Showing posts with label novel publicity tour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label novel publicity tour. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard



Welcome to the next stop on the review tour for The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard.

Title: The Midwife's Revolt
Author: Jodi Daynard
Publisher: Opossum Press
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Source: e-copy received from Novel Publicity tours for an honest review

Book Description:
The Midwife’s Revolt takes the reader on a journey to the founding days of America. It follows one woman’s path, Lizzie Boylston, from her grieving days of widowhood after Bunker Hill, to her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams and midwifery, and finally to her dangerous work as a spy for the Cause. A novel rich in historical detail, The Midwife’s Revolt opens a window onto the real lives of colonial women.

Jodi Daynard’s historical fiction The Midwife’s Revolt has eared a 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon and praise from libraries, historical associations and is even featured at The Museum of the American Revolution.

“A charming, unexpected, and decidedly different view of the Revolutionary War.”
—Publishers Weekly

“This humorous, exciting and touching story retells the familiar saga of the Revolutionary War in a stunning new way that feels fresh and alive.”
—Kirkus Reviews


My Review:
I used to read a LOT of historical fiction--I got especially hooked on the Tudors a few years ago, but after a while I felt a little burnt out in that genre.  However, lately I've been hankering to get back into it, and when I saw The Midwife's Revolt offered as a Novel Publicity tour, I couldn't resist.

This was a new foray for me in historical fiction, because I've never read anything in that genre focusing on the Revolutionary War.  This time period has always been interesting for me though, because I grew up right down the street from a Revolutionary War battlefield (where the Battle of Groton Heights was fought in Connecticut).  Also (coincidentally enough), last weekend my husband, Small Fry, and I discovered the Saratoga National Battlefield not a far drive from our house--and the Battle of Freeman's Farm (located there) is actually mentioned in The Midwife's Revolt!  So I was pretty fascinated by all the real-life history around me as I read this novel.
Saratoga National Battlefield (photo courtesy saratoga.com)
(And you're thinking, okay, great Kel, what about the book?)

The Midwife's Revolt does precisely what you want a historical fiction novel to do--it leaves you wondering where the fact ends and the fiction begins.  The protagonist, Lizzie Boylston, is surrounded by notable figures of the Revolution that you will surely recognize--John Adams, George Washington, Abigail Adams, etc.  The novel's central focus is on Lizzie and her personal journey throughout the war, but her interactions with these famous patriots lends the strong historical background that gives this novel its strength.  As a reader, I was constantly wondering how much of Lizzie's story (and the stories of those around her) were true, which kept me on my toes and wanting to turn the page.  (I won't spoil it for you, but rest assured that Daynard does make some notes at the end to let you know what was fact, and what was fiction.  Some of it is quite surprising!)

The storyline is complex; Lizzie goes through a lot in the many years that the novel covers, so it's quite epic in scope.  Despite this complexity, the novel never loses its feel of historical accuracy.  It's clear that Daynard did meticulous research to make sure that the book was fitting for the political and social customs of the period.  At times I will say it felt a little "textbookish"...there was so much historical detail, sometimes not interspersed with much personal dialogue, that it occasionally toed the line towards feeling like a nonfiction article.  This also led to the characters sometimes seeming a little flat, as it felt like they were trying too hard to be historically "true".  However, the movement of the plot always eventually got back on track, and Lizzie's story shone through.

Overall, I think The Midwife's Revolt is a good choice if you're looking for a historical fiction fix--especially if you have particular interest in the Revolutionary War.  History buffs will be impressed, and fiction fiends will enjoy the mysteries that Lizzie uncovers, as well as her personal struggles as a woman attempting to help the Rebel cause.  Lizzie certainly has a force of passion that makes her a unique character for this time period, and that alone should be a draw for many readers.

About the Author: Jodi Daynard is a writer of fiction, essays, and criticism. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals, including The New York Times Book Review, The Village Voice, The Paris Review, Agni, New England Review and in several anthologies. She is the author of The Place Within: Portraits of the American Landscape by 20 Contemporary Writers (W. W. Norton). Ms. Daynard’s essays have been nominated for several prizes and mentioned in Best American Essays. She has taught writing at Harvard University, M.I.T., and in the MFA program at Emerson College, and served for seven years as Fiction Editor at Boston Review. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, The National Women’s Book Association, and the Author’s Guild. The Midwife’s Revolt is her first novel.

Prizes! Who doesn’t love awesome book themed gifts?  Jodi is offering A Kindle Fire to one reader as well as a Artemis Cameo Necklace, an American Flag Folk Art and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  All you have to do is leave a comment and enter the Rafflecopter (below).  Of course, there are plenty of other ways to enter to win just by helping spread the word about The Midwife’s Revolt.

a Rafflecopter giveaway The Tour: Follow along and read more reviews of The Midwife’s Revolt.  You can see the full list of participating reviews HERE.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: Bluff by Lenore Skomal


Title: Bluff
Author: Lenore Skomal
Publisher: self-published
Publication Date: September 3, 2012
Source: e-galley provided by Novel Publicity Blog Tours for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

"To the medical world, I was a host body, surviving only to bring a new life into the world. And while I wanted to die more than anything in the world, I never wanted this. No, I never wanted to cease to exist. This was the worst death of all.”

Jude Black lives in that in-between, twilight place teetering on death but clinging to life in order to bring her baby into this world. Only she knows the circumstances surrounding her mysterious fall off the bluff that landed her in the hospital being kept alive by medical intervention. Only she knows who the father of her baby is. In this poignantly crafted literary novel, the mystery unfolds and the suspense builds as the consequences of Jude’s decisions threaten to reveal everyone's deceptions, even her own. Bluff offers a sensitive look at essential questions such as the value of human life, the consciousness of those in a coma and the morality of terminating life support. At the core is the story of a tragically misunderstood woman who finds peace, acceptance, understanding and even love on her deathbed.


My Review:

OK readers, if you read the descriptor information above, and remember this post I did about self-published novels, you know this review is a BIG DEALIO for me.  I generally do not accept self-published novels for review, but when I saw this one available through a Novel Publicity tour, the description was just too darn good to pass up.  I had to break my own rule for a hot minute and give it a shot.

Overall, I'd say that I'm glad that I did.  This is not (I repeat, NOT) the type of poorly-edited, full-of-plot-holes self-published work that I have (unfortunately) had too much experience with in the past.  This book is absorbing, provocative, and is sure to linger in your mind for days after you finish the last page.

Bluff had many pros and cons for me, but the biggest pro is that the plot is full of intriguing and (in some cases) controversial issues.  Sexuality, drug use, infidelity, termination of life support--these topics are all woven into a novel that already has a large and diverse cast of characters.  I was never bored, or at a "slow point" in the book, because there isn't one.  The hits just kept coming.

The book is told from a wide variety of perspectives.  At the center of the novel is Jude, who fell (jumped? was pushed?) off a bluff near her house.  She ends up badly injured, in a coma...and oh yeah, five months pregnant.  You do get Jude's perspective for some of the novel--she seems to have what I can most closely equate to "locked-in syndrome", wherein her body is unresponsive, but mentally she is alert and aware of what happens around her.  

At the same time, in between chapters told from her perspective, you also get the POV of nearly every other character in the book: Frances, her best friend.  April, her estranged sister.  Paul, her lawyer.  Mary Shannon, her nurse.  And many others.  One of the great things about this wide variety of characters is that it made me feel like I was putting a puzzle together, trying to figure out Jude's true nature.  Is she the snarky but caring individual that Frances portrays?  Or is she cold-hearted and withdrawn, as April seems to think?  My impression of her was constantly evolving, which served to heighten the mystery surrounding the central questions of the novel: how did Jude fall off the bluff?  And who is the father of Jude's baby?

However, these two pros (the many controversial issues, and the big cast of characters) also worked against themselves and became cons at various points in the novel.  In terms of the many issues, I often felt like this book was having a bit of an identity crisis--it couldn't decide what its true central purpose was.  A good example is the problem concerning Jude's life support.  In the beginning of the novel, this seemed like it was going to be a hotly-debated topic among the characters as the plot moved along.  However, by the end, the potential controversy fell a bit flat, and wasn't debated much at all.  It left me wondering why this was introduced so strongly to begin with.  It seemed to me that, at times, the author got a bit ambitious with the scope of the novel, and would have done better saving some of these issues for a separate book.

The same goes for the cast of characters.  I appreciate books that tell me the story from multiple POVs, but this one was overkill at times.  I counted 13 different POVs before I stopped keeping track. This was great at times (see above: putting together the puzzle!), but at other times, it was just frustrating.  I felt like I wanted these characters to be more deeply developed, but they were each given such little time to explain themselves, that I was sometimes confused.  For example, Mary Shannon starts out hating (like, really hating) Jude, but midway through the novel she suddenly has a change of heart and considers them to be "friends".  This was explained very abruptly, and left me wishing that this emotional transition had been explained further.  Plus, some of the perspectives just didn't seem necessary (Officer Murphy, Dr. Jefferies...).  The important details in those characters' stories could have been told from an already-existing perspective.  So again, I got the sense that the book was a little overzealous in this department.

Overall though, I'm sticking with my original statement: this is a captivating novel that is worth a read.  It is not light reading--some of the topics/events are dark, violent, and/or sexual in nature.  (Violence involving women and children is involved--just a warning for those that may be sensitive to that.)  And I do wish that it was a bit more directed at times.  But if you don't mind the tenebrous and multi-focused mood of the novel, I can promise that this one will leave you in suspense more than once.

Want to win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of Bluff?

  1. Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official Bluff tour page.
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I've posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the tour page linked above.
About the author: Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books. Her passionate desire is to touch your heart, inspire you, and luxuriate in the world of the written word. She is an award-winning author with the single goal of resonating with others. Winner of multiple awards for blogging, literature, biography and humor, her catalogue spans many genres. With 30 years of writing experience, 18 books published, a daily blog and weekly newspaper column, the consistent themes in her work are the big issues of the human experience and adding depth and voice to the intricacies involved in living a multi-dimensional existence. She has won many Society of Professional Journalist awards, the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference honorable mention for best fiction, Writer's Digest 73rd Annual Fiction Contest, New York Public Library's Best Books for Teens 2003, and most recently, the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award for humor for “Burnt Toast.,” her first anthology of her award winning humor columns. From journalism, to literary fiction, to humor and biography, her writing is consistent, if not in genre, then in message. Connect with Lenore on her website, Facebook, GoodReads, or Twitter.
Get Bluff on Amazon.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 5, 2012

Self-Published Novels, Reconsidered.

Copyright Mick Stevens, The New Yorker Collection

If you've read my review policy (which I'm sure you have...I mean, who hasn't?), you know it includes this line:

"I currently do not accept self-published books for review."

I have gotten questions about this statement several times since I started the blog.  Some people are just curious why.  Others imply via their tone that I'm being a snot.  And still others tell me that I'm missing out--self-publishing is blowing up right now, so why would I neglect all those books for review?

Let me tell you how that policy came to be.

I received my Kindle as a gift in May 2011 (over a year before this blog opened).  Before that, I don't think I had ever read a self-published book.  But if you get a Kindle, what is one of the immediate appeals?  ALL THE FREE BOOKS!!  I blindly waded into Amazon's "free" section and started downloading anything that looked even remotely up my alley.

Then I started reading them.  The first one was...eh.  The second one was...meh.  By the end of the third one, I was a disgruntled reader.

The books had flat characters, awkward dialogue, nonsensical plot elements, and confusing uses of POV.  Not to mention that they were riddled with bad spelling and grammar.  I found myself wondering who in the world their editors were, allowing these things to be published?

And then I realized--there were no editors!  These were self-published works.

So when I started my blog, I decided that I would not be seeking out or accepting self-published works for review.  My early Kindle freebies had ruined me, and I had thousands of other books to choose from anyway.

However.

Now that the blog has been running for a couple of months, I've had ample opportunity to read reviews of self-published works from my fellow bloggers.  And while some of them sound similar to how I reacted to those Amazon freebies last year, others sound pretty awesome.  I've also received several review requests from authors who have self-published works (despite the disclaimer in my review policy).  I've turned them all down up to this point, no matter how good they sounded, in the interest of sticking to my original policy.  Because when it comes right down to it, anyone can self-publish--and who wants to take the time to wade through all that mediocre work, looking for the good stuff?

But in the last week, two things happened.  First, I received an email from Novel Publicity tours (for whom I serve as a tour host), asking for blogs to host a book called Bluff by Lenore Skomal.  Reading the description, I was excited--this book sounded awesome!  I couldn't wait to read and review.  However, going on Goodreads, I quickly realized it was self-published.  Feeling deflated, I emailed a bit with the Novel Publicity rep about it.  She assured me this was a well-vetted piece of fiction, encouraging me to host if I was considering it.  I couldn't forget my initial excitement about the book--should I really let this one go?  So I took a chance, and said I would host.

Second, I clicked on a link in my daily Shelf Awareness email last week to get an ARC of a book that sounded pretty great: The Thief of Auschwitz.  The author (Jon Clinch) has published with Random House before, so I was initially confused as to why I was downloading the ARC off his personal website.  Then I read this article.  And I found Clinch's story quite compelling.  Long story short: he published with Random House, and despite good reviews, had disappointing sales with the publishing house.  As an experiment, he wrote another book and self-published it under a pen name--and lo and behold, sold thousands of copies with no publisher backing him.  So he decided to also self-publish his next literary novel (The Thief of Auschwitz).  Of course, this created a conundrum for me--should I turn down a self-published novel from someone who has already earned critical acclaim for his writing through bigger publishers?

In the end, I decided to take another chance, and I downloaded the ARC.

So, where does this leave me and my snooty review policy?

For now, I'm going to leave that line in the policy.  My personal belief is still that a lot (A LOT) of self-published work does not have enough editorial support to read as cleanly and strongly as that put out by publishing companies (indie or big-name).  (That's not to say publishers never put out terrible books--but the "terribleness" is usually not based in structural/editorial issues the way I've seen it in self-pubs, and if it is, the book usually gets enough widespread bad publicity that you know it well beforehand.)  However--I am more open to the idea of self-published work, if (after researching it) I have some compelling reason to believe it is a strong piece of fiction.  

These two examples have shown me that my early Kindle freebies may not necessarily be reflective of all self-published books.  Thus, I am going to use these two novels as an experiment.  Because my critics' assessments are correct--in the era of e-readers, self-publishing is huge.  And some awesome work is bound to come out of that.  But for me (especially as a blogger), the trick is wading through that messy sea of self-pubs and finding the treasure--not an easy task.

So, be on the lookout for my first two reviews of self-published work (for Bluff and The Thief of Auschwitz) coming up in December/January.  We'll see how this experiment goes, and I will post a follow-up once they've both been reviewed.

Readers, respond!  What has been your experience with self-published work?  How do you distinguish between the good and the bad--or do you not bother to do so?
 
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