Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (22)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
Happy Sunday everyone!  I received one book this week and for the first time in a LONG time, I have no library books waiting for me.  I am actually kind of happy about that!
For Review:
I have already started this book and it's pretty good so far!
What books did you get this week?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: "Mistress of Rome" by Kate Quinn

From Goodreads:  Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's mistress.

My Thoughts:  This is another one of those books that I can't believe I waited so long to read.  I could not put it down!  I haven't read many books about this period of time but I feel like this book did an amazing job of bringing the Roman empire to life.  The city, palaces, clothing and jewels were described in such great detail that they created a beautiful background for the story.  I definitely want to read more about this era because of how well Rome was described.

The characters were a unique group.  Lepida was one of the most evil, hateful female characters I have seen in a while.  Sh was so greedy, selfish, mean-spirited...I could go on and on.  I HATED her and was not too sad with the way things ended up for her.  Arius and Thea were strong characters with tortured souls and I loved the romance between them.  It was interesting to watch how both Thea and Arius hurt themselves in order to expiate the pain they felt as a result of their pasts.  They weren't your average couple who fell in love and struggled, there was so much more to them.  I also really loved Vix.  He was such a little smart a** and so smart for how young he was.  He always provided comic relief even in the really difficult parts of the story.  There were also secondary characters that rose to a more prominent role in the story as I got further into it. I didn't pay much attention to characters like Norbanus and Lady Flavia in the beginning but as they became more involved in the story, I found them to be really great characters. 

There were a lot of twists and turns in the story and I felt like I never knew what was going to happen next.  It was never boring as there was always some little intrigue happening and that made want to keep reading.  I stayed up way too late finishing this book because I refused to go to bed until I finished it.  Any fan of historical fiction would love this book.  4 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Books To Get In The Halloween Spirit

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic: Top Ten Books To Get in the Halloween Spirit

I love Halloween but I had a hard time with this topic.I did a Top Ten Tuesday post similar to this last year and it can be found here.  Today's list contains books that I either forgot to include or have read since then.

1.) Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

2.) Bag of Bones by Stephen King
3.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
4.) Christine by Stephen King
5.) The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
6.) Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
7.) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
That's all I have.  What books did I miss?  Leave a link to your post so I can check it out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo-Part 2

Ugh.  I must say that I didn't enjoy the second part of Les Miserables as much as I did the first.  I read from pg 300-600 this month and it just was kind of painful.  There were like 20 pages that gave the history of a fictional convent.  It took a LONG time to get through this section because it was pretty boring at times.  The first 150 pages were pretty good.  I got to see more about Jean Valjean and Cosette and these sections were very interesting and kept me wanting more.  However, the story left these two characters and introduced Marius Pontmercy.  I am not sure what role he is going to play as the story continues but I didn' t like him much.  He seemed like the typical spoiled rich boy who wants to rebel against his strict upbringing.  I am hoping I will eventually like him but right now he is kind of a brat.

I mentioned it in my last post but this book reminds me of War and Peace a lot.  They both have a multitude of characters and both of the stories contain long, boring sections about battles and other historical events.  Not that I don't like history and reading about historical events but I am not sure that I care about every detail of the Battle of Waterloo. 

When I finished the first section, I was excited to continue reading this book.  Now I am a bit apprehensive.  We'll see how things go next month.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (21)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
This week I received two books and I am super excited to read them both!!
Giveaway win (Thanks Historical Tapestry!):
Received from Online Book Club Exchange:
(I just finished watching Season 1 of Game of Thrones and can't wait to read this!)
What books did you get this week?  Leave me a link in the comments so I can check out your haul!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Quick Review: "The Lady's Slipper" by Deborah Swift

From Goodreads:  1660. King Charles II has returned from exile, but memories of the English Civil War still rankle. There are old scores to settle, and religious differences threaten to overturn a fragile peace. When Alice Ibbetson discovers a rare orchid, the Lady’s Slipper, growing in a wood belonging to Richard Wheeler, she is captivated by its beauty— though Wheeler, a Quaker, is determined to keep the flower where God intended it to grow. Knowing that the orchid is the last of its kind, she steals the flower, little dreaming that her seemingly simple act will set off a chain of events that will lead to murder and exile, and change her life forever…

My Thoughts:  The Lady's Slipper was not at all what I expected it to be but it wound up being a decent read.  The story took me a while to get into.  It started very abruptly and I couldn't understand what was going on and why Alice decided to steal the flower.  It was only after I had read a bit that I began to see where the story is going.

The story takes place not long after the Restoration in England.  Alice kind of seemed like a secondary character as the story mostly focuses on the battles between the Quakers and the Royalists.  Alice stealing the lady's slipper kind of became part of the background as all of the other events played out.  I don't know much about this time period so it was interesting to see how even after the Restoration, the tensions were still very high among everyday people.  I liked the characters but it felt like it took a really long time to get to know them.  I didn't really start liking Alice and Wheeler until I was about half way through the book.

Overall, the story was unique and interesting but I feel like there could have been so much more to it. 3 stars.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quick Review: "Sultry with a Twist" by Macy Beckett

From Goodreads:  When Mae-June July Augustine hightailed it out of Sultry Springs, Texas, with her heart in pieces, she swore she'd never return. But nine years later, one thing stands between June and her dream of opening an upscale martini bar: a month of community service under the supervision of the devilishly sexy Luke Gallagher, her first love and ex-best friend. As lust turns to love, June must decide where she belongs: in the glorious anonymity of Austin or back in Sultry Springs with the man who intoxicates her like no other.

My Thoughts:  I don't usually read a lot of romance novels but this one sounded so good that I had to pick it up.  It did not disappoint!  It pulled me in from the very beginning and there were enough turns to keep me reading.  I actually read it all in a few hours, it moved that fast.

I loved the characters and the romance between June and Luke was so adorable.  June is stubborn, feisty and kind of accident prone and Luke is the sweetest guy ever!  I loved how much they tried to not show their feelings for each other before finally giving in.  It was really funny watching them argue with each other and be all hard-headed when they really just wanted to be together.  It's also a bit steamy if you like that sort of thing. : )

This book is the first in a trilogy and honestly, I will definitely be picking up the next in the series.  It was a fun story with great characters and is definitely worth the read.  4 stars.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Authors of Historical Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic is:  Top Ten Favorite Authors of Historical Fiction
1.) Diana Gabaldon-I know I say it all the time but I LOVE the Outlander series and I think Diana Gabaldon does an amazing job of writing and researching historical events.
2.) Paullina Simons-Paullina Simons is the author of the The Bronze Horseman trilogy.  It is one of the most emotional series I have ever read and she really made World War II Leningrad come to life (the good and the bad).
3.) Anne Easter Smith-I love her books about the the Wars of the Roses.  They are wonderful!
4.) Alison Weir-Alison Weir is one of my favorite authors.  I will read just about anything she writes (fiction or non-fiction).
5.) C.W. Gortner-Gortner's books are beautifully written and are about famous historical women who tend to get ignored in the historical fiction genre.
6.) Susan Higginbotham-Higginbotham is my go-to author when I want to read a well-researched, accurate, and fascinating story.  If you haven't read her books, you should!
7.) Kate Morton-Kate Morton's books take place in a more modern era but always seem to contain a really compelling mystery.
8.) Michelle Moran-Her Egypt books are so good and I loved her most recent work about Napoleon's second wife.
9.) Tracey Chevalier-I haven't read one of her books in a long time but all of her books are so good.  They are unique in that they don't really follow famous historical figures but everyday people.
10.) Sandra Worth-Worth's books are great because they are about the Tudor era but focus on lesser known Tudor figures.

Have you read any of these authors books?  Are there other authors you think should be on this list?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss

From Goodreads:  Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.
My Thoughts:  I have heard nothing but good things about this book so I had some really high hopes.  However, for me, it did not live up to the hype.  I kept waiting for something to happen that would make me fall in love with the story and/or Kvothe and it just never happened.  I liked the story and most of the characters but it moved slow and just didn't wow me. 

I do think that Rothfuss did an amazing job of world building; the setting was incredibly unique and intriguing.  The different languages, people, towns and the magic were really neat and I wish there would have been more information about the country the story took place in.  I also would have liked to know more about the Chandrian.  It seemed like this book gave just enough information to make a person want to read the second book which annoyed me.  I feel like the book is simply 700 pages worth of prep for the sequel.   Overall, I think this book had the potential to be great but fell short (at least for me).  I am not sure if I will pick up the next book or not.  3 stars.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (20)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
This week I only picked up one book.  This is completely fine with me because even after the Readathon, I am still feeling a little behind with my reading.
From the Library:
I loved Kiss of the Highlander and can't wait to read this one!
What books did you pick up this week?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon Master post with Updates!

Today is Dewey's 24 hour Read-A-Thon!!  It's my first time and it's a little bittersweet.  I thought I wouldn't be able to participate because I was supposed to run a 1/2 marathon today.  Due to my knee injury, I won't be able to run but I will be able to spend the day reading.  YAY! 

I am definitely not going to be super hardcore and read the entire 24 hours but I am hoping to get more reading in then usual. We'll see.  I planned to get a ton of stuff done last night and it just didn't happen so I will have to take some breaks to clean and do laundry and go to a family dinner.

I don't have a huge stack of books to read today.  I have a about 150 pages left to read in The Name of the Wind so I am definitely going to finish that today because I am sick of reading it.  I really need a brain break after TNOTW so I am thinking I might pick up Sultry with a Twist first. 

Intro Survey!!
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I am Kansas where it looks like it will be a gloomy, rainy day.  Perfect for reading!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Sultry with a Twist!
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Licorice!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I hate reading more than 1 book at time so I hopefully I don't get too bored with my next pick.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  I am looking forward cheering everyone on.

 I'll post updates in this post every few hours.  Happy Reading everyone!

Update #1-HOUR 3 has just started!
I jut finished The Name of the Wind and I am pretty happy about that.  So far I have only read 150 pages but the hubs and the dog woke up and have provided some distraction.  I also started late because I was up early and decided to watch an episode of Game of Thrones (whoops!).  I am taking a quick break and then will get started on Sultry with a Twist. 

How are you faring so far?

Update #2-HOUR 6!
Since my last update, I have made it through 110 pages in Sultry with a Twist and I am sure I'll finish it today. I know it's not very many pages but I did take a break to shower and do some things around the house (Laundry was calling!) so that's why I am so slow moving today.  I am going to go eat some lunch and get right back to reading.

Quick Update #3-HOUR 9
I went on a snack run!  Ready to get back to my book!

Update #4-HOUR 11
I thought I would update you all on my progress before I take a long break.  We are going to my in-laws for our monthly family dinner so I have about a half hour more to get some reading in before we leave.  Hopefully I am not too tired when we get home so that I can get some more reading in before bed.

I finished Sultry with a Twist (and LOVED it) and started The Lady's Slipper.  I have read a total of 455 pages today.  I think that's pretty good considering I have not been reading for the entire 11 hours.

Update #5-HOUR 15
I'm back!  I had a lovely evening with my in-laws and am now ready to get back to reading.  I won't be staying up all night but am hoping to get a decent amount of reading done before I crash.  I am starting to feel pretty tired but I think I will be fine once I get into my book.  I have to say, I am having a great time with the readathon!

Update #6-HOUR 23
I planned to get up earlier but it didn't happen so I have an hour to get some reading done before the readathon is over.  I made it through hour 17 last night but I was so tired and couldn't stay up any longer.  I'm still reading The Lady's Slipper and I am starting to like it.  I'll be back with an update when the readathon is over.  Happy Reading!

Update #7-THE END
The Readathon is over and while I didn't participate as much as I would have liked to, I did get a lot of reading done!  I finished The Name of the Wind, read all of Sultry with a Twist and I am about 90% done with The Lady's Slipper. I read a total of 785 pages which I think is awesome!  All in all, the readathon was a blast and I will definitely be participating in April.  Hopefully, I'll plan better and get even more reading done. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahame-Smith

From Goodreads:  Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."

"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.
My Thoughts:  It took me a long time to decide that I wanted to read this book.  It just sounded absolutely silly to me.  However, it was a lot better than I expected.   The book is supposed to be Seth Grahame-Smith writing the true story of Abraham Lincoln using diaries given to him by a vampire.  Grahame-Smith takes Lincoln's life and adds a fun little twist to it by making him a vampire hunter and making vampires the cause of the Civil War. 
I think that the author did a great job of weaving the vampire aspect of the story into the actual event sin Abraham Lincoln's life.  The story seemed smooth and it didn't feel as though there were any odd transitions between fact and fiction which I liked.  I have read another of this author's books and it was very choppy so I was glad that was not the case with this book.  I thought it was neat how the author had Lincoln meet up with Edgar Allan Poe who was fascinated with vampires.  There were also some great 'authentic' photos that showed how vampires always seemed to be where Lincoln was.  The one thing I really didn't like was the ending to the story.  It seemed to go against other occurrences earlier in the book and it just was not the way I would have liked to see the story end.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was a silly read that mixes history and the paranormal.  It was a little slow moving at times but overall, it's a good read if you are looking for something fun and different. 3 stars

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: "The Voices of the Dead" by Hiroaki Kuromiya

From Goodreads:  Swept up in the maelstrom of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937-1938, nearly a million people died. Most were ordinary citizens who left no records and as a result have been completely forgotten. This book is the first to attempt to retrieve their stories and reconstruct their lives, drawing upon recently declassified archives of the former Soviet Secret Police in Kiev. Hiroaki Kuromiya uncovers in the archives the hushed voices of the condemned, and he chronicles the lives of dozens of individuals who shared the same dehumanizing fate: all were falsely arrested, executed, and dumped in mass graves.

 Kuromiya investigates the truth behind the fabricated records, filling in at least some of the details of the lives and deaths of ballerinas, priests, beggars, teachers, peasants, workers, soldiers, pensioners, homemakers, fugitives, peddlers, ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Koreans, Jews, and others. In recounting the extraordinary stories gleaned from the secret files, Kuromiya not only commemorates the dead and forgotten but also proposes a new interpretation of Soviet society that provides useful insights into the enigma of Stalinist terror.

My Thoughts:  This book has been on my shelf for several years and I finally got around to reading it.  It is a discussion of the victims of the Great Terror in Kiev between 1937-38 and was a fascinating, and horrifying, read.  Kuromiya has researched the stories of quite a few of the victims of the terror in that city but there were so many more and his research just covers one city in the Soviet Union in that era.  It makes me wonder about the numbers of victims were in other cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg, etc.  I know it's a lot but it was pretty eye-opening to read such a focused study.  I guess I always tend to think of the Terror being centered in the heart of Russia and I like being able to see how it affected other regions of the Soviet Union.

Kuromiya tells these victims stories in their own words.  He includes their life stories, testimony from their interrogations and any other documentation he found in their files.  He also included a lot of pictures, copies of the interviews and letters written by the victims.  It was kind of sad to see all of these items and knowing how they had been used to bring about a person's demise.  It was fairly obvious from the information provided that most of these victims were innocent of all charges and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I have read a lot about the Great Terror but it never ceases to amaze me the extent that Stalin went to in order to rid the Soviet Union of so called 'enemies of the people'.  Kuromiya's work was incredibly well-researched and well-written.  I felt like he did a good job of presenting the facts without getting emotional (which I totally would have done).  It was kind of dry at times but overall, an interesting read.  3 stars.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (19)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
This week I only picked up one book but it is one that I have been waiting for! I can't wait to dive in!
What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: "The Secret Keeper" by Kate Morton

From Goodreads:  1959 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

My Thoughts:  I recieved this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Oh my goodness, this book was such a rollercoaster!  The synopsis made the story sound mysterious but I had no idea how many twists and turns there would be.  I felt like every time I thought I had it figured out, some new twist would occur.  There were characters who at first I liked and/or disliked and as the story continued and information revealed, I completely changed my opinion of them.  It definitely was an 'edge of your seat' read.

This book cemented the fact that I like Kate Morton's books.  The Secret Keeper was well-written and her characters were well-developed.  There were a lot of characters in this story and it jumped a lot from past to present but I feel like Morton did a great job of making each character unique and memorable.  The switch to from different perspectives can be confusing at times but that was not the case with this book.  There is a lot I have to say about the characters but I don't want to discuss my feelings about each of them because I would hate to give something away!  All I will say is that there are definitely some great characters in this book.

I loved that the 'past' part of the story was set during the blitz of London.  I don't think I have read a book set in wartime London before.  It made for an interesting backdrop and emphasized how things can change int he blink of an eye which kind of seemed like a common theme throughout the story.  Overall, this was an amazing read and if you're looking for a good book, you should pick this one up.  I will definitely be reading more of Kate Morton's books after this.  4 1/2 stars.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: "Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan" by Robin Maxwell

Synopsis:  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.

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.

Jane is the first version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its publication marks the centennial of the original Tarzan of the Apes.

My Thoughts:  This was such a unique story!  I'll be honest, my only experience with Tarzan and Jane prior to reading this book was the Disney movie so I didn't quite know what to expect.  I have to say that I loved the fact that this story took place in a completely different historical era and that most of the story was set outside of Europe and the U.S.  The story starts in the States, travels back in time to England but the majority of the story takes place in the jungles of Africa as Jane Porter describes her story to a writer in Chicago in 1912.  Ms. Maxwell's descriptions of Western Africa's flora and fauna are magical; you could almost hear the sounds of the jungle around you.  I also really enjoyed reading about the tribal people as well as the 'Mangani', a group of ape-like peoples; Maxwell's detailed descriptions of these groups, their customs and way of life really added to the ambience of the story.

Ms. Maxwell's created/adapted some amazing characters.  Tarzan was completely endearing.  From the moment he made his way into the story, I couldn't help but adore him.  He seemed to be incredibly intelligent and I loved watching him grow throughout the story.  He was also so gentle and loving towards Jane that you couldn't help but want them to wind up together. The villain, Ral Conrath, is so charming in the beginning of the story that even I was fooled by him.  When his intentions are revealed, I was shocked because Maxwell had made him seem like such a good person.  Jane was so tough and intelligent; I found her to be such an admirable character and loved how much she avoided the traditional role she was expected to play as a wealthy woman in early 20th century England.  The one thing I did find a little unrealistic was that Jane seemed to adapt fairly easily to living in the jungle in a very primitive manner without any complaints.  It seemed to me that even a tomboy like her would have balked at the complete lack of amenities. 

In addition to having great characters, the story pulled me in and didn't let go.  From the beginning, I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next and I pretty much flew through the book.  I loved the way it ended but I couldn't help wanting more because I loved the characters so much.  I may have to read the original Tarzan and the Apes now as I really want to read more about these characters and their adventures.  If you are looking for something outside the usual historical fiction box, I highly recommend this book.  4 stars.

About the Author:

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 twenty-fourth printing. She lives in the high desert of California with her husband, yogi Max Thomas.

Check out other reviews, guest posts, interviews and giveaway here!
Follow on twitter: #JaneVirtualBookTour
To learn more about the author:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guest Post by Robin Maxwell, author of "Jane"

Please welcome Robin Maxwell to So Many Books, So Little Time!  Her newest novel, Jane:  The Woman Who Loved Tarzan was released on September 18 from Tor Books and she is here today with a guest post.
 “Tarzan:  Why I Loved Him Then.  Why I Love Him Now”
 My first heartthrob was Tarzan.  There I was, a pre-pubescent girl with hormones raging, when I caught sight of the next-to-naked ape-man swinging through the vines with a pretty brunette in an equally skimpy outfit.  They’d swim nude together in an elegiac underwater ballet, and ride on the back of elephants.  He’d fight alligators and lions, to save her neck. They were friends with exotic African tribes and enemies of some pretty scary cannibals.  This wild couple lived in a cozy little “nest” high up in a tree, bathed in paradisiacal waterfalls, had a chimp for a buddy, and best of all had nobody telling them to behave or act more civilized. This was a very rich brew.
Now let me get back to the “next-to-naked” part.  I can’t overemphasize this enough.  I didn’t have brothers growing up and while I saw boys and men in bathing trunks at the local pool every summer, my first Tarzan – a the Olympic champion Johnny Weissmuller in his pelt loincloth – leaping and flying through the jungle canopy, strutting his stuff, muscles rippling and engaging in sexy, embraces with a woman-not-his-wife was, back in the 60s, nothing short of radical.  But I wasn’t just a sex-crazed tweener.  This feral, chest-thumping jungle-yodeling creature was also, to my delight, a great adventurer – protecting elephant graveyards, discovering lost cities and ancient civilizations, and hitching rides on dinosaurs.  He was always deflecting the advances of exotic priestesses in their tiny golden breastplates, fearless huntress, and Acquanetta, the smoldering “Leopard Woman.”
Even more appealing to my fantasy life than being Tarzan’s Jane was my identification with the “female Tarzan,” Sheena Queen of the Jungle”  to whose TV series I was seriously addicted. This leggy blonde beauty didn’t need protecting.  She, with her tiny va-va-va-voom animal-skin dress, daring upper arm bracelet and long spear was a perfect match for the ape-man, especially when Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane in later movies (after the 1930s censors reined in her costume and wildness) began acting like a suburban housewife.  In my daydreams it was Tarzan and Sheena as the dynamic jungle duo battling side-by-side against the forces of evil in the natural world. 
Alas, I grew up.  Junior high, high school and college provided enough real-life sexual tension to distract me from my fantasy wildman.  That is until 1984 when whisperings of a new Tarzan movie filtered into my consciousness.  I hadn’t thought of him in twenty years and yet…I was the first one in line on the Friday night that “Greystoke” opened.  With its Academy Award winning director, sensually lanky Christopher Lambert as Tarzan and a gorgeous young Andie McDowell as his Edwardian girlfriend, how could they go wrong? I thrilled to the first half of the film, watched the stranding of the noble-born parents on an African beach and little Lord Clayton was born in a tree-house.  I shuddered at his violent abduction by apes after his parents’ murder, delighted at the feral upbringing, believing he was an ape.  My heart thumped.  Memories flooded back.  Soon he’d be meeting Jane and then…
But Jane never appeared in this scenario – at least not in the rain forest.  It was all about Tarzan saving the life of a Frenchman.  Before I new it, Tarzan was put into clean clothes and whipped off to England.  What the hell?!  The first time Tarzan (now called “John”) meets Jane, wearing a high-necked, corseted dress, is on a grand staircase in his grandfather’s mansion. I was deflated, frustrated, irritated.  But I practiced patience.  Surely they would quickly make their way back to Africa so the love story could take off.  But no!  It was not to be.  The entire second half of “Greystoke” took place in England with Tarzan trying to assimilate into civilized life.  The only reversion to his primordial self happened when he visited Jane one night and he, crouching and hopping apelike around her bed, sniffs the lady a few times before jumping her bones.
I was outraged when the end of the movie arrived and Jane had not set one toe in Tarzan’s jungle.  So disgusted was I that it would be another twenty-five years before the characters would come erupting like a volcano to the surface of my consciousness.  I’d just finished writing O, Juliet, the first rendition in all of literary history of the Romeo and Juliet classic as an historical novel.  When my husband of thirty years (my own wildman – a yoga master who in his youth had – to my horror – performed Tarzanish feats, like handstands at the edge of thousand-foot cliffs) asked what my next romantic book would be I blurted out “Tarzan and Jane!” before I knew what I was saying.
Only then did I discover the magic of Tarzan’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and begin reading the original novels (there are twenty-four of them, the first published a full century ago).  This Tarzan was a truly extraordinary, complex character, one with all the strength, courage and utter fearlessness of the movies, but a man who could do more than grunt nouns and verbs.  He was fluent in seven languages! Was as comfortable in a tuxedo or flying a plane for the RAF in WWII as he was swinging naked in the jungle canopy.
With the full blessings of the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate I was given the freedom to rewrite the classic for sensibilities of modern readers.  Tarzan became a kinder, gentler savage, and Jane a woman to be reckoned with.
I got them naked and intimate in his nest fast,  only then detouring to tell the story of how she came to be stranded alone in Africa with him.  “My” Tarzan is still a perfect male specimen – the penultimate adventurer, at one with nature and ridiculously strong, with violent hatred towards all evil-doers.  Yet he is vulnerable and tender, a man who struggles with deeply buried memories of his human parents, and allows a woman to “save him,” even as he is saving her.
 Never in my wildest adolescent dreams could I have imagined I would be allowed to write my version of Tarzan, bring him to life in a way that suited my own primal fantasies.  I hope my ape-man swings his way into yours, too.
Bestselling author and screenwriter Robin Maxwell often wonders how growing up a suburban New Jersey girl, an education at Tufts University as an occupational therapist, stints as a music business secretary, parrot tamer, casting director, and dozens of Hollywood script development deals prepared her for a career in writing.  After fifteen years and eight novels of historical fiction, including Signora da Vinci and The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn (now in its twenty-fourth printing) she is preparing to jump genres with the publication of JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan (Tor Books, September 18).  It is the first Tarzan classic in a century written by a woman and told through the eyes of the ape-man’s beloved Jane Porter.
About the Book:

Publication Date: Sept. 18, 2012
Tor Books
320 pp
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.

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.

Jane is the first version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its publication marks the centennial of the original Tarzan of the Apes.

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Come back to So Many Books, So Little Time on Thursday, Oct. 4 to read my review of Jane!
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Monday, October 1, 2012

September Wrapup

I can't believe September is over already!!  It went by so fast but I am really excited for October and all of the upcoming fall holidays.  September was another slow reading month for me.  I read 7 books as well as the first 300 pages in Les Miserables.  This puts me at a total of 92 books read for the year which is approximately 50 less than I had finished at this point last year.  I am definitely not reading as much this year as I was last year but I still feel pretty good about where I stand.  I only have 3 challenge books left to finish in addition to finishing Les Mis so I will definitely complete all of my challenges this year.

I set a bunch of goals for myself at the beginning of this month and I'll be honest, I didn't meet very many of them.  A lot of unexpected things happened in September, some good and some bad, and it was hard to make time for everything I wanted to do.  The hubs started a fantastic new job (YAY) and I hurt my knee to the point where I had to step out of running a 1/2 marathon in October (BOO).  I am completely okay with the fact that a lot of my goals were unmet because I did meet the reading goals that I set for myself and I am hoping October will go a little more smoothly than September.  I am excited for October because I will be participating in Dewey's 24 hour Read-a-thon for the first time to help me get through some books I have been putting off for a while.

Anyway, here is what I read in October.  Reviews will be posted for the last three books in the next week or so.

1.) The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy
2.) The Queen's Sorrow by Suzannah Dunn
3.) The Highlander's Touch by Karen Marie Moning
4.) The Sisters who Would Be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
5.) The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
6.) Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell
7.) The Voices of the Dead: Stalin's Great Terror in the 1930s by Hiroaki Kuromiya

How was September for you?  Did you meet your reading goals for the month?
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