Archive for the ‘Book Alerts’ Category

I’m only about a fourth of the way through Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and it’s already clear why it won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The writing is superb and the characterization rings so true…particularly for the protagonist, Thomas Cromwell (always referred to as “he” in this book). He is mind, flesh and blood fully formed. And the dialogue snaps. Here’s a terrific scene with the Duke of Norfolk as Norfolk is making it clear that Cardinal Wolsey is on his way out in terms of being in the king’s good graces:

The duke is now approaching sixty years old, but concedes nothing to the calendar. Flint-faced and keen-eyed, he is lean as a gnawed bone and as cold as an ax head; his joints seem knitted together of supple chain links, and indeed he rattles a little as he moves, for his clothes conceal relics: in tiny jeweled cases he has shavings of skin and snippets of hair, and set into medallions he wears splinters of martyrs’ bones. “Marry!” he says, for an oath, and “By the Mass!,” and sometimes takes out one of his medals or charms from wherever it is hung about his person, and kisses it in a fervor, calling on some saint or martyr to stop his current rage getting the better of him. “St. Jude give me patience!” he will shout; probably he has mixed him up with Job, whom he heard about in a story when he was a little boy at the knee of his first priest. It is hard to imagine the duke as a little boy, or in any way younger or different from the self he presents now. He thinks the Bible a book unnecessary for laypeople, though he understands priests make some use of it. He thinks book-reading an affectation altogether, and wishes there were less of it at court. His niece is always reading, Anne Boleyn, which is perhaps why she is unmarried at the age of twenty-eight. He does not see why it’s a gentleman’s business to write letters; there are clerks for that.

Now he fixes an eye, red and fiery. “Cromwell, I am content you are a burgess in the Parliament.”

He bows his head. “My lord.”

“I spoke to the king for you and he is also content. You will take his instructions in the Commons. And mine.”

“Will they be the same, my lord?”

The duke scowls. He paces; he rattles a little; at last he bursts out, “Damn it all, Cromwell, why are you such a . . . person? It isn’t as if you could afford to be.”

He waits, smiling. He knows what the duke means. He is a person, he is a presence. He knows how to edge blackly into a room so that you don’t see him; but perhaps those days are over.

“Smile away,” says the duke. “Wolsey’s household is a nest of vipers. Not that . . .” he touches a medal, flinching, “God forbid I should . . .”

Compare a prince of the church to a serpent. The duke wants the cardinal’s money, and he wants the cardinal’s place at the king’s side: but then again, he doesn’t want to burn in Hell. He walks across the room; he slaps his hands together; he rubs them; he turns. “The king is preparing to quarrel with you, master. Oh yes. He will favor you with an interview because he wishes to understand the cardinal’s affairs, but he has, you will learn, a very long and exact memory, and what he remembers, master, is when you were a burgess of the Parliament before this, and how you spoke against his war.”

“I hope he doesn’t think still of invading France.”

“God damn you! What Englishman does not! We own France. We have to take back our own.” A muscle in his cheek jumps; he paces, agitated; he turns, he rubs his cheek; the twitch stops, and he says, in a voice perfectly matter-of-fact, “Mind you, you’re right.”

He waits. “We can’t win,” the duke says, “but we have to fight as if we can. Hang the expense. Hang the waste–money, men, horses, ships. That’s what’s wrong with Wolsey, you see. Always at the treaty table. How can a butcher’s son understand–“

“La gloire?”

“Are you a butcher’s son?”

“A blacksmith’s.”

“Are you really? Shoe a horse?”

He shrugs. “If I were put to it, my lord. But I can’t imagine–“

“You can’t? What can you imagine? A battlefield, a camp, the night before a battle–can you imagine that?”

“I was a soldier myself.”

“Were you so? Not in any English army, I’ll be bound. There, you see.” The duke grins, quite without animosity. “I knew there was something about you. I knew I didn’t like you, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Where were you?”



“The French.”

The duke whistles. “Wrong side, lad.”

“So I noticed.”

I could go on and on, but then you wouldn’t buy the book for yourselves. And you should. You really should. All of us who write (or ever intend to write) historical fiction particularly should. This is HF at its best!

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I’m reading a fascinating piece of historical/mystery/thriller fiction–Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott–and I came across a most perceptive and beautifully written description of the writing process and how our characters can come to haunt us as authors:

“Writing can be a haunting, I said, and you said that was a cliche…There is something haunting about it, I said, perhaps because of that heightened sensibility, because you spend so much time listening for the words. You make a character from nothing, a few words, fragments of people you know or have seen from afar, and once they are up and walking they don’t just come and go at your will; they begin to be demanding, appearing at awkward times, doing things you wouldn’t have dreamed they could; they come upon you suddenly when you are asleep or making love. And I’m not talking about the sudden apparition of ideas for plots or new episodes–that happens too–I am talking about people who exist only in your head but who appear in your living room when you have temporarily forgotten they existed, when you have closed your study door on them. It’s a kind of possession. You begin to feel you are being watched.”

Cover of "Ghostwalk" by Rebecca Stott

This happens to me frequently. It’s so difficult to leave the story behind in my office. I’ll be sitting at dinner or talking with a friend or even sitting in the temple (gasp!) and suddenly my characters are running through my head, and I can’t help but feel guilty. It’s not that I wasn’t concentrating. It’s only that the story has such a hold on my mind, consciously and subconsciously, that it must run its course until it is finished.

You’ll find, if you look on Goodreads, that the book gets a lot of 2-star and 3-star ratings, and being a third of the way into it, I can understand why. This is the type of book that requires patience, for the storyline is not clear and easy to follow. But the writing is superb and her grasp of the historical elements is enviable.

Something else happened this morning that points to another ghostly aspect of writing. As an author, I forget that my book is out there affecting others in some fashion (hopefully, for good). For me, it lived while I was working on it and I have since become “possessed” by another story, other characters. But it still lives for any of its new readers.

So what happened? My daughter (who is at BYU) called me to say that she and her new visiting teaching companion were getting acquainted with new sisters on their route. As she spoke of herself and her family with one of these students, she talked of my being a writer, and the girl appeared to recognize the title of my novel, The Reckoning. Sure enough, when they looked it up online, she said it was her brother-in-law’s favorite novel. Someone named Mike who lives in Texas. I don’t get a lot of feedback like that from complete strangers, so it certainly was gratifying. More than that, it affirmed that these books we write have lives of their own. We send them out like children and they form relationships all by themselves.

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Writers discover their gift at various stages of life. Some, like me, fiddle around with it for decades and don’t get serious until middle age or later. Many begin their singular focus in high school but don’t really work at it until they have finished college. And then there are those like Donna Hatch.

Author Donna HatchShe wrote her first short story when she was eight. She wrote her first full-length novel–a science fiction romance–as a sophomore in high school. Her second novel–a fantasy romance–was finished during her senior year (no doubt after getting all those tough junior year classes and college prep tests out of the way).

It’s not too surprising, then, that Donna is now an award-winning author of Regency Romance. Book One of her 3-part Rogue Heart Series, The Stranger She Married, is currently available here, in either ebook or paperback. The book, a Golden Quill Finalist, tells the tale of an impoverished young woman, torn between a disfigured war hero with the heart of a poet, and a handsome libertine who may not be all he seems. She must marry by the end of the month and, despite a murder threat, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger of all…to her heart.

Book Two of the series, The Guise of a Gentleman, should be out by April, and she is currently finishing up edits on the final as-yet-untitled book in the series. Readers will be happy to know that each book can stand on its own, though each focuses on a different Amesbury brother and members of the family wander in and out of the various books.

My question is: How does she manage to do all this writing (mostly late at night), and still take care of six children and a husband AND work in an office part-time every afternoon? One answer–she gave up scrapbooking and dusting.

Still, she finds time to read, sing, play the harp, direct her church choir, play with the kids, and spend time with the inspiration for all her heroes–her husband.

You can find out more about this amazing writer and her upcoming books from her website and blog.

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Last year Christine Thackeray had her first two books published. One was a serious, collaborative non-fiction work entitled C.S. Lewis: Latter-day Truths in Narnia,” co-written with her sister, Dr. Marianna Richardson.

The other, published by CFI and still available in some stores, kicked off her fictional series of Visiting Teaching Adventures. The Crayon Messages: A Visiting Teaching Adventure recounts the story of how a woman turns the worst visiting teaching route ever into one of her greatest blessings.

Her next V.T. adventure,  Lipstick Wars, should come out this summer. In it, a young mother has the kind of toddler who tends to wander, and one day, her escaping son leads her to the door of a reclusive artist. Together, the two women make miracles happen.

But if you can’t wait until summer, keep a lookout for Thackeray’s special Mother’s Day gift book, Could You Be An Angel Today? (coming out this spring.) According to the author, “It’s a fun story about a typical Mom who has an angel come to her asking for a day off. The woman agrees to take on the angel’s responsibilities for one day and through that experience realizes that anyone can be an angel – even her.”

Author Christine ThackerayAs if two books a year weren’t enough, the author recently moved, now homeschools her kids, and deals with a husband who is home full time (I know what that’s like, Christine…don’t worry, if you set some clear parameters and give him a few months to settle down, soon he’ll stop bothering you too much).

If you want to learn more about Christine and her writing, check out her website and her blog.

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Fancy some fantasy? You might want to check out Anna del C. Dye’s The Silent Warrior Trilogy, available in paperback or ebook form directly from her website, or from Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com.

Author Anna del C. Dye

In book one, The Elf and the Princess, a bitter struggle of succession between brothers has left the kingdom of Menarm devastated and divided. Half of the people remain with the conquering brother, Fenil, while the other half follow the defeated brother, Renil, to the north to set up a new kingdom. Adren, the last princess of Menarm, finds herself alone in a world dominated by men. In her quest to battle her enemies and keep alive her last hope for happiness, she finds unlikely allies in a powerful prince and a defiant mercenary, only to be overcome by an ancient elf.

Trouble in the Elf City continues the tale three years later, after Adren has settled comfortably into her new life as wife to the elf, Dellin, in the kingdom of Lothia. But a mysterious enemy shatters their peace, an enemy the elves appear powerless to fight. Will Adren witness the destruction of yet another kingdom and find herself, yet again, all alone in the world? Or can the Silent Warrior come to her rescue and save them all?

Finally, in book three, Elfs in a Conquered Realm, Adren, together with King Paletin, set forth with a team led by the young strategist, Zyrthal, to find the hidden treasures of Menarm. Set upon by ruthless mercenaries who want the kingdom’s riches for themselves, the captured team is rescued by the Silent Warrior. But now he has begun to battle demons of his own and has grown unsure of his abilities as Adren’s champion. The shadows in his heart are only magnified by the disappearance of the two half-elf princes from the dead kingdom.

Front Street Reviews has praised Dye’s works as “fluid and flawless,” adding in their review of the third book, “it should come as no surprise that one will find this story as fulfilling as the first two in the trilogy. Her talent for writing fantasy will leave her name forever entrenched in our memories as we hope to read more of her stories long into the future.”

I encourage you to go to her website to learn more about these works and Anna, herself. Even better, check out Tina Scott’s interview with the author here.

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I am fortunate in that I’ve never had to worry about medications or treatments for my son, regardless of his Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis. But I know that, were such a need to arise, I would want to have all options available to me. Many parents are not so lucky.

Author Margaret Turley

Now, Margaret Turley has written a novel, Save the Child, that explores the complex health care issues that can sometimes frustrate parents in their care for an ailing child.

In her story, Nancy Johnson is a vivacious 37-year-old married mother of three, whose daughter, Sharon, is diagnosed with leukemia. In Nancy’s mind, chemotherapy is out of the question because she views it as a poisonous killer. When she fights the system in order to pursue alternative health care for her daughter, Child Protective Service intervenes and removes Sharon from the Johnson home.

The resulting turmoil throws the family into conflict. The mother’s fixation on the one daughter only causes another to act out further in rebellion. In the meantime, disagreements grow between her and her husband, who is working part-time while attending law school.

Due to be published by March, Save the Child is a must-read for anyone concerned about parents rights in our society.

For a lengthy interview with the author, I recommend Tina Scott’s blog here. For more information on the author and her other upcoming works, check out her website here.

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