Thursday, February 6, 2014

I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

I Shall Be Near to You is set at the start of the US Civil War. As young Jeremiah enlists in the Union Army, his young bride Rosetta is desperate and runs away to join him. She cuts her hair, binds her breasts, and pretends to be a young man in order to stay with Jeremiah. They don't expect the war to last, hoping that the Confederate Army will give up before their group has to engage. But Rosetta, now Ross Stone, trains and fights with the rest of the young soldiers - refusing to leave her husband.

McCabe's work is fiction but it's based on researched accounts of women who did hide their identities and enlisted to join their loved ones in battle. Part love story, part adventure and war, I Shall Be Near to You is an absorbing read.

  • ISBN-10: 0804137722 - Hardcover $18.45
  • Publisher: Crown (January 28, 2014), 320 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Erin Lindsay McCabe studied literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz and taught high school English before completing her MFA at St. Mary's College of California in 2010.  She has taught composition at St. Mary's and Butte College and resides in Northern California with her husband and son and a small menagerie that includes one dog, four cats, two horses, ten chickens and two goats.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crosslyey-Holland

The blurb:
Crossley-Holland, a winner of the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, the Smarties Prize Bronze Medal, and the Tir Nan-Og Award, and numerous other distinctions, has written an absorbing fantasy novel for young adults with a formidable heroine. The Guardian praised Bracelet of Bones as “superb” Crossley-Holland writes “with a poet’s eye and love of words, painting a vivid picture of the world his characters move through, whether it’s the morning mist on the river or the smoke from a funeral pyre.”
One morning Solveig wakes to find her father, Viking mercenary Halfdan, has broken his promise to her by leaving to join the Viking Guard in Constantinople, without her. Deciding to follow him, Solveig sets off in a tiny boat and into an epic adventure, encountering Swedish traders, a ghost-ship and a Russian king, braving arrow-storms and witnessing a living sacrifice. Through it all, Solveig’s belief in her father is unwavering. Will she ever reach Constantinople? And will her father be there? An imaginative and poignant novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood, Bracelet of Bones is a vivid adventure not to be missed.

Fourteen-year-old Solveig's mother died when she was very young. She lives with her stepmother, her step brothers and her father. Except that her father is often traveling with his lord, sailing, trading, and raiding. When the local wars and politics force her father to leave with their lord, Solveig decides to sail after him. She travels alone with little protection beyond a knife and her skills.

It is through her charm and luck and her ability to carve bone that she gains passage with a trading ship. Her encounters with the members of her traveling party and along her journey give us insight into the culture and issues of her time.

Bracelet of Bones is well written and though we discover other places and peoples with Solveig, there is no real resolution to the story - it feels as though the larger adventure still takes place, possibly in the next book in the series.

  • ISBN-10: 1623651123 - Hardcover $15.00
  • Publisher: Quercus; Reprint edition (March 11, 2014), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Arthur trilogy has been translated into 24 languages, and has sold more than one million copies worldwide. His re-tellings of traditional tale includes The Penguin Book of Norse Myths. He has won many awards for his fiction, including the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He is an Honorary Fellow of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, a patron of the Society of Storytelling, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Partners in Crime Tour: An interview with Author Joshua Graham about Beyond Justice

Welcome to Starting Fresh - we're fortunate to have with us today,  Joshua Graham, author of Beyond Justice. I heard Joshua speak at ThrillerFest 2013 and immediately grabbed the chance to chat with him today.  A warm welcome for Joshua Graham!

Q: (1)  Your webpage mentions that you have a PhD and that you'd been a professor - what is your field of expertise?  Could you share the story of how you first began writing fiction?

JG: That's right. I received my doctorate in music performance from Johns Hopkins University, after my Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from Juilliard. I've performed as a cello soloist and principle cellist internationally and domestically. I've also taught in several colleges on the East coast.

However, after getting married, selling down and starting a family, I began a career in the IT field. During that time, I made my first fiction sales (short stories) to Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster. But it wasn't until my company laid off my entire department and outsourced it to India that I seriously took a shot at becoming a full time writer.
Q: (2)  You self-published your first novel which went on to hit three bestseller lists on Amazon.  The strength of your writing and success resulted in a publishing contract with Simon and Schuster.  Can you tell us what this experience was like? Do you have any advice for new writers?

JG: All I know is that I was passionate about writing and just wrote from my heart and convictions. I was still looking for an IT job while writing my next book, just before my book DARKROOM sold. During the time time leading up to that, I did a few things:

1. Read a lot, 2. Wrote a lot, 3. Prayed a lot, and 4. Studied about writing through books and seminars.

Everyone has their own path, but my general advice to new writers is to follow the four things I listed above.

Q: (3) In Beyond Justice, your main character starts out suspicious and wary of the members of his wife's church group.  Throughout the first half of the book, the only people that are open to the accused's innocence are the self same members of this group.  Spirituality and religion plays a big role in the lead character's transformation.  It struck me that your novel did give religion a larger role than it usually plays in mysteries and thrillers.  Would you like to comment on this or on the characters and their transformations in Beyond Justice?

JG: It wasn't my plan to write a religious book or a Christian fiction novel, but it was only natural that my views on life and death, faith, justice, family, loss, and hope would find their way into my writing.

I wasn't writing to "convert" or preach, despite what some might think, but rather, to present topics of forgiveness, justice, vengeance, mercy, and grace, in an allegorical manner, framed in one of my favorite genres, the legal thriller.

I've always believed that the human heart can only truly change when touched by grace. We learn about grace when we experience either favor or forgiveness where we don't deserve it at all. This is the essence of forgiveness and inner peace. That which goes "beyond justice," namely, grace.

Q: (4) Are there specific writers that influenced you or that are particular favorites of yours?

JG: The greatest influences in my life have been the Bible, C S. Lewis, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Grisham, and Sol Stein.

Q: (5) What are you working on at the moment? What can we look forward to?

JG:  I'm writing a new series featuring my protagonist from DARKROOM, Xandra Carrick. She's back and in for an even bigger, much more perilous journey. Stay tuned!

If you'd like exclusive previews, updates, and be entered for giveaways, you'll want to sign up for my official newsletter here:

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat.  It takes a great deal of talent and determination to make those changes from Music to IT to writing and to do them so well.  Hard work, determination, faith, and talent, hard work.    Thank you for sharing your story with us.   I wish you all the best.  I'll certainly keep an eye out for the next adventure with Xandra Carrick.  I