Book Review: Midnight on Julia Street by Ciji Ware

Title: Midnight on Julia Street
Author: Ciji Ware
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: August 1, 2011
Paperback: 512 pages
ISBN: 978-1402222726
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance


From the Publisher
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Scandal transcends time in the Big Easy

Feisty reporter Corlis McCullough isn’t afraid to push boundaries in the name of journalistic integrity. When passion for the truth lands her in New Orleans in need of a job, an assignment at a TV station pits her against her old college nemesis, King Duvallon.

The sultry streets of the French Quarter, the glamorous Garden District, derelict riverfront cotton warehouses, and gritty back alleys come alive as the reporter’s story inexplicably slips between the nineteenth century and today. A long-forgotten drama of blackmail, swindles, and a love affair that is still changing lives leaves Corlis and King wondering if their burgeoning, unholy attraction will render them pawns in a matrix of mystery and deceit.

My Review:

Midnight on Julia Street by Ciji Ware is an exhilarating historical romance novel set in New Orleans and split between two eras with one dating to the 1830s where to the present day, an unsolved mystery has captured the attention of Corlis McCullough, a television reporter for WWEZ who seeks information on city buildings of historical significance that are being targeted for demolition.  Encountering King Duvallon, an adversary from her college years, brings Corlis into a part of New Orleans society with which she was unaware.  Readers will be entertained with Corlis’ investigations and intrigued by her ability to sense things from the past.  It is here where Ware brings full circle the swindling and corruption of the past with their manifestations of today in New Orleans.  Of course the romantic tensions are there between Corlis and King and while I did not fully buy into the supernatural aspect of Ware’s tale, I did find it exciting at times, and her characters as well as the fell for New Orleans are brought to life through her gift for descriptive prose.  I think historical romance fans will enjoy Midnight on Julia Street, but for me, the unrealistic aspects took away from the realism I most often enjoy in Ciji Ware’s historical fiction books.

To learn more about Ciji Ware and her books please visit her website at: cijiware.com

I received a complimentary ARC of Midnight on Julia Street by Ciji Ware from Sourcebooks. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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Book Review: Whispers In the Sand by Barbara Erskine

Title: Whispers In the Sand
Author: Barbara Erskine
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: July 1, 2011
Paperback: 396 pages
ISBN: 978-1402261756
Genre: Historical Fiction

From the Publisher:

Recently divorced, Anna Fox decides to cheer herself up by retracing a journey that her great-grandmother, Louisa, made in the mid-nineteenth century from Luxor to the Valley of Kings on a Nile cruise. Anna carries with her two of Louisa’s possessions: an ancient Egyptian scent bottle and an illustrated diary of the original cruise that has laid unread for more than a hundred years. Meanwhile, two men from the tour party begin to develop an unfriendly rivalry for her attention and a disturbing interest in Louisa’s mementos. As she follows in Louisa’s footsteps, Anna discovers a wonderful love story from the Victorian past, along with chilling secrets and terrifying specters that haunted her great-grandmother—and will soon begin to pursue her, too.

My Review:

Whispers in the Sand by Barbara Erskine is an intriguing drama of one woman’s battle for personal growth amidst adverse conditions with elements of irony, mystery and redemption. With well-crafted, strong characters, Erskine has penned a tale with plenty of unexpected plot turns to keep the reader engaged.  Her gift for descriptive prose transports readers to Egypt where the main character, Anna Fox, is planning to take a cruise along the Nile, the same cruise her great-grandmother had followed several years earlier.  Erskine takes readers along this journey, meeting various characters along the way, many of whom, ironically remind Anna of her domineering ex-husband, the very person from whom her departure is being celebrated by this much deserved trip.  In an expertly crafted story, Erskine contrasts the past and present through Anna’s great-grandmother’s diary which contains secrets that turn out to be important to more than just Anna during the journey in Egypt.  For both readers and discussion groups, especially those looking for a topic relating to the empowering of women, I highly recommend Whispers in the Sand.

To learn more about author Barbara Erskine and her books, please visit her website: http://www.barbara-erskine.co.uk/novels

I received a complimentary arc of Whispers In the Sand by Barbara Erskine from Sourcebooks. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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Book Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Title: Rules of Civility
Author: Amor Towles
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: July 26, 2011
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN: 978-0670022694
Genre: Historical Fiction

From the Publisher:

A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

My Review:

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is his fiction debut that touches on the theme of chance encounters and their role in shaping lives.  Towles has crafted very original characters in this witty tale of 1938 New York and the social layers that shape the people.  Painted against the backdrop of 1930s New York, Towles writes of aspirations, of love and of loss with such fluidity that readers will not be able to easily and knowingly set this novel down.  In Rules of Civility, Katey Kontent celebrates New Year’s Eve with her roommate in a lowbrow jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a well-to-do banker is seated nearby.  The chance meeting of Katey and Tinker at that bar leads to a long and oftentimes lonely journey for Katey as she is rapidly brought several rungs up the social ladder.  Through richly descriptive prose with vivid imagery, Towles crafts a compelling story that will have readers rooting for Katey as she rises in social circles and then feeling the losses Katey experiences.  In many ways, Towles will touch readers with very relatable characters and with emotions that bring to life Katey’s experiences; experiences that leave us all with questions about how we got where we are today.  For book discussion groups, I think Rules of Civility would make an excellent choice.

About the Author:

Amor Towles was born and raised just outside Boston, Massachusetts.  He graduated from Yale University and received an MA in English from Stanford University, where he was a Scowcroft Fellow.  He is a Principal at an investment firm in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.

To learn more about author Amor Towels, please visit his website.

I received a copy of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles from Viking Books to offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.


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Book Review: Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

Title: Reign of Madness
Author: Lynn Cullen
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Publication Date: August 4, 2011, 2011
Hardcover: 448 pages
ISBN: 978-0399157097
Genre: Historical Fiction

From the Publisher:

From the author of The Creation of Eve comes a tale of love and madness, royal intrigue and marital betrayal, set during the Golden Age of Spain.

Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents’ crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family’s ambitions through marriage. Yet stories of courtly love, and of her parents’ own legendary romance, surround her. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her-seemingly a perfect husband.

But what begins like a fairy tale ends quite differently.

When Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Who is to be believed? The King, beloved by his subjects? Or the Queen, unseen and unknown by her people?

One of the greatest cautionary tales in Spanish history comes to life as Lynn Cullen explores the controversial reign of Juana of Castile-also known as Juana the Mad. Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.

My Review:

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen is a fast paced work of historical fiction from 15th and 16th Century Europe and chronicles the rise of Juana of Castile to Queen Juana of Spain. Cullen has masterfully crafted, down to the most intricate of details, the story of Juana of Castile, daughter to Fernando and Isabel, her arranged marriage to Philippe and her rise to power as Queen. This is an intriguing tale of romance, lust and greed and readers will learn just how adept Cullen is at writing descriptive prose that easily transports readers to the various locales of the book and immerses the reader within the culture. Cullen has done extensive research to capture the period but at the same time gives readers a glimpse of Juana that invokes feelings of pity for this most unfortunate of Queens. For fans of stories of turmoil in the court or historical fiction in general, I highly recommend Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen.

About the Author:

Lynn Cullen is the author of the young adult novel The Creation of Eve, as many acclaimed books for children. She lives with her husband in Atlanta, where she is at work on her next novel.

To learn more about author Lynn Cullen, please visit her website.

For more reviews of the book, please follow the TLC Book Tour.

I received an arc copy of Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.


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Book Review: The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton


Title: The Oriental Wife
Author: Evelyn Toynton
Publisher: Other Press
Publication Date: July 19, 2011
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN: 978-1590514412
Genre: Historical Fiction

From the Publisher:

The Oriental Wife is the story of two assimilated Jewish children from Nuremberg who flee Hitler’s Germany and struggle to put down roots elsewhere. When they meet up again in New York, they fall in love both with each other and with America, believing they have found a permanent refuge. But just when it looks as though nothing can ever touch them again, their lives are shattered by a freakish accident and a betrayal that will reverberate into the life of their American daughter. In its portrait of the immigrant experience, and of the tragic gulf between generations, The Oriental Wife illuminates the collision of American ideals of freedom and happiness with certain sterner old world virtues.

My Review:

The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton is a story about two Jewish children who grow up as friends and subsequently part ways as they leave Germany amidst the oppression and genocide of Hitler’s regime.   In well-crafted prose, Toynton brings readers through the difficulties faced by immigrants to the United States who had to leave everything behind to begin life anew.  Written in three parts, Toynton portrays the manifestation of the horrors committed by the Nazis even on those who fled before the holocaust.  Toynton narrates a compelling tale as these two friends marry and experience a pregnancy with severe complications that threatens their familial bonds.  Loosely based on her own parents’ lives, Toynton writes with passion and emotion as she shares her thoughts and views on what it must have been like to experience Jewish life at such a turbulent and violent time in Europe. And the struggles between traditional values held to strongly by parents in the midst of a new set of values being adopted by their daughter.  For historical fiction fans in search of a different viewpoint on the experiences and challenges faced by immigrants, especially Jewish families who fled Nazi Germany, I recommend The Oriental Wife.

About the Author:

Evelyn Toynton’s last novel, Modern Art, was a NewYork Times Notable Book of the Year and was long-listed for the Ambassador Award of the English-Speaking Union. A frequent contributor to Harper’s, she has also written for The Atlantic, The American Scholar, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New York Times Book Review, and her work has appeared in a number of anthologies, including Rereadings (edited by Anne Fadiman) and Mentors, Muses & Monsters. She lives in Norfolk, England.

I received an arc of The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton from Other Press to offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.


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