Saturday, September 19, 2009

Giveaway of Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley

Here's another great Hatchette sponsored contest! Thanks to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group, we are giving away 5 copies of Christopher Buckley's Supreme Courtship. Interested?

About the Book, courtesy of the publisher:

President of the United States Donald Vanderdamp is having a hell of a time getting his nominees appointed to the Supreme Court. After one nominee is rejected for insufficiently appreciating To Kill A Mockingbird, the president chooses someone so beloved by voters that the Senate won't have the guts to reject her -- Judge Pepper Cartwright, the star of the nation's most popular reality show, Courtroom Six.

Will Pepper, a straight-talking Texan, survive a confirmation battle in the Senate? Will becoming one of the most powerful women in the world ruin her love life? And even if she can make it to the Supreme Court, how will she get along with her eight highly skeptical colleagues, including a floundering Chief Justice who, after legalizing gay marriage, learns that his wife has left him for another woman.

Soon, Pepper finds herself in the middle of a constitutional crisis, a presidential reelection campaign that the president is determined to lose, and oral arguments of a romantic nature. Supreme Courtship is another classic Christopher Buckley comedy about the Washington institutions most deserving of ridicule.

About the Author:

CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY is the author of eleven books, many of them national bestsellers, including The White House Mess, God Is My Broker, Little Green Men, and No Way to Treat a First Lady, which won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. He has published more than fifty comic essays in The New Yorker. In 2002, he received the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence. He is the editor of ForbesLife and lives in New York and Washington, D.C.


To enter, please tell us about a politician that you feel strongly about - like or dislike - and why.

Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address and answer, no entry. The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on October 31, 2009.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Win Simon's Cat by Simon Tofield

If you liked that and want to see more, you'll find all of Simon's Cat videos at

Simon Tofield's animations have taken YouTube by storm. Now, the feline Internet phenomenon makes his way onto the page in this first-ever book based on the popular animated series. SIMON'S CAT depicts and exaggerates the hilarious relationship between a man and his cat. The daily escapades of this adorable pet, which always involve demanding more food, and his exasperated but doting owner come to life through Tofield's charming and hilarious illustrations.

Anna and Hatchette Book Group are sponsoring a giveaway of five copies of Simon's Cat to five fortunate readers.


To enter, please check out the Simon's Cat website and let me know which video you liked best.

Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address and answer, no entry. The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on October 31, 2009.

Simon Tofield is also giving away signed copies of Simon's Cat, T-shirts, and an original drawing of Simon's Cat on his site at

A big thanks to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Code Yellow! Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell + giveaway

With its paperback release on September 14, I'm excited to spotlight Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell. Part mobster, part medical thriller. It's clearly a bad time to check in to this Manhattan hospital. . .

What it's about, courtesy of the publisher:

Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you want to see in your hospital room.

Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person ...

Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours-and somehow beat the reaper.

Spattered in adrenaline-fueled action and bone-saw-sharp dialogue, BEAT THE REAPER is a debut thriller so utterly original you won't be able to guess what happens next, and so shockingly entertaining you won't be able to put it down.

Doesn't it sound good? Apparently quite a lot of people thought so as well. The movie of Beat The Reaper is in production with Leonardo DiCaprio co-producing and starring in it! If you'd like to win a copy of the book, keep reading! Or listen to this great interview with Josh Bazell.

The author, Josh Bazell, has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Brown University and an M.D. from Columbia University and is currently a medical resident at University of California, San Fransisco. He's also working on his second novel.Read an excerpt, learn more about Beat The Reaper and Josh Bazell at

The publishers have given special attention to reading groups for this book, doesn't it seem like the sort of book that would be fun to discuss? Here's a list of discussion questions for your local reading group, courtesy of Hatchette Book Group:

1. There are many dramatically charged scenes in Beat the Reaper, but the story is also broadly humorous. What was the funniest moment in the novel for you, and why?

2. Near the end of the novel Pietro Brnwa/Peter Brown’s mentor Prof. Marmoset tells him, “Any time you can tell the difference between something you can do something about and something you can’t, you should thank God. Particularly if it turns out to be something you can’t” (page 304). How effectively does Pietro/Peter “tell the difference” throughout the novel? What do you think he’s learned by the story’s conclusion?

3. “As any other American child would, I picked Batman and Charles Bronson in Death Wish as role models” (page 26). In what ways is Pietro’s early life a typical (or atypical) American childhood? Discuss his teenage induction into crime as a way of life.

4. The footnotes that the author uses throughout Beat the Reaper are at times informative, at times humorous, often both. Identify your favorite footnote and explain what you like about it.

5. Early in the novel Dr. Peter Brown observes that “humans hate being mentally strong and physically weak” (page 28). Do you agree? By the story’s end, is it Pietro/Peter’s mental or physical strength that has served him best?

6. Who was your favorite character in Beat the Reaper: Pietro Brnwa/Peter Brown? Skinflick? David Locano? Magdalena? Eddy Squillante? Did you find that your favorite had changed by the end of the novel?

7. Why did Pietro’s trip to Poland in 1994 (chapter 8) become a significant turning point in his life? What surprising discovery about his grandparents did Pietro make on that trip? What did he learn about himself?

8. When Pietro meets Magdalena’s parents for the first time, her father tells him, “You appear to have nothing in common with my daughter at all” (page 173), and yet in many ways Pietro and Magdalena seem a perfect couple. Why do you think they are so well suited to each other?

9. Discuss the character of Skinflick. Ultimately, how does Skinflick influence Pietro Brnwa’s transformation into Peter Brown? How does Magdalena?

10. Beat the Reaper is filled with examples of doctors (and other members of the medical establishment) behaving badly. Name a few such episodes. How unlikely or outrageous do these episodes seem to you? Could there be a kernel of truth in any of them?

11. As a young hit man, Pietro Brnwa took pains to make sure that his victims were “killers whose deaths would improve the world” (page 108). Do you think murder is ever justified? Reconcile your answer with Pietro’s observation that “murdering someone is bad for you. It murders something in yourself, and has all kinds of other consequences you can’t possibly foresee” (page 59).

12. What do you think the future holds for Dr. Peter Brown? Do you think he will quit crime for good, or will he leave medicine and return to his old habits? What would you like to see happen?

Thanks to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group, five lucky readers will each win a copy of Beat The Reaper!


To enter, please share a story about an awful hospital experience (your own or someone else's or imagined). If you haven't got a hospital horror story to share, tell us about a particularly competent and helpful doctor that you've had lately.

Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address and answer, no entry. The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on October 31, 2009.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Winners of Close Encounters of A Third Grade Kind by Phillip Done

I'm sorry for the delay. There were great responses - thank you so much for sharing your stories about your teachers. It made me remember the teachers that made school and learning interesting over the years.

Close Encounters of A Third Grade Kind by Phillip Done.

Belinda M - confirmed
Carol - confirmed
Aliya D. - confirmed
Simply Stacie
Andrea - confirmed

Belinda M. who said, "My absolute favorite teacher in elementary school was Ms Hudon. She was my grade 5 teacher as well as our french teacher. She was one tough lady but a fantastic teacher. I was lucky enough to keep in touch with her over the years until she passed away a couple of years back."

Carol who said, "My favorite teacher was Mrs. Buettener in second grade. She understood that I was bored and so came up with special projects--particularly centered around reading--to keep me engaged. And because she was such a talented teacher, I knew none of this at the time, only learning later from my mom."
Aliya D who said, "My favourite grade school teacher was by far Mrs. Forster in 2nd grade... She was phenomenal. I was a newly arrived immigrant child and she always gave me extra attention, made me feel included and provided me with extra help when I needed it. She was great and I still am in contact with her. She is what teachers should be."

Simply Stacie who said, "My favourite teacher was my grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Stoneman. She made an extra effort to help out the shy new girl (me!) and always made me feel special."

Andrea who said, "My favorite teacher was my high school history teacher. He really cared for all of his students and was very much interested in seeing us all succeed. He was the kind of teacher that you could go to for just about anything and everything, I still email him occasionally."
I wish that I could have picked more winners, there were many touching answers. Winners, please email me at gaby317nyc at gmail dot com with your mailing addresses by noon on Sunday. Thanks so much for participating, everyone. And a big thank you to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Friday 56: Week 16

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"Captain Arneborg said cogs are the safest ships afloat." She held fast to the rail as the cog lifted, then plunged into the trough. "Nigh unsinkable."

- A Highlander's Temptation by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Book Review: The Blue Star by Tony Earley


A portrait of life in America on the eve of World War II, The Blue Star tells the story of Jim Glass Jr during his last year of high school. From among the well-to-do families in his small town, Jim has recently broken up with Norma Harris. Jim finds himself in the awkward position of being fascinated by his friend Bucky's girl friend Chrissie Steppe. But his friend, Bucky Bucklaw Jr. is in the Navy, surely courting Chrissie Steppe would be out of bounds.

When Jim digs deeper into the relationship between Chrissie Steppe and Bucky Bucklaw, he learns more than he'd bargained for about the Steppes and even his own family.


There is so much more to The Blue Star than Jim's attraction to Chrissie Steppe, which is what makes The Blue Star such an interesting and satisfying read. You don't have to have read the earlier book Jim The Boy to appreciate The Blue Star. The characters are fully fleshed out. Each individual struggle adds to the tension and coherence of the novel. There is enough romance, tragedy and action to make The Blue Star hard to categorize and easy to enjoy.

Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (August 26, 2009), 336 pages.
Courtesy of Hatchette Book Group.

Thanks so much, Brianne and Hatchette Book Group for this opportunity!

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the Hatchette Book Giveaway


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the Hatchette Book Giveaway!

Each winner will get one set of these five books:

Zumba by Beto Perez with Maggie Greenwood- Robinson
Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante
Tell Me Something True by Leila Cobo
Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta
Amigoland by Oscar Casares


To enter, please tell us about your favorite book, discovery or work of art by a Hispanic writer, inventor or artist. If you don't have one yet, please write about why you'd like to win this set of books.

Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address and answer, no entry. The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on October 15, 2009.

If you'd like more chances to win, here's a list of participating sites. (exp. 10/01)
Bookwormy Girl (exp. 10/2)
A Sea of Books (exp. 10/9)
PR Sun (exp.10/15)
Bronx Latino (exp. 10/15)
VOCES (exp. 10/15)
Authors Latino (exp. 10/15)
Blogs by Latina (exp. 10/15)
Bookin' With Bingo (exp. 10/15)
Drey's Library (exp. 10/15)
Sable Lit Reviews (exp. 10/15)
Starting Fresh (exp. 10/15)
Marta’s Meanderings (exp. 10/15)
Reach for More (exp.10/16)
Harlem Writer (exp. 10/20)

As always, check Hatchette's list of contests for the most comprehensive list.

One last thing - I'm hugely excited about this contest because the prize is amazing. Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz is one of my favorite books of the summer. Check out my review of Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz at Or read Belinda Acosta's guest post at

Meggie's Remains Blog Tour Part 2: Book Review

Welcome to the second day of Meggie's Remains Virtual Book Tour courtesy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion.


Meggie's Remains is set in 1874 in what was then known as Colorado Territory. The novel opens in Denver, which had been largely organized by and centered around gold seekers, miners, and railroads. The West was in the process of "being tamed" and while truces were being negotiated there were hints of the atrocities to follow. Colorado was still rough territory and very few women traveled there alone.

Meggie's trip came out of desperation and fear - she's clearly run away from someone and needs to stay hidden. She's suffered some sort of trauma and as she relives her nightmare, Meggie is found hallucinating on the street. Ethan Rourke comes across the disheveled and incoherent Meggie. Moved to pity, he helps her to the main hotel and quietly settles her bill. He doesn't expect to come across her again.

Nearly out of funds, Meggie takes a teaching post in a small town outside of Denver. Meggie's past experience keeps her wary of men and afraid of romance, but the welcome from her students and their families helps Meggie build a life for herself. All seems to be going well until Meggie's past catches up with her. Her possible rescuer, Ethan Rourke, is facing dangers of his own.


In Meggie's Remains, the location is a character in the novel. Joanne Sundell describes the Wild West with details and research, giving the novel a certain richness. I found the characters of Ethan Rourke and Meggie McMurphy are fleshed out and interesting, although I did not enjoy the earlier passages that depicted Meggie's point of view. Meggie's hallucinations and instability made her an unsympathetic character and it took her relocation to the small town and the revelation of her past before I began to care about her. On the whole, Meggie McMurphy is an unusual herione and Meggie's Remains is an interesting and enjoyable read.I would recommend it to people who enjoy Westerns, romances and suspense novels.

Publisher: Five Star (ME) (July 17, 2009), 299 pages.
Courtesy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion and the author.

Thank you so much, Dorothy, Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Joanne Sundell for this opportunity!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Meggie's Remains Blog Tour & Guest Post by Joanne Sundell

Welcome to the Meggie's Remains Virtual Book Tour courtesy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

I'm happy to introduce Joanne Sundell, the author of Matchmaker, Matchmaker, My Name's Amelia, The Parlour House Daughter, The Quaker and the Confederate series, Hearts Divided, Hearts Persuaded, and her latest book, Meggie's Remains. Joanne shares with us her thoughts on How To Make Your Characters Believable. Welcome, Joanne and thank you so much for spending this time with us!


How To Make Your Characters Believable by Joanne Sundell

If you’re writing fiction—any kind—nothing is more important than believable characters. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Whether reading a book, watching a film, or listening to something on audio, the moment the characters do or say anything that’s not credible, look out. The reader will set down your story and might not pick it back up. We hear it time and time again: “Don’t write anything that might stop the reader.” This begs the question, how then do we write believable characters to keep our readers reading?

There are plenty of books out there on the subject of Writing Believable Characters. I know. I've certainly purchased my fair share. I do believe we should build a library of whatever references we might need and have them at our fingertips. Extensive, meticulous research is important, no matter if we're writing an historical or contemporary novel. It's important for our stories to be credible. It's that simple and that complicated.

Once we've done enough research to write a credible story and have a general idea of plot and direction, thereby able now to visualize the natural flow of things, our characters begin to show themselves; sometimes all at once; sometimes bit by bit. I'm not talking about hair or eye color or muscular build here - although detailed character traits are of course, essential - but rather the motivation behind the character . . . the character behind the character. We, as writers, look for the internal angst, conflicting urges, and choices made. Heroes and Heroines must make choices in our stories. Whether they choose wisely or poorly is the stuff of novels!

Each of us is unique as a reader and as a writer. As a reader we know when something is believable. As a writer, we have to do our best to respect the reader and make our stories and characters believable.

With Meggie's Remains, my love of old-fashioned theme and character led me to create my heroine, Meggie McMurphy, and her hero, Ethan Rourke, stumbling upon each other on the streets of Denver, Colorado Territory, October 1874. Their path to find true love is most definitely not an easy one. Let's take a closer look at the pair, to perhaps find out why.

Meggie is complex and I want to do justice to her character in writing Meggie's Remains. I wanted to show how she must walk that fine line between day dreams and nightmares, between what is real and what is not - forced to run for her life when the fiend so long stalking her in her nightmares, surfaces in the light of day. Meggie is a pretty young woman, twenty-five when the story opens, slender, five foot two, with a full, rosy mouth, violet eyes that can turn passionately dark, a peaches and cream complexion, and long rusty-red hair. But she's forced to hide her good looks, not wanting to gain any man's attention after the painful, sinful episode in her past. No one must find out, no one! Tainted by her past, she's deathly afraid of men, so much so pulls her hair up to the point of pain, wears baggy dresses, her only adornment a nun's cross, hides behind spectacles, and steps away when any man comes near. In times of upset, Meggie turns to her most trusted companion and friend, Jane Eyre, treasuring the worn pages of her favorite novel above all else in her pitiable life. Escaping into its pages, Meggie can become Jane, falling in love with Edward Rochester over and over again, imagining that moment of passion when Jane and Edward first meet, when they first touch, imagining such a moment for herself . . . such sweetness . . . such desire . . . such impossible bliss - Quickly checking herself, Meggie throws off such wild imaginings and does her best to deny her buried desire for love and happiness, knowing she's not destined to live any kind of a normal life. She doesn't desire any man. When the handsome, formidable westerner, Ethan Rourke, stumbles upon Meggie on a snowy Denver street, it's as if he'd stepped right off the pages of Jane Eyre! Safe to encounter such a man on the page, it is certainly unsafe, even deadly, for her to encounter such a man in the flesh. Men belong . . . six feet under, six feet away . . . where to stay safe, the devil must stay!

Ethan is handsome all right - tall, dark, and handsome - standing six foot four, well-built, with dark hair cropped at the shoulders and intelligent, slate eyes that can seduce with one look. Though perhaps better looking than Edward Rochester, Ethan is the classic brooding hero, wealthy, with society at his feet, yet given to dark introspection, silent on the things that matter most, keeping his true feelings buried deep. Haunted by his past, Ethan isn't interested in committing to another woman, and finds satisfaction enough in the arms of his mistress of five years. Save for his mistress, he keeps women at a distance. In his lifetime he's already seen enough rejection, death, and dying - enough to kill any Faith he once had - and won't let any woman close. The moment he stumbles over the odd baggage fallen at his feet on the snowy Denver street, he's struck through by the curious female; no woman ever looked at him like that before. He wants to turn away. . . but can he?


That must surely make you want to read more about Meggie McMurphy and Ethan Rourke! Thank you so much, Joanne. Reading this increased my understanding and enjoyment of Meggie's Remains. I look forward to reading your other novels with a closer eye to the character development in them.

Joanne's Bio, courtesy of the author:

Born in a tiny hospital in rural Virginia, Joanne ever cherishes her country beginnings. Fond memories of toddling after her older sisters along the Appalachian Trail, catching tadpoles in a nearby creek bed, chasing after lightening bugs, or falling asleep to the evening hum of katydids, remain with her still; despite the family move to more urban Arlington where Joanne spent her formative school years, and then on to Richmond where she earned her nursing degree. Joanne grew up reading romance, falling in love with heroes and heroines from Regency England to the American West, from London's pubs to Colorado's ski slopes, loving that moment when the hero and heroine meet and fall in love. That moment to Joanne is the moment when Jane Eyre meets Edward Rochester, when Elizabeth Bennett meets Mr. Darcy - that's the heart-stopping, passionate moment for Joanne in romance. That moment is what led her to attempt traditional, old-fashioned, historical romance. Joanne sold her first book, Matchmaker, Matchmaker, in 2005 to Five Star-Gale, Cengage Learning, for their Expressions Line, a combination of romance and women's fiction. Subsequent sales include A....My Name's Amelia, The Parlour House Daughter, Meggie's Remains, and The Quaker and the Confederate series, Hearts Divided and Hearts Persuaded. Her books have been reviewed nationally by Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and Romantic Times. With her three children grown and off on their own adventures, Joanne lives part-time in Colorado and California along with her husband and their entourage of felines and huskies. Joanne's writing groups include Romance Writers of America, Colorado Romance Writers, Los Angeles Romance Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Women Writing the West. Learn more on Joanne Sundell's website at or through her My Space page or her blog She can also be reached at author@joannesundell(dot)com.

Thanks so much to Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Joanne Sundell for this opportunity! Come back tomorrow to read my review of Meggie's Remains.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Highland Rebel Blog Tour & Guest Post by Judith James + givewaway

I am thrilled to participate in the Highland Rebel Blog Tour and to have Judith James as a special guest on Starting Fresh!

I was fortunate to review Judith James's debut novel Broken Wing through Bostick Communications. If you'd read my review, you know by now that I loved it and had been looking forward to Judith's second book, Highland Rebel. There was already a long line of potential hosts, so when I heard that Danielle at Sourcebooks could add me to the blog tour, I was ecstatic!

Without further ado, please welcome Judith James with her guest post on life as a full time author!


My Life as a full time Author

I’ve been asked to talk a bit about my life as a full time author, and what I like to read on my own. As this is the last stop on the Highland Rebel blog tour, it certainly seems like the fitting time and place. I’ll start with the easiest question first. What I read in my spare time? Well right now I have none so my reading is pretty much research oriented. Right now I’m reading a book on the history of Whitehall Palace, Mary Evelyn’s Fop’s Dictionary, and a biography of John Wilmot. When I can read for pleasure I love historical novels, historical romances, biography, true life adventure and fantasy, but I will read the back of a cereal box if nothing else is handy.

My life as a reader is a little confined right now, but my life as a writer would best be described as a neat circle of yin and yang, opposite energies that balance and attract each other, both essential to the process and the whole.

The more difficult aspects of living as a full time author for me at this point in my career include looming deadlines for everything. Synopsis, proposals, revisions, web page updates, promotional activities, art sheets and edits; you name it I’ve got a date it’s due by. All these compete with story writing time along with all the social responsibilities and household chores. My cat hates me. Working on contract and waiting on royalties means uncertain and uneven finances. Add to the mix banks that don’t want to give out a mortgage when you’re self employed, and no dental or medication plan to replace the one left behind at the day job. To complete the yin you need to add rhinoceros hide, a necessary accessory to help deal with the inevitable rejection and the occasional less than positive review of your beloved baby that you just poured your heart and soul into.

To balance that, I get to work in my pyjamas sipping coffee in the winter as I cluck sympathetically at the poor folks outside scraping ice and snow off their cars and shovelling out their driveways to get to work. In the summer I might work on my balcony sipping spritzers, on an out door patio somewhere, or even at the beach. I’ve even been know to take a corner table in a local bar and people watch and write late at night. I get to travel places for research and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and make friends with some wonderful writers, bloggers, and readers. Writing is solitary work, at least until you reach the editing phase, but somehow I seem to have met more new people and made more new friends than I did in the job I had before.

So far the yin and yang seem pretty well balanced, But then you add in the excitement of seeing word and page count rise, the thrill of seeing your cover for the first time, your book on the shelf, the delight when someone writes to tell you your story moved them in some way, the fun of spending hours in end in a world you build with characters you love. It killed me to leave Gabriel and Jacques, Ross and Davey behind in Broken Wing, and I felt shallow and fickle when I started developing feelings for Jamie Sinclair in Highland Rebel, but I couldn’t help but fall totally in love with him. Falling in love with your characters, getting to know them, and spending your time with them, is definitely one of the perks for me. Life as a full time author, for me at least, is risky, uncertain, and in a lot of ways you’re on your own, but when it comes down to it, instead of sitting in my office dreaming the life I’m living the dream, and I don’t think it can get much better than that. I don’t think that’s true just for writing of course. If you always wanted to be a doctor or a veterinarian, run your own business or be a ski bum, and you get to do it, then you are living your own dream, and it’s a great way to go through life if you can.

So thanks very much to Gaby for hosting me here today. It’s been a great pleasure. Thanks also to everyone who took the time to stop by and leave a comment and I do hope you find Highland Rebel and thoroughly enjoy it. If you like history romance and adventure, I’m sure you will. My last question on this tour is this. What is your dream job?


Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences with us. The drawbacks of being self-employed, especially as you start out, are daunting. It's a huge jump and brave move. But I believe that it might just be a question of time and getting your name out. I'm not an expert and am basing my opinion on how much I love your writing. I think that other readers will respond to you the way I have. Once they get a chance to read one of your books, they'll pre-order the next one. I'm among the many that are rooting for you!

But back to Judith's new book, Highland Rebel...

A teaser (from the author)

Amidst the upheaval of Cromwell's Britain, Jamie Sinclair's wit and military prowess have served him well. Leading a troop in Scotland, he impetuously marries a captured maiden, saving her from a grim fate.

A Highlands heiress to title and fortune, Catherine Drummond is not the woman that Jamie Sinclair believes her to be. When her people effect her rescue, and he cannot annul the marriage, Jamie goes to recapture his hellcat of a new wife...

In a world where family and creed cannot be trusted, where faith fuels intolerance and war, Catherine and Jamie test the bounds of loyalty and friendship, and trust...


The story opens on the battle field, seen through the eyes of Jamie Sinclair. Jamie is the sort of romantic hero that is fun to read about. "He'd shifted allegiance and religion so many times he sometimes forgot which side he was on. What with these mad Stuart kings - Protestant one day, Catholic the next - a fellow needed to be quick. Fortunately, he was: quick witted, quick with a sword, and more importantly, quick to recognize which way the wind was blowing. Possessed of a cynic's keen perception and willingness to shift with the political tide, he switched masters, mistresses religions whenever the need arose."

Even with his political astuteness and cynicism, you can sense that Jamie has a deep sense of honor. He is careful when and how to display it. When he chooses to risk his person to protect Catherine Drummond, you can't help but root for him. Fortunately, Judith James isn't one to write a simple love story. There are twists, upsets and adventures - enough to make Highland Rebel much more than the usual historical romance. Many highland romances feature a strong highland warrior protecting his beguiling English wife and Judith James gives us something different yet again.

Though set in a completely different place and time, Jamie Sinclair reminded me of Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche, "He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad."

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca (September 1, 2009), 480 pages.
Courtesy of SourceBooks and Judith James.

About the Author:

Judith James has worked as a legal assistant, trail guide, and counselor. Living in Nova Scotia, her personal journey has taken her to the Arctic and the West Coast. Her writing combines her love of history and adventure with her keen interest in the complexities of human nature and the heart's capacity to heal. To learn more, visit her website at You can follower her on twitter as well judith_james

I'd like to thank Danielle, SourceBooks and Judith James for generously sponsoring a giveaway of 2 copies of Highland Rebel and for this opportunity to participate in the Highland Rebel Blog Tour!


To enter, please answer Judith's question, "What is your dream job?" Don't forget to leave your email address so I can notify you if you win. No email address or answer, no entry. Contest is limited to U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. Contest ends at 6 pm on October 2, 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dress Rehearsal of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera this Thursday

“Tosca combines Puccini’s glorious musical inspiration with the melodramatic vitality of one of the great Hitchcock films,” says Music Director James Levine. Karita Mattila, who sings the title role for the first time at the Met. Luc Bondy, acclaimed for his imaginative theater and opera productions, directs. Marcelo Álvarez and Juha Uusitalo open as Cavaradossi and Scarpia, with Jonas Kaufmann, Marcello Giordani, and Bryn Terfel stepping in for later performances. - courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera website

I was excited to read that the Metropolitan Opera is continuing the tradition of free tickets to select dress rehearsals. They gave away 3,000 tickets to the dress rehearsal of Tosca at noon last Sunday. Though we're not knowledgeable about opera, R and I lined up at 9 am and left with two tickets each.

The dress rehearsal of Tosca sounds like what R calls "a real New York experience". The line on Sunday morning was an experience in itself. There were already about a hundred people ahead of me when I lined up at 9 am. The audience was a good mix of all types of people: different ages, nationalities, and types. Some were quite glamorous and many were comfortably dressed. Many came prepared with chairs, newspapers, and coffee. While a few thick skinned types cut in line, for the most part people were considerate for the three hours or so that we stayed under direct sun. Towards the last thirty minutes, we would smile at each other.

I like to think that my experience with opera is just beginning. My family isn't musically inclined. I've only watched two full performances. First when my grandparents took us to watch an international group perform Carmen at the Cultural Center of the Philippines when I was thirteen. I enjoyed the costumes and spending a special evening with my grandfather, but I the whole time felt a bit guilty that I didn't understand or appreciate the music more. I had my second taste of opera my first year in New York when my uncle Tony and his partner came to New York for Anthony Minghella's production of Madame Butterfly at the Met. My uncle wanted me to see it for myself and treated me to the show. I was worried that the ticket would be wasted on me, but I loved it. The costumes, the stage set, the Met were amazing. And unlike the first opera that I'd seen, there were subtitles! Each seat at the Met has a small screen of sorts with subtitles, that allows you to read and watch the opera simultaneously.

Madame Butterfly's story is very accessible, so it was the perfect choice for me. Tosca sounds fascinating as well.

R & I had planned to take an aunt to the dress rehearsal, but she can't make it. I have two extra tickets that I'd like to give to someone who will use them and enjoy the show. The dress rehearsal will be at 11 am this Thursday, Sept 17. The doors open at 10:30 am. If you know that you can make it and would like the tickets, please send me an email at gaby317nyc at gmail dot com with your contact details and when you can pick up the tickets. I'll email the recipient of the tickets directly but if you don't hear from me please assume that the tickets have been given to someone else.

Here's the synopsis of Tosca, courtesy of the Met website:

Composer: Giacomo Puccini

Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on the play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou
World premiere: Rome, Teatro Costanzi, January 14, 1900

Act I
Rome, 1800. Cesare Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, rushes into a church to hide in one of the chapels. Once he has disappeared, a sacristan enters and then the painter Mario Cavaradossi, who sets to work on his portrait of Mary Magdalene. The painting has been inspired by the Marchesa Attavanti, whom Cavaradossi has seen in the church but does not know. While he works, he compares the dark-haired beauty of his lover, the singer Floria Tosca, to that of the blonde Marchesa Attavanti (“Recondita armonia”). Angelotti, a member of the former Bonapartiste government, ventures out and is recognized by Cavaradossi. The painter gives him food and hurries him back into the chapel as Tosca is heard calling from outside. Suspicious, she jealously questions Cavaradossi, then reminds him of their rendezvous that evening at his villa. Suddenly recognizing the Marchesa Attavanti in the painting, she accuses him of being unfaithful, but he assures her of his love. When Tosca has left, Angelotti emerges from the chapel. A cannon signals that the police have discovered the escape, and he and Cavaradossi flee to the painter’s villa. The sacristan enters with choirboys who are preparing to sing in a Te Deum that day celebrating a victory against Napoleon. Their excitement is silenced by the arrival of Baron Scarpia, chief of the secret police, who is searching for Angelotti. When Tosca comes back looking for Cavaradossi, Scarpia shows her a fan with the Attavanti crest that he has just found. Seemingly finding her suspicions confirmed, Tosca bursts into tears. She vows vengeance and leaves as the church fills with worshipers. Scarpia sends his men to follow her to Cavaradossi, with whom he thinks Angelotti is hiding (“Tre sbirri… Una carozza…”). While the congregation sings the Te Deum, Scarpia declares that he will bend Tosca to his will.

Act II
Alone in his palace, the Palazzo Farnese, Scarpia sadistically anticipates the pleasure of having Tosca in his power (“Ha più forte sapore”). The spy Spoletta arrives, explaining that he was unable to find Angelotti. Instead he brings in Cavaradossi. While Scarpia interrogates the painter, Tosca is heard singing at a royal gala in the same building. Scarpia sends for her and she enters just as Cavaradossi is being taken away to be tortured. Frightened by Scarpia’s questions and Cavaradossi’s screams, Tosca reveals Angelotti’s hiding place. Cavaradossi is carried in, hurt and dazed. Realizing what has happened, he angrily confronts Tosca, when the officer Sciarrone rushes in to announce that, in a surprise, Napoleon has won the Battle of Marengo, a defeat for Scarpia’s side. Cavaradossi shouts out his defiance of tyranny and is dragged off to be executed. Scarpia, calmly resuming his supper, suggests to Tosca that he would let Cavaradossi go free if she’d give herself to him. Fighting off his advances, she calls on God and declares that she has dedicated her life to art and love (“Vissi d’arte”). Scarpia insists, when Spoletta interrupts: faced with capture, Angelotti has killed himself. Tosca, now forced to give in or lose her lover, agrees to Scarpia’s proposition. The baron seemingly orders a mock execution for Cavaradossi, after which he is to be freed. Spoletta leaves. As soon as Scarpia has written a safe-conduct for the lovers, Tosca kills him with a knife she had found earlier on the table. Wrenching the document from his hand, she quietly leaves the room.

At dawn, Cavaradossi awaits execution at the Castel Sant’Angelo. He bribes the jailer to deliver a farewell letter to Tosca. Overcome with memories of love, he gives in to his despair (“E lucevan le stelle”). Tosca enters. She explains to him what has happened and the two imagine their future in freedom. As the firing squad appears, Tosca instructs Cavaradossi how to fake his death convincingly, then hides. The soldiers fire and depart. Tosca urges Cavaradossi to hurry, but when he doesn’t move, she realizes that Scarpia has betrayed her and that the bullets were real. Spoletta rushes in to arrest Tosca for murder. She cries out to Scarpia and leaps from the battlement.

The new production of Tosca opens on September 21, starring Karita Mattila in the title role and conducted by Music Director James Levine. Luc Bondy, one of Europe’s most acclaimed theater directors, makes his Met debut. Tosca is a co-production of the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, and Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich.

Read an interview of Music Director James Levin, Theater Director Luc Bondy and Karita Mattila's on the Metropolitan Opera website at

Loving Mr. Darcy Blog Tour Part Two: Book Review

Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley

In her guest post, Sharon Lathan said, "In my saga, which began with Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One and now contining in Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, I have simply done what most of us females are imagining when we close the book: I tell of the married life. So I guess you could say that my primary inspiration is the same that impels every writer of romance. We love to be in love."


Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley continues Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice six months into the marriage of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Confident in Darcy's affections, Lizzie adapts to her role as Mistress of Pemberley with grace and skill. Sharon Lathan describes how the Darcys would have spent their days in considerable detail. The careful descriptions of Pemberley, the surrounding estates of Derbyshire, and the London season are livened up with accounts of Darcy's handling of Mrs. Bennett, the truce with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and interaction with jealous Caroline Bingley. Many passages are devoted to how Lizzie and Darcy revel in their adventures in and out of the bedroom.

Loving Mr. Darcy is full of banter and loving moments between Darcy and Lizzie, but Sharon Lathan also weaves in much historical and cultural detail when describing the Darcys's every day life. Reading how the Darcys researched and prepared for pregnancy and childbirth, I was struck by the way that Lathan was able to include a number of medical discoveries and childcare items into the 1800s. Through the dialogue and musings of Lizzie and Darcy, Lathan also incorporates scenes from Pride and Prejudice and extrapolates how both characters had thought and felt.


Loving Mr. Darcy was my first exposure to Sharon Lathan and the Darcy Saga. It would be fair to say that it delves into what happily ever. The novel extends the story and describes the many joys and adventures that the Darcys might have encountered in their first year of marriage. I particularly enjoyed the passages where Darcy and Lizzie relived incidents from their romance in Pride and Prejudice. Loving Mr. Darcy gives a deeper picture of Fitzwilliam Darcy in love - which Pride and Prejudice fans are sure to enjoy.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (September 1, 2009), 448 pages.
Courtesy of the publisher.

Read Sharon Lathan's guest post, "Inspiring Happily Ever After" and enter the contest for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One AND Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley on Starting Fresh at

Thanks so much, Danielle and SourceBooks for this opportunity!