Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Book Review: A Woman of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe

A Fifth Avenue address, parties at the Plaza, two healthy sons, and the ideal husband: what looks like a perfect life for Katharina Edgeworth is anything but. It’s 1954, and the post-war American dream has become a nightmare.

A born and bred New Yorker, Katharina is the daughter of immigrants, Ivy-League-educated, and speaks four languages. As a single girl in 1940s Manhattan, she is a translator at the newly formed United Nations, devoting her days to her work and the promise of world peace—and her nights to cocktails and the promise of a good time. 


Now the wife of a beloved pediatric surgeon and heir to a shipping fortune, Katharina is trapped in a gilded cage, desperate to escape the constraints of domesticity. So when she is approached by the FBI and asked to join their ranks as an informant, Katharina seizes the opportunity. A man from her past has become a high-level Soviet spy, but no one has been able to infiltrate his circle. Enter Katharina, the perfect woman for the job.


Navigating the demands of the FBI and the secrets of the KGB, she becomes a courier, carrying stolen government documents from D.C. to Manhattan. But as those closest to her lose their covers, and their lives, Katharina’s secret soon threatens to ruin her.




Katharina Edgeworth has a life that many would envy, but in A Woman of Intelligence, we find a wife and mother who feels trapped, overwhelmed and invisible. Although she has a lush life in her upscale New York apartment with her successful doctor husband, she misses her days as an interpreter at the UN. This “past life” catches up to her when she is secretly recruited by the FBI, wherein espionage ensues, all while she struggles to maintain her life as dutiful wife and mother.


Karin Tanabe’s novel of the science of spy craft and the art of homemaking was an interesting mix of intrigue and mundane domesticity under the thumb of aristocracy. There were times when Katharina (“Rina” to her friends) juggled some of the very joys and struggles that I have as a mother, although I lack her door man and housekeeper. She loved her children deeply, almost painfully. Yet there are days when she felt overpowered by the life she chose. Her chance to break out of her upper-class confinement to secretly work for the government provided her an opportunity to use her talents outside of the scope of motherhood and marriage. Fortunately I’ve been able to do this myself, although not surreptitiously, but with my husband’s blessing as I attend graduate school and also play the French Horn in local ensembles. True, Rina’s exploits might be more exciting, but this reader understands the pull to retain a sense of identity after motherhood.


A Woman of Intelligence certainly is about the intelligence community, but there is more of a focus on Rina as a woman, and her dealings within her family than I had anticipated there would be. Karin Tanable’s writing is exquisite, and while I wouldn’t remove anything she included regarding Rina’s life at home, I would have enjoyed more content on the espionage side of things. That said, this novel is superbly written and my minor quibble only comes from a place of “wanting more”. 


As previously mentioned, I am in graduate school these days, so reading novels occurs less during the semester months. However, I was fortunate enough to obtain an audiobook copy of this title for review. I ended up splurging and I also bought a hard copy of the book from a local independent bookstore, but 95% of the novel was taken in via audio. Narrator Jennifer Jill Araya had quite a task before her in presenting this story. Not only were many of the characters staunchly American, but Araya also had to enunciate in accents from various countries as well, such as Russia and England. While I found her portrayal of some of the men a bit distracting (which is usually the case with most narrators when voicing the opposite sex), her ability to audibly depict the voices of these individuals from multiple cultures was very skilled. Her Russian accent in particular seemed quite authentic.


A Woman of Intelligence was a smart, heartfelt foray into the world of upper crust Manhattan, a love letter to the city of New York, and a captivating peek into the world of the FBI in the 1950s. Tanabe leaves the door open at the conclusion of the tale for the possibility of a sequel, and I for one hope that this comes to fruition. Katharina Edgeworth is truly at the beginning of her journey, and Karin Tanabe is just the woman to lead her onward into new ventures and escapades.





About the Author

Karin Tanabe is the author of A Woman of Intelligence, The Gilded Years, The Price of Inheritance, A Hundred Suns, The Diplomat’s Daughter, and The List.


A former Politico reporter, her writing has also appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and The Washington Post. She has made frequent appearances as a celebrity and politics expert on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and The CBS Early Show. A graduate of Vassar College, Karin lives in Washington, DC. To learn more visit KarinTanabe.com.


Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter











Thursday, August 26, 2021

Cover Reveal: Bloomsbury Girls, The Sequel to The Jane Austen Society


Last year I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society.  A USA Today and #1 national bestseller, this delightful novel was more than worthy of a follow-up. I'm thrilled to report that Natalie and St. Martin's Press are now revealing the cover art and some delectable details about the sequel, Bloomsbury Girls. Below you'll find the full cover, as well as some tantalizing information on what is to come. It looks like the upcoming publishing date is May 17, 2022, just in time to include in your next summer vacation's literary tote bag. I hope they are able to employ Richard Armitage once again for the audio book version as well. What a great listen! Add this title to your TBR list today!



“One bookshop. Fifty-one rules. Three women who break them all.”


The Internationally Bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules.  But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry:  Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances - most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she's been working to support the family following her husband's breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone:  In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she's working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time - Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others - these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow. 


QUOTES FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER


“I never intended for Evie Stone to be a major character in my debut novel, let alone inspire my second one, Bloomsbury Girls. But as time went on, I found I could not leave her behind in Chawton with the other society members. And then one day I rewatched a favourite movie, 84 Charing Cross Road, and I remember thinking, there's a whole other story in here still to be told, of an upstairs-downstairs motley crew of booksellers, and right away the figures came to life.”

“As with The Jane Austen Society, Bloomsbury Girls features multiple characters and storylines revolving around one very charming location: this time, the quintessential Dickensian-type bookshop.”

“If The Jane Austen Society was the book I wrote when I was coming out of sadness, Bloomsbury Girls was written when I was very happy, and I hope it provides a little cheer to readers during this difficult time.





And now for the big reveal: the cover of Bloomsbury Girls!








AUTHOR BIO


Natalie Jenner is the author of two books, the instant international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY and BLOOMSBURY GIRLS. A Goodreads Choice Award finalist for best debut novel and historical fiction, THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, a career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.






















Saturday, August 21, 2021

Book Review and Swag Offer: The Merchant and the Rogue by Sarah M. Eden

London, 1865

Vera Sorokina loves reading the Penny Dreadfuls and immersing herself in tales of adventure, mystery, and romance. Her own days are filled with the often mundane work of running the book and print shop she owns with her father. The shop offers her freedom and an income, and while she is grateful for the stability it brings to her life, she often feels lonely.

Brogan Donnelly was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in London for several years, where he’s built a career as a penny dreadful writer. He has dedicated himself to the plight of the poor with the help of his sister. But with no one to share his life with, he fears London will never truly feel like home.

Brogan and Vera’s paths cross, and the attraction is both immediate and ill-advised. Vera knows from past experience that writers are never to be trusted, and Brogan has reason to suspect not everything at Vera’s print shop is aboveboard. When a growing criminal enterprise begins targeting their area of London, Brogan and Vera must work together to protect the community they’ve both grown to love. But that means they’ll need to learn to trust each other with dangerous secrets that have followed both of them from their home countries.




Sarah M. Eden’s The Merchant and the Rogue is the third book in the Dread Penny Society series. It is, however, the first title that I have read from this author. I normally don’t jump into a series like this; my preference is to begin with the first volume and go from there. Prospective readers can be assured, though, that The Merchant and the Rogue easily stands on its own. That said, this novel will assuredly be just the beginning for me. I hope to go back and read The Lady and the Highwayman as well as The Gentleman and the Thief.

I’m sure there is some generations-old literary tradition that caused Eden to title the books of this series in the way that she did. Referencing Merchant, the title is drawn not from the main narrative, but from one of two “penny dreadfuls” that are included in installments between chapters of the entire book. If you aren’t familiar with the history of penny dreadfuls, they were small, cheaply-printed tales sold at a price that almost anyone could afford. Dreadfuls were often serialized, leaving the reader wanting more and looking forward to purchasing the next chapter. “Binge reading” wasn’t really done with these publications. They were lower-brow, cheaper versions of the serializations as seen with Charles Dickens’ writing, for example. The Merchant and the Rogue tells the brief tale of a female merchant, a rogue with whom she crosses paths, and a dastardly villain bent on terrorizing their local town. This story takes on some fairy-tale elements, which took me by surprise at first. The seven short chapters had a different tone and flourish that worked well with the material, and I enjoyed returning to the short story as it popped up throughout the book. The second “penny dreadful” featured is called The Dead Zoo. In it we find a Sherlockian investigator attempting to deduce the disappearance of specimens from the local Museum of Natural History. I don’t want to give anything away, but this story took a turn that I did not see coming, one that harkened back to a Twilight Zone feel. Its five short chapters were a delightful surprise. I also enjoyed the meta-referential way in which The Dead Zoo and The Merchant and the Rogue were mentioned in the main text.

The primary narrative doesn’t feature a gentleman rogue or a dead zoo, but presents characters who are thrust into quite an adventure, with nothing but mostly realistic elements. Some individuals are members of the secretive Dread Penny Society, a group of writers who have come together to right wrongs in their community, almost akin to a private superhero club, without the superpowers. Others in the novel include the residents of London, some of whom have immigrated from lands such as Russia and Ireland. They have checkered pasts which could come back to haunt them as they encounter new enemies who are threatening the peace and freedom of their neighborhoods and businesses. There is also a delightful storyline between one of the “Dreadfuls”, author Brogan Donnelly and the Russian immigrant Vera Sorokina. 

While I didn’t find Eden’s writing to be cutting-edge, The Merchant and the Rogue (the entire work) was an enjoyable read for me as I close out these last days of summer, before school work begins again. The content was extremely family-friendly, with no colorful language, and the romance factor was very sweet, not steamy. The story does not shy away from difficult worldly elements, though, as the plight of street children, the struggles of immigrants and systemic mafia-like bullying are addressed. 

The work as a whole was very entertaining, though. The protagonists were very likeable, and the villains (particularly in the titular short story) provided interesting conflict to the narratives. If you enjoy authors such as Julie Klassen, Erica Vetsch or Melanie Dickerson, The Merchant and the Rogue (and the entire series I’m sure) would be a good match for you. I’m a newcomer to Sarah M. Eden’s work, but I intend to continue enjoying her writing for years to come.



SPECIAL SWAG OFFER!!


Help Sarah M. Eden get her latest novel, The Merchant and the Rogue, to hit the New York Times best-seller list by purchasing a copy between August 15-22.

Everyone who submits a copy of their receipt and fills out the offer's form (click HERE) during the week of August 15-22 will receive The Merchant and the Rogue Swag Bundle.

Bundle includes (but is not limited to):

- 1 Mystery ARC (only available to the first 500 submissions)

- Assorted Stickers

- Bookmark

- Proper Romance Enamel Pin (available to the first 1,000 submissions)

- Bookplate signed by Sarah M Eden

For more information, visit the publisher's details page HERE.





About the Author

Sarah M. Eden is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning Proper Romance series novels including The Lady and the Highwayman and Ashes on the Moor. Combining her passion for history and an affinity for love stories, Sarah crafts smart, witty characters and heartfelt romances. She happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library and dreams of one day traveling to all the places she reads about.


WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS















Join the virtual book tour of THE MERCHANT AND THE ROGUE, Sarah M. Eden’s highly acclaimed historical romance, August 16-29, 2021. Thirty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical romance, mystery/suspense, and inspirational fiction will join in the celebration of its release with a spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in London, England.
 

TOUR SCHEDULE 

Aug 16           Among the Reads (Review)        

Aug 16           Austenprose (Review)      

Aug 16           Reading is My Superpower (Review)

Aug 17           Literary Time Out (Review)         

Aug 17           Getting Your Read On (Review)

Aug 17           Heidi Reads (Excerpt)

Aug 17           Laura's Reviews (Review)           

Aug 18           Our Book Confessions (Review)           

Aug 18           Bookworm Lisa (Review)

Aug 19           Fire & Ice (Review)

Aug 19           From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)

Aug 20           My Bookish Bliss (Review)         

Aug 20           Gwendalyn's Books (Review)    

Aug 20           Storeybook Reviews (Excerpt)

Aug 21           Bookish Rantings (Review)        

Aug 21           The Calico Critic (Review)          

Aug 22           The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)      

Aug 22           Books, Teacups, & Reviews (Excerpt)

Aug 23           My Jane Austen Book Club (Spotlight)

Aug 23           Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Review) 

Aug 23           Reading with Emily (Review)     

Aug 24           Wishful Endings (Review)           

Aug 24           Relz Reviewz (Review)     

Aug 24           The Book Diva Reads (Excerpt)

Aug 25           Bookfoolery (Review)       

Aug 25           Greenish Bookshelf (Review)    

Aug 26           A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

Aug 26           Nurse Bookie (Review)    

Aug 27           So Little Time… (Excerpt)

Aug 27           Probably at the Library (Review)          

Aug 27           Bringing Up Books (Review)      

Aug 28           Books and Socks Rock (Review)          

Aug 28           The Bibliophile Files (Review)   

Aug 29           Book Confessions of an Ex-Ballerina (Review)        

Aug 29           A Darn Good Read (Review)      

                       




Paperback

Kindle

Audio


Friday, July 23, 2021

Book Review: John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he's ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John's new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn't on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she's powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn't quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.


From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?





Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is the quintessential 19th century gothic novel. Some pair it with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as the best literature of that era. However, unlike Pride and Prejudice, Brontë’s work has not been given the myriad adaptations and retellings that Austen’s has. Author Mimi Matthews has taken it upon herself to re-envision Jane Eyre with a bit of a gender swap, plus an extra dash of the paranormal as well. Given Brontë’s style of writing, the gothic tone and the lack of the “rom-com” formula that is so common in today’s Austen adaptations, taking on Jane Eyre was a brave choice.


In the source material, the titular character Jane joins the Rochester household as a governess, and she develops a relationship with her employer, Edward Rochester. In John Eyre, the main character is a young man brought into the household as a tutor for two young boys under the care of Mrs. Bertha Rochester. There are other amusing similarities between Jane and John Eyre, but it is sufficient to say that Matthews’ novel is very much its own entity. Brontë’s plot is not rehashed scene by scene. There is a darker element that makes itself known early on in the narrative, and builds to a larger presence near the conclusion. 


The vast majority of the novels that I read are historical fiction, with very few including supernatural or magical elements. I would count Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (which includes time travel) as the main exception to that trend, and those novels are read separately from ones for review on The Calico Critic. So John Eyre was a bit of a departure for me as a reviewer. That said, I was not disappointed in the venture. Mimi Matthews’ writing is excellent. Her word choices and turns of phrase made for compelling reading. Her characters were well-drawn, and the murky ambience of the tale was almost palatable, but not discomfitingly so. Given the alternating timeline device that was used, the carefully-divulged secrets that lay within the life of Mrs. Rochester were mysterious, but not in a way that made this reader overly uncomfortable for the majority of the novel. Only during a couple of key moments near the conclusion did the plot traipse into an area that was darker than my usual fare, but those times were brief. In general, John Eyre’s narrative style could almost be likened more to a mystery, rather than a paranormal gothic novel.


As I read, my mind initially “cast” the actor Timothée Chalamet as John Eyre, but as the story developed I felt that Tom Hiddleston would be a better choice. John was a very sympathetic educator and protector, showing maturity and a groundedness that were beyond his years. For Mrs. Rochester, I waffled between seeing a younger Angelina Jolie (sporting an European, non-American accent) and Jessica Brown Findlay in my vision of the beleaguered woman in black. Angelina’s beauty probably exceeds that of Matthews’ personification of the character, but Bertha had a strength, road-weariness and vulnerability that Jolie could embody. Actor Jessica Findlay also has a softness that Jolie lacks. So these two women somehow simultaneously held that role in my mind.


For my conservative readers, this novel may or may not be your cup of tea. Overall the “mature” material is very mild, with very little colorful language, and the sexual content is also fairly modest. The paranormal aspect of John Eyre is very much like what is found in 19th century literature for the majority of the story (although I’m no expert in that era’s material). For the last few chapters, some dark elements do creep in. That said, it’s often within the framework of good vs. evil, with even a few discussions of faith (or loss of it), the church, prayer to God, etc. It’s by no means a “religious” novel, but touchstones of faith are briefly mentioned. With this in mind, I would not necessarily recommend John Eyre to the ultra-conservative reader, but if a little bit of darkness (paired with the light of what is good) doesn’t scare you off, then this might be a good match.


Dark and compelling, with captivating characters and a narrative that builds to an exciting conclusion, John Eyre has been heralded as one of the “25 of the Best Books Arriving in 2021.” Those familiar with Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, as well as readers who are unfamiliar with Jane Eyre can both find much to enjoy in Mimi Matthews’ latest title. In a world of darkness and shadow, light and love are the most powerful forces of all.


 




About the Author


USA Today
bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.












Join the virtual book tour of JOHN EYRE: A TALE OF DARKNESS AND SHADOW, Mimi Matthews’ highly acclaimed Bronte-inspired Gothic romance, July 12-25, 2021. Thirty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical fiction, Gothic romance, and paranormal fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpt, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Yorkshire, England. 

 

TOUR SCHEDULE                  

July 12           The Caffeinated Bibliophile (review)    

July 12           Syrie James (review)        

July 12           Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (review) 

July 13           Bronte Blog (interview)

July 13           Laura's Reviews (review) 

July 13           All-of-a-Kind Mom (spotlight)

July 14           Gwendalyn's Books (review)      

July 14           Austenesque Reviews (review) 

July 15           Bookworm Lisa (review)  

July 15           Nurse Bookie (review)      

July 16           Savvy Verse and Wit (excerpt)

July 16           The Lit Bitch (review)       

July 17           My Bookish Bliss (review)           

July 17           From the TBR Pile (review)         

July 18           Rosanne E. Lortz (review)           

July 18           Books, Teacups, & Reviews (review)   

July 19           The Secret Victorianist (review)

July 19           Christian Chick's Thoughts (review)    

July 19           The Gothic Library (review)        

July 20           Getting Your Read On (review)  

July 20           The Silver Petticoat Review (review)    

July 20           Lu Reviews Books (review)        

July 21           Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (spotlight)

July 21           The Green Mockingbird (review)           

July 22           Unabridged Chick (review)         

July 22           A Darn Good Read (review)

July 23           Kathleen Flynn (review)   

July 23           So Little Time… (review) 

July 23           The Calico Critic (review)

July 24           The Bronte Babe (review)

July 24           Probably at the Library (review)

July 24           Impressions in Ink (review)

July 25           From Pemberley to Milton (review)       

July 25           Vesper's Place (review)    

July 25           Cup of Tea with that Book Please (review)    




Hardcover

Paperback 

Kindle 

Audiobook




LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails