Thursday, January 24, 2008

Author's Choice: Sandra Worth presents Katherine by Anya Seton

This is something that I have been thinking about for quite some time. What if we started a series of weekly posts in which some of the most popular and respected authors of today share their favorite book or a great new book? Well, here we go. I have asked some of the bestselling authors in many genres as well as some of the great authors who have become friends of this site over the last few months to share with us. I suspect that we'll have a few more books to add to our reading piles.

Our first Author's Choice is being presented today by Sandra Worth, a wonderful historical fiction author whose new book, The Lady of the Roses, will be a feature giveaway to be accompanied by an author interview. Sandra has proven to be a very approachable and
dedicated author who I am proud to have begin this Loaded Question tradition.

Sandra Worth presents Katherine by Anya Seton

As a young child, I escaped into fairy tales the moment I could read. When I ran out of new ones, I wrote my own and illustrated them. The prince always came for his princess, and the stories always ended happily. I finished my little book of fairy tales at the age of eleven, and then I discovered a whole new world of real princes and princesses through a novel I was given.

There I learned a different truth. In the real world, the lives of princes and princesses was very complicated and often didn’t end well. But I couldn’t leave the medieval world, because I had fallen in love with chivalrous knights in shining armor, and history, and the extraordinary men and women who once lived.

That novel someone gave me was KATHERINE by Anya Seton. It was 800 pages long, and I was only eleven, but I stepped into the medieval world it unveiled, and never really left. I read the book four more times until I lost it at the age of fourteen. It went out of print, and all I could do was bemoan my loss, and tell everyone what a great story it had been. Decades later, KATHERINE was reprinted. I bought a dozen copies so I'd never be without one, and I remember that I smiled to myself as I opened up my brand new KATHERINE and settled down to read. I even remember my thought as I did so. I was wondering what had caught my childish imagination all those many years ago. I fully expected to find a thin, simplistically written novel that read like an entrancing young adult story.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I found myself captivated and mesmerized once more by the complex world I had stepped into and I fell in love with John of Gaunt all over again. He symbolized for me chivalry, commitment, honor and nobility, but he and Katherine lived only in the pages of Anya Seton's book, and I couldn't let them go. One night my husband and I lay reading in bed when I finished the book. As was my wont, I turned right back to the beginning to start over. I can still see the shocked expression on my husband's face as he turned to me and said "How many times are you going to read that thing?"

I had read "that thing" eight times by then, and "that thing" changed my life. Because I knew what to look for, I had found and married my own John of Gaunt, and here I am today, writing historical novels. The greatest compliment anyone can pay me is to tell me I write like ANYA SETON.

Now what, you may ask, is the fascination of this book?
And I will say with a smile, Read it, and you'll know.

Sandra Worth is the award-winning author of : The Rose of York: Fall From Grace, The Rose of York: Love and War,The Rose of York: Crown of Destiny, and the upcoming The Lady of Roses.

Monday, January 21, 2008

This Week's New Book Releases: 1/20/07-1/26/07

The Commoner

The year is 1959 and Haruko, a young woman of good family, marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The Japenese monarchy is the longest running in the world, is very mysterious, and has never allowed a royal marriage to a non-aristocrat such has Haruko. The young girl soon finds herself met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress and her minions. It becomes clear that Haruko's only importan
ce is her ability to produce an heir to the throne. This story follows the outsider, Haruko, as she struggles to maintain a role in the ancient monarchy. This book looks great, I have been interested in for the last few months. I have been looking for ways to get in touch with the author, John Burnham Schwartz, because I would really like to know more about this book and get a chance to interview him. So, if you read this John, please contact me at KellyHewittLS(at)gmail(dot)com. Stay tuned for more information about this title.

Standard of Honor

This is
the second novel (after Knights of the Black and White) in the popular historical trilogy about the rise and fall of the powerful and mysterious Templars, from the author of the immensely popular Camulod Chronicles. The series features the Scottish Templar Alexander Sinclair, King Richard the Lionheart, and his favorite teacher Sir Henry St. Clair. Jack Whyte is always on his A game and it looks like Standard of Honor is no different. Anybody out there following this series? Drop a comment to share the premise of the first book.

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215
By DAVID LEVERING LEWIS This blog started out talking about fiction but as the months have passed I have worked to include books of many genres both fiction and nonfiction. This, of course, includes my personal obsession: history. This book, which looks at the history of Islamic culture in early Europe, is written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author who reexamines what was once thought to be true. Lewis' previous books include: When Harlem Was in Vogue, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868-1919: Biography of a Race, W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963.

Every Last Cuckoo
In Kate Maloy's last book, A Stone Bridge North, she looked at the Quaker faith in the north. Both Quaker faith and the north play a part in Maloy's newest book, Every Last Cuckoo. The book begins during a particularly severe Vermont winter when 75-year-old Sarah Lucas' husband, Charles, dies. Sarah, grief-stricken, delves into her past, remembering the Great Depression, a time when her parents welcomed countless friends and relations into their home. Sarah also laments on some of the missteps she made as a parent. A chance to rectify and relive all of these situations appear when Sarah's own teenage granddaughter; an Israeli pacifist; a devastated young mother and child— arrive, all seek shelter and solace in Sarah's too-empty home. The remainder of the book delves into the experiences of Sarah and her new guests as they overcome, together, some of the darkest periods of their past.

The Secret Between Us

Deborah Monroe and her daughter, Grace, are driving home from a party when their car hits a man running in the dark. Grace was at the wheel, but Deborah sends her home before the police arrive, determined to shoulder the blame for the accident. Her decision then turns into a deception that takes on a life of its own and threatens the special bond between mother and daughter. The Secret Between Us is a story about making bad choices for the right reasons and the terrible consequences of a lie gone wrong. Barbara Delinsky's previous book include: Family Tree, More Than Friends, Together Alone, Shades of Grace and many more.

My Revolutions

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Random Notes

- Remember the Signed, Mata Hari Giveaway here at Loaded Questions? Time slipped away and those who were randomly selected as winners were finally sent emails today. So check you mail and skim your junk mail to see if you were a lucky winner. In order to show how sorry I was for being late, I chose seven winners instead of the five that had originally been advertised. Stay tuned for a list of those who won. For those of you who don't win, three big chances to win are coming soon!

- I wrote a few weeks ago about the release of
The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy and mentioned that I would be interested in interviewing the author, Robert Leleux. I can happily announce that I will be interviewing Robert in the coming weeks in order to find out even more about this strange but interesting memoir of his.

- More important author interviews coming your way:
aret Frazer, The Apostate's Tale
Kate Maloy, Every Last Cuckoo
John Lescroart,
Owen Sheers,

- Want to link sites? I have been terrible about listing all of the blogs that I like. I really want to support my fellow book lovers and their blogs! If you're interested in trading links or already have Loaded Questions listed, leave a comment and I will be sure to add you!

- A Way to Help This Site. A few weeks ago I started adding links to all of the books that I mention here on this blog, there is also a Amazon search box on the left hand menu. Why? A percentage of the purchases you make by clicking on one of the books mentioned here or by using the search engine return to Loaded Questions so that I can continue to hold such great giveaways, bring you original content in the form of author interview, and keep you up to date about all of the newest book releases. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What's Next? -- Three Authors, Interviews, Giveaways

Here's a quick rundown of some of the interviews, features, and giveaways that you can expect to see at Loaded Questions in the coming days.

God's Behaving Badly

A few nights ago I was up until 3am because I was close to
ending this book and I just couldn't put it down. Gods Behaving Badly has a really great premise. Remember all of the gods that lived up on Mount Olympus? Apollo, Artemis, Zeus, etc. Well they're all back in Phillips' solid fictional debut. There are some changes, though. The gods are living in modern day London struggling to get by with a small fraction of the powers they were formally known to have. Aphrodite, the god of lust, love, and beauty is now working as a telephone sex operator. Artemis, the goddess of hunting is walking dogs for a living. Eternal life isn't all its cracked up to be as the gods grow weaker and weaker, living amongst the annoying mortals of Earth. Alice, a mortal who ends up working as a cleaner for what she believes to be one strange family, is a great heroine. She's mousy, frightened, and unable to speak her mind. Everything turns upside down when Apollo is made to fall in love with the quiet and unimposing Alice.

God's Behaving Badly is a great new novel that bucks quite a few stereotypes. I am happy to announce that Loaded Questions will be offering a feature on Gods Behaving Badly that will include an author interview and a free book giveaway of five hardback copies of the book! Stay tuned for more information in the next few days.

Lady of the Roses
by SA

Anyone who knows me knows that I have always been interested in English monarchical history. So when I got an email from Sandra Worth about her new release,
Lady of the Roses I knew I wanted to get a hold of this book. Loaded Questions will be doing a special feature on Lady of the Roses that will include an interview with Sandra, a review of the book, and another free five book giveaway! I really look forward to reading this book and getting to chat with Sandra about her career and body of work.

Lady of the Roses is about a young lady, Isobel, who has been serving in the court of the Lancastrian Marguerite, Queen of England. Things are complicated by the fact that Isobel, despite being approached by many suitors, finds her self in love with John Neville, a Yorkist. The two lovers must find a way to survive the dangerous civil war taking place in England, the bloody march on London by the Duke of Lancaster, and the violent madness of Queen Marguerite.

Sandra Worth is well known for her dedication to research and her knowledge of the time period she writes in. Her previous novels include the Rose of York trilogy made up of:
The Rose of York: Fall From Grace, The Rose of York: Love and War, and The Rose of York: Crown of Destiny. I am really pleased to have Sandra involved with Loaded Questions.

Fire Bell in the Night

Any mention of this book must begin with giving a hand to it's author, Geoffrey S. Edwards, one of two winners of the First Chapters Contest. The book takes place in 1850 in the midst of a debate about whether or not slavery should be expanded to the Mexican Cession territory which includes all of present day California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Things begin to heat up amidst talk that a slave leader is quietly building an army, causing fear and nervousness in Charleston, South Carolina. It is this terror that leads to the arrest of a local farmer who is caught harboring a runaway slave. The farmer is charged with a capital crime. The trial further escalates matters and begins to get more attention from outside publications like the New York Tribune which sends a reporter, John Sharp, who, along with the help a friend and a fellow reporter seeks to get to the bottom of the issue, uncover a conspiracy and stop a war.

The reviews for this book have been stellar. I have been in contact with Geoffrey who has been generous enough to send along extra books so that we will also be able to give away five free copies of this book as well in the coming weeks! I am excited to read the book and conduct an interview with the author. Stay tuned for more details.

Dear Readers,

If you have read one of these books or have interest in them, please feel free to leave a comment here at Loaded Questions. In addition, if you have questions for any of these authors please share them via comment or email me at KellyHewittLS -at- gmail . com! I would be more than happy to ask your question as part of my upcoming interviews.

- K

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Digital Short Stories

I was intrigued the other day when, looking around the web, I saw that is offering a new feature, Amazon Shorts. These short stories, by both bestselling and new authors alike, are emailed right after the purchase and sell for just .49 cents. After buying a few I spotted two authors, Margaret George and David Blixt, both of whom I have interviewed and am a fan of. I thought I would email them both and get some more information about Amazon Shorts and the stories they had submitted.

"Varnished Faces" by David Blixt, author of
The Master of Verona

Kelly Hewitt: What can you tell us about "Varnished Faces"?

David Blixt: The title comes from a line in Merchant of Venice, referring to masks. But the idea for the story comes, of course, from Romeo & Juliet. At the party where the young lovers meet, Juliet’s father makes a statement about when he last crashed a party wearing a mask. It turns out it was at the wedding of Bianca and Lucentio from Taming of the Shrew. So this story brings characters from those three stories together, as well as a cameo from Much Ado About Nothing.

Also, in the novel, there are two rivalries – Pietro and Carrara, and Mari and Antony. But Antony has just as much reason to hate Carrara. This short allows Antony to get a little of his own back.

Kelly: Was this short something you had already written or was it something that you put together specifically for the Amazon Shorts?

David: I’d had the idea years ago, but hadn’t written it until after talking to Dan at the Shorts program.

Kelly: What drew you to participate in this new Amazon feature?

David: The chance to keep myself in the public eye between books. This is the first of several shorts I’m putting together – the second has to do with the Count of San Bonifacio, the third with Mariotto’s time in France. All of them have impact on future novels, so I’m having fun laying the groundwork here.

Also this allows new readers to sample my writing before making a $25 commitment.

Kelly: And lastly ... when can your readers expect The Master of Verona sequel?

David: Sometime this Fall. Last I heard, there wasn’t a set date. But we do have a title: Voice of the Falconer. It picks up eight years after MV. I’m working on book three at the moment, entitled Fortune's Fool.

Just after David and I finished chatting via email, his second Amazon Short went live. This short story, "San Bonifacio's Curse", brings together the original lost opening to David's debut novel, The Master of Verona and some newer material that delves into the history of the evil
Count of San Bonifacio

"Helen of Troy: The Enigma of Beauty" by Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, Mary Called Magdalene, and Helen of Troy

I asked Margaret why she had participated in the Amazon Shorts and whether or not "Helen of Troy: Enigma of Beauty" was a piece she had already written or something she prepared specifically for Amazon Shorts.

"It was my agent," Margaret wrote, "who suggested I do an Amazon Short because he had another author who had done one and got a big response to it." George wrote to me via email that while this piece was indeed written for Amazon shorts, that "in a sense it was already written in my head long before."

Margaret George, an author who has always been diligent about her historical research, makes it clear the idea for "The Enigma of Beauty" was her idea. She wrote, "I have always thought---long before any of those studies were published confirming it---that beauty confers a sort of royalty on people who have it, opening all sorts of doors and privileges to them. I welcomed an opportunity to expand on the thought. Of course Helen of Troy is the supreme example of this phenomenon. People ask if she was real. Well, it seems that 'once upon a time' there was a woman (somewhere) who was so beautiful people never forgot her.

Perhaps the Helen of myth is an artistic expression of that, although I think the Trojan War was historic and that it certainly could have involved a woman and men's honor in trying to retrieve her. And although modern skeptics could say that it didn't matter what she looked like, if she was a king's wife he would need to get her back or be shamed, I think he would try harder if she was so beautiful---her value would have been much greater than a plain wife's."

As I said, I have always been a fan of Margaret George's historical fiction so I thought that, while I was emailing her, I might as well ask about the book on Queen Elizabeth I she's been working on. Margaret writes, "'Elizabeth I' is coming along quite well! I took a trip to England in November to revisit some sites and gather some information, and that has brought her to new life for me." So it looks like, fellow Margaret George fans, we have something to look forward to.

Margaret also wrote about a particularly important experience while researching in London. She writes: "I just happened to be trying to go to Westminster Abbey when the Queen was celebrating her 60th anniversary there. I got to see all the noble guests leaving, with hats and fancy clothes, although I did not see Her Majesty herself. But the aura of royalty was something I won't forget, when writing about Elizabeth and the reactions she sparked in people."

I think that Amazon is on to something with it's shorts. Readers are able to spend .49 cents to learn a little bit more about a writer's style or read a short story in a new genre. In addition to Margaret George and David Blixt, other authors who have submitted stories include:

Deepak Chopra, David Morrell, David McCullough and include celebrities Nicholas Cage, Guy Ritchie, and John Lithgow.

Because Amazon Shorts is a fairly new feature many of these digital downloads are currently free.

Have fun, check it out. Drop me a reply if you find something interesting.

- Kelly

Monday, January 14, 2008

Loaded Questions: "Tipperary" Author, Frank Delaney


I like Frank Delaney. Delaney is a former BBC broadcaster, created the program Word of Mouth, hosted his own talk show, and has written for several television programs and films. He's a nice guy, very approachable from my experience, and a bit of a role model as he has interviewed some of the prolific authors of his time.

I first bought Delaney's Ireland, an epic novel that begins with the unexpected arrival of a storyteller who, in exchange for a warm bed and food, gathers all around in order to tell stories from Ireland's history. The story follows young Ronan who, entranced by the storyteller's words, sets out to find him after the man disappears just as suddenly as he arrived.

And so when Delaney's newest novel, Tipperary, arrived I knew immediately that I would have to get my hands on it and interview the author if at all possible. A few emails to friendly publicists lead to an email from Delaney who was delighted at the prospect.

Tipperary takes place seventy-five years after the death of Charles O'Brien, a healer and journalist born in 1860. O'Brien's journal has been found and the contents of it are incredible and quite possibly embellished. You see, Charles claims to treat Oscar Wilde on his deathbed; advise a young James Joyce, tell Yeats the story of Finn MacCool; and inadvertently bring down Charles Stewart Parnell. He also meets the founders and leaders of Sinn Fein and the IRA and finds his fate one in the same with theirs. Charles O'Brien is a fascinating character and reading his puzzling diary makes for a fantastic journey.

Kelly Hewitt: Your primary character in Tipperary, Charles O'Brien, meets many of the important Irish figures during the time period, Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, Shaw, Parnell, de Valera, and Collins. Were there any historical Irish artists or authors that you would like to have worked into the plot but just couldn't?

Frank Delaney: Many! Some readers and reviewers have commented to me on this (what they call) "Forrest Gump" factor (I must now go and read/see "Forrest Gump"!). The fact is: Ireland is a very small country and anybody with Charles O'Brien's family connections and, later, his travels and occupations, would have met and did meet almost anybody he wanted to meet. I did, as a reporter. Therefore, I had - regretfully - to be selective. For example, I had to cut a scene - for reasons of structure and length - involving Maud Gonne, the great unrequited love of William Butler Yeats's life.

Kelly: Lets say that you have the chance to meet one of the great Irish thinkers that Charles encounters in this book -- which one would you chose?

Frank: Oh, that's easy: Oscar Wilde, without a doubt - not simply because he was a great writer and thinker - philosopher, even - but because he was such a hugely likeable man. In the biographies of people whose paths crossed Oscar's, he comes across as one of the kindest men of his era, a fact that often gets lost in the more lurid details of his life. Also, he was great company, a terrific gossip.

Kelly: While reading your bio I saw that you were born in Tipperary, Ireland. The book, too, is named Tipperary but in the context of the book refers to a particular castle. Does such a castle exist in the town you were born?

Frank: It did exist - a dramatic and beautiful building called Thomastown Castle, now alas! it amounts to not more than some piles of stones. It was the building that my childhood eyes saw first thing in the morning and last thing at night - it sat on top of a hill across the fields from my home. Once a place of great style, with lavish banquets and famous hospitality, it had begun to fall into ruins when I was a boy, but the gardens and much of the interior were still intact and so I could imagine what it had been like in its glittering, magical heyday.

Kelly: As a reader I could not help but wonder about the possible similarities between your life and that of your main character in Tipperary, Charles O'Brien. I gather that there are a great number of things that you don't have in common. But there's the Tipperary reference and O'Brien's dream to write. Do you have more things in common than I've hit on here? Did those coincidences occur to you at the time?

Frank: Good question! The answer is (thinks...) Yes - and No. Yes, in the sense that Charles O'Brien roams the fields and lanes that I roamed as a child; my house is even marked on the maps that form the end-papers of the book and it's a few fields away from his house. And, Yes in that we both write and have the constant urge to travel. But, also, No: Where we differ is this: Charles decides to write, in order to be seen as a more considerable man; I write because I don't have any choice, there's nothing else I really think about, or have thought about, for as long as I can remember. It's my dominant thought process.

Kelly: I noticed when looking at some of your books on Amazon that a few of your books are available in a Kindle Edition so that they can be read on the new electronic book device that Amazon has been selling. How do you feel about the idea of an electronic book?

Frank: I'm fascinated by the thought and, in common with so many others, will be watching keenly to see how Kindle does. Obviously, any new device that gets people reading is exciting; what I wait to see is how readers educate themselves to the new idea. One of the things that most interests me about Kindle is the eventual opportunity to have an author's entire output in one small and convenient package.

Kelly: One of the reviews of Tipperary that I read suggested that those who wish to fully understand your historical fiction are better served if they find a glossary or reference of Irish history. Is there a particular book or source that you would recommend to your readers who want to touch up on their Irish history?

Frank: Many - the Irish are well historicized, by themselves and others. In my view the major living Irish historian is Roy Foster and almost anything of a historical nature that he has written has immense value - and his two-volume biography of Yeats is peerless. And for the power of brevity there's a concise history of Ireland by Maire MacEntee O'Brien, which comes closely up to date. I haven't counted how many Irish history books I own - but I can tell you one of my absolute favourites, which comprises philosophy and contemplation as well as historical fact, and that is How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill - I highly recommend it.

Kelly: While reading about you I was really impressed and interested in your broadcast history and work with BBC as a news reporter and creator of programs. Do you feel like that work and experience aided you in the writing of your first book and those that have come after?

Frank: Undoubtedly. Broadcasting taught me about addressing an audience - and respecting an audience. It gave me a love of conveying information for people's enjoyment and, I hope, elevation. Further, it taught me about gathering information and applying it to themes, which is a substantial part of a writer's apparatus. And it taught me how to recognize what ignites the spirit. There's a real sense in which broadcasting, and its producers - who taught me how to package material for public consumption - was my university.

Kelly: I also read that you have conducted interviews with hundreds or possibly thousands of authors during your time on the radio. Are there any particular interviews with authors that stick out to you as particularly special or memorable?

Frank: Many. In a spontaneous response these are the names that are pouring out: John Updike, Richard Ford, Richard Adams ("Watership Down"), Norman Mailer, Anthony Burgess ("A Clockwork Orange"), Patricia Highsmith, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, James Baldwin, Jorge Luis Borges, Tom Stoppard, Margaret Attwood, Gore Vidal, Seamus Heaney, Nadine Gordimer, Tom Wolfe - now the soundtrack is overloaded! There are dozens, hundreds, more...

Kelly: What kind of advice do you have for me about the art of interviewing authors?

Frank: Begin with the great question - "How do you write?" Also ask, "How do you protect your writing self from the rest of the world?" And I've found that the question, "For whom do you write?" will get you a long and interesting answer. Authors like to be asked to think about what they do.

Kelly: I suppose an author of your stature is familiar with my next question -- what can your readers expect next?

Frank: A novel in February/March 2009 called "Shannon" (and one a year after that for at least three years). "Shannon" tells the story of an American Marines chaplain shell-shocked in World War One who is sent to Ireland to recover his spirit. I'm deep within the writing at the moment and I'm finding that, again, nothing is what it seems...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

This Week's New Book Releases: 1/13-1/19

To begin, there are two books that I missed last week and wanted to include them with this week's books:

The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The year is 1900 and India Selwyn Jones has just graduated from The London School of Medicine for Women. India's professors suggest she think of setting up a practice on popular Harley Street but she chooses instead to work in the East End, serving the poor and desperate. It is while practicing in this dangerous part of the city that India saves the life of Sid Malone, London's most notorious gangster. Soon, despite having a fiancé that is quickly gaining prestige in the House of Commons, India finds herself drawn to Sid Malone and his dangerous and hidden past. The rest of the book follows the lives of India and Sid and the destruction and danger their love brings about. I am very much looking forward to picking this book up, an interview has been scheduled with Jennifer Donnelly to appear on Loaded Questions, stay tuned.

Beginner's Greek by James Collins

Beginner's Greek, James Collins' debut novel, follows Peter Russell, a man who finally falls madly in love with a woman named Holly, on a flight from New York to LA. Much to Peter's delight Holly writes her number on a piece of paper and hands it to him. The story doesn't end there as, later that night, Peter discovers that he has lost the number. Years pass and suddenly Peter finds Holly again but this time she's married to his best friend Jonathan. What follows is a very comical and entertaining book in which the reader can expect to encounter an "evil boss, the desirable temptress, fiendish behaviors, letters gone astray" and ultimately and ending in which every gets what they deserve. I was first approached about this book a few months ago and got my copy a few weeks ago in the mail. The story may seem formulaic with Holly ending up the best friend's wife but I must say that this novel is so much more than that. It is, as I have said, entertaining, unexpected, and well written. It was featured this week on Entertainment Weekly's Must List. I look forward to sharing a full review with my readers and and my upcoming interview with author James Collins.

The Expeditions by Karl Iagnemma

This is the story of an estranged father, William Stone, and his estranged son, Elisha, who have not seen each other in three long years. The year is 1844 and Elisha, who has at this point been hiding out in the frontier town of Detroit, has signed up for a dangerous and risky expedition into the uncharted and unknown territory of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Just before the expedition, lead by an ex-solider and an odd professor eager to prove his theories about the origins of humanity, leaves, Elisha writes a letter to his invalid mother in Massachusetts. The letter marks his first communication with his family in three years. Elisha's mother, however, doesn't open the letter as she has passed away months before, unknown to her son. The letter is instead opened by the boy's father Reverend William Edward Stone. For the first time William has some idea where his son might be and, armed with this information, he sets out to find Elisha. The remainder of the novel speaks to the bond between father and son, the cruelty of the wilderness, the world beyond Reverend William's cloistered study, and love between the opposite sexes. I haven't yet gotten my hands on a copy of this book but I am very much looking forward to sitting down to read it. Critics who have read the book comment that the arrival of Expeditions marks the discover of a true and extraordinary talent in author Karl Iagnemma.

Lady of the Snakes by Rachel Pastan

Lady of the Snakes follows the life of Jane Levitsky, a successful scholar of 19th century Russian literature. Jane is also married to husband Billy and mother to a somewhat demanding daughter, Maise. Everything changes, though, after Jane makes an important discovery in the life of an important Russian author and his wife, Jane is catapulted into the role of an academic superstar. Everything comes with a consequence and Jane soon finds her relationship with her husband chaffing as she is unable to meet the needs of her family due to the success of her career. There are professional foes as well, the brilliant yet angry Otto Sigelman who has made a career of studying the same material of Jane and whom she was hired to replace, who will stop at nothing to impede upon Jane's success. This novel, one reviewer wrote, will be painfully familiar to women who have attempted to have it all and that may very well be true. However, Lady of Snakes represents a more intelligent and academic sort of literature for women that should appeal to those looking for a more realistic and representative heroine.

Beverly Hills Dead by Stuart Woods

Now I have to admit to never having read a book by Stuart Woods, however, it is clear from the sales and high rankings of his books that somebody sure is. Woods' newest novel, a sequel to The Prince of Beverly Hills takes place during the "Red Scare" of 1940's Hollywood in which everyone and anyone could be accused of being a Communist. The book follows former cop turned head of productions at Centurion Pictures, Rick Barron. Things start to heat up with Barron's good friend Sidney Brooks, a successful screenwriter, is sent a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee. Quite frankly, nobody, including Barron, is surprised as the number of people suspected of being sympathizers increases every day and the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee begin more and more to look like those of a zealous witch-hunt. In writing the blurb for this novel I must say that I am tempted to pick it up.

I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir
by Jennifer Finney Boylan

This memoir by the author of She's Not There, is about the life of Jennifer Finney Boylan and her childhood in Pennsylvania during the 1970's. Boylan writes of frightening daily encounters, stairs that make creepy noises, images in mirrors, and the sound of faint whispers. Jennifer, growing up in the mansion referred to as "Coffin House", had her own ghosts to battle. Born James, the promo for this book writes that the author lived in "a haunted body" and lived with a father and sister who became ghosts to her as well. Boylan begins an earnest investigation into the spirits that haunted her family's home with the help of highly spirited and yet entirely doubtful ghostbusters at her side.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What I'm Reading: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

There are some rather exciting books coming out in the next couple of months. I have been lucky enough to get a hold of a few of them. Here's a few of the books that make up the very special stack that sits beside my reading chair.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
By Mary Roach
April 7th, 2008

Few things make me as giddy as the release of a new book by Mary Roach. Her past titles include the immensely popular Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (once featured prominently in a plot on Six Feet Under) and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. With Stiff, Mary took an unprecedented look into the sometimes stomach-churning uses for human bodies after death. It is fascinating, horrifying, incredibly informative and oddest of all, funny. With Spook, Roach looked at the history of clairvoyants and psychics and the human preoccupation with forging contact with the beyond. Roach is a detective who will stop at nothing to make the right connections in order to get unbelievable access to the subject at hand.

For that last two weeks I have had nothing but a smile on my face and it isn't purely because the holidays are over (at last). The reason is that Mary Roach, who I occasionally email and feel flattered every time she responds, sent me an advanced copy of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex! Mary and I had chatted about the release of this book for several months and so when it arrived in a small package I was elated. Bonk, which is due to be released in April of 2008, is about the history of the scientific research of sex. Roach writes about famed American biologist and sexologist Alfred Kinsey as well as a slew of other scientists who have worked hard and heavy to understand some of the more subtle aspects of human sex and how things work.

I am happy to report that Bonk is every bit as good as Mary Roach's two previous books. Those not fully comfortable with the human body and some of the more biological aspects of what happens during coitus should probably think twice. Anyone who appreciates science, history, and a witty look at sex will find that Bonk includes tons of information that should have been included in the talk about the birds and the bees. I will be finished with the book in a matter of days! Loaded Questions will be doing feature on the book and author Mary Roach in March which will include an author interview with the author. Click here to read an interview I conducted with Mary Roach a year ago.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex can currently be pre-ordered with a sizable discount here.

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