Stacking the Shelves (146)

Stacking the Shelves

I didn’t get much this week, and that is a good, good thing. Not because I don’t love getting tons of books, but because we’re away at the moment and this post is an utter pain to do without my double-screened desktop.

So here we have them, the few, the proud, the books I picked up this week.

For Review:
Blood and Metal (Blood Hunter #5) by Nina Croft
Christmas on Candy Cane Lane (Life in Icicle Falls #8) by Sheila Roberts
Fearless (Pax Arcana #3)  by Elliott James
Honour Bound (Lawmen of the Republic #2) by M.A. Grant
The Virgin’s Spy (Tudor Legacy #2) by Laura Andersen


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-28-15

Sunday Post

We’re on the road again, so any scheduled winner announcements will appear next week. Which will be the July 4 weekend in the U.S., and probably no one will care until after the weekend.

ALA san francisco 2015This weekend we’re in San Francisco at the American Library Association Annual Convention, hopefully not freezing. I’m referring to the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” SF can be a bit chilly, but I’ve never found it to be quite that cold. And a few days in the 60s are going to feel quite refreshing after weeks in the 90s in Atlanta.

Ironically, the research seems to say that when Twain first made the original statement, he was not referring to San Francisco, but Duluth Minnesota. I currently live in Duluth Georgia, which was named for (you guessed it!) the city in Minnesota.

I keep reminding myself that every place has something that sucks, weatherwise. Atlanta and the South in general, are hotter than Hades in the summer, but generally lovely in the winter. Chicago had horrible winters, and hot summers, but the spring and fall are marvelous. Anchorage totally sucks in the winter, but summers are usually sweet, although apparently not this year. And, just to keep things really interesting, you have to get used to the earthquakes. But I grew up in “Tornado Alley”, so there’s always something.

Current Giveaways:

Ruthless by John Rector

on a cyborg planet by anna hackettBlog Recap:

C+ Review: Dissident by Cecilia London
B- Review: Ruthless by John Rector + Giveaway
B Review: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell
B+ Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus
A- Review: On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (141)




freedom-to-read-giveaway-hop1-237x300Coming Next Week:

Phoenix Inheritance by Corrina Lawson (review)
A New Hope by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (review)
Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
A Sword for his Lady by Mary Wine (blog tour review)
Duke City Desperado by Max Austin (blog tour review)

Review: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell

epitaph by mary doria russellFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 592 pages
Publisher: Ecco
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands…

That was America in 1881.

All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26th when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.

Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.

Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal 30 seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

My Review:

Epitaph is the story behind 30 seconds in the 19th century American West that live in myth and legend. 30 seconds that haunt the remaining years of the last survivor well into the 20th.

doc by maria doria russellWhere the absolutely marvelous Doc (reviewed here) relates the story of John Henry “Doc” Holliday in the years before he and the Earp Brothers, found themselves in Tombstone, Epitaph becomes, quite literally, the epitaph of Wyatt Earp, the last survivor of that bloody half-minute.

The title is also a terribly fitting pun. The Tombstone Arizona newspaper that covered the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral most insistently, and whose editor helped to incite the shootout, was the Tombstone Epitaph. Because, as the masthead famously stated, “Every Tombstone needs an Epitaph.”

The story of the famous gunfight, as told in this account, seems like layer upon layer of competing “spin”, culminating in a mostly fictionalized quasi-biography of Wyatt Earp that was published as fact during the Depression, over 50 years after the events.

Although it claimed to be based on Wyatt Earp’s recollections, it was probably mostly made up by the author, Stuart Lake. But it, and the movie based on it, and the TV show based on that, turned out to be not just perfect for the Depression, but also eventually perfect for the fledgling TV industry.

We’ll get back to that.

Most of the book is about the Earps’ and Doc Holliday’s, unfortunate decision to move to Tombstone and the two years worth of catastrophes that followed. Tombstone was a boomtown, with all of the lawlessness that name implies. The Earps, as a group, tended to become sheriffs or deputies or otherwise be on the side of law and order. They enforced the law so that some order could be maintained.

It was what they had done in Dodge City, but it turned out disastrously for them in Tombstone.

The opposition, not just in the gunfight but in the years previously, was a group that called themselves “Cow-boys”. These were not working cowhands, or ranchers. This was a group of men that made their living by stealing cows from across the Mexican border, and from other Arizona ranches, and then re-selling them to the Army or to the silver mines. They raped, murdered and generally pillaged, but Tombstone could never manage to convict any of them of anything.

They had bought off the judges, and terrorized the townspeople. No one stood against them, except the Earps. And that stand is what eventually got everyone involved killed. Some at the gunfight, but most in revenge afterwards.

After all of the dust had finally settled, months and multiple conflicting accounts later, Wyatt was the only survivor. The last third of the book is about Wyatt’s journey after his friends, his brothers and his enemies had died – many of the enemies at his own hand.

His story starts in one last reach for glory, and ends in obscurity.

Escape Rating B: I absolutely loved Doc, and was hoping for more of the same in Epitaph. While I enjoyed Epitaph, it didn’t work as well for me as Doc.

Partly it’s that we know more about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, even if what we know is wrong. We all have a pretty good idea of how this story is going to end, even if we don’t know the details of how they get there.

Because Doc takes place earlier, the devastating ending is still in the shadows, we don’t have to confront it. At the same time Doc Holliday is different character than Wyatt Earp. Doc was educated and especially articulate. He was also fully conscious of the ironies of his situation. His head is a more interesting perspective. And Doc’s story is going to end in tragedy no matter what happens – there was no effective treatment for tuberculosis in the 1870’s.

A lot of the story in Tombstone involves the lining up of the various factions. No one involved on either side seems to have been telling much of the truth, or even much of a consistent story. What we do see is the lining up of the “town” faction, always on the side of at least some kind of order, if not exactly law, and the ranchers on the opposite side who saw town as a place to cut loose, no matter how violently, when they wanted to let off a little steam. They did not want the town’s need for rules or law to impinge on their fun, or on their rights in the territorial legislature.

In some ways, it is easy to see the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as one of the last signposts on the history of the end of the “Wild West”. While the initial picture is very confused, and both sides go on a spree of killing vengeance, in the end, civilization wins.

The focus of the story before the fight is on the Earps, and Doc by extension. We get involved in all of their lives, and come to understand just how they ended up where and how they did. But there is a lot of foreshadowing in the beginning of the story, and it feels heavy-handed. So heavy-handed that it breaks the fourth wall, and feels as though the author is speaking directly to the reader rather than telling the story.

The end felt dragged out. The last third of the book is Wyatt and his wife Josie’s journey all over the West, trying to find a place to settle and outrun or outlive his notoriety. It is both sad and anticlimactic, as Wyatt dies broke and Josie descends into dementia. That Wyatt’s history is whitewashed and reborn on TV is not something that either of them lives to see, even though the sanitized version is the one that Josie always wanted to be told.

Reviewer’s note: My first conscious exposure to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a very bad Star Trek episode, Spectre of the Gun. In the episode, the Enterprise crew take the places of the Cow-boys, who in history were the villains of the piece. In the illusion they are stuck in, circumstances as somewhat otherwise. Of course.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-21-15

Sunday Post

For those of you wondering who won some of the recent giveaways, I was able to catch up now that I’m back home.

ALA san francisco 2015Next week I’ll be at the American Library Association Annual Conference. This year, ALA has done something sensible for a change. We’ll be back in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is generally cool, or cool-ish in the summer, it’s a perfect place to have to be dressed up and running around, unlike last summer in Las Vegas. Or next summer in OMG Orlando. If ALA decided to have every Midwinter Conference in San Diego or San Antonio, and every summer in San Francisco (with the occasional break for Chicago) that would be just fine with me. But c’est la vie.

For anyone who loves fantasy, and has not yet read The Goblin Emperor, go forth and get a copy post-haste. I have seen it described as manner-porn, which is a term I’d never heard before. The Goblin Emperor is set in a world where manners don’t just make the man (or elf, or goblin) but they also keep him alive in the midst of his enemies. It certainly runs counter to the recent spate of grimdark fantasy. And it is simply awesome.

There are still a couple of days left to get in on the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop. Just tell us who your favorite heroine is for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card of a $10 Book of your choice.

Current Giveaways:

favorite heroinesFlirt and Loveswept mugs + ebook copies of Rock It by Jennifer Chance, After Midnight by Kathy Clark, Alex by Sawyer Bennett, Wild on You by Tina Wainscott, Plain Jayne by Laura Drewry, and Accidental Cowgirl by Maggie McGinnis from Loveswept
$10 Gift Card or book in the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of her choice of title in Jeffe Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdoms series is Kristia M.
The winner of The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller is Maria S.
The winner of Let Me Die in his Footsteps by Lori Roy is Brandi D.

goblin emperor by katherine addisonBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
B- Review: Zack by Sawyer Bennett + Giveaway
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell
B Review: The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe
Stacking the Shelves (140)




valentine by heather grothausComing Next Week:

Dissident by Cecilia London (review)
Ruthless by John Rector (blog tour review)
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell (review)
Valentine by Heather Grothaus (blog tour review)
On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett (review)

Review: The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe

sage of waterloo by leona francombeFormat read: print book provided by the publisher
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Norton
Date Released: June 1, 2015
Purchasing Info: Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

On June 17, 1815, the Duke of Wellington amassed his troops at Hougoumont, an ancient farmstead not far from Waterloo. The next day, the French attacked―the first shots of the Battle of Waterloo―sparking a brutal, day-long skirmish that left six thousand men either dead or wounded.

William is a white rabbit living at Hougoumont today. Under the tutelage of his mysterious and wise grandmother Old Lavender, William attunes himself to the echoes and ghosts of the battle, and through a series of adventures he comes to recognize how deeply what happened at Waterloo two hundred years before continues to reverberate. “Nature,” as Old Lavender says, “never truly recovers from human cataclysms.”

The Sage of Waterloo is a playful retelling of a key turning point in human history, full of vivid insights about Napoleon, Wellington, and the battle itself―and a slyly profound reflection on our place in the world.

My Review:

“What is legend, though, but history written in the way that moves us most?”

The above quote is from The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe, and it seems like a pithy saying that contains much truth.

The story itself is a mixture of what history, through the survivors, records of the truth of the Battle of Waterloo, or at least one small but vital section of it, and the legends that have accreted around that truth, both among the humans and among the rabbits who are the narrators of this particular little tale.

While it’s the stories writ small, downright rabbit-sized, that fascinate them most, it is still a truism that, as the narrator-rabbit William says, “Truth and legend are tricky bedfellows.”

This is not a coherent, day-by-day or hour-by-hour account of the huge battle, or even of the events that took place in one small theater of that battle, the farm at Hougoumont. Instead, it is the persistent legends that occupy the telling – those big events encapsulated into small, nibble-sized pieces.

But while the rabbits see the events in small and distant bits, they still see the whole of the battle. Also a few of the events that legend created out of the whole cloth, like the story of the haunted well.

waterloo by bernard cornwellIf you are looking for a factual, but still eminently readable, account of Waterloo, take a look at Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo: The True Story of Four days, Three Armies and Three Battles, reviewed yesterday.

One wants to label The Sage of Waterloo as the story of the battle, as told by rabbits living on the farm two centuries later, as though it were Waterloo filtered through Watership Down, or possibly Redwall. It isn’t really.

Besides, Redwall is about mice. Not the same thing at all.

Instead, it’s a story about collective memory, collective consciousness, and the way that history fades into legend. It’s also about all of those places that send a shiver up your spine because you can feel what happened there, whether there is any evidence on the ground, or not.

It just so happens that this particular version is told by a fluffy bunny, who is far from fluffy in the head where it counts.

In William’s world, that long-ago battle is a metaphor for everything that happens in his life and to his little clan. His grandmother, Old Lavender, is a military historian who has gleaned her knowledge from the collective consciousness, from the currents in the air, and from tourists who wander the old battlefield while reading accounts of the battle to each other within earshot of the hutch.

Some of the history that Old Lavender learns and passes on is correct as history records it. Some is legend. But all of it informs her life, and William’s life after. As William said, “What is legend, though, but history written in the way that moves us most?”

Escape Rating B: I’m very glad that I read Cornwell’s book first. The Sage of Waterloo references a lot of the facts, as well as some of the legends, of that battle, and it helped a lot to have the knowledge of what happened when, and what didn’t happen at all, fresh in my mind.

There is, as I said, a temptation to think of this as Waterloo by way of Watership Down or Redwall, but it isn’t. Old Lavender, and William, tell and retell their version of the story of the battle, they do not experience it or anything like it themselves.

There’s no dangerous quest for them, just a determination to keep the history alive for the lessons it teaches, even when there is no one to teach it to.

One of those lessons, that the rabbits ponder upon because they have no analogy in their own lives is, “Strange, isn’t it, how men who can fight, suffer and die in close proximity to each other have such difficulty actually living side by side?”

There is a surprising amount of philosophical musing going on between William’s fluffy ears. In that way, the book reminded me a little of Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, which is a study of philosophy wrapped in an adventure tale.

In short, The Sage of Waterloo isn’t nearly as twee as it sounds. The way that William’s family tells the story of the battle isn’t that much different from how it is remembered in legends, and the device is a cool (and cute) way of showing how legends persist.

But personally, I much preferred Cornwell’s strictly factual account. The extensive quotes from survivors gave the story all the human drama it needed.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-7-15

Sunday Post

I had a couple of really terrific books this week.

One of my terrific books here this week was The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy, the epic conclusion of her Twelve Kingdoms series. I loved the series so much that I am giving away a copy of the winner’s choice of title in the series, so that I can share the love. If you like epic fantasy and/or fantasy romance, this series is awesome.

shards of hope by nalini singhAnd over at The Book Pushers I was part of the gang for one of our epic group reviews, this time for Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh. Shards was also absolutely awesome, and everything I’ve come to expect from Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. And now we wait for next year’s installment.

Speaking of awesome, my first book this coming week is Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman. It is a more than worthy successor to last year’s fantastic Spider Woman’s Daughter, and to her father’s terrific Navajo Mysteries series.

Current Giveaways:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller
Winner’s choice of title in The Twelve Kingdoms series by Jeffe Kennedy
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland is Anita Y.

talon of the hawk by jeffe kennedyBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway
A+ Review: The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy
Guest Post by Author Jeffe Kennedy about Warrior Women + Giveaway
B Review: Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
B Review: Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy + Giveaway
A Review: The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato
Stacking the Shelves (138)

sinners gin by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman (review)
Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane (blog tour review)
Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate (blog tour review)
Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper (blog tour review)
Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford (review)

Stacking the Shelves (138)

Stacking the Shelves

I already own a print copy of Snake Agent, but when I saw the sale dealie from Open Road, I couldn’t resist getting a cheap copy in ebook. I love the Inspector Chen series, which is an Asian-based urban fantasy set in celestial realms that are culturally diverse. It’s an awesome and strange place where “demon” is a cultural marker and not necessarily prejudicial. Of course, sometimes demons act demonically, and other times, they are just “people”.

open road logoIf you like seriously weird in your urban fantasy, the series is definitely worth checking out. And if you have an interest in seeing works of all genres from the last 50 years or so become available again, and in ebook, take a look at Open Road’s catalog. They publish ebooks from authors who have gotten their rights back, and do a terrific job with everything.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see ARCs at NetGalley and Edelweiss for books that won’t be published until January and February of 2016. I know time flies, but this is wild. It’s just barely summer, and the winter books are going up.

For Review:
The Crescent Spy by Michael Wallace
The Determined Heart by Antoinette May
Ink and Shadows (Ink and Shadows #1) by Rhys Ford
Keeper’s Reach (Sharpe & Donovan #5) by Carla Neggers
The Perfect Bargain by Julia London writing as Jessa McAdams
Siren’s Call (Rainshadow #4, Harmony #12) by Jayne Castle
Too Hard to Handle (Black Knights Inc. #8) by Julie Ann Walker
Updraft by Fran Wilde
Wildest Dreams (Thunder Point #9) by Robyn Carr

Purchased from Amazon:
Snake Agent (Detective Inspector Chen #1) by Liz Williams


Review: Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy + Giveaway

let me die in his footsteps by lori royFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Dutton
Date Released: June 2, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

On a dark Kentucky night in 1952 exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but, armed with a silver-handled flashlight, Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well on the Baines’ place. At the stroke of midnight, she gazes into the water in search of her future. Not finding what she had hoped for, she turns from the well and when the body she sees there in the moonlight is discovered come morning, Annie will have much to explain and a past to account for.

It was 1936, and there were seven Baine boys. That year, Annie’s aunt, Juna Crowley, with her black eyes and her long blond hair, came of age. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into Juna’s eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. Sheriff Irlene Fulkerson saw justice served—or did she?

As the lavender harvest approaches and she comes of age as Aunt Juna did in her own time, Annie’s dread mounts. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. If Annie is to save herself, her family, and this small Kentucky town, she must prepare for Juna’s return, and the revelation of what really happened all those years ago

My Review:

This is a story about the keeping of secrets, the cost of lies and the sometimes strange power of belief.

There is a big lie at the heart of accepted history in rural Hayden County, Kentucky. It’s a lie that involves three families, the town, and a slice of infamy.

It turns out to be a very big lie.

In 1952 Annie Holleran turns 15, and then 15 and a half. In her small and isolated town, 15 and a half marks the point between girlhood and womanhood. Annie prefers to think of it as the demarcation between childhood and adulthood, and hers turns out to be so, just not in the way that anyone would have expected.

We meet Annie and her younger sister Caroline, but their relationship isn’t sweet sisterhood and mutual support. There’s nothing specifically wrong, but Caroline has always been the pretty child that everyone loves. She also sucks all the air out of the room when it comes to Annie. Because when Caroline is there, people only notice Annie to compare her unfavorably, and Caroline always gets her way because she seems so pretty and proper and biddable.

Annie is striking rather than pretty, and she’s taller than all the other girls (and most of the boys) her own age. But what makes Annie stand out is that Annie isn’t really Sarah and John Holleran’s daughter, and everyone knows it.

Annie is the daughter of Sarah’s sister Juna and Joseph Carl Baine. Joseph Carl has the distinction of being the last man publicly hanged in the U.S. Juna is in some ways even more distinctive. Juna was the local evil witch, and Annie seems to have inherited all of the physical signs that make everyone believe she is every bit as witchy as her mother.

People cross to the other side of the street to avoid running into Annie, just as they did with Juna. People believed that the black-eyed, blonde-haired Juna was the epitome of evil. After all, she bewitched Joseph Carl into fathering her unnatural baby, and he was hanged for it.

Of course, the true story is a whole lot different. Except for one detail – Juna really was an evil witch. Not in the sense of spellcasting. There’s no eye of newt or tongue of frog. Juna is a witch because she manipulates people based on their fear of, and belief in, her terrible powers. Which gives her a different kind of terrible power that she is more than willing to use.

There are two stories in this book, and they run in a kind of parallel. In 1936, Juna and her sister Sarah live through the events of that fateful summer where their little brother Dale went missing, where Joseph Carl Baine came back to Hayden County, and where justice went very far astray.

In 1952, the “sisters” are Annie and Caroline. Annie fears that her long-missing mother will come for her, now that she is of age, and take her away and make her evil just like her mother. Annie, while not precisely happy where she is, feels safe and cared for.

But when Annie discovers old Cora Baine’s dead body, the past, and the truth, invade Annie’s life and her small town. One of the Baine boys comes back to Hayden, and the secrets about Ellis Baine, Sarah Holleran and that long-ago summer reach out from the past to touch everyone who was involved.

And Annie finds out the truth about herself, but at a terrible price.

Escape Rating B: So many of the events in this story happen because people really believed that Juna had evil powers and was perfectly willing to curse people and would be effective at it. It looks like her sister Sarah was the most skeptical of Juna’s so-called powers, while at the same time still caught up by Juna’s very successful manipulation of people and events.

The events in 1952 serve as a way to bring the truth of 1936 to light. They also close the circle on all the open questions, and there are certainly a ton of those. Sarah knows most of the truth, but not all of it. However, her parts of the old story are in some ways the most chilling. Because Sarah acted against her nature in those long-ago events, where Juna acted in concert with hers.

Juna really was evil. Not because of any hidden power, but the very human kind of evil. She enjoyed causing people pain, whether mental pain or physical pain. She manipulates the events of her brother’s disappearance because she wants to see if she can. She wants to see someone hang for her because it makes her feel powerful. But the only injustices done are ones that Juna commits and/or arranges.

The fascinating thing about Juna’s case is how easily people fell in with her manipulation. Even though there are tons of questions about her testimony, and no one likes or trusts her, everyone believes. That willingness to believe her power is probably the most frightening part of the story.

So many of Juna’s real sins are visited upon Annie, and it’s painful to see. Annie isn’t quite an outcast, but people are afraid of her from an early age because of her mother. That Juna is her real mother is a secret that everyone knows and no one talks about. Until it jumps out of the past to bite everyone.

There’s a question throughout the story about whether Annie, Juna and Annie’s grandmother really do have a bit of power, like the stories about “The Sight” in Celtic mythology. Whether they truly do or not is left up to the reader to judge.

Anyone who has read and enjoyed Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballad series, which starts with If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O, will love Let Me Die in His Footsteps.

This story is very loosely based on a true incident in the history of Owensboro, Kentucky, where the last public hanging took place in the summer of 1936. Whether justice was done in either the true or the fictional case is a matter for debate. Some of the media attention in both cases was due to the county Sheriff being female. (Remember this was 1936) Reporters as well as locals wanted to see a woman push the switch to hang a man.

On a personal note, a late friend grew up in Owensboro at the time just after the fictional story takes place. He told me that in his childhood, the “three R’s”, instead of “Reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic” were “Reading, ‘riting and Route 42 to Ohio”. If the place was anything like the insularity portrayed in this story, now I understand.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

As a part of this tour, I am giving away a copy of Let Me Die in His Footsteps to one lucky U.S. or Canadian commenter. Just fill out the rafflecopter and cross your fingers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-31-15

Sunday Post

I’ve gone weeks with relatively few blog tours, but next week is chock-full of them. Lucky for me, they are all for books that I am really anxious to read, so it should be a real treat of a week.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Current Giveaways:

One copy of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

beyond galaxy's edge by anna hackettBlog Recap:

Memorial Day 2015
A- Review: Beyond Galaxy’s Edge by Anna Hackett
B+ Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
B Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (137)



moonlight on butternut lake by mary mcnearComing Next Week:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller (blog tour review)
The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy (blog tour review)
Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear (blog tour review)
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (blog tour review)
The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato (blog tour review)

Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

mapmakers children by sarah mccoyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Crown
Date Released: May 5, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

My Review:

The lives of two women, 150 years apart, tied together by a doll’s head. And a little bit of mystery.

The two women at the center of this intertwined story wouldn’t seem to have much in common. And they don’t except for an accident of place and a misfortune of circumstance – both Sarah Brown and Eden Anderson are childless, and not by choice.

They are both caught in the position of making a fulfilling life for themselves that does not fit the standard pattern, and both find themselves mothering children not theirs by birth. They also both occupy the same house, at very different points in time.

Sarah Brown was the daughter of revolutionary abolitionist John Brown. History remembers him for his famous (or infamous) raid on the Federal Armory at Harper’s Ferry (West) Virginia in the fall of 1859. The raid was an attempt to start a slave uprising and help the slaves to free themselves. Brown was either ahead of history or a catalyst for it, and was hanged when his raid failed ignominiously. His sons and most of the others who participated were either killed in the raid or hanged afterwards.

Sarah Brown, along with her mother and sisters, were left behind when Brown died. Sarah, too, was an abolitionist, and was also an artist who drew maps on anything handy in order to assist runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.

Some of those “handy things” were dolls’ faces, and it is one of Sarah’s doll heads that Eden Anderson finds in the root cellar under her new home in New Charlestown, West Virginia in 2010. The search for the history of that poor little head, and the house surrounding it, become the catalyst for Eden’s healing after the final ending of her hopes for a baby.

At the beginning of Eden’s story, it also seems possible that the house will witness the end of her marriage, as strained and cracked as it is after many years of failed attempts, failed hopes, failed dreams, and fertility hormone-induced moodiness and finally depression.

Her husband Adam brings her a dog. The dog brings a little girl to take care of him, and most importantly, a reason to get out of the house and to let other people in. And Cricket brings his loving self and his need for a forever home, no matter how brief his forever might turn out to be.

Escape Rating B+: I really enjoyed this story, but I can’t point to a specific reason. I just did. The two parts don’t gel until the very end, and the switches between Sarah’s story in the past and Eden’s in the present sometimes felt abrupt. At the same time, I liked and felt for both women, and no matter which story I was in, I always wanted to know how the other one was doing.

Both women are in the middle of lives that need rebuilding. In Sarah’s case, that rebuilding is frequent and often, due to circumstances outside her control. From the moment her father leaves to conduct his famous raid, until the Fisher children arrive at her home in California, Sarah keeps dealing with blows that strike her from all sides.

At the same time, she takes a licking and keeps on ticking right up until the very end, making a new life each and every time she is struck down. Much of her life in this story moves in the direction it does (and did in history) because in fiction, at least, she was declared to be unable to bear children after a near-fatal attack of dysentery.

In history, she did not marry or have children, but the reasons are lost to us.

Sarah really did paint maps for the Underground Railroad, but whether she used doll’s heads for her maps is not certain. In this story one doll’s head provides a much-needed link to Eden in our present.

While Sarah seems like a heroic figure, Eden starts out her story as a self-absorbed and self-centered depressed wreck. All of her attempts to conceive a child have failed, and her IVF clinic has told her that it’s over. After 7 years of fertility treatments and failed hopes, she has given up everything that she was in pursuit of something that will never be, and she feels like she has nothing left.

The dog her husband brings home, Cricket, slowly brings her back to life, an irony that is not apparent until the very end. Because Cricket needs care, and her husband, out of a desire to help her and keep her from reaching past her current constricted boundaries, has given her not just a dog but a person to care for the dog.

Eleven-year-old Cleo needs just as much care as Cricket, but is much, much less willing to admit it. But Cleo is an incredible little girl who stirs up everything in her wake, and in that stirring, Eden comes back to life. She begins to reach out to the life she now has, instead of reaching back to the one she gave up or the child she will never have. And in that reaching out, she finds the world again.

It’s not so much Eden’s reawakening that brings the joy, as Cleo’s fascinating ability to make it happen. It all starts with Cleo’s amateur investigation into the mysterious doll’s head that Cricket finds in the root cellar, a search that ties Eden back to the town, and ties her house and its history all the way back to Sarah Brown. And all the way forward into the life of a place that Eden has come to love.

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