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June 2009 -- "Have you not considered the distinct possibility that the accused were simply guilty
of witchcraft?"


Connie Godwin thinks her academic advisor is teasing her: she has mastered the scholarship surrounding the Salem witch trials of 1692 and knows the question he poses is preposterous. She never suspects that answering it will alter everything she knows about the past, her family, and the professor himself. Interweaving two narratives, one set in 1991 and one set three centuries earlier, Katherine Howe's debut novel is a marvel of invention

and historical reconstruction. The author employs her training as an historian to vividly depict the realities of 17th-century Salem, dramatizing the plight of the unfortunate victims as they fall prey to the mania of their accusers. But it is the leap of imagination by which she connects Connie to that distant past that turns The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane into a bewitching reading
experience.


Sent by her mother to prepare her long-deceased grandmother's home for sale, Connie finds a decrepit dwelling filled with venerable oddities, including a collection of ancient bottles filled with peculiar liquids and powders. On her first night there, Connie chances on a crumbling bit of paper, bearing the words "Deliverance Dane," that has been carefully hidden inside a key tucked between the pages of a 300-year-old family Bible. Combing the local church registry for traces of this mysterious name, Connie strikes up an acquaintance with Sam, a steeplejack engaged in the church's preservation. Together they piece together Deliverance's tragic story and learn of her precious book of spells and recipes for healing potions. When a series of sinister events threaten Sam's life, Connie's search for the book is transformed from scholarly pursuit to a matter of life and death-and love. 
With breathless suspense and emotional sympathy, Katherine Howe guides readers between past and present as she reveals the discoveries of Connie Goodwin and the secrets of Deliverance Dane, condemned as a witch in the Salem hysteria. Told with conviction and thrillingly paced, this extraordinary first novel proves Howe's command of what may be the greatest sorcery of all: that of the consummate storyteller.

 


Message Edited by Jon_B on 08-24-2009 08:10 AM
April 2009 -- On a cold, snowy evening, a young woman lingers in front of a house pondering a sign that reads, "Prayers for Sale." Inside, an elderly widow, Hennie Comfort, watches and wonders before stepping outside to greet her reluctant visitor. So begins this engrossing tale of a wise older woman with a lifetime of stories to tell, and a 17-year-old with prayers that need answers. Set in 1930s Colorado, it's a novel in which the drama, humor, and passions of one very full life are stitched, with love and understanding, into the fabric of another.

 

Eighty-six-year-old Hennie has lived in Middle Swan, a gold-mining town in the Rockies, since before Colorado was a state. Nit has recently arrived in town with her husband and her grief, reminding Hennie of her own youthful hopes and sorrows. Finding common ground in their Southern heritage and a love of quilting, an unlikely friendship blossoms as Hennie captivates Nit with vivid memories that reach back to the mid-1800s.

 

"There's something about stitching together," Hennie confides, "that draws a woman out."

 

As they sew, Hennie recounts her childhood in Tennessee and her tragic marriage to her sweetheart Billy, soon to be lost to the Civil War. She relives the death of their only child and her journey, by wagon train, across the country to start life anew with a man she'd never met. She recalls the unexpected blessing she discovered upon her arrival in Middle Swan and describes the lively cast of gamblers and moonshiners, quilters and "soiled doves" she has come to know. Summoning the feelings, dreams, and satisfactions of Hennie's years of experience as a woman, mother, and wife, these stirring yarns serve as a healing balm for the lonely, anxious Nit-and help her piece together a new beginning for her own family.

 

Just as Hennie's tales weave a many-hued cloak of mountain wisdom for the benefit of her young friend, so Sandra Dallas creates for us-through a deft blend of historical detail, authentic voices, quilting lore, and, last but not least, emotional truths-a vibrant quilt of heartbreaking incident and heartwarming compassion.

 

  • Our downloadable reader's guide (pdf)
  • Watch our exclusive interview with Sandra Dallas on B&N Tagged!
  • Discussion questions for your reading group


  • Message Edited by PaulH on 04-27-2009 04:10 PM
    Message Edited by PaulH on 06-08-2009 10:48 AM
    September 2006 -- Diane Setterfield's remarkable first novel begins like a reader’s dream: a bookseller’s daughter returns to the shop one night to discover a letter from England’s best-loved writer, a woman whose life is shrouded in rumor and legend. Reading the strange missive from the famous Vida Winter, Margaret Lea is puzzled by its invitation to discover the truth about the author’s mystifying past. Later that evening, unable to sleep, Margaret returns to the shop from her bedroom upstairs in search of something to read. Passing over her old favorites— Woman in White, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre  —she can’t resist the temptation of the rarest of her correspondent’s books, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, the recalled first edition of a book that contained only twelve stories. Falling under Vida Winter’s spell for the first time, Margaret reads it straight through. Not long afterward she is standing in the opulent library of Miss Winter’s Yorkshire home, transported by the romance of books into a mysterious tale of her own.

    Only five short chapters into Setterfield’s deft, enthralling narrative, her readers too have been transported: they’ve inhaled the dusty scent of Lea’s Antiquarian Bookshop, shared the sense of adventurous comfort Margaret absorbs from her late-night reading, and been seduced by the glamorous enigma of Vida Winter. Yet The Thirteenth Tale  has just begun. Commissioned by Miss Winter to compose her unvarnished biography, Margaret is soon swept up in the tragic history she must unravel—a story stranger and more haunting than any the celebrated author has ever penned, encompassing a grand house, a beautiful yet doomed family, passion, madness, ghosts, and a secret that holds readers spellbound until the very end. Richly atmospheric and deeply satisfying, Setterfield’s debut revives in all their glory the traditions of gothic and romantic suspense exemplified by the works of Wilkie Collins, the Brontës, and Daphne du Maurier. Old-fashioned in the best sense, it’s an urgently readable novel that’s nearly impossible to put down.

    Message Edited by PaulH on 04-07-2009 02:03 PM

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    Status: Bookseller Picks

    I've never read a book that moved me the way The Book Thief did.  Narrated by Death, it tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who spends her childhood living with a foster family in Germany during World War II.  Naturally, a book with that setting has its fair share of tragedy, and though this one does have one of the saddest endings I've ever seen, at the same time, it is also one of the most uplifting books I've ever read.  The characters are what makes this book so special; each one has traits that are likeable and detestable.  They are among the most human characters that I've ever seen, and I came to care about what happened to each and every one of them.  By the time I reached the climax of the book, I was so emotionally invested in the characters, that I couldn't keep from crying, and yet I still can't think of a book that I've read recently that I enjoyed more than this one.

     

    This is a wonderful book.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

    August 2007 -- In her first novel, Sarah Addison Allen has written a tender, bewitching book told with captivating invention, peopled with characters to care about, and filled with the irresistible magic of dreams come true.

    The women of the Waverley family—whether they like it or not—are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

    For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business—and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life—upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells  reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

    As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

    Message Edited by PaulH on 04-07-2009 02:45 PM

     

    Being an ardent Jane Austen enthusiast, I was nonplussed when the news hit the Internet about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, combining Jane Austen's classic novel with bone-crunching zombie mayhem! What? Did two genre's ever seem more incompatible? Even though it did not appeal to my genteel sensibilities, I was intrigued and thought it worth a look. The co-author Seth Grahame-Smith had taken about 85% of Austen's original text and interwoven a zombie subplot. I have to admit that the first line had me smiling. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." What follows is quite a surprise. He has changed feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy into ninja warriors, ready to spar in the ball room as well as the battlefield against the sorry stricken who they delicately call unmentionables. It appears that anyone who is not a ninja warrior is a target for zombie destruction, so if there is a character from the original plot ripe for reproach, then it is sure to happen. Brains and gore abound, so the delicately minded take heed. If you enjoy a good ribald parody, the play between the original text and the new storyline is hysterical. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is sure to please those who live  to make sport for their neighbors, and laugh at them in their turn! Read my complete review at my literary blog Austenprose.

     

    Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose

    The Flynn City Egg Man  It's Easter 1969, and no one is more excited than Cyrus Flannery, the eccentric peddler known as, The Flynn City Egg Man. He's packed up the old panel truck with Easter goodies, and if everyone forgives him for his past business dealings, he just might make the rent this year. It all looks good until...Sandy True, the head cheerleading diva, and maximus drama queen of Flynn City High decides to plot a kidnapping. Her own kidnapping It may allow her time to get to Hollywood, and seek her dream of becoming an actress.

     

    The last person she was seen with happens to be The Flynn City Egg Man, and Sandy's boyfriend, Tyler Armstrong has plans of the peddler. If the cops can't help, Armstrong will take matters into his own hands. After all, it was blood he saw in the Egg Man's kitchen.

     

    Cuffy Landers, a seventeen-year-old reluctant hero enters the fray, and soon befriends the Egg Man. The two are pitted against a suspicious town, and a boyfriend who is hell-bent on revenge.

     

    Recommended for adult, teen, and young adult reading with humor, suspense, and inspiration.

    April 2008 -- A gripping novel about one man's dogged pursuit of a serial killer against the opposition of Stalinist state security forces, Child 44  is at once suspenseful and provocative. Tom Rob Smith's remarkable debut thriller powerfully dramatizes the human cost of loyalty, integrity, and love in the face of totalitarian terror.

    A decorated war hero driven by dedication to his country and faith in the superiority of Communist ideals, Leo Demidov has built a successful career in the Soviet security network, suppressing ideological crimes and threats against the state with unquestioning efficiency. When a fellow officer's son is killed, Leo is ordered to stop the family from spreading the notion that their child was murdered. For in the official version of Stalin's worker's paradise, such a senseless crime is impossible — an affront to the Revolution. But Leo knows better: a murderer is at large, cruelly targeting children, and the collective power of the Soviet government is denying his existence.

    Leo's doubt sets in motion a chain of events that changes his understanding of everything he had previously believed. Smith's deftly crafted plot delivers twist after chilling twist, as it lays bare the deceit of the regime that enveloped an impoverished people in paranoia. In a shocking effort to test Leo's loyalty, his wife, Raisa, is accused of being a spy. Leo's refusal to denounce her costs him his rank, and the couple is banished from Moscow. Humiliated, renounced by his enemies, and deserted by everyone save Raisa, Leo realizes that his redemption rests on finding the vicious serial killer who is eviscerating innocent children and leaving them to die in the bleak Russian woods.

    The narrative unfolds at a breathless pace, exposing the culture of fear that turns friends into foes and forces families to hide devastating secrets. As Leo and Raisa close in on the serial killer, desperately trying to stay a step ahead of the government's relentless operatives, the reader races with them through a web of intrigue to the novel's heart-stopping conclusion.

    Message Edited by PaulH on 04-07-2009 02:37 PM

    If you liked The Time Traveler's Wife, try Kindred.

    Status: Bookseller Picks

    Right before I started reading The Time Traveler's Wife, I read Octavia Butler's Kindred.  It was a strange transition to make since they both deal with involuntary time travel, but it was easy to appreciate both books.  In Kindred, Dana, a modern, African-American woman is pulled back in time to a plantation in the early 1800s.  There, she saves the life of Rufus, a young, white, slave-holding boy, whom she later discovers is one of her ancestors.  Dana is then pulled back in time again and again in order to help save Rufus's life, their relationship growing both closer and more contentious as time goes on.

     

    Although I thoroughly enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife, I felt that Butler did a better job than Niffenegger at examining the potential ramifications of time travel.  For example, would you save a person if you knew that he was going to end up raping a woman, but if you also knew that that act would lead to your own birth?  Butler manages to deal expertly with that issue and others, such as slavery.  This was one of the most thought-provoking novels I've ever read.

     

    Octavia Butler was a terrific story-teller, and if you haven't read any of her books yet, this would be a good place to start.

     

    Artfully recreating 19th century supernatural suspense, The Seance  offers a near total immersion into a haunted Bloomsbury world.

     

    If my sister Alma had lived, I should never have begun the séances.” Constance Langton was only five when her life changed irrevocably. With the death of her younger sibling, the Langton household descended into a deep melancholy. To relieve her mother’s sorrow, Constance resorts to a common Victorian nostrum: spiritualism. That decision leads to more tragedy, plunging the young woman into a borderline world where apparitions, possession, and murder hover in the air. This evocative tale by the International Horror Guild Award-winning author of The Ghost Writer is a perfect fit for readers of G.R. James and Wilkie Collins.
    Message Edited by Kevin on 02-19-2009 10:13 PM

    I have this horrible tendency to read the first book in a series and then stop before the next one, not because I don't like it but because I find something else to read. It's the whole "attracted to shiny objects" characteristic translated to my book list. But after staring at The Luxe for weeks after it came out, mesmorized by that humongus gown on the front cover, I finally picked it up.

     

     I loved every moment of it. Right off the bat, we have scandal and intrigue: the mysterious death of a young Manhattan socialite. But the intrigue doesn't stop there. Godbersen does a great job of creating characters that practically live and breathe alongside us. It doesn't matter that the setting is so removed from us (1900s New York City) because the crises and interests of her heroines and heros are the same as today. We love, we lust, to want what we can't have, and we do whatever is necessary to get it.

     

     As a quick aside, I realized after finishing the first book in the series that it appeals to me because my favorite "classic" author is Edith Wharton. Wharton penned The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and, my personal all-time favorite, The House of Mirth. It's clear that Godbersen is influenced by and respects Wharton as well. The time period is similar, the society in which the characters live, and their class problems and struggles all originally stream from Wharton's pen.

     

    I hope that any teen who enjoys this series might look to Wharton for more.

    Time travel into wartime England - what a wild ride

    Status: Bookseller Picks

     

     

    Blackout  I have to spoil this from the beginning- there will be a sequel .  This is one of those unputdownable books that you stay up late to read and then think about calling in sick to work to finish!  For those who love The Time Machine, Time Traveler's Wife or the Outlander series then Connie Willis is for you.  Historians in 2060 are graduate students who learn by observing actual historical events firsthand- not from written accounts.  You pick your time slot, work out a good drop with your professor , head to wardrobe etc and are then plopped into another time.... World War II England.  This is life for a handful of historians until something goes amiss.  They drop into this period and try to blend in and above all else- DO NOT ALTER HISTORY.  I was in love until I got to the last page and found out I have to wait until September for the next book.

    Blackout could be the perfect choice for historical fiction, science fiction or Dan Brown lover.

    It would even be a great pick for teens!

    Categories: historical fiction

    "The beginning of the end of War lies in Remembrance"

    Status: Bookseller Picks

    I keep racking my brain, trying to figure what the best adjective would be for me to sum up this double recommendation. I keep coming back to two: personal and epic.

     

    The Winds of War (first published in 1971) and War and Remembrance (1978) represent a single, cohesive story that manages to capture the enormous sweep of World War II and the Holocaust, but tells it in a way readers can still feel connected to such a massive narrative. Through the fictional Henry and Jastrow famlies, readers are caught up in the currents and eddies of history and tossed around the globe, from London to Berlin to Moscow, from submarines and battleships to the most infamous of the Third Reich's extermination camps.

     

    There's something for everyone in this story; Herman Wouk manages to expertly blend romance and melodrama with scrupulously researched analyses of historical events and military tactics that would be at home in the military history section of your local B&N. He creates a dizzying cast of characters and gives them each their own unique voice. The story centers on two families: the Henrys, a Navy family led by stalwart everyman Victor (nicknamed "Pug"), and the Jastrows — Aaron, a Jewish-American expatriate living in Italy, and his niece Natalie. Pug (who longs for command of a battleship, but instead ends up hopping around Europe as FDR's unofficial eyes and ears) and his sons Byron (a perpetual student) and Warren (a Navy pilot) are pulled into the war. Meanwhile, the attempts of Aaron and Natalie (who falls in love with, and marries Byron) to flee Europe and the Nazis are blocked at every turn, and they eventually find themselves on a collision course with Hitler's Final Solution.

     

    While it's easy to get caught up in the family drama of Wouk's story, what impressed me most of all were his chapters of historical analysis. By and large these were presented as excerpts from the postwar writings of General Armin von Roon, a fictional German general. So not only is Wouk giving an incredibly well-researched analysis of German military strategy during the war, but he's doing it from the perspective of the other side!

     

    The masterful writing evident in the Roon chapters is perhaps only surpassed by the addition in War and Remembrance of selections from "A Jew's Journey," a diary Aaron Jastrow keeps as he and Natalie pinball around Europe evading the Nazis, before ending up in Theresienstadt, the so-called "Paradise Ghetto." The diaries chronicle not only his physical journey, but a spiritual one as well; Aaron's ordeal reawakens his faith, expressed in some of Wouk's most moving passages.

     

    These books certainly aren't for everyone; 1,900 pages is a lot of reading, and it took me the better part of a year to polish them off (I was reading other books simultaneously). It's well worth the effort. I came away from The Winds of War and War and Remembrance feeling not only emotionally moved, but also with a greater understanding of the Second World War and the Holocaust than before I started.

     

    (NOTE: It's also worth your while to check out the TV miniseries The Winds of War (1983) and War and Remembrance (1988), both of which originally aired on ABC. They're outstanding adaptations of the novels, though the depth of Wouk's historical research isn't easily translated from the written page to the video screen.)

     

     

    Ralph Truit wanted a wife, a reliable wife. Stubbornly averse to frills or compromises, this successful businessman did what came naturally: He placed a small advertisement in a Chicago newspaper. Catherine Land, the woman who answered his classified ad, had an equally simple, though certainly more devious plan: She would marry Truit and eventually kill him. In Robert Goolrick’s first novel, set in the early 20th century Midwest, both these plans come awry in the course of quite human events. This subtle, passionate psychological novel snares and keeps your interest because its characters and our feelings about them change before our eyes. Readers will never forget what happens to the mail-order mates during their first harsh Wisconsin winter together.

     

     

    Dreaming Anastasia is a Russian folktale come to life...

    Status: Bookseller Picks

     

    Whatever happened to Anastasia Romanov? It is a mystery that has haunted the world  since that  horrific day when the rest of her family was murdered in cold blood.  Did Anastasia survive?  In this magical tale, Joy Preble weaves the mystery of Anastasia into the modern day.

     

     

    Anne Michaelson is dreaming she is someone else.  Someone who is trapped in a cottage in the woods with her Auntie Yaga, a witch with iron teeth and the will to keep her prisoner until the end of time. She dreams of a basement filled with blood and giant witch hands carrying her off into the Russian woods.

     

    Anne notices she is being followed by a boy with piercing blue eyes, and so the adventure begins.  The dreams become more and more involved, and soon the witch Baba Yaga is after her for real.  The blue eyed boy, Ethan, is linked to her by fate and together they must work to solve the mystery of Anastasia's disappearance before it is too late.

     

    This is a great read for anyone who loves a bit of history in their novels.  Joy Preble keeps the pace going and hooks the reader from the very first page.  I could not put it down.


    Categories: historical fiction, teens

    Picture The Dead

    Status: Bookseller Picks

     

    Picture the Dead

      

     

     

    This book is so interesting! A romantic mystery that is interactive and historical. Whew!

     

    Follow Jennie as she tries to piece together the truth as to what happened to her fiance in the Civil War. Each chapter begins with an illustration that is a recreation of a photograph, painting, or letter. While this addition does create a different flow for reading, I enjoyed the originality.

     

    This book seems like an excellent read for the 12-15 age range as it is appropriate in material, but still very exciting and interactive. Picture The Dead would be a good supplement to a Civil War lesson in school as many major battles are mentioned and the illustrations are true to the time period.

    Farthing by Jo Walton

    Status: Bookseller Picks

    What if a group of influential politicians in Britain managed to broker a peace with Nazi Germany early in 1941, avoiding years of bloody war, but also allowing Hitler to remain in power with a sympathetic government in place in London?  This is precisely the situation the world is in at the beginning of Farthing when one of the architects of that peace is found murdered at the Farthing estate, with a Star of David stabbed into his chest.  Told from the points of view of Lucy Kahn, the daughter of one of the members of the Farthing Set who married a Jewish man, and Inspector Carmichael, the Scotland Yard detective sent to investigate the murder, what follows is a taut mystery, full of political intrigue.  Jo Walton manages to deliver a terrific story that combines the best elements of alternate history with a classic country house mystery.

     

    Followed by two sequels: Ha'penny and Half a Crown.

     

    A revelatory view of a genius creator, his wives and his lovers…

     

    In this dazzling historical novel, master architect Frank Lloyd Wright comes alive through the words of four women he loved. Their voices are radically dissimilar: Montenegrin ballerina Olgivanna Milanoff; tempestuous Southern belle Maud Miriam Noel; his free-spirited, tragically fated mistress Mamah Cheney; and Kitty Tobin, his artist first wife. In The Women, adventurous novelist T.C. Boyle (The Road to Wellville; The Inner Circle) exposes Wright’s deep-seeded resistance to convention in every arena of his life.

    Message Edited by Kevin on 02-19-2009 10:12 PM

    Company of Liars

    Status: Bookseller Picks

    For fans of Year of Wonders  by Geraldine Brooks, and Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, Company of Liars is a book you should pick up right now!  It takes place in England during the Plague year of 1348 and follows a group of pilgrims desperately trying to get away from the spread of the plague.  The story is narrated by Camelot, a disfigured person who sells relics along the road and at town fairs.  Each character has a secret, and as the novel progresses, secrets are revealed and the tension builds towards a surprise conclusion.  The author writes an amazing novel, and puts you firmly on the road with the pilgrims, feeling each cold night, laying outside in a miserably drenching rain.  You feel the hunger, pain, and anxiety of the characters as each looks at the other with growing suspicion.  It really is a great story with memorable characters--Narigorm, the just plain creepy albino girl who throws runes;  Cygnet, the one-armed storyteller, and Pleasance, the herbalist.   Just when you think you've got it figured out, there's a twist.  Highly recommended!

     

    A gentle nod to Pride and Prejudice

    Status: Bookseller Picks

     

     

     

    Laurel Ann, Austenprose 

    Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

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