Blog Tour: The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel

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Hello, and welcome to today’s stop on the tour for The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel! I generally try to choose blog tours that are outside of my usual genres but still sound interesting. I don’t read enough historical fiction on my own, and I enjoy novels set in the 1920s, so this seemed like a promising choice. And it was: it ended up being one of those pleasant surprises that was even better than I expected. Before I tell you why, check out the summary. (Also, don’t forget to scroll down and check out the other tour stops!)

Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water. When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry.

Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rumrunners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.

As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?

MyReview

For starters, I really enjoyed hearing the thoughts inside Frieda’s head. They were remarkably human and honest. She was so self-aware and yet so unable to escape from the snares in which she found herself, both romantic and legal. She frustrated me at times, but I know I’ve been guilty of similar behavior, and it was one of the things that drew me to her the most. I especially admired the way that she picked herself up, time and again, and carried on.

The setting, both time and location, is alternately glamorous and seedy, and it is wonderful. I enjoyed getting to visit a poor seaside town and see how a lucrative opportunity for illegal work could change its residents. I also enjoyed catching a glimpse into smoky, music-filled New York speakeasies.

The scenes on the rumrunning boat made me much more nervous than I anticipated. My heart was in my throat on multiple occasions as I wondered whether Frieda would manage to make it out of yet another threatening situation. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that she managed to make this book of historical fiction set in a sleepy seaside town feel tempestuous, nostalgic, hopeless, furious, and suspenseful.

I would have liked to see a bit more of Bea and Frieda as they grew into their adult lives together. Most of Frieda’s scenes were with men, and I enjoyed watching her attempt to have a female friendship with her sister; I would’ve liked to see them adjust into a more mature relationship with one another.

Mostly, what I enjoyed about this book was the characters. They were all so different, none of them perfect, and I appreciated my time observing each of them. A minor favorite was Rudy, a wonderful undercurrent of strength, but I also loved the relationship between Frieda and Silver, the quiet understanding that they held as father and daughter.

All in all: Works on lots of levels. I expected to enjoy this, but I was surprised by just how much I did.

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Ann Howard Creel was born in Austin, Texas, and worked as a registered nurse before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of numerous children’s and young adult books as well as fiction for adults. Her children’s books have won several awards, and her novel The Magic of Ordinary Days was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for CBS. Creel currently lives and writes in Chicago. For more information about Ann’s work, visit her website, annhowardcreel.com.

OtherTourStops

Monday, August 22nd: Musings of  a Bookish Kitty
Tuesday, August 23rd: You Can Read Me Anything
Wednesday, August 24th: Staircase Wit
Thursday, August 25th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Friday, August 26th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, August 29th: BookNAround
Tuesday, August 30th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Reviews
Wednesday, August 31st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Thursday, September 1st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Friday, September 2nd: The Warlock’s Gray Book
Monday, September 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, September 6th: Just Commonly
Wednesday, September 7th: Reading is My Superpower
Thursday, September 8th: Write Read Life
Monday, September 12th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, September 13th: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads
Thursday, September 15th: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, September 16th: FictionZeal
Monday, September 19th: Reading the Past

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Apothecary Rose (Owen Archer series) by Candace Robb

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Good morning! I’m thrilled to be the opening stop on the blog tour for Candace Robb’s Owen Archer series. The tour is celebrating the release of Books Nine and Ten in the series, but I’ll be reviewing the first installation, Apothecary Rose. I like to start at the beginning when reading a series, and I’m grateful to the author (and TLC Book Tours) for allowing me to do so. If the latest installments are anything like the first, they’ll be twisty, complicated mysteries that keep you guessing the entire time. Here’s a great quote from The Guardian about the ninth book, The Guilt of Innocents:

It’s…the Machiavellian intrigue that makes this such an enjoyable read. When the iron curtain came down people said the spy-thriller genre was dead. They were wrong. This is as full of intrigue as a Deighton or a Le Carré.

MyReview

The Apothecary Rose by Candace Robb. Diversion Books. 313 pp.

The Apothecary Rose by Candace Robb. Diversion Books. 313 pp.

In the year of our Lord 1363, two suspicious deaths in the infirmary of St. Mary’s Abbey catch the attention of the powerful John Thoresby, Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of York. One victim is a pilgrim, while the second is Thoresby’s ne’er-do-well ward, both apparently poisoned by a physic supplied by Master Apothecary Nicholas Wilton. In the wake of these deaths, the archbishop dispatches one-eyed spy Owen Archer to York to find the murderer.

Under the guise of a disillusioned soldier keen to make a fresh start, Owen insinuates himself into Wilton’s apothecary as an apprentice. But he finds Wilton bedridden, with the shop being run by his lovely, enigmatic young wife, Lucie. As Owen unravels a tangled history of scandal and tragedy, he discovers at its center a desperate, forbidden love twisted over time into obsession. And the woman he has come to love is his prime suspect.

Lovingly detailed, beautifully written, THE APOTHECARY ROSE is a captivating and suspenseful tale of life, love, and death in medieval England.

First things first: if you read Candace Robb’s bio below, you’ll learn that she is a scholar of medieval history and literature, and this is evident in her writing. The day-to-day lives, responsibilities, and mores of her characters are evident throughout the book, but reading about Owen Archer’s world never feels like a history lesson. It’s sort of like stepping off the TARDIS into fourteenth-century life and learning about it by watching things unfold around you. There’s a brief glossary at the opening of the book, which is helpful for a few terms that aren’t directly explained in the story. Many of the terms’ meanings can be gleaned through context, but I still think the glossary is a nice touch so that first-time medieval readers aren’t alienated or overwhelmed at the start. [Note: Lest you think that such explanation is unnecessary, a tale from one of my former tenth-grade students. They were learning about polio, and the history teacher said that when he was a child his parents were so concerned about the virus that they wouldn’t let him drink water from the backyard hose. She asked, “If everyone was so worried about getting polio, why didn’t they all just drink bottled water?” There are people in today’s society who have no idea how people lived in the past, not even within the last century.]

The accessibility of the book is one of my favorite things. Too much period language or action can push away readers that are new to the genre; too little will make the story unrealistic for seasoned readers. Owen Archer’s world is a great in-between, one that I could recommend to virtually anyone without them getting in over their heads or becoming bored. These characters are very modern in their desires and motives; there are topics such as women’s rights, marital jealousy, homosexuality, wealth and class, and education, but the societal constraints of the time greatly affect how free (or not) the characters can be. It’s a great way to look at issues that still exist today, seeing how far society has come and how, in some cases, very little has changed.

The plot kept me wondering the entire time. I guessed who the culprit was about halfway through, but the motive (and accomplices) surprised me entirely. I love the moment when you start to see how all the pieces fit together; it makes you appreciate just how much work and skill go into crafting a mystery, laying clues without giving too much away in advance. Robb is a gifted storyteller, and her pacing keeps the book interesting without ever lulling the reader into a sense of security or “I-saw-that-coming.”

I’m currently reading the second book in the series, The Lady Chapel, and so far it’s shaping up to be just as good as the first installation. I’ve already seen some familiar faces, and a few new characters have been introduced as well, which is always nice. I’m curious to see if Owen’s demeanor changes over the course of the series, because his lot in life has changed so much, and I hope that the mystery is just as interesting and surprising as it was in the first book.

There’s a tour-wide giveaway running, in case you’re interested (and you should be). Three winners will each win electronic copies of the first three books in the Owen Archer series. Since my WordPress site isn’t self-hosted, I can’t post the Rafflecopter widget here, but you can click on the image below to enter the giveaway. And if you don’t win, each book in the series is currently $2.99 for Kindle, so…y’know…you could buy them and read them anyway!

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CandaceRobb

Growing up, Candace Robb wanted to be a ballerina, tap dancer, folk singer, journalist—but on the day that she walked into Liz Armstrong’s undergraduate class on Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, that all changed. A gifted teacher, lively, witty, always laughing even when cringing at a lazy response, Dr. Armstrong launched into the opening stanzas, and within a few lines Candace’s ears adjusted to the middle English—and she was hooked. Chaucer’s psychological study of the two lovers was a revelation to her. The next quarter was The Canterbury Tales. That clinched it. Candace went on to graduate work in medieval history and literature, and ever since she’s been engaged in bringing to life the rich culture of the period, from the arts to the politics. She is the internationally acclaimed author of thirteen crime novels featuring the sexy, brooding, clever Owen Archer, who solves crimes for John Thoresby, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England, and the young Margaret Kerr, searching for her missing husband and establishing her own role in a Scotland overrun by English soldiers. Candace is currently under contract with Pegasus Books for a new crime series set in 15th century York, the Kate Clifford mysteries, which will debut in 2016.
Writing as Emma Campion, Candace has published two historical novels about the women of the English court in the 14th century, A Triple Knot and The King’s Mistress.
Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Candace grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived most of her adult life in Seattle, Washington, which she loves for its combination of culture, natural beauty, and brooding weather so like Yorkshire, Wales, and Scotland, which she visits as often as possible. She has taught the art of writing the crime novel in the University of Washington’s certificate program, and offers workshops in writing the historical novel and in creating and plotting the crime series. Candace (and Emma) blog about writing and medieval topics at A Writer’s Retreat.

Connect with Candace
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

OtherTourStops

Wednesday, October 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – The Apothecary Rose
Wednesday, October 7th – Raven Haired Girl – The Apothecary Rose
Thursday, October 8th: It’s a Mad Mad World – The Apothecary Rose
Friday, October 9th: Birdhouse Books –  The Apothecary Rose
Monday, October 12th: Reading Reality – Vigil of Spies
Tuesday, October 13th: Let Them Read Books – author guest post
Wednesday, October 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – The Nun’s Tale
Thursday, October 15th – Raven Haired Girl – The Nun’s Tale
Friday, October 16th: Broken Teepee – The Apothecary Rose
Monday, October 19th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – The Riddle of Saint Leonard’s
Monday, October 19th: Broken Teepee – The Lady Chapel
Tuesday, October 20th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord – The Apothecary Rose
Wednesday, October 21st – Raven Haired Girl – The Riddle of Saint Leonard’s
Friday, October 23rd: Broken Teepee – The Nun’s Tale
Monday, October 26th: Luxury Reading – The Apothecary Rose
Wednesday, October 28th – Raven Haired Girl – A Spy for the Redeemer
Thursday, October 29th: Broken Teepee – The King’s Bishop
Monday, November 2nd: Broken Teepee – The Riddle of Saint Leonard’s
Friday, November 6th: Broken Teepee – A Gift of Sanctuary
Wednesday, November 11th: Broken Teepee – A Spy for the Redeemer
Monday, November 16th: Broken Teepee – The Guilt of Innocents
Friday, November 20th: Broken Teepee – A Vigil of Spies
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Review: The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday

The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday. 304 pp. St. Martin's Press.

The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday. 304 pp. St. Martin’s Press.

All his life, Elijah Goldstein has idolized his charismatic Uncle Poxl. Intensely magnetic, cultured and brilliant, Poxl takes Elijah under his wing, introducing him to opera and art and literature. But when Poxl publishes a memoir of how he was forced to leave his home north of Prague at the start of WWII and then avenged the deaths of his parents by flying RAF bombers over Germany during the war, killing thousands of German citizens, Elijah watches as the carefully constructed world his uncle has created begins to unravel. As Elijah discovers the darker truth of Poxl’s past, he comes to understand that the fearless war hero he always revered is in fact a broken and devastated man who suffered unimaginable losses from which he has never recovered.


Hm…what to say about this one? I requested it because of this tweet from John Green:

Granted, it doesn’t take much to get John to cry, as is evidenced by his recent reaction to Shailene Woodley’s MTV Movie Award acceptance speech and his own admission (time and time again) that he’s an easy crier. But still. When something is so moving that you don’t even know what the hell just happened to your emotions, it can be a pretty powerful thing. So I hopped on over to NetGalley and requested this book.

I feel a little guilty for not liking this one. Not because John liked it and I’m a big fan of his (John the Nerdfighter more than John the Author, to be honest) but because, when I step back and look at it, it has so many positive elements: it’s a coming of age story, it’s a book within a book, it tells tales both modern and historical, and the idea of a young Jewish man fighting with the RAF during World War II just felt right somehow. It’s a great examination of the role that stories play in our lives and the fine line between fact and fiction. Reading what I just wrote, it sounds like I’m endorsing this book. But honestly, it almost bored me to tears rather than moving me to them. I feel like the concept was better than the execution and, although I wanted to like this book, I didn’t, not really.

All in all: It was too dry and detached for me, but if you don’t mind that sort of style, the story is good and the themes interesting.