. Though there were many entanglements in the story, I didn't get the feeling that the author was trying to hide shabby writing with their inclusion. Instead it felt as though they were a perfect fit for the tangled life that Miss Winter had led.

One of the other things that I really liked about this book was its focus on the pleasures of reading. Throughout the narrative, many of the characters digressed on their intense love of books and stories, and many of the story's scenes were related to literature and the written word. For a book lover like me, this was a great treat. I found the conclusion of the book to be satisfying as well. The author made sure not to leave any loose ends for the reader to speculate on, choosing instead to follow each thread of her story on to the very end.

This was incredibly well crafted story that had a great sense of plot and action. It was also extremely well written and engrossing. I am probably the last to have read this book, and I'm sorry to have waited as long as I did to get to it. For those readers who really enjoy a plot driven book with a lot of juicy details and a well developed atmosphere, I think this book is a winner. A terribly good read.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

**Sacred Hearts Winner**

The winner of the Sacred Hearts giveaway is:


Congratulations on your win! And if you didn't win, please check back for another giveaway at the end of this month.
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