Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review ~ The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

The Fifth WitnessThe Fifth Witness
Author ~ Michael Connelly
Publisher ~ Little, Brown & Co
Publication Date ~ April 5, 2011

About the book ~ 

In tough times, crime is one of the few things that still pays, but if defense attorney Mickey Haller was expecting an uptick in business during the economic downturn, the reality is a different story. Even people needing legal representation to keep them out of jail are having to make cutbacks, it seems. In fact, the most significant part of Mickey's business right now is not about keeping clients out of jail but about keeping a roof over their heads, as the foreclosure boom hits thousands of people who were granted unrealistic mortgages in the good times and now face being kicked to the curb in the bad times.

Lisa Trammel has been a client of Mickey's for eight months — his very first foreclosure case, in fact — and although so far he's managed to stop the bank from taking her house, the strain and sense of injustice have taken a toll. The bank recently got a restraining order to prevent her from protesting against their practices. Now, a high level bank employee, Mitchell Bondurant, has been found dead in the bank's parking lot and Lisa is about to be indicted for murder.

For Mickey, it's back to what he does best on the biggest stage of all, but if he thought defending Lisa Trammel was going to be a walk in the park, he'd be wrong. Not only is he about to learn some startling truths about his client, but also about himself, and by the time the verdict is in, Mickey's whole world will have been turned upside down. 

My thoughts ~ 

Favorite line from the book  ~ "I was thinking of going to Matthew McConaughey with this. He'd be excellent. But who do YOU think could play you?" -- A producer asking Mickey Haller

The criminal cases may have dried up, but there is no shortage of legal work for Mickey Haller. With the economy the way it is, handling foreclosure cases is where the business is these days. Although he has no shortage of clients, they aren’t the clients he would like to have. His heart still belongs in criminal law. But you have to work with what you have. The one good thing is, in traveling from client to client, he works out of his favorite office – the back of his Lincoln.

Lisa Trammel used to have it all: the beautiful home, the devoted husband, and the darling child. Now she is at her wits end. Her husband has left her, she is a single mother supporting her young son, and she is about to lose her beautiful house to foreclosure. She firmly believes that something is amiss and hires Mickey Haller to save her house, hoping he will find some sort of loop-hole, manipulation, or illegal action that can stop this insane action. In her anger, despair, and frustration Lisa starts a group to fight against the injustices of foreclosures. She pushes things a bit to far and ends up with a restraining order against her, barring her from going within one hundred feet of the bank that holds her mortgage.

Mitchell Bonderant is in charge of the mortgage department and deals with foreclosures on a daily basis. He certainly has his hands full, with thousands of people defaulting on their mortgages and facing the loss of their homes. But he also has his own demons to face, holes he has dug for himself that he needs to get out of quickly. Lisa Trammel is not the only one who has issue with Mitchell.

Then Mitchell is found dead in the parking garage of the bank, his head bashed in, and his briefcase open. Is this a random robbery/murder or has Mitchell crossed the wrong person? When eye-witness reports put Lisa within a block of the bank, she is soon arrested for his murder. She vehemently denies her innocence. However, there is some definitive evidence of her guilt and some circumstantial. The question is how reliable is any of it?  Now Mickey goes from foreclosure lawyer to defense lawyer, returning him to the place he loves almost as much as the backseat of his Lincoln – the courtroom.

Mickey quickly puts his team to work: Cisco, the hard-hitting, investigator, Lorna, an ex and extremely efficient secretary, and Bullocks, his fresh-out-of-law-school associate. Together they work to wade through all of the evidence in an all-out effort to clear their client. It’s not an easy battle though. Mickey is up again a tough-as-nails prosecutor, an annoying, “manager-type” that seems to weasel his way into Lisa’s life and the case, and an every-growing mountain of evidence against his client. And there is nothing that will stand in his way from providing his client with the best defense possible, not even the threats, or the beat-down he takes.

Step by step, Mickey and his team work through the evidence. Disputing virtually everything the prosecution brings to the table taking us all the way to the stunning, didn’t-see-that-coming conclusion. Michael Connelly deals with an issue that is on the forefront of everyone’s mine today – foreclosures. With the economy struggling, this is something that millions of people are dealing with. He does a great job of explaining things in such a simple manner, that even those not completely familiar with how the process works will be able to understand. It’s great to see the struggles that Mickey continues to have in his relationships with his exes, the growth that Bullock shows as the new associate, and to have Mickey return to the back seat of his Lincoln. The Fifth Witness has more twists and turns than a Halloween maze. Michael Connellly will take you for a ride you will never forget.

 Other books in the Mickey Haller series ~

 The Lincoln LawyerThe Brass Verdict: A Novel (Harry Bosch)The Reversal 

 The Reversal (Mickey Haller & Harry Bosch)

About the author ~ 
     Michael Connelly decided to become a writer after discovering the books of Raymond Chandler while attending the University of Florida. Once he decided on this direction he chose a major in journalism and a minor in creative writing — a curriculum in which one of his teachers was novelist Harry Crews.
     After graduating in 1980, Connelly worked at newspapers in Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, primarily specializing in the crime beat.  In Fort Lauderdale he wrote about police and crime during the height of the murder and violence wave that rolled over South Florida during the so-called cocaine wars. In 1986, he and two other reporters spent several months interviewing survivors of a major airline crash. They wrote a magazine story on the crash and the survivors which was later short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. The magazine story also moved Connelly into the upper levels of journalism, landing him a job as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, one of the largest papers in the country, and bringing him to the city of which his literary hero, Chandler,
had written.
     After three years on the crime beat in L.A., Connelly began writing his first novel to feature LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch. The novel, The Black Echo, based in part on a true crime that had occurred in Los Angeles, was published in 1992 and won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America. Connelly followed up with three more Bosch books, The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde, and The Last Coyote, before publishing The Poet in 1996—a thriller with a newspaper reporter as a protagonist. In 1997, he went back to Bosch with Trunk Music, and in 1998 another non-series thriller, Blood Work, was published. It was inspired in part by a friend's receiving a heart transplant and the attendant "survivor's guilt" the friend experienced, knowing that someone died in order that he have the chance to live. Connelly had been interested and fascinated by those same feelings as expressed by the survivors of the plane crash he wrote about years before. The movie adaptation of Blood Work was released in 2002, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.
     Connelly's next book, Angels Flight, was released in 1999 and was another entry in the Harry Bosch series. The non-series novel Void Moon was released in 2000 and introduced a new character, Cassie Black, a high-stakes Las Vegas thief. His 2001 release, A Darkness More Than Night, united Harry Bosch with Terry McCaleb from Blood Work, and was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Los Angeles Times.
     In 2002, Connelly released two novels. The first, the Harry Bosch book City Of Bones, was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. The second release was a stand-alone thriller, Chasing The Dime, which was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Los Angeles Times.
     Lost Light was published in 2003 and named one of the Best Books of 2003 by the Los Angeles Times. It is another in the Harry Bosch series but the first written in first person. To celebrate its release, Michael produced the limited edition jazz CD, Dark Sacred Night, The Music Of Harry Bosch. This CD is a compilation of the jazz music mentioned in the Bosch novels and was given away to his readers on Michael's 2003 book tour.
     Connelly's 2004 novel, The Narrows, is the sequel to The Poet. It was named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Los Angeles Times. To accompany this Harry Bosch novel, Little, Brown and Company Publishers released a limited edition DVD, Blue Neon Night: Michael Connelly's Los Angeles. In this film, Michael Connelly provides an insider's tour of the places that give his stories and characters their spark and texture.
      His 11th Harry Bosch novel, The Closers, was published in May 2005, and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The Lincoln Lawyer, Connelly's first-ever legal thriller and his 16th novel, was published in October 2005 and also debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. This book introduced Mickey Haller, a Los Angeles defense attorney who works out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car. The movie adaptation, starring Matthew McConaughey as Haller, was released in 2011. This is the second film adapted from a Connelly novel.
     Crime Beat, a non-fiction collection of crime stories from Michael's days as a journalist, was released in 2006, as was the Harry Bosch novel, Echo Park, released in October 2006. The Overlook, Michael's 18th novel, was originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine. This Harry Bosch story was published as a book with additional material in May 2007.
     Michael's 19th novel, The Brass Verdict, was released in October 2008, and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It introduces Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller to LAPD Detective Harry Bosch in a fast-paced legal thriller. Michael's 20th novel, The Scarecrow, was first released in May 2009, and reunites reporter Jack McEvoy and FBI Agent Rachel Walling for the first time since The Poet. It too debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Michael released a second book in 2009, the 15th Harry Bosch novel, Nine Dragons. In this story, Bosch goes to Hong Kong to find his missing daughter. It is the most personal Bosch story since The Last Coyote.
     In October 2010, The Reversal was released and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. This book has Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch working together on the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. The Fifth Witness, a Mickey Haller novel, was released in April 2011.
     Connelly's books have been translated in 36 languages and have won the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, Macavity Award, Los Angeles Times Best Mystery/Thriller Award, Shamus Award, Dilys Award, Nero Award, Barry Award, Audie Award, Ridley Award, Maltese Falcon Award (Japan), .38 Caliber Award (France), Grand Prix Award  (France), Premio Bancarella Award (Italy), and the Pepe Carvalho award (Spain) .
     Michael was the President of the Mystery Writers of America organization in 2003 and 2004. In addition to his literary work, Michael was one of the creators, writers, and consulting producers of Level 9, a TV show about a task force fighting cyber crime, that ran on UPN in the Fall of 2000.
     Michael lives with his family in Florida.

FTC Full Disclosure ~ The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in the hopes I would review it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guest Post/Virtual Tour ~ Gwyneth Greer - The Showboat Affair


In the last few years, I’ve been discovering that the hats I’ve worn in past years—teacher, genealogist, historian—are morphing into yet another hat—writer. I grew up (quite literally) at my grandfather’s knee. Born in 1873, he had lived much of the history I studied from books. He spun tales of family while I scribbled names, dates, and all the pertinent details he could remember. Over the years, those hasty notes evolved into multiple folders of information, a virtual library of ideas for characters and plots.

I often joke that I raised my boys in courthouses and cemeteries. They shared my passion for finding our past in those places.

I still find cemeteries to be places of incredible though poignant peace. When I wander among tombstones, looking for those pertinent to my family lines, my mind is filled with questions about the choices of epitaphs and marker styles and the souls who rest under green grass or barren soil. Sadder, of course, are the neglected plots in public ground, more commonly known as Potters Field. What circumstances brought them there? Poverty? Lack of family? Something beyond imagination? I never fail to come away with at least one story idea.

Recently I visited an historic cemetery in Arkansas where over 200 Confederate graves markers—most of them reading simply ‘Unknown’ stand at attention, silent sentinels of ground fought for and lost. As I stood there on the quiet, grassy slope, I felt I was listening for 200 separate stories begging to be told—fathers and sons, brothers, cousins, friends and neighbors. But they are The Unknown, and their stories will never be told.
On the same trip, I walked through a pioneer cemetery established by the early residents of an area that later served as the Confederate capital of the state until Union forces moved in. Most of the stones are blackened with age, but the ones that are not shout triumphantly of long life—or weep for life ended too soon. Stories, not just names.

This week I was privileged to attend an archaeologist’s presentation of work being done on two very old cemeteries discovered within the boundaries of Hot Springs National Park. A few legible markers helped date the burial grounds. Only fieldstones marked many other nameless souls. Who were they, and what are their stories?

Wait, you say, we are writers, not genealogists nor historians nor archaeologists. This is a morbid topic, even disrespectful of those who have gone before. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In acknowledging death, we are honoring LIFE with remembrance...and for those who lie unremembered, with compassion. And, as writers, we consider their untold stories and somehow make them ours to tell…and they live on.


In 1916, American poet, biographer, and dramatist Edgar Lee Masters published Spoon River Anthology (Signet Classics), a book of poetry ‘spoken’ by the inhabitants of the Spoon River Cemetery. 

Journalist and World War II correspondent Quentin Reynolds wrote Known but to God. The Unknown Soldier in 1960, creating hypothetical characters for those who would forever remain unknown.

About the author ~ 

Judy Nickles has written since she could hold a pencil. After retirement from teaching, she finally had time to pursue publication. In addition to short stories published online at A Long Story Short and Literary Magic, she has been published in two print anthologies, 'Tis the Season and My First Year in the Classroom, as well as The Storyteller and History Magazine. Two full-length novels, Where is Papa's Shining Star? and its sequel, Finding Papa's Shining Star were released in April by The Wild Rose Press. The Showboat Affair, under the pen name of Gwyneth Greer, will release in 2011.
Besides writing, Judy enjoys genealogical research, reading, travel, and meeting new people. She has two grown sons and two granddaughters.

Visit her website 
Visit her blog 
Friend her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter

Her latest book ~

The Showboat Affair

After thirty years of marriage, Jean Kingston is freshly divorced and rediscovering the joys of being an independent woman as well a talent for interior design. Having a new man in her life is not part of the plan. Nick Cameron, prominent attorney and long-time widower, would like to change Jean's mind and include him in her plans. Their adult children don't approve of either plan, and are determined to keep Jean and Nick apart. Does their opposition include staging personal attacks against them? Could they really be desperate enough to stalk the couple on a weekend getaway? Or is there a deeper evil at work? 

Read an excerpt ~ 
  Nick pulled her closer. “Jeannie, I’m so sorry.”
     “I hated Rand for what he did. For a long time, I wished he’d died instead of my baby.”
     “Shhh, shhh…it’s all right.”
     “I knew what a heartless, selfish bastard he was, and still I stayed with him…let him back into my bed… and I don’t know why. I feel so dirty.”
     “You’re not. You’re not dirty, Jeannie.”
     “You loved Sarah. You were faithful to her. It isn’t fair she died, and I can’t be what she was. You can’t keep on with me and lose your son.”
     “I love you for yourself,” he said, realizing, for now at least, she was past reassurance.
     The red numbers on the clock radio read a quarter to three before Jean cried herself to sleep in his arms. A lifetime of tears, Nick thought. She’s shed a lifetime of tears tonight. He closed his eyes. She’s got to know I understand that kind of loss, and somehow we’ve got to get past it, both of us, and go on. He laid her back on her own pillow and pulled the cover over her shoulders. Someone wants to keep us both imprisoned in our pasts. If we don’t find out who, we’ll never have a future.

Watch the trailer ~ 

Her other books ~

Finding Papa's Shining StarWhere Is Papa's Shining Star?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Spotlight & Giveaway ~ The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May AlcottThe Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Author ~ Kelly O'Connor McNees
Publisher ~ Penguin

Millions of readers across generations have laughed and cried with the March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women. And there has never been a more beloved heroine in the history of American letters than Jo March, Louisa’s alter ego and an iconic figure of independent spirit and big dreams. But as Louisa knew all too well, big dreams often come at a cost.

In her debut novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, Kelly O’Connor McNees deftly mixes fact and fiction as she imagines a summer lost to history, carefully purged from Louisa’s letters and journals, a summer that would change the course of Louisa’s writing career—and inspire the story of love and heartbreak between Jo and Teddy “Laurie” Laurence, Jo’s devoted neighbor and kindred spirit.

In the summer of 1855, Walt Whitman’s controversial Leaves of Grass has just been released, and the notion of making a living as a writer is still a far-off dream for Louisa. She is twenty-two years old, vivacious, and bursting with a desire to be free of her family and societal constraints so she can do what she loves the most—write. The Alcott family, destitute, as usual, moves to a generous uncle’s empty house in Walpole, New Hampshire, for the summer. Here, a striking but pensive Louisa meets the fictional Joseph Singer. Louisa is initially unimpressed by Joseph’s charms. But just as Louisa begins to open her heart, she learns that Joseph may not be free to give his away. Their newfound love carries a steep price, and Louisa fears she may pay with the independence she has fought so hard to protect.

About the author ~ 
Kelly O’Connor McNees is a former editorial assistant and English teacher. Born and raised in Michigan, she has lived in New York, Rhode Island, and Ontario and now resides with her husband in Chicago. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is her first novel.

Visit Kelly's website
Visit her blog
Follow Kelly on Twitter
Email her ~  thelostsummeroflma[at]gmail[dot]com

Thanks to the publishers, I have two (2) copies of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott to give away.

GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:

* This contest is open to US residents only
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* One entry per person. Duplicate entries will be deleted.
* The contest will end on May 10th at 11:59PM EST; 2 winners will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your sspam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from the publisher.


Ricki M-C
Susan S
Catherine L
Mildred B


All of the winners have been notified. They have 48 hrs to respond or another winner will be chosen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guest post & Giveaway ~ Wendy Wax - Ten Beach Road


Fiction is packed with Facts

One of the greatest things about writing a novel is all of the really cool things you get to learn. As a former journalist, I spend a lot of time and energy trying to be sure that everything I ascribe to a character or build into the plot is at the very least possible. It may be fiction, but unless you’re writing pure fantasy that doesn’t mean you get to make everything up. In fact, I think good fiction is packed with facts.

In the course of the nine novels I’ve written, I’ve searched out a pretty eclectic mix of information. The bra industry, cross dressing, financial fraud, beauty pageants and forensics (not necessarily in that order) were all need-to-know topics for an early comedy titled, Leave It to Cleavage. There was talk radio for 7 Days and 7 Nights and advertising and heart attack for Hostile Makeover. The publishing industry, at least those parts that take place inside the publishing house where authors seldom tread, televangelism, speed cooking, the Oprah Winfrey Show, New York City and Chicago neighborhoods and restaurants, helped me flesh out The Accidental Bestseller. For Magnolia Wednesdays, which was just rereleased in mass market paperback, I took ballroom dancing classes and had to track down the sometimes grim realities of being a war correspondent and an investigative journalist.

Ten Beach Road, my newest novel, is a story about three women-- strangers to each other-- who lose everything to a Ponzi scheme and then spend a sweat soaked summer trying to bring the derelict beachfront mansion, which is all they have left, back to life. Like all of my books, Ten Beach Road deals with inner strength, self discovery and getting by with a little help from your friends.

But as I plotted the story and figured out the financial side (I have a husband in finance on retainer for that) I knew there’d be an FBI agent involved. The only problem was I had no idea what his background might be or what he could and couldn’t do in the course of his investigation. A friend of a friend got me to the FBI, but finding the right agent to speak to proved a trifle unnerving. Especially when they requested all my personal information, at which point I was torn between wanting to disappear (if, in fact, one can do this with the FBI watching) and saying, ‘You’re the FBI—shouldn’t you already know this?”

Ten Beach Road also required knowledge of professional matchmaking, filmmaking, historic preservation, interior design, architecture and construction/renovation. (This last was especially challenging for someone who belongs to a family that can’t use tools without requiring medical attention and ultimately led to a somewhat unhealthy addiction to HGTV.)

Bottom line, each book and cast of characters present unique situations and challenges. A scene might take a turn and suddenly demand information or background you didn’t realize you’d need to know. I’ve learned the hard way to research those things on the spot or risk the entire story grinding to a halt. Because if I don’t understand how something works, neither can my character. And, ultimately, neither will the reader.

About Wendy ~ 

I was born in St. Petersburg, Florida and grew up on St. Pete Beach within spitting distance of the Gulf of Mexico. I went, appropriately enough, to Sunshine Elementary School where recess and art class sometimes took place on the beach, and the highlight of every school year was the annual fish broil.

It’s hard to be a type-A personality when you grow up in such a laid back environment, but I managed. Convinced that you were expected to know how to read BEFORE you showed up for school, I forced a neighbor friend to teach me to read at the age of five. I’ve been reading ever since.

Books, in all forms, are one of my greatest pleasures and best forms of escape. And they’ve had a major impact on my life.

I went to the University of Georgia after reading Gone with the Wind one too many times. For a while I re-read Margaret Mitchell’s classic yearly, saw the movie whenever it played within twenty miles, and could quote large passages from memory. Today I have a growing GWTW collection, and speaking at the Margaret Mitchell House to launch THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER was an incredible thrill.

After college I worked in radio, television, and film. Like Olivia in 7 DAYS AND SEVEN NIGHTS, I’ve done live talk radio. I hosted a show in the eighties called Desperate & Dateless, and while I was never locked in an apartment for a week with a webcam rolling like she was, I did fall in love. Happily, the man who swept me off my feet consults with financial types and understands the bottom line. Unlike Olivia’s nemesis, Matt Ransom, my husband has never, to my knowledge, advised anyone to ‘love the one they’re with.’ We live in Atlanta with our two sons.


I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at wendy AT authorwendywax DOT com. It's always great to hear from readers.

Find Wendy on the web

Her latest book ~ 

Ten Beach Road

Madeline, Avery, and Nikki are strangers to each other, but they have one thing in common. They each wake up one morning to discover their life savings have vanished, along with their trusted financial manager- leaving them with nothing but co-ownership of a ramshackle beachfront house.

Throwing their lots in together, they take on the challenge of restoring the historic property. But just as they begin to reinvent themselves and discover the power of friendship, secrets threaten to tear down their trust-and destroy their lives a second time. 

 Release date ~ May 3rd.

Click HERE to read an excerpt

Other books by Wendy ~ 

Thanks to the publicist, I have one (1) copy of Ten Beach Road to give away.

GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:

* This contest is open to residents of USA only. No PO Boxes
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* One entry per person. Duplicate entries will be deleted.
* The contest will end on May 8th at 11:59PM EST; 1 winner will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your spam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from the publicist.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Q&A and Giveaway ~ Amanda Hodgkinson - 22 Britannia Road


Q. What drew you to this particular story of Polish World War II survivors living in England?

A. As a child, I was always fascinated when the adults around me talked about World War II. These were older family members who had lived through it and I would try to stay quiet so I could listen without being discovered. Their voices changed to lower registers, there were weighted silences in the conversations, sad looks, secretive whispering and then somebody would notice me and send me out to play, their voice swinging up a register to convey a gaiety they probably didn’t feel. I would go to bed at night, sick at heart thinking about these stories, and wonder how the world ever managed to get back to the normal after that war.

Looking back, I think I never stopped wondering. Years later, I was standing in my kitchen and heard a Russian woman on the radio, describing her experiences of being a child during the war. “We were so hungry,” she said, “we ate the bark of the silver birch trees.” An image came to me, so clear and strong, it was more like a memory than an act of my imagination. I wrote down what I saw; a young woman in a silver birch forest. I had begun to write my novel.

Q. From Silvana’s exile in the forest to the petrol rations in post-war Ipswich, you paint a vivid picture of the novel’s historical settings and events. What sort of research did you do to get the details right?

A. I balanced my own imaginative input with research. I read social history books on the war and the postwar period, including a lot of oral histories on Polish immigrant experiences. I also read wonderful Polish poets like Zbigniew Herbert and Tadeusz Różewicz, among others. I studied Polish fairytales and classic Polish literature from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I discovered tango music had been very popular in Poland during the thirties, so I listened to some fabulous clips on YouTube and imagined myself there, in the 1930s, dancing at a club in Warsaw, just like Hanka, one of the characters in the book tells Silvana about. I immersed myself in books, music and literature and then I put aside all research and let my imagination go to work. Whenever I was unsure about a scene, I turned to my own thoughts and feelings, relying on my ability to imagine a moment and on my empathy for the characters, rather than history books, and I think this approach helped me really understand my characters and the time.

Q. What does the title, the address of the home Janusz chooses for his reunited family, represent to you symbolically? Why that particular address?

A. I wanted a very ordinary address. A typical English home. You can find a Britannia Road in most English towns and there is no mistaking the pronounced sense of place in this address. Janusz wants what the address offers. A new life and a new country. Ironically, this address, with its connotations of national identity and pride, also serves to highlight the sense of displacement Janusz, Silvana and Aurek, as an immigrant family, must have felt in a small town in Britain. Another reason I used an address was to show how important home was to the characters. For me, the novel is about finding a home, physically, psychologically and metaphorically. Home is a small word that holds within itself complex meanings. Change one letter and you have the word hope. And Janusz, Silvana and Aurek hope to make a home together.

Q. A powerful theme in this book is the pain of survival—even Janusz, who had a relatively easy escape from Poland, suffers from having outlived Hélène and other loved ones. What personal discoveries did you make about this theme while writing the book?

A. Writing the book and researching it made me very aware of how people are still suffering under wars. The mass movement of displaced people around the world continues and the number of children who are orphaned and families disrupted and broken by war does not diminish.

Q. You do an exceptional job capturing the psyche of young Aurek, who has clearly been traumatized by his experiences. Did you draw from case studies of children with similar experiences, or did you find your way to this character instinctually?

A. I wrote Aurek very instinctively. I felt I knew the boy from the moment I first wrote a small, tentative description of him, crouching in the back garden at 22 Britannia Road.
I read Through The Eyes of the Innocents: Children Witness World War II by Emmy E Werner, which conveys the heartbreaking experiences of children, and that fed my own understanding of what Aurek might have been through but really, when I was writing Aurek, I found I could connect with him best on an emotional level. So I wrote what he felt. I tried to go beyond language with him and bring out his primitive sense of survival, his desire to feel loved and his need to love others.

About the author ~ 

Amanda Hodgkinson is a British writer and journalist who grew up in a small Essex fishing village before moving to Suffolk, and attending the University of East Anglia. She now lives and works in south west France with her husband Guy and their two daughters. 22 Britannia Road is Amanda Hodgkinson’s debut novel and has already been picked by Waterstones as “one of the best first novels of 2011.”

Find Amanda on the web

The Book ~

22 Britannia Road: A Novel

A heartbreaking novel about wartime secrets every bit as powerful as the worldwide bestseller, Sophie’s Choice. At the end of the Second World War, Silvana and eight-year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England. After living wild in the forests for years, carrying a terrible secret, all Silvana knows is that she and Aurek are survivors. Everything else is lost. Waiting in Ipswich is Silvana’s husband Janusz, who has not seen his wife and son for six years. He has found his family a house and works hard planting a proper English garden to welcome them. But the six years apart have changed them all. To make a real home, Silvana and Janusz will have to come to terms with what happened during the war, accept that each is different and allow their beloved but wild son Aurek to be who he truly is.

Click HERE to read an excerpt

Thanks to the publishers, I have two (2) copies of this book to give away.

GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:

* This contest is open to everyone.
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* One entry per person. Duplicate entries will be deleted.
* The contest will end on May 7th at 11:59PM EST; 2 winners will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your spam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from the publisher.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Post & Giveaway ~ Andrea Penrose - Sweet Revenge


My new historical mystery series, which kicks off this month with the debut of SWEET REVENGE, is all about intrigue, revenge, murder . . . and chocolate! Now a number of people have asked me—did edible chocoltae exist in Regency England (ws jane Austen eating bobons?) Well, the anser may surprise you—it’s yes!

Several years ago, for my “real” job, I interviewed the head of a gourmet French chocolate company, which was founded by Marie Antoinette’s personal physician, and was fascinated to discover some amazing tidbits about the Regency and chocolate. So, when I started to create my heroine, Lady Arianna Hadley, her Caribbean background suddenly made an expertise in chocolate a perfect ingredient to her character.

Researching chocolate provided a number of delicious little discoveries. (A tough job, but someone has to do it!) Marie Antoinette complained about the unpleasant taste of her medicines, so her physician, a man named Sulpice Debauve, came up with the idea mixing it into a solid form of chocolate—a pistole or wafer-like disc that the Queen is said to have adored. (The company, Debauve & Gallet, still offers Pistoles De Marie Antoinette . . . a 1.7 lb box costs the princely sum of $200. Her favorite flavor was said to be almond milk.)

Debauve survived the revolution and in 1800, he opened his first chocolate shop on the left bank of Paris. By 1804, he had more than 60 shops throughout France. The company claims that legendary chef Antoine Carême and Debauve occasionally worked together, and that the idea for croquamandes—caramelised almonds coated with dark chocolate—resulted from a discussion between the Napoleon and Carême about creating a special treat to celebrate the Battle of Friedland

What to know more about the history and lore of chocolate? Each chapter of SWEET REVENGE opens with a tidbit of history and a chocolate recipe, so I hope you will enjoy it!

So, what’s your favorite type of chocolate?

About the author ~

I began my writing career at age five, creating a number of Westerns lavishly illustrated with crayon drawings of horses and cowboys. However, I have since moved on to Regency England, an era that has fascinated me ever since I picked up a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice.
Books have always been an important part of my life. I have always been a voracious reader, and I have always had a very vivid imagination . . . so much so that I think at times it worried my parents that I was so happy in my own little world, drawing pictures and creating stories. My teachers will also tell you that I was the class history geek, even in grade school. I don’t really know why, but I have always been fascinated with the past. 

As an undergrad at Yale, I majored in art—though I took enough history courses to have majored in that subject as well—and went on to get a MFA in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art, concentrating in publication design. So I guess you could say I have always had a left brain-right brain sort of love affair with the printed page. 

So why did I choose the Regency time period for my mysteries? I love the era because it was such a fabulously interesting time and place—it was a world aswirl in silks, seduction and the intrigue of the Napoleonic Wars. Radical new ideas were clashing with the conventional thinking of the past, and as a result, people were challenging and changing the fundamentals of their society. For example, you had Beethoven composing emotional symphonies, Byron composing wildly romantic poetry about individual angst, J.M.W. Turner dabbling in impressionistic watercolors and Mary Wollstonecraft writing the first feminist manifestos . . . 

In so many ways, it was the birth of the modern world, and for me, its challenges, its characters and its conflicts have such relevance to our own times . . . and hey, who can resist men in breeches and boots!

In Lady Arianna Hadley and Allesandro de Quincy, the Earl of Saybrook, I've sought to create two individuals who embody the the intellectual curiosity—and courage—of the times. They'll be setting off on some devilishly daunting adventures. So lace up your corsets, tweak the tails of your cravat and let's enter a world of glittering ballrooms and deadly intrigues . . .

I hope you enjoy my books!

Visit Andrea's website
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Email Andrea ~ andrea AT andreapenrose DOT com

Her debut book ~ 

Sweet Revenge: A Lady Arianna Regency Mystery (Lady Arianna Hadley Mystery)

Deception with a dash of murder is a recipe for disaster

England, 1813: Lady Arianna Hadley’s desire to discover her disgraced father’s murderer has brought her back to London from exile in the Caribbean. Masquerading as a male chef, she is working in one of London’s aristocratic households in order to get close to her main suspect. But when the Prince Regent is taken ill after consuming Arianna’s special chocolate dessert, she unexpectedly finds herself at the center of a dangerous scandal.

Because of his expertise in chocolate, the eccentric Earl of Saybrook, a former military intelligence officer, is asked by the top brass at Horse Guards to investigate the suspected poisoning. But during his first interrogation of Arianna, someone tries to assassinate both of them, and it quickly becomes clear that something very sinister is afoot within the highest circles of government. They each have very different reasons for wanting to uncover the truth, yet to have any chance of doing so they must become allies.

Trust. Treachery. Arianna must assume yet another identity as their search takes them from the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair to the slums of St. Giles. And their reluctant alliance is tested in more ways that one as it becomes clear that someone is looking to plunge England into chaos . . .

Click HERE to read an excerpt 

Coming December 2011

Thanks to the publishers, I have two (2) copies of Sweet Revenge: A Lady Arianna Regency Mystery (Lady Arianna Hadley Mystery) to give away.

GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:

* This contest is open to residents of USA only.
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* One entry per person. Duplicate entries will be deleted.
* The contest will end on May 6th at 11:59PM EST; 2 winners will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your spam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from the publisher