Friday, August 31, 2012

Giveaway: Back to the Books Hop ~ Sept 1st to the 7th

back to books

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Back to the Books Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Buried in Books from September 1st to the 7th!


We have three copies of JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan ~ by Robin Maxwell (Tor trade paperback; September 18, 2012) for US and Canadian addresses:

The first authorized Tarzan novel written by a woman, timed for the centennial of the original publication of TARZAN OF THE APES.

Cambridge, England, 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time: the only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat dissecting corpses than she is in a corset and gown sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of traveling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin. Little does she know she is about to develop from a well-bred, brilliantly educated Edwardian young woman to a fierce, vine-swinging huntress who meets and falls in love with Tarzan.

For more information on the book link to see an excerpt of Jane and a Q & A with Robin Maxwell.  

Now for the Giveaway!

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This contest is now closed. Please come back soon to enter other giveaways which are happening all the time!

Congrats to our winners: Alicia Marie E. from Alabama, Nancy L. from Indiana, and Robert P. of Michigan!!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: The Twenty-Year Death ~ by Ariel S. Winter


Review by John for: The Twenty-Year Death ~ by Ariel S. Winter

A unique three-in-one pulp fiction crime saga.

About:  This is three separate murder mystery stories in one book - each story set ten years apart; each featuring the same two characters, which binds the stories together; with each story written in a different style, mimicking three classic crime writers (Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson).

Clotilde Rosenkratz seemed to be destined for success and for a time was on the verge of becoming a big Hollywood star - though for public consumption her name was changed to Chloe Rose. Her husband Shem was a writer, once acclaimed but slipping inexorably downwards, his situation not helped by being an alcoholic.

Malniveau Prison - In 1931 Clotilde and Shem are living in a small town in France, when a body is found in a gutter. The investigating detective eventually finds out that the body is that of Clotilde’s father. What is unusual is that the man is supposedly locked up in a local prison, and no escapes have been reported.

The Falling Star - In 1941 Clotilde/Chloe is co-starring in a Hollywood movie, but she is nervous and convinced that someone is following her. When a hardboiled private eye is hired to investigate, things quickly become complicated and brutal murders ensue.

Police at the Funeral - In 1951 Shem has hit rock bottom, and is desperate to somehow claw his way back upwards. The death of his first wife seems to present some sort of opportunity, but he soon finds himself with blood on his hands and suspicious police investigating him. Meanwhile, Clotilde’s bleak situation is becoming even bleaker.

John’s thoughts:  I think that this is a clever idea which the author executes well.  Considering that it’s his first novel you have to admire his chutzpah for shooting for such an ambitious plot(s). The three stories are stylistically very different, and while I’ve not ready anything by any of the three influential writers (Simenon, Chandler and Thompson), others have given Winter high marks for his ability to channel their style and tone.

Did I enjoy the read and would you? That seems highly dependent on whether or not you enjoy the three original authors and their respective styles. I’d give a thumbs up to the first story, thought the second one was pretty good, and found the third to be a bit so-so. The main problem for me with the final story was that Shem Rosenkratz (the central character) is a total jerk – I always have a hard time with novels and genres that have distinctly unlikeable people as the “heroes”.  I resonated a lot more with the main characters in the first two stories and consequently enjoyed them more.

Overall the novel is fast-paced and easy to read; the book actually has over 650 pages but it certainly didn’t feel like it. But I think, a saga like this calls for a strong ending and I wasn’t crazy about how the final story wound up. So, on balance I’d rate the book 3 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes pulp crime fiction and/or usage of unusual literary techniques.

Titan Books; Hardback: 672 pages; August 7, 2012.

For about the author see his website:

John is fussy about the endings in the books he reads. Do you have an element that consistently makes or breaks a book’s ratings for you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Excerpt and Interview with Robin Maxwell, author of ~ Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan


An excerpt from Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan ~ by Robin Maxwell; Tor trade paperback; September 18, 2012; and an interview with the author.

Here’s a bit about it:

It’s the first retelling of Tarzan written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate. This renowned love story of the ultimate strong female protagonist, by award-winning author and screenwriter Robin Maxwell, deftly entwines real people and events with archaeology and ancient civilizations based on Maxwell’s research into Darwinian evolutionary theory and the historical discoveries of paleoanthropologist Eugene Dubois.

Cambridge, England, 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time: the only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat dissecting corpses than she is in a corset and gown sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of traveling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin. Little does she know she is about to develop from a well-bred, brilliantly educated Edwardian young woman to a fierce, vine-swinging huntress who meets and falls in love with Tarzan.

When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father to join an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Africa is every bit as exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined, but Jane quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.

Excerpt:  Chicago Public Library, April 1912

Good Lord, she was magnificent! Edgar thought. Infuriatingly bold. He had many times fantasized about women such as this Jane Porter, but he honestly believed they existed only in his imagination. The vicious heckling she had endured for the past hour in the darkened room would have broken the strongest of men, yet there she stood at the podium casting a shadow on the startling image projected by the whirring episcope on the screen behind her, back straight as a rod, head high, trying to bring order back into the hall.

Her age was indeterminate—somewhere approaching thirty, but her presence was one of striking vitality and self-assurance. She was tall and slender beneath the knee-length suit coat of fine brown wool. Her honey-colored hair was tucked up beneath a simple toque of black felt, not one of those large frivolous feathered creations that these days hung perilously cantilevered over a woman’s face. Emma wished desperately for one of those freakish hats, and Edgar was secretly glad they were still too poor to afford it.

“These claims are preposterous!” cried a man seated halfway back in the crowded room. He had the look of an academic, Edgar thought.

“These are not claims, sir. They are the facts as I know them, and physical evidence, here, right before your eyes.” There were hoots of derision at that, and catcalls, and Jane Porter’s chin jutted an inch higher.

“This is clearly a hoax,” announced a portly bearded man who brazenly walked to the table in front of the podium and swept his hand above the massive skeleton displayed on it. “And a bad hoax at that. Why, you haven’t even tried to make the bones look old.”

The audience erupted in laughter, but the woman spoke over the commotion in a cultured British accent with more equanimity than Edgar thought humanly possible.

“That is because they are not old. I thought I made it clear that the bones came from a recently dead specimen.”

“From a living missing link species,” called out another skeptic. The words as they were spoken were meant to sound ridiculous.

“All you’ve made clear to us today, Miss Porter, is that you should be locked up!”

“Can we have the next image, please?” the woman called to the episcope operator.

“I’ve had enough of this claptrap,” muttered the man sitting just in front of Edgar. He took the arm of his female companion, who herself was shaking her head indignantly, and they rose from their seats, pushing down the row to the side aisle.

This first defection was all it took for others to follow suit. Within moments a mass exodus was under way, a loud and boisterous one with rude epithets shouted out as hundreds of backs were turned on the stoic presenter.

Edgar remained seated. When someone threw on the electric lights, he could see that the episcope operator up front in the center aisle was wordlessly packing up the mechanism of prisms, mirrors, and lenses that threw opaque images onto the screen as the speaker began her own packing up.

Finally Edgar stood and moved down the side aisle to the front of the meeting hall. He rolled the brim of his hat around in his hands as he approached Jane Porter. Now he could see how pretty she was. Not flamboyantly so, but lovely, with an arrangement of features—some perfect, like her green almond eyes and plump upward-bowed lips, and some less so, like her nose, just a tad too long and with a small bump in it—that made her unique.

She was handling the bones as if they were made of Venetian glass, taking up the skull, shoulders, arms, and spine and laying them carefully into a perfectly molded satin receptacle in a long leather case.

She looked up once and gave him a friendly, close-lipped smile, but when he did not speak she went back wordlessly to her task. Now it was the lower extremities that she tucked lovingly away, using special care to push the strange big-toe digits into narrow depressions perpendicular to the feet.
Edgar felt unaccountably shy. “Can I give you a hand?”

“No, thank you. They all fit just so, and I’ve had quite a lot of practice. London, Paris, Moscow, Berlin.”

“I have to tell you that I was completely enthralled by your presentation.”

She looked at Edgar with surprised amusement. “You don’t think I should be locked up?”

“No, quite the contrary.”

“Then you cannot possibly be a scientist.”

“No, no, I’m a writer.” He found himself sticking out his hand to her as though she were a man. “The name’s Ed Burroughs.”

She took it and gave him a firm shake. He noticed that her fingernails were pink and clean but altogether unmanicured, bearing no colorful Cutex “nail polish,” the newest rage that Emma and all her friends had taken to wearing. These were not the hands of a lady, but there was something unmistakably ladylike about her.

“What do you write, Mr. Burroughs?”

He felt himself blushing a bit as he pulled the rolled-up magazine from his jacket pocket. He spread it out on the table for her to see. “My literary debut of two months ago,” he said, unsure if he was proud or mortified.

All-Story magazine?”

“Pulp fiction.” He flipped through the pages. “This is the first installment in the series I wrote. There was a second in March. My pen name’s Norman Bean. It’s called ‘Under the Moons of Mars.’ About a Confederate gentleman, John Carter, who falls asleep in an Arizona cave and wakes up on Mars. There he finds four-armed green warriors who’ve kidnapped ‘the Princess of Helium,’ Dejah Thoris. He rescues her, of course.”

She studied the simple illustration the publisher had had drawn for the story, something that’d pleased Edgar very much.

“It really is fiction,” she observed.

“Fiction, fantasy…” He sensed that the woman took him seriously, and he felt suddenly at ease. It was as if he had always known her, or should have known her. She exuded something raw and yet something exceedingly elegant.

“When I was ten I came home from school one day and told my father I’d seen a cow up a tree,” Edgar said, startling himself with his candor with a complete stranger. “I think I said it was a purple cow. I was punished quite severely for lying, but nothing stops a compulsion, does it?”

When she shook her head knowingly, he felt encouraged. “A few years later I moved to my brother’s ranch in Idaho and stayed for the summer. By the time I was enrolled at Phillips Academy I could spin a pretty good yarn about all the range wars I’d fought in, the horse thieves, murderers, and bad men that I’d had run-ins with. It was a good thing my father never heard about them.”

A slow smile spread across Jane Porter’s features. “Well, you’ve shown him now, haven’t you. A published author.”

“I’m afraid my old man has yet to be convinced of my myriad talents.”

She snapped both cases closed and took one in each hand.

“Here, let me help you with those.”

“No, thank you. Having the two of them balances me out.”

“I was hoping you’d let me take you out to dinner. Uh, I’d like very much to hear more about your ape-man.”

She stopped and looked at him. “Honestly?”


“You must pardon my suspiciousness. I have been booed and hissed out of almost every hallowed hall of learning in the world. This is the last. I tried to have my paper heard at the Northwestern and Chicago universities, but I’m afraid my reputation preceded me and they said absolutely not. That’s why you had to listen to my presentation at a meeting room at the Chicago Public Library.”

“So will you come out with me?”

The woman thought about it for a very long moment. She set down her cases and walked to the man at the episcope, quietly conferred with him, and returned. “It’s really not a good idea for us to talk in public, but my hotel is nearby. You and I can go up to my room.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Edgar said. “Chicago police keep an eye on even the nicest hotels. They might arrest you for soliciting. But my apartment’s not too far. The wife and kids have gone to her mother’s for the weekend. I mean … sorry, that sounds…”

“Mr. Burroughs, your apartment’s a fine idea. I’m not afraid of you. But don’t you care about the neighbors?”

He eyed the woman’s bulky luggage. “I’ll tell them you’re selling vacuum cleaners.”

She smiled broadly. “That will do.”

They were largely silent on the taxi ride across town to his Harris Street walk-up, except for the exchange of pleasantries about the lovely spring weather they were having and how April was almost always horrible in England.

It was just Edgar’s rotten luck that the only neighbor who saw them come in was the landlord, a petty, peevish little man who was looking for the rent, now more than a week late. Edgar was relieved to get Jane Porter up the three flights and inside, shutting the door behind them, but he cringed to see the empty cereal bowl and box of Grape-Nuts that he’d left on his writing desk. There was a pile of typewritten pages on letterhead lifted from the supply closet of the pencil sharpener company he worked for, a mass of cross-outs and arrows from here to there, scribbled notes to himself in both margins.

“It’s a novel I’m writing, or should say rewriting … for the third time. I call it The Outlaw of Torn.” Edgar grabbed the bowl and cereal box and started for the kitchen. “I turn into a bit of a bachelor when my wife is away. By that I don’t mean…”

“It’s all right,” she called after him. “You have children?”

“A boy and girl, two and three. Why don’t you sit down? Can I get you something to drink? Tea? A glass of sherry?”

“Yes, thank you. I’ll have a cup of water. Cool, please.”

When Edgar returned from the kitchen, his guest was sitting at the end of the divan in an easy pose, her back against the rounded arm, her head leaning lazily on her hand. She had taken off her suit coat, and now he could see she wore no stiff stays under the white silk blouse, those torturous undergarments that mutilated a woman’s natural curves. She wore no jewelry save a filigreed gold locket hanging between shapely breasts, and it was only when she was opening the second of the two cases holding the skeleton that he saw she wore a simple gold wedding band. He could see now where she had meticulously pieced together the shattered bones of the apelike face.

He set the water down and sat across from her. Now she sighed deeply.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Edgar asked, praying silently that she did.

“Well, I’ve never told this in its entirety. The academics don’t wish to hear it. But perhaps your ‘pulp fiction’ readers will. I can tell you it’s a story of our world—a true story, one that will rival your John Carter of Mars.”

“Is it about you?”

“A good part of it is.”

“Does what happened to you in the story explain your fearlessness?”

“I told you, I’m not frightened of you. I…”

“I don’t mean me. You took an awful lot of punishment this afternoon … and in public, too. You’re a better man than I.”

She found Edgar’s remark humorous but grew serious as she contemplated his question. “I suppose they did toughen me up, my experiences.” She stared down at her controversial find, and he saw her eyes soften as though images were coming into focus there.

“Where does it begin?” he asked.

“Well, that depends upon when I begin. As I’ve said, I’ve never told it before, all of it.” She did some figuring in her head. “Let me start in West Central Africa, seven years ago.”

“Africa!” Edgar liked this story already. Nowhere on earth was a darker, more violent or mysterious place. There were to be found cannibals, swarthy Arab slave traders, and a mad European king who had slaughtered millions of natives.

“It just as well could start in England, at Cambridge, half a year before that.” She smiled at Edgar. “But I can see you like the sound of Africa. So, if you don’t mind me jumping around a bit…”

“Any way you like it,” Edgar said. “But I know what you mean. It’s not easy figuring out how to begin a story. For me it’s the hardest part.”

“Well then … picture if you will a forest of colossal trees. High in the fork of a fig, a great nest has been built. In it lies a young woman moaning and delirious. Her body is badly bruised and torn.”

“Is it you?” Edgar asked.

Jane Porter nodded.

“I have it in my mind. I can see it very well.” Edgar could feel his heart thumping with anticipation. He allowed his eyes to close. “Please, Miss Porter…” There was a hint of begging in his voice. “Will you go on?”

Copyright © 2012 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

Robin Maxwell_Headshot

Question & Answer:

ROBIN MAXWELL is the national bestselling author of eight historical fiction novels featuring powerful women, including Signora da Vinci and the award-winning Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, now in its 24th printing. She lives in the high desert of California with her husband, yogi Max Thomas. Visit her online at

1. Tell us about your book.

The story of Tarzan and Jane is the wildest, most primal and overtly sexual iteration of the Romeo and Juliet legend in all of literature and pop culture. These two are buried deep in everyone's subconscious. In fact, the idea for writing my version of a cultured Edwardian lady falling passionately in love with a naked savage in an African eden came shockingly unbidden to me -- "Like magma erupting suddenly from a long-dormant volcano."

Writing JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan was a journey of discovery in re-imagining the iconic story exactly a century after the debut of Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Tarzan of the Apes," the first of twenty-four novels. It was a challenge to retain the period veneer and classic adventure style that were ERB hallmarks, while appealing to discerning modern readers. For this I turned to science and history where Burroughs had employed fantasy and suspension of disbelief. My lifelong fascination with and deep research into paleoanthropology and Darwin's "missing link" in human evolution were woven into my narrative. I had to revamp my protagonist from a meek, turn-of-the-century "maiden" into a stroppy, fearless young woman with dreams of a scientific career who -- for the love of a man like no other -- transmogrifies into "Jane, Queen of the Jungle."

2.  What was your inspiration behind this novel?

I didn’t realize it till recently, but my first heartthrob was Tarzan. To a pubescent girl with raging hormones and an out-of-control imagination, what could be more appealing than a next-to-naked, gorgeously muscled he-man?  A guy who lived totally free, who feared nothing, and had wild, death-defying adventures in a jungle paradise?  The romantic in me adored that he was madly in love with and devoted to an American girl…and had a chimpanzee for a pet. You can’t get much better than that.

My favorite TV show when I was growing up was “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”  Irish McCalla was incredibly sexy in that tiny leopardskin dress and those thick gold armbands.  Sheena had adventures that polite young ladies weren’t supposed to have.  I also loved “Jungle Jim” and “Ramar of the Jungle.”  And while I’d never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels, I’d relished all the Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies late at night on TV.  Though I didn’t realize it then, there was a pattern emerging.  The jungle. Fabulous African animals.  High adventure and sweaty thighs in skimpy leopard-skin outfits.  

I started growing up and Tarzan slipped out of my consciousness.  But when I heard about the movie called “Greystoke,” I was first in line on opening night.  I loved the beginning, but the second half left me cold.  I could not believe that Jane never even made it into the jungle.  It was sacrilege! Bo Derek’s “Tarzan the Ape Man  was simply unwatchable.  And by the time Disney made its animated feature, I was “too old” for Tarzan, and didn’t bother to go.

What I didn’t realize was that – like people in nearly every country on the planet – I still had Tarzan and Jane jungle fantasies buried in my brain.

So now FLASH BACK to almost three years ago. I had been an historical novelist for fifteen years and had eight published books under my belt.  The question arose as to the subject of my next project.  My last had been the first novelistic interpretation in all of literary history of that most famous love story, “Romeo and Juliet”.

Riding down the road one day with my husband Max, he wondered if I might want to choose another pair of literary lovers rather than historical characters for my next book. I thought, to myself, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” And then he asked who they would be. Not three seconds passed before I blurted out, “Tarzan and Jane!”  Max’s first reaction was “What!?  Really? Where did that come from?”  He was very dubious. At the time I had no memory of Sheena, Ramar or Jungle Jim.  Or even of the old Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies.  But the images must have been bubbling in the depths of my subconscious like magma waiting to erupt from a dormant volcano.

3. Specific research played a large role in the writing of Jane. Please elaborate.

I made the decision that my book was going to be based as much in reality as was humanly possible.  Where Mr. Burroughs strayed into fantasy, I would be grounded in reality.  I wanted everything in it to be possible, if not probable.  And being a science buff at heart (I graduated with a Bachelor of Science, not a Bachelor of Arts degree from college), I was keen to lace the story with scientific fact and history. In places, I knew I’d be stretching the facts and taking literary license…but I was writing fiction, so basically, if you do it well, anything goes.

So what are the major differences (aside from point of view) between ERB’s Tarzan of the Apes and JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan?  In Tarzan of the Apes, Jane and her father are part of a treasure-hunting expedition in western Africa – Gabon.  The fact of their being on or near the west coast was, I thought, important to the integrity of the story.  I just needed a way to get them there – solid motivation – that was based in science. It just so happens that, from a very young age, one of my greatest passions was the search for the “missing link” in human evolution, both in the ancient fossil record, as well as creatures that some claim are still alive (like Bigfoot and the Yeti). I think if I hadn’t become a writer, I would have made my career as a paleoanthropologist or archaeologist.

I’d postulated in my most basic outline that the thing that gets Archie and Jane Porter to Africa is their search for missing link fossils. But that was all the detail I had at that point.  The most important research book I found on this subject was The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eug√®ne Dubois and His Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right by Pat Shipman.  Dubois was a leading paleoanthropologist of the time, and had found the bones of “Java Man” (Pithecanthropus erectus) in Indonesia in 1891. Besides being a brilliant scientist, Dubois was also a sculptor, and he created a statue representing what he believed Java Man would have looked like with flesh and bones. You can see the straight, upright posture, human-looking legs, the hands with the extra-long, ape-like fingers, and especially the big prehensile toes.  This was clearly a transitional creature. But the important thing here was that Dubois’ work gave me a plausible missing link species that Archie and Jane could be looking for.

I decided to make this real historical figure – Dubois – into a dear friend and colleague of Archie Porter’s.  And along with Archie and Jane, we get to witness one of Dubois’ real lectures at Cambridge University about Java Man…where was hooted and howled at by the audience … because no one believed his find was real. Of course Dubois was later proved right.  Pithecanthropus erectus would later be redesignated Homo erectus.

But the other fascinating thing I learned in Shipman’s book was that Darwin insisted that the real missing link would be found in Africa, and no where else. So, I made Jane and Archie faithful “Darwinists.”  Then I created a big, charismatic expedition leader named Ral Conrath who – for his own nefarious reasons - approaches them with a promise that he knows of a place in West Africa where they are sure to find their missing link fossils.  Conrath is hired.  And voila!  The Porters suddenly have the motivation they need to go to to Africa and end up not-far-inland from the beach in Gabon where Lord and Lady Greystoke were set ashore by mutineers twenty years before (here I stayed close to the story in Tarzan of the Apes).  This is also the great forest where Tarzan is now living alone as a rogue Mangani.

Then smack in the middle of my research my husband handed me a National Geographic magazine – a story about a team of paleoanthropologists, (Tim White, Berhane Asfaw, and Giday WoldeGabriel) who, fifteen years before, had discovered in the Middle Awash area of Ethiopia a full skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus (whom they called “Ardi”). It had straight leg bones giving it a human, upright stance.  This is one of the main distinctions that separate human from ape – the shape of the pelvis and the and leg bone…that and speech.  On the other hand, Ardi had  opposable, “prehensile” big toes perfect for grasping branches…and the face and skull of a chimp. It was to my eye the closest creature to a missing link that I had ever seen. To my pleasure (and Charles Darwin’s, if he had been alive), it was found in Africa. I now knew that just across the continent from where Jane and Archie needed to be a “transitional species” had once lived and breathed.  If you look closely at Ardi, except for the hairy body, he looks strikingly like Dubois’ Java Man.  Straight leg bones, and especially the fingers and big toes.  

Something was dawning on me, and it got me really excited – a cool mixture of science and fantasy.  A story point that might not be probable…but possible.  What I was thinking was that when Jane meets Tarzan, she discovers that the tribe that brought him up – one that he secretly allows her to observe – is a living missing link species!

Now when you think about ERB’s Mangani (which he calls “Anthropoid” apes), they can talk.  They speak in words.  They have a language. So I figured that if I melded scientific fact together with ERB’s imaginary “Ape-People,” what I’d get was a “transitional species,” – A living missing link tribe residing in East Africa -- Tarzan’s neck of the woods. And Jane, a budding paleoanthropologist, gets to make one of the biggest scientific discoveries in history!

My second departure from the ERB canon – one that I argued for many hours with ERB Inc.'s president – was the age at which Tarzan was taken from his parents after their murder at the hands of a crazed and vicious Mangani bull.  ERB says “little Johnnie Clayton” was one year old when this happened.  Yet in the ensuing years, he is able to teach himself to read books, words “little bugs” on their pages, and to write.  And once he meets the human expedition – the Porters and a Frenchman, Paul D’Arnot – he is able to learn, within a couple of months, not only English, but French.  By the end of the book he’s got perfect grammar in both languages and is driving a car around the American mid-west.

I, too, wanted my Tarzan to be capable of simple but grammatical speech by the book’s end – enough so that Jane could contemplate taking him back into civilization.  But to stay true to my self-imposed “reality guidelines,” I asked myself how realistic it would be for a child who had only lived among humans and heard their speech for the first year of its life to re-learn not only language, but comprehension, reading and writing in a few month’s time.  I guessed it was unlikely, but I didn’t know the answer.  So I went to the research books about feral children.

There were a surprising number of famous cases, and I read them intently.  But here was the crux of it: There is something called “The critical period hypothesis.”  It is fiercely debated, but it basically states that humans have a “window of opportunity” to learn their first language. If that period passes without exposure to language, practice, etc., then the opportunity is lost forever. Feral children(like Tarzan) must hear human language spoken in that period if they are later to come back to civilization and learn to speak properly.

ERB explained Tarzan’s incredible mastery of language to his superior intelligence and nobility of spirit.  To me, it strained credulity. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to make him four years old when he is abducted by the Mangani. This would give him time to speak, and even learn a little reading and writing.  Hence, his re-learning with Jane’s help, would be that much more believable to modern readers.

4. You've been a screenwriter for over 30 years. How does your educational and professional background lend itself to your creative work?

I never imagine that my studies in the gross anatomy lab at Tufts University Medical School (when I was training to become an occupational therapist) would ever come in so handy writing one of my novels.  But as it turns out, Jane Porter is introduced as a character in England while she dissecting her first cadaver in the gross anatomy laboratory at Cambridge University Medical School where her father is the professor.  In those days (1905) women were allowed to audit classes at Cambridge, but not graduate, and Professor Porter has moved mountains to get her into his dissection lab.  It was a great way to introduce a strong, stroppy, no-nonsense Edwardian lady at a time when women of her class were expected to enjoy afternoon teas and tennis parties...and never talk back to a man.  

Later, when Jane finds herself alone with Tarzan -- a near-naked, drop-dead gorgeous savage -- she has to balance her instant primal attraction to the wild-haired young man with the social mores with which she's grown up.  So she falls back on her anatomy training, becoming a "scientific observer," only to realize that she's just hot for the handsome ape man.  

Excerpt from JANE:

Tarzan’s back was a masterpiece of musculature.  Under the slightly tanned skin rippled and bulged two mighty triangular trapezii, massive latissimi dorsi running from armpit to waist, a spinal column sunk within a deep canal and bordered on either side by a column of little erector spinae  and intertransversarii muscles connecting one vertibra to another.  The proud, well-formed head sat atop a powerful neck with its two brilliantly defined sterno-clieto-mastoid muscles, allowing him maximum flexibility and strength.

I could not decide whether I was most fascinated by Tarzan’s arms and hands or his buttocks.  The forearms were nearly as large as the upper arms, with the most massive wrists I had ever seen on a human being -- even the masons who worked on the Manor rockwork.  His hands themselves were living machines that allowed him feats of unbelievable strength, yet were capable of the most extreme dexterity and tenderness.  The thought of those hands moving over my body in the Waziri hut made me suddenly weak and giddy, and I admonished myself to concentrate lest I lose my footing and fall to my demise.  

A moment later, however, I found myself contemplating Tarzan’s thighs.  They were meaty and well-formed, with a quality that hardened them to steel when in use, and softened them when at rest.  The feet, and his toes in particular, could curl round a limb and grip with astonishing tensile power.  But the man’s arse, I thought, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World…   

Well honestly, I must stop these prurient observations!  I could tell myself all day long I was studying his magnificent physique “in the name of science,”  but that was blatant self-deception, and I was mortified by my prurient motivations.

As for my screenwriting background, I believe that so many years of having to write passages so descriptively and colorfully that an actor, director or film executive reading it can "see it" perfectly as it would be up on the screen, gave me a leg-up in writing novels.  Another skill I honed was pacing -- keeping the plot moving at a brisk pace.  I had a terrific teach (and sometimes co-writer) Ronald Shusett, the writer-producer of "Alien," "Total Recall" and "Minority Report."  He was a master of pacing and never let me get away with a single lagging moment, especially in the third act.  That, he told me, was where you needed almost no dialogue, just fantastic action sequences and a bang-up ending.  I really made use of that intelligence writing JANE, the ending of which many of which liken to an Indiana Jones movie.

5. Your last novel, O Juliet, focused on the great love story between Romeo and Juliet. Which do you prefer to write about: literary lovers or historical figures?

When you're dealing with historical lovers, it's a double-edged sword.  While you're bound (as good historical fiction authors are) to adhere to the facts that are known about a romance, you are also given the great gift of an already blocked-out story.  And it's been my experience -- writing about the likes of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley -- that truth is stranger than fiction.  In my wildest dreams I could not have come up with a more passionate, dysfunctional, history-changing and bloody love stories than these. Come on!  A king who moves mountains (including a break with the Catholic Church and executing his best friends) to divorce his first wife to marry his second.  A beautiful, clever non-royal woman who manages to keep the already-scary monarch out of her bed for six thigh-sweating years -- only to marry him and have her head chopped off for bearing him a daughter and not a son?!  You couldn't make that up. 

I do like literary lovers.  Once again I'm provided with a brilliant framework (no less than Shakespeare for O, Juliet and Edgar Rice Burroughs for JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan) but then I can go wild.  In both cases, while the original writing was fantastic, there was a huge amount of room for character and plot development.  In O, Juliet the protagonists were fourteen and fifteen, and their love affair ending in double-suicide took place over a three day period.  I made them eighteen and twenty-three and stretched the story over three months, allowing for more believability and for readers to really get to know Romeo and Juliet, as well as their families and something of the city they lived in - Florence (not Verona -- again, literary license!).

In the original Tarzan of the Apes (1912) the first of ERB's twenty-four Tarzan novels, Jane was written as a swooning, fainting Baltimore belle who actually brings her black maid on a treasure-hunting expedition to Africa.  By permission of the ERB estate, I was able to take artistic liberties with the character of Jane, though there were rules that I was forced to adhere to.  This was a document called "The Tarzan Universe," a list of twenty-one rules (such as, "Tarzan may not drink alcoholic beverages" "Tarzan may not harm women" "Tarzan may not be a racist" etc.) so that the dignified Tarzan legacy is preserved. 

The one that threw me was #17:  "Tarzan may not have elicit sex" (read: "sex outside of marriage").  I put my foot down on that one, insisting to the board of directors that if Tarzan and Jane couldn't "do the wild thing" in my novel, I wouldn't write it.  We amended #17 to read, "Tarzan and Jane may have sex, as long as it is handled tastefully."  In addition, I had to promise there would be no "throbbing members" mentioned, and I was good to go.

6. Jane, your protagonist, is clearly a trailblazer. Do you think she is largely ignored as a strong feminist example in popular culture? Why or why not?

This requires a complicated answer because it has so many moving parts.  The way people perceive the character of Jane Porter in popular culture comes from two sources -- the twenty-four ERB Tarzan novels in which she was only a character in eight, and the movies (and to a much lesser degree some short-lived Tarzan TV series).  In the earliest books Edgar Rice Burroughs, a product of his times and societal values, wrote Jane as "everygirl," not a bold suffragette, but a Baltimore belle thrown for a short time into an exotic situation with an even more exotic man.  In later books, such as Tarzan the Terrible, Jane has definitely evolved.  She has learned "the art of woodcraft," is resourceful, capable of handling herself alone in the jungle, killing to defend herself, and even leading a group of people through the jungle to safety.  

However, most people today don't read the original novels of ERB.  We are left to the movie portrayals of Jane Porter.  The most famous was Maureen O'Sullivan's (including "Tarzan the Ape Man" -1932- and "Tarzan and His Mate" - 1934) who happily donned skimpy and quite fetching costumes and swung around in the jungle with her lover, engaging in rather shocking out-of-wedlock sex.  She even did a four-minute long nude underwater swimming sequence with Tarzan that so enraged the nascent Hollywood censors that from then on Jane was forced to cover up in little brown leather dresses...and true Hollywood censorship was born.

Janes of the 50s, 60s and 70s were mere pretty appendages to Tarzan.  Bo Derek tried to put the focus (1984) in which Tarzan doesn't meet Jane (a gorgeous young Andie McDowell) until he's brought back to England.  Their love affair is conducted in an Edwardian mansion, and Jane never even sets foot in the jungle!

For my role model as I was growing up I had "Sheena Queen of the Jungle," my favorite TV . A beautiful leggy blonde -- Irish McCalla -- could hunt and fight and survive like her male counterpart, Tarzan.  

Since I'm known in my historical fiction writing for strong, ahead-of-their-time females, I knew "my Jane" would be no different.  Because she lived much later than my historical heroines and herself had role models (women explorers and adventurers like Mary Kingsley and Annie Smith Peck) I had much more freedom to make her a feminist -- what was in those days known as a "New Woman."  These women were feared and hated, much as feminists are today.  It was thought that if there were enough of them, they could bring down the British empire.

7.  This is the first authorized Tarzan novel written by a woman—what is the story behind receiving approval from the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate?

I was fortunate that two of my dearest friends had been dealing with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate on a screen adaptation of the first of ERB’s novels, The Outlaw of Torn, and I knew from their experience that one did not tread anywhere near a Burroughs creation without great peril to one’s self. And of course I desperately wanted the blessings and authorization for my concept from the estate, as much as I needed them.

So, first things first.  I got myself a copy of Tarzan of the Apes and read it thoroughly. Of course I was blown away by the storytelling and the astonishing imagery.  But lurking behind every banana leaf and every elephant’s ear were, in my writer’s mind, fabulous opportunities for telling this brilliant classic in a new way.

So I revved up my courage and sent a letter of introduction to Jim Sullos, president of ERB, Inc.  That very day I got a call from him, and before I knew it he was demanding to know what my “great new idea” for a Tarzan novel was.  So I unchoked my throat and told him:  “The Tarzan story from Jane’s point of view.”  At that point I had only the most basic “beats” of the adventure that would bring Tarzan and Jane together. But I was confident that it was good. 

I didn’t have to wait long – maybe 3 seconds – before Jim blurted, “I love it.  It’s original.  It’s never been done like this before in a Tarzan novel.”  And surprising me even more – because at that point I didn’t know Jim from Adam – one of the reasons he liked it so much was because it was a romance.  Since then I’ve learned what a big, sweet-hearted guy he is, so now it doesn’t surprise me at all.  And funnily enough, when I saw the cover of the All Story Magazine where “Tarzan of the Apes” debuted, there in the bottom right corner, it read: “A Romance of the Jungle!”

It was during this phone meeting that Jim explained that 2012 was the one hundreth anniversary of the All Story publication.  We figured it out, and realized that if we timed it properly, my book could be written and published in time for the “Tarzan Centennial Year.”  This was fabulous news.

8.  Who, in your opinion, is your target audience?

The easiest target audience is women and men age 50+.  This is because either they read the ERB Tarzan novels or -- more likely -- were fans of the Johnnie Weissmuller/Maureen O'Sullivan movies.  Men had boyhood fantasies of being Tarzan, and girls either wanted to be Jane or they loved the idea of a wild, handsome half-naked boyfriend.  When this demographic hears my book is "The Tarzan story from Jane's point of view" they go nuts.  They "get it" instantly, and they say "I can't wait to buy it!"

My question to you is:  are there blogs that are widely read by 50+ fiction readers?  

The 35-50 crowd probably never read the ERB novels and was exposed to the inferior Tarzan movies.  However, in this group, are many historical fiction readers (and much of my fan base), romance readers (this is a romance novel at its core), and females who read women's fiction.  Here, you'll also find sci-fi/fantasy/adventure readers, and as you know, JANE is chock full of adventure.  You should add sci-fi/fantasy readers as I take license with science, Darwin's theories and missing links in human evolution.  The Mangani as a "living missing link species" is -- in my estimation possible.  They would be like an isolated tribe of "Bigfoot" creatures (which have never been disproven).  But most consider this borders on sci-fi/fantasy.

The youngest readers (18-25) only ever saw the Disney animated "Tarzan," "Tarzan and Jane," and "George of the Jungle."  Some don't have a clue who Tarzan is, and don't "get" how cool a Tarzan story told through Jane's eyes is.  They might never have heard of Jane!  That doesn't mean I want to forget targeting this audience.  After all, both Tarzan and Jane in JANE are fabulous 20-year-olds having an extraordinary adventure and sexy love story.  And I have (especially with O, Juliet) been favorably reviewed by YA bloggers.

9. Do you see any yourself in any of these characters?

Of course I want to be Jane, defying a repressive society, traveling to an exotic location and being left entirely alone in paradise with a gorgeous, uninhibited male specimen who can protect me from virtually anything, loves me to distraction and makes wild primal love to me.  Don't you?!

10. Finally, where can we find your book?

Everywhere.  Chains like Barnes and Noble (co-op the first two weeks after September 18th); independents;  online bookstores like, and (like 

This excerpt and Q & A are courtesy of P R by the Book.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Reviews: Carrie Vaughn’s ~ Kitty Norville Series, books 1 - 5

kitty steals the show

Reviews by Shellie for books 1 through 5 of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville Series - in audio.

I am catching up on this great 10 book series (so far) which features the strong female character – werewolf Kitty Norville. With the latest book number 10 from the series - Kitty Steals the Show (July 2012 Tor books shown to the left) just released about a month ago I figured it was a perfect excuse to start at the beginning.

Happily, I’ve devoured the first five books and am working on the sixth now. My continued interest tells me (and you) something about this paranormal/urban fantasy with its light romance and social commentary. It’s definitely relaxing, darkly fun, and thoughtful stuff!

Included here is a complete review for the first in the series and very short summaries for the other four books which can be read as stand alones, but I recommend them in order to get the full development and understanding of the characters – especially Kitty.

kitty and the midnight hour

Kitty and The Midnight Hour (#1 Kitty Norville Series) ~ by Carrie Vaughn (in audio)

Book number one, of this fun and dark series where Denver DJ turned werewolf, Kitty Norville, accidentally starts a radio talk show – called “The Midnight Hour”. It surprisingly blows the radio station ratings sky high pulling in special callers (werewolves, vampires, and more) looking for advice in a world where they have been thought not to exist.

About:  Kitty is a nighttime DJ who has been unwittingly turned werewolf. Definitely not a choice, she deals with it with the help of her best friend TJ (also a werewolf) and their local pack. Being part of the pack has helped her adjust, but there is a hierarchy within the group that is not entirely comfortable, balanced or healthy.

When her paranormal radio talk/advice show “The Midnight Hour” becomes a hit, it disrupts the pack’s status quo and the paranormal entities in power are annoyed and angry. With factions attempting to stop her new found success and independence, Kitty maneuvers through the drama as peacefully as possible. But there are some pack members (and others – including vampires) who may even want her dead.

Thoughts for the entire first 5 books in the series:

*I recommend reading the series in order and definitely reading the first book before the rest, which gives the reader an important basis for the entire series.*

I listened to this book in audio which was read by Marguerite Gavin. I liked the voice of the reader and felt it fit for the Kitty character. She does a fine job with differentiating all the characters, changing the tone for men and women, creating believable differences, and handling accents from different countries and locales in the US.

With its realistic modern day setting, this is urban fantasy with some paranormal romance thrown into the mix. It’s fantastical in nature but the story is relevant. I found it fun (darkly so) and thoughtful, without being too fluffy. It includes insight into human nature while questioning social and moral issues, making it feel like there are lessons to ponder while enjoying the drama, dry humor, and light, tasteful romance. I think my favorite part of the series is the character Kitty herself; she is strong and independent, yet vulnerable and reflective. I can see why there are 10 books in the series, one story collection, miscellaneous short stories, and apparently more in the works.  4 stars!

Special note: The series includes light and tasteful sex scenes, strong language, as well as horror elements. A “heads up” for those readers that may be sensitive to them. 

Unabridged - 7 hours, 2 minutes; Jul 2, 2009kitty goes to washington

Kitty Goes to Washington (#2)

In this second book of the series Kitty is on the run, doing her late night talk show at random places around the US. Things become sticky when she is called in to testify at a Senate hearing as an expert witness in Washington DC, where a number of those running the hearing possess motives which are all but pure.

Unabridged - 8 hours, 54 minutes; Jul 23, 2009

kitty takes a holiday


Kitty Takes a Holiday (#3)

In this third book of the series, Kitty is recovering from the drama of having her face and body changed into a werewolf being plastered all over national TV; she is no longer an incognito radio show host. So she has decided to take some time to hide, reflect, relax and write her memoir. But things don’t work out as she planned when one of her friends turns up at her cabin door, bitten and infected by the werewolf virus.

Unabridged - 8 hours, 29 minutes Oct 26, 2009   kitty and the silver bullet


Kitty and the Silver Bullet (# 4)

Although banned from returning to Denver, Kitty has little choice but to come home since her mother is ill. Unfortunately the local pack’s leaders are not taking kindly to her arrival back into the area - which creates a big messy conflict.

Unabridged - 9 hours, 1 minute; Nov 30, 2009

kitty and the dead man's hand


Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand (# 5)

Kitty with her alpha-mate Ben head to Vegas to elope. It’s an attempt to make their lives simpler, but instead things become even more complex and dramatic. They encounter a preforming were-tiger pack that has intriguing associations to an evil ancient goddess and also some nefarious goals.

Unabridged - 7 hours, 41 minutes; Jan 4, 2010


Carrie Vaughn is a prolific writer, having written approximately 16 books, loads of short stories, and some very cute homemade comics (definitely worth linking to her website for a giggle.) Website:

The audio books listened to in this first 5 books of the series are read by Marguerite Gavin and published by Tantor Media. All have been borrowed from our local library, which in no way influenced my reviews or thoughts about them (except that it reinforces my love for libraries.)

I am definitely looking forward to rest of the series!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Incoming Books: August 22, 2012


in a fix


In a Fix ~ by Linda Grimes;  Tor Books; 9/4/2012; Trade Paperback;  336 pages.

Snagging a marriage proposal for her client while on an all-expenses-paid vacation should be a simple job for Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire. But when her island resort bungalow is blown to smithereens and her client’s about-to-be fianc√© is snatched by modern-day Vikings, Ciel begins to suspect that getting the ring is going to be a tad more difficult than originally anticipated.

Going from romance to rescue requires some serious gear-shifting as well as a little backup. Her best friend, Billy, and Mark, the CIA agent she's been crushing on for years—both skilled adaptors—step in to help, but their priority is, annoyingly, keeping her safe. Before long, Ciel is dedicating more energy to escaping their watchful eyes than she is to saving her client's intended. trucker ghost stories


Trucker Ghost Stories ~ edited by Annie Wilder; Tor Books; August 2012; Trade Paperback;  256 pages.

In a uniquely entertaining book by a rising star, here are uncanny true tales of haunted highways, weird encounters, and legends of the road.

These are true stories from the highways and byways of America. These firsthand accounts are as varied as the storytellers themselves—some are detailed and filled with the terror and suspense that made people feel they had to share what happened to them with others; others are brief and straightforward retellings of truly chilling events.

Here is a chupacabra attack on the desert highway between L.A. and Las Vegas; ghost trains and soldiers; UFOs; the prom girl ghost of Alabama; a demon in Texas, and other accounts of the creepy, scary things that truckers and other drivers and passengers told to editor Annie Wilder.

fate of worlds


Fate of Worlds ~ Larry Niven and Edward M. Learner; Tor Books; 8/21/2012; Hardcover; 320 pages.

For decades, the spacefaring species of Known Space have battled over the largest artifact—and grandest prize—in the galaxy: the all-but-limitless resources and technology of the Ringworld. But without warning the Ringworld has vanished, leaving behind three rival war fleets.

Something must justify the blood and treasure that have been spent. If the fallen civilization of the Ringworld can no longer be despoiled of its secrets, the Puppeteers will be forced to surrender theirs. Everyone knows that the Puppeteers are cowards.


an echo through the snow


An Echo Through the Snow ~ by Andrea Thalasinos; Forge Books; 8/21/2012; Hardcover; 368 pages.

Rosalie MacKenzie is headed nowhere until she sees Smokey, a Siberian husky suffering from neglect. Rosalie finds the courage to rescue the dog, and—united by the bond of love that forms between them—they save each other. 

Alternating between past and present, telling of a struggling Chukchi family and a young woman discovering herself, An Echo Through the Snow takes readers on a gripping, profound, and uplifting dogsled ride to the Iditarod and beyond, on a journey of survival and healing.



Simon and Schuster

ghost town


Ghost Town ~ by Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, and Tim Waggoner; Gallery Books, October 2012; Trade Paperback, 320 pages.

WELCOME TO EXETER, THE “MOST HAUNTED TOWN IN AMERICA,” thanks to a deadly flood that unleashed an army of ghosts decades ago. And when ghost trackers Amber, Drew, and Trevor attend a conference during Exeter’s spookiest week of the year, the ghouls grow restless. First, an innocent bookstore worker is mysteriously killed, setting off a string of strange deaths that point to a shadowy spirit known as the Dark Lady.

With a paranormal revolution ensuing, the team must stop the twisted bloodbath. But a past horror involving the death of a former teammate has them spinning faster than a specter in a storm, especially when they learn that it’s his ghost who awakened the Dark Lady. Now, with their lives on the line and the entire town at stake, the three must decide whether to trust the spirit of their old friend or to finally put a stake through his heart.

something red


Something Red ~ by Douglas Nicholas; Atria/Emily Bestler Books, September 2012; Hardcover, 336 pages.

During the thirteenth century in northwest England, in one of the coldest winters in living memory, a formidable yet charming Irish healer, Molly, and the troupe she leads are driving their three wagons, hoping to cross the Pennine Mountains before the heavy snows set in. Molly, her lover Jack, granddaughter Nemain, and young apprentice Hob become aware that they are being stalked by something terrible. The refuge they seek in a monastery, then an inn, and finally a Norman castle proves to be an illusion. As danger continues to rise, it becomes clear that the creature must be faced and defeated—or else they will all surely die. It is then that Hob discovers how much more there is to his adopted family than he had realized.




Advent ~ by James Treadwell; Atria/Emily Bestler Books, July 2012; Hardcover, 464 pages.

1537. A man hurries through city streets in a gathering snowstorm, clutching a box in one hand. He is Johann Faust, the greatest magician of his age. The box he carries contains a mirror safeguarding a portion of his soul and a small ring containing all the magic in the world. Together, they comprise something unimaginably dangerous.

London, the present day. Fifteen-year-old Gavin Stokes is boarding a train to the countryside to live with his aunt. His school and his parents can’t cope with him and the things he sees, things they tell him don’t really exist. At Pendurra, Gavin finds people who are like him, who see things too. They all make the same strange claim: magic exists, it’s leaking back into our world, and it’s bringing something terrible with it. 



Deception ~ by Kris Kennedy; Pocket Books, July 2012; Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages.

A dashing con man  Breaking and entering to reclaim her corrupt late father’s ledger comes surprisingly easily to Sophia Darnly. But is it mere coincidence that her misdeed unexpectedly reunites her with Kier, the outlaw lover who abandoned her years ago?

A lady skilled in trickery   Time has not erased Sophia from Kier’s heart, nor tamed her fiery spirit. She boldly insinuates herself into his plans. But Kier is on a mission of revenge, and can’t allow even the woman he once loved to stop him.

A game that could get them both killed  The danger mounts as they lure the leader of a powerful consortium who needs the fabled Darnly ledger—and all its damning details about the wealthiest merchants of England— to execute his nefarious plan. Their rekindled passion burns hot, but when they discover they too are the targets of a deadly deception, the fate of their love, and of England itself, lies in the balance.

Misc. Publishers and Indie Authors



The Twenty Year Death ~ by Ariel S. Winter; Titan Books; Hardback: 672pp; August 3, 2012.

1931— The body found in the gutter in France led the police inspector to the dead man’s beautiful daughter—and to her hot-tempered American husband.

1941— A hardboiled private eye hired to keep a movie studio’s leading lady happy uncovers the truth behind the brutal slaying of a Hollywood starlet.

1951— A desperate man pursuing his last chance at redemption finds himself with blood on his hands and the police on his trail...

Three complete novels that, taken together, tell a single epic story, about an author whose life is shattered when violence and tragedy consume the people closest to him. It is an ingenious and emotionally powerful debut performance from literary detective and former bookseller Ariel S. Winter, one that establishes this talented newcomer as a storyteller of the highest caliber.



The Salt God’s Daughter ~ by Illie Ruby; Soft Skull Press, Inc.; 9/4/2012 ; Pages: 352.

Set in Long Beach, California, beginning in the 1970s, The Salt God’s Daughter follows three generations of extraordinary women who share something unique—something magical and untamed that makes them unmistakably different from others. Theirs is a world teeming with ancestral stories, exotic folklore, inherited memory, and meteoric myths.

Impeccably narrated in two powerful and distinctive voices, The Salt God’s Daughter puts a feminist spin on a traditional Scottish folktale about the selkies—a provocative, timeless story that explores our ability to transcend the limitations of a world that can be hostile to those who are different, and to find joy and belonging even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

cottage at glass beach


The Cottage at Glass Beach ~ by Heather Barbieri; 320 pages; Harper (May 15, 2012)

Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm.

Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters—Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve—and takes refuge on Burke's Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides.

Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades—not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt's friend Polly suggests, a selkie—a mythical being of island legend—summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles?  telegraph ave


Telegraph Avenue ~ by Michael Chabon; 480 pages ; Harper (September 11, 2012)

As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, two semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart—half tavern, half temple—stands Brokeland.

When ex–NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples' already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe's life.



Lizard World ~ by Terry  Richard Bazes; 263 pages; Livingston Press (October 31, 2011)

A certain . . . a certain noble earl had need of a handsome, young, female carcass -- for which specimen I would be excellently paid provided it be fresh and that the feet were shapely and unblemished . . . . By nightfall, when I set about my work, it was raining. Gratefully, this inclemency of weather favoured the expedition of my efforts: for not a single hackney passed to retard the steady progress of my digging. Indeed, so quickly did I work, that I had broke into the box, bagged my quarry, replaced the soil, and rode off in my cart, ere I bethought myself to see whether the feet of the poor creature would answer the intent of my commission.

Thus begins the long association of a young medical doctor and his hilariously depraved American descendants with the notorious Earl of Griswold, a 17th-century libertine and connoisseur of smells whose discovery of an elixir in the Florida swamps will keep his evil presence alive for the next three-hundred years.

Toadhouse Trilogy


The Toadhouse Trilogy ~ by Jess Lourey; 300 pages; Toadhouse Books (July 17, 2012)

Aine believes herself to be a regular teenager in 1930s Alabama, but when a blue-eyed madman named Biblos attacks, she discovers that the reclusive woman raising her isn't really her grandmother, she's been living inside a book for the past five years, and fairies are real. With her blind brother Spenser, she flees the pages of the novel she's called home, one terrifying step ahead of Biblos and his black magic. Their only chance at survival lies in beating Biblos to the three objects that he desires more than life.

With dangerous adventures into THE TIME MACHINE, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, and the Indian saga THE RAMAYANA, this series aims to do for classic literature what the PERCY JACKSON series did for Greek mythology. In the words of Anthony and Agatha Award winning author Chris Grabenstein, "Lourey's wonderful way with words will whisk readers away to an amazing new world!" 

persecution of Mildren Dunlap


The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap ~ by Paulette Mahurin; 202 pages; Blue Palm Press; (March 23, 2012)

The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, United States Secretary of State, expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in settling a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.

speculative edge magazine august 2012


The Speculative Edge, Issue 1, August 2012.

A digest of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all things speculative. Each month, they feature a wide variety of material including short stories, poems, essays, interviews, book and movie reviews, and more.

Including works by authors Shane R Collins, D L Chance, C T Hart, Kyle James Kernan, John Carney, Matthew Sideman, Christian Riley and interviews with C R Rollinger, George Wilhite.

Please note that each of the covers links to the author’s or publisher’s page for the book, just in case you would like more information.

Now for the most fun - dear readers, fellow bloggers, and friends:  which of these publications would you choose to pick up and read first?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Release Day and Review: The Devil in Silver ~ by Victor Lavalle

the devil in silver

It’s release day and we have a review by John for:  The Devil in Silver ~ by Victor Lavalle (ACR copy)

In a Kafkaesque turn of event someone is submitted to a psychiatric unit who shouldn’t be. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do – in the dead of night patients are being attacked by some demonic creature which the staff might possibly be protecting.

About:   Pepper is a big man who is a bit impetuous and tends to charge at life without thinking things through. Sometimes that can get him in trouble, and on one fateful night it leaves him in the hands of three out-of-uniform policemen, who promptly take him to the psychiatric unit of a run-down local hospital. He really shouldn’t be there, but it seems that the police have to fill in far less paperwork if they drop people off at the hospital rather than arrest them. So Pepper is admitted for 72 hours while he is to be evaluated.

In a Kafkaesque turn of events the 72 hours turns into an indefinite period, and Pepper finds himself confined to the ward with a bunch of strange people – some of whom are patients and some of whom are staff. As if that weren’t bad enough, Pepper is viciously attacked by a strange demonic creature that seems to haunt the unit. Can it really be that the staff who rescued him know all about the creature? Surely not, as it turns out that others on the ward have also been attacked.

Pepper finally forms a kind of bond with three of his disparate fellow patients, and together they slowly come to the conclusion that they have to do something to save themselves from an ugly fate at the hands of the demon.

John’s thoughts:   This is a serious-but-fun read with a really novel plot. For sure it brought to mind images of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at times, but Pepper is nothing like McMurphy and doesn’t rail against the system in the same way.

Nonetheless, one of Pepper’s biggest foes is the daily regime of mind-numbing drugs and the boring routine of life on the ward. And how can life be so crazy that a sane person becomes embedded in a system that is supposedly there to help look after insane people? The novel also brings to light the crazy logic of bureaucracy and systems that are not designed to help people, but instead develop a life and self-perpetuating momentum of their own. It becomes quite clear that it is not the patients who are the maddest and in the most need of treatment. The demonic monster then acts as a catalyst to bring things to a head, by which time you are rooting for a fair outcome for the gang of four patients.

I like this book a lot. For sure Pepper is far from being perfect but you know that he shouldn’t be in the hospital and you do want his life to return to some sort of normality – you cannot help but become involved in the plight of the patients. Meanwhile, the madness that surrounds him is both funny and scary. I’d rate this book 4 stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a slightly wacky view of life in their reading material.

For more about this new author link to his website:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Giveaway: The Last Days of Freedom Hop ~ August 17th to 22nd

last days of freedom

Welcome to the Last Days of Freedom Giveaway Hop! From August 17th to 22nd! Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (badge links to host’s site) & The Elliott Review

*This is an early post due to travel. Entries for our giveaway will be valid now, however the other blogs listed in the link up below will not be available until Friday.*

The Giveaway:

an echo through the snow

We have 3 copies on offer of An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos for US and Canadian addresses.

Tom Doherty Associates; Forge Books; 8/21/2012; Hardcover; 368 pages

Blurb excerpt:  Alternating between past and present, telling of a struggling Chukchi family and a young woman discovering herself, An Echo Through the Snow takes readers on a gripping, profound, and uplifting dogsled ride to the Iditarod and beyond, on a journey of survival and healing.

In case you would like more information – see our post which has a Q & A with the author and an excerpt of the first chapter.

Now for the Giveaway!

Please be a reader or follower to enter this contest, and fill out the Google form:

You must do one of the three below:

  1. Google: via the blog’s side bar (I will follow back if I can find your blog) or
  2. Facebook: for updates in your feed - add me as a friend or
  3. Your Email Box

Optional ways to keep up to date on giveaways, reviews and more:

  1. Feed Reader
  2. Twitter (I will follow back, for any of these social media sites.)
  3. Google+
  4. Pinterest

This hop is now closed. 

The winners for this contest Natasha from IL and Kay from OR have been notified and should receive their books soon. The third winner did not respond back to my email.

Another hop or giveaway should be live soon!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Q and A with: Andrea Thalasinos author of ~ An Echo Through the Snow

andrea thalasino

Question & Answer with Excerpt:  from Andrea Thalasinos, author of An Echo Through the Snow: The Single Act of Kindness that Changed Everything.

About the Book:   Rosalie MacKenzie is headed nowhere until she sees Smokey, a Siberian husky suffering from neglect. Rosalie finds the courage to rescue the dog, and—united by the bond of love that forms between them—they save each other. 

Soon Rosalie and Smokey are immersed in the world of competitive dogsled racing. Days are filled with training runs, the stark beauty of rural Wisconsin, and the whoosh of runners on snow. Rosalie discovers that behind the modern sport lies a tragic history: the heartbreaking story of the Chukchi people of Siberia. When Stalin’s Red Army displaced the Chukchi in 1929, many were killed and others lost their homes and their beloved Guardians—the huskies that were the soul and livelihood of their people.

Tom Doherty Associates; Forge Books; 8/21/2012; Hardcover; 368 pages.

Questions & Answers

1. Tell us about your book. an echo through the snow  It’s the story of how an act of kindness triggered a series of cascading events in many people’s lives.

2. Apparently the inspiration behind this novel all started with a puppy. Tell us more about that.   The inspiration began with looking into the puppy’s background, the history of the breed. They’re different from other dogs and I was curious about them. But when I discovered the parallels between Native Americans and the treatment of many of the Peoples of the Russian Far East, I felt there was a story here that needed to be told. And particularly what happened to the Chukchi under Soviet collectivization and rule for generations until the collapse and transition into the Russian Federation. Also, I was curious as to what happened to the dogs that had been central to the lives of the Coastal Chukchi.

3. How much research and what kind did you put into An Echo Through the Snow?   I was ready to hop on a plane, but the realities of life wouldn’t let me. So I used the tremendous holdings of the University of Wisconsin Libraries and resources, as well as other articles and books I discovered through my travels. The most amazing cold weather photography collection, gave me current photographic ethnographies of how the Chukchi and surrounding people still live.

4. How does your educational background lend itself to your creative work?  While I don’t have formal training, e.g. MFA or other professional writing credentials that many have these days, I’m more driven by story and the storm of a creative idea. Being a sociologist myself, it’s often the creative tug of a social dilemma that precedes everything.

5. Where did you get the idea to create and then intertwine the two narratives?  While standing under a hot shower one day I realized the lives of these people were inextricably linked. The task became to allow it to happen. People tried to talk me out of it, rejected it because of it, and I suppose it might have worked more smoothly without doing that, or by focusing on one narrative or the other, but I couldn’t. That was how the story was conceived, that was how it had to be told otherwise I wouldn’t write it. It wasn’t stubbornness; it was organic, if I may use that word.

6. How did your real life relationship or impression of animals—specifically dogs—evolve while writing this tale?   Funny thing. As I began assembling this story, I also began assembling my own sled dog team. I started with one husky and ended up with six. My kids and I ran them for eight years through the snowy hills of Wisconsin. We had a ball!! Some of the best and fondest memories. When you have that many dogs (and YES they DID all live in the house, on the couch, sleeping in beds with my kids) you see pack dynamics and interactions that others miss when they only have one or two dogs.

7. What similarities do you see between Jeaantaa and Rosalie?  Both are trapped in marriages, but more importantly the dogs become more important than their lives or safety. Neither thinks of their well-being before the dogs, especially Rosalie as she moves to save Smokey.

8. Who, in your opinion, is your target audience?  People who love history, animals, are curious about dog sledding, and are interested in what someone from Library Journal called, and I’m paraphrasing“…history’s darker corners.”

9. Do you see any yourself in any of these characters?  I see myself in all of my characters.

10. Finally, where can we find your book?  I believe it will be widely available on its release date of August 21, 2012.

This Q & A is courtesy of PR by the Book.

Bio:  ANDREA THALASINOS, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Madison College. Her respect for huskies grew while she was running her own sled team of six dogs. She helped found a dog rescue group in the upper Midwest for displaced northern breeds. Andrea lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. An Echo Through the Snow is her first novel.

Excerpt: CHAPTER 1

Sometimes a story has to be told if for no other reason than to unburden the heart.  ~ Anonymous OCTOBER 1929, UELEN, CHUKOTKA, NORTHEASTERN SIBERIA

He strained to catch a glimpse of them through the morning mist. Tariem wiped his runny nose on his sleeve. A truck engine rumbled from the outskirts of the village; the soldiers must have discovered that he’d escaped. Earlier he pried off a few loose boards from the temporary stockade and slipped out.

It was snowing lightly, the clouds low hanging and billowy. Snowflakes gathered in lacy patterns along the folds of his sealskin sleeves, like the mountain ridges where he’d soon be headed. It might have been a peaceful morning if not for the smoke from burning houses, the Red Army’s truck or that his wife was gone. Today all remaining Chukchi along the Bering seacoast were to be evicted. Evacuation orders had been tacked up in Russian on family yarangas for weeks, though no one could read.

Tariem fumbled as he attached the gangline to the remaining sled. The engine sounds stabbed his stomach like spoiled whale meat.

The remaining team of dogs watched in silence as he readied the loaded sled. It was his wife Jeaantaa’s team. The dogs looked wary, especially Kinin. The lead dog’s blue stare pierced the mist. From a puppy he’d been Jeaantaa’s leader, and leaders often ran for no one else. Tariem lashed the frozen salmon tighter onto the heavy sled. The gut line dug deeply into his palm as he leveraged his weight, securing it to the sled’s driftwood stanchion. He prayed it wouldn’t snap. Losing food on the tundra was death.

He looked to Kinin. The Guardian had bear-thick fur, as blue-black as the Siberian night. Above each crystalline eye a white fur circle grew. These markings proffered guidance from the Old Ones, whose spirits swirled in colorful trails across the sky. Tariem hoped for Kinin to get him out of the village, to the Cave of Many Points, and from there find the twelve-hundred-mile trail to their reindeer-breeding cousins.

The dogs’ whiskers were frosted into snow beards. Though they ordinarily would be yelping with excitement as a sled was being readied, the events of the past few days made them hushed and suspicious. Gaps in the yard stood like missing teeth—only twenty dogs left where there had been eighty.

“Kinin,” he called. The dog lowered his head and didn’t move. Tariem slowly approached, trying to be calm, though the army truck was getting louder. Harness in one hand and a piece of seal meat as an offering to Kinin in the other. Just like Jeaantaa questioned his judgment, Kinin also had doubts.

“They’re coming, Kinin,” he explained. Palms up, he laid the meat down. Dogs couldn’t be forced to run. They’d just lie down. You could beat them, cut off their tails in anger; they still wouldn’t get up. Tariem glanced at the family yaranga out of habit. “Ku, ku”—he’d not had time to burn their birch and walrus-skin house to free the House Spirit. Now the Spirit would follow, even harm them.

Tariem and the dog turned in the direction of the truck. Kinin’s eyes softened. His one ear twitched; then his body relaxed. “Thank you,” Tariem whispered. Kinin slipped his head and front legs into the harness and then surged, dragging Tariem to the front of the gangline as he toggled him in lead. Kinin pulled the line taut and then watched as the remaining nineteen dogs were quickly attached.

Tariem stepped onto the sled runners and pulled the wooden stake. “Ke!”

Kinin charged. The Guardians lunged in unison. Tariem fell back from the momentum, grabbing on to the handle to steady himself.

The truck rounded the bend, barreling down the shoreline coming closer to the yaranga. Two soldiers stood in the rear. They pointed, yelling in broken Chukchi for him to stop. “Ke, ke, ke, Kinin,” Tariem urged, but the smell of fear was enough. Kinin raced to beat the truck, to get past the last yaranga and out to the snowpack. If they didn’t start shooting he’d have the advantage. The sled runners would glide, leaving the truck’s wheels to break through, spinning and whining like a frustrated reindeer scratching off spring’s growth of itchy antler velvet.

Tariem spotted a child’s empty kliak molded in the shape of a foot. Dread spread through his lungs. Blood dotted the snow.

“Ke, ke,” he repeated.

Kinin’s paws flicked snow as he jettisoned the team forward. All twenty spines undulated with speed, their breath syncopated with pounding feet.

Charred Chukchi yarangas blared by, burning in fragrant streams, their smoldering birch poles like red eyes. Tariem braced his knees against the stanchions for balance anticipating the first steep mogul. The runners hit and the sled was airborne. He used his weight to counterbalance, but the sled flipped on its side. Dogs darted back looks as it dragged.

“Ke, ke-e-e-e,” he hollered. The truck gained. Tariem grasped the sled handle, worn smooth from Jeaantaa’s touch.

Soldiers jeered from behind as he struggled to right the sled.

“Ke, ke, Kinin,” he shouted. A gut lash snapped. Bundles of frozen salmon rolled out along with the heavy anorak that Jeaantaa had made for him. The team accelerated on the brief downslope. As he yanked the handle, the sled flipped upright.

Spires of the Siberian tree line were immediately visible to the west, close enough to make out individual branches. If only his will could catapult them. A painful spasm gathered in his throat. He lowered his chin to his sleeve, crouching to make a smaller target, his fingers numb and stinging with cold. Mittens would have to wait until deep within the forest. The gangly-limbed Russians must be cold. He was shorter, more compact.

“Ready.” A command came from behind.

He glanced back. A young soldier unslung his rifle. Tariem turned forward, watching only Kinin and the trail before them. He held his breath, as if doing so could block bullets.


A shot chipped and sprang one of two strands of walrus-gut ganglines. The team surged, startled. “Forest Keeper,” Tariem cried out to Jeaantaa’s guardian spirit. He eyed the straining gangline. “Breathe your life here.”

With a crack, truck wheels broke through the ice behind him. Curses echoed off the surrounding hills, in first broken Chukchi, then Russian. Soon nothing but the rhythmic breath of the dogs as Kinin entered the stillness of the trees.

* * *

Tynga was limping.

“Whoa.” Tariem kicked in the wooden stake. His legs were rubbery; he staggered like a drunken man over to the dog. Her back paw was up. Tariem bent over, and when he touched her leg Tynga yelped and pulled away. Her blood warmed his fingers as he touched them to his lips. She looked up adoringly. Her eyes crinkled as her ears lay flat, tail wagging and thumping against his thigh. In the dim forest light he checked her shoulders, abdomen and back. “Easy,” he said. They’d run two of twelve hundred miles. He could leave her here, or sacrifice her. Tears burned his eyes. Why Tynga? She was the only one to single him out. From a puppy she claimed him, following him everywhere. It was as annoying as it was touching, but he’d gradually come to accept this love. Crouching down, he looked at Tynga. She bunched her shoulders and licked his face. This was Bakki’s daughter, the color of early orange sunlight, with lichen-colored eyes.

Pride had deafened him to Jeaantaa’s warnings. A day earlier he struck her and then stared dumbfounded as blood dotted her nostrils. Though he was furious at how she’d broken the laws of the Lygoravetlat, or the original ones, he ached for her. She’d never been freely his and now even less so. He hated that he was so powerless to despise her. “A man should never love more than a woman,” years ago the elders warned. “She’s bewitched you.”

The day before, Jeaantaa left with a man named Ramsay who’d come with an Inuit guide from Alaska. Tears cramped Tariem’s throat as he thought of his sons. He imagined them waiting for her at the Cave, not wanting to leave for the longer journey inland in case she’d show. He dreaded the two-day journey. The burden of not-knowing would drag beside him, like the anxious soul of a dead relative. He’d trudge long past the Valley of Flowers, down the frozen River of the Dead, hoping all the way to the Cave that he was wrong. Praying to Aquarvanguit for the moment when the boys would reach the Cave with Cheyuga and spot their mother’s beautiful face. There she’d be with a fire already started, a bubbling pot of marrow and seal stew. And from there, together they’d begin the monthlong journey inland to their reindeer cousins.

But even if she changed her mind and left for the Cave, Bakki, her fourteen-year-old dog, couldn’t run that far. She had him in lead and not Kinin when she left. And while Bakki wouldn’t make it to the Cave, the dog could make it across the frozen Bering Sea to Rochlit. Tynga licked mucus from his nose as he squatted. Tariem lifted the dog, stumbling as he carried her back to the sled, her tail thumping. He laid her down onto the sled and raised his knife, arching his back to gain force for a quick kill. Tynga lay quiet and trusting, lifting her leg to expose her belly as she did for only him.

A convulsive sob stopped him. “No more blood,” Jeaantaa had pleaded yesterday. The knife dropped, he buried his face in Tynga’s fur, gasping in spastic heaves. The dog’s musky warmth was a momentary comfort. He picked up the knife and began sawing off a length from the bottom of his anorak. He scooped a handful of snow, packed Tynga’s flesh wound and tightened the bandage around her leg.

“Lay still,” he scolded. “We have a long way.” The dog’s tail thumped against the load as she settled in on top of the sled, her eyes fixed on him.

Copyright © 2012 by Andrea Thalasinos

We have a three book giveaway for An Echo Through the Snow for US and Canadian addresses coming up from August 17th to 22nd!
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