Win Laird Hunt’s Neverhome, now in paperback! Deadline to enter: midnight June 19

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“I was strong and he was not, so it was me who went to war to defend the Republic.”

Neverhome, Laird Hunt‘s gorgeous historical novel about a woman who leaves her comfortable home and gentle husband to fight for the North in Civil War, was recently released in paperback. The New York Times called it “enthralling … at once sentimental and aloof [about] a savior and a killer, a folk hero who shuns her own legend, a fierce and wounded woman who finds strength in her troubled past.”

We call Neverhome a must-read and have a copy to give away to you! Here’s how to win it:

The blurb for Neverhome describes protagonist Ash Thompson as a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor. Which one of these four things are you? Tell us by Tweeting @LitNewEngland before midnight Friday, June 19, being sure to use the #Neverhome hashtag.

We’ll pick one winner at random out of those who Tweet us, and then announce the name June 20!

lairdhunt1When Neverhome was first released in hardcover, we featured Laird on the Oct. 27, 2014 Literary New England Radio Show, which you can hear in our archives. Other guests that night included Gregory Maguire on Egg & Spoon, Randy Susan Meyers on Accidents of Marriage and Anne Girard on Madame Picasso–such a great show!

Here’s the book trailer for Neverhome, followed by 10 things about the novel and Laird you might want to know. And please … help spread the word about our Neverhome contest!

  1. Laird first got the idea for Neverhome 18 years ago, when he was reading An Uncommon Soldier, a collection of letters by a woman named Sarah Wakeman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Civil War.
  2. Singapore, San Francisco, London and rural Indiana are among the many places Laird has lived and that have influenced him and his writing.
  3. His grandmother was born on a farm that inspires all the fictional ones he has written about. He poignantly wrote about her, the farm and Neverhome for LitHub.
  4. Neverhome is his sixth novel.
  5. Laird spent a memorable and productive writing residency at New Hampshire’s MacDowell Colony, the oldest arts colony in the United States.
  6. His Twitter feed suggests he dreams a lot.
  7. He has a cat named Mouse.

    Laird Hunt cat
    Laird’s cat, Mouse.
  8. In Neverhome, Ash has no problem learning how to shoot a musket. In fact, her shooting earns the praise of fellow soldiers.
  9. Neverhome is the first of Laird’s novels to be published in the United Kingdom.
  10. The Guardian called Neverhome “a brilliant and breathtaking blaze of a novel, lit the ferocious will and all‑too‑human spirit of its unforgettable narrator.” Wow!

Review: The clever, smart and imaginative The Magician’s Lie

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MagiciansLieI have no idea why it took me so long to read Greer Macallister‘s The Magician’s Lie, but am so glad I finally did. Because, yes, it’s pretty magical.

Forgive the cliché, but I’m excited and can’t help myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a novel this entertaining, and I want you to read it, too.

Smart, imaginative and set in small-town Iowa at the turn of the 20th century, The Magician’s Lie tells the story of the Amazing Arden–the most famous female illusionist of her day. She’s renowned for her trick of sawing a man in half. But on the night that begins in Chapter 1, Arden exchanges her saw for a fire ax. Soon after the show, Arden’s dead husband and the ax are found underneath the collapsed stage.

Police Officer Virgil Holt is sure Arden is guilty. After a night of drinking to try to forget the injury that could cost him his career, his wife and his life, Virgil catches Arden trying to leave town. But the story she tells as the two sit alone in the police station makes Virgil begin wonder whether perhaps there’s a way they can both be free of their burdens.

Publisher’s Weekly gave The Magician’s Lie a starred review, and with good reason. Colored with meticulous research and generous, well-placed details, the novel is clever, suspenseful, well-crafted and highly original.

GreerLast month, Literary New England had the pleasure of hosting a terrific live Tweet chat and book giveaway with Greer. If you go to Twitter and type #LNEChat into the Search box, you can find and read our conversation, which was made that much more fun by all those who joined in.

Here’s a short excerpt of our #LNEChat:

LNE: Is it cliche to say writing a novel is like making magic?

GM: Lots of similarities btw the novelist’s art & the magician’s. We lie to a willing audience. … And if I do my job, you feel like the people are real, even though you know they’re not.

LNE: Did you take any magic classes to help you write The Magicians Lie?

GM: I tried to learn some magic, but it turns out, I’m terrible! That’s what’s great about words. They always work.

LNE: Please talk about your protagonist, Arden. Is she anything like you?

GM: Not much like me, really! She’s much more interesting. Me, I’m awfully normal.

LNE: Any advice for aspiring novelists?

GM: Hard work won’t guarantee you get published, but giving up guarantees you won’t. Keep going.

LNE: You Tweet a lot and have a strong Facebook presence. You enjoy interacting with fans?

GM: Oh gosh yes. I love readers THE MOST. Best thing about being a writer. (That & other writers, who are also readers.)

– Cindy Wolfe Boynton

Celebrate William Styron’s birthday by adding to your #TBR list

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William Styron GraveWilliam Styron Grave2Today would have been writer William Styron’s 90th birthday. The author of Sophie’s Choice, The Long March, Set This House on Fire and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Confessions of Nat Turner, among other works, was born June 11, 1925 in Newport News, Va. Styron died on Nov. 21, 2006, at age 81 and was buried here, at the West Chop Cemetery in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

As he wrote about in several forms, Styron struggled with severe depression and the urge to commit suicide, which he described most vividly in his memoir Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. His first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, also tackles the subject, telling the story of a woman struggling against insanity and the desire to kill herself. This YouTube video from Open Road Media features Styron reading a short excerpt from the work:

The quote on Styron’s grave comes from the end of Darkness Visible: “And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.” It is a translation of the final line of Dante’s Inferno, Canto XXXIV, line 139: E quindi uscimmo a rivider le stelle.

In 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Styron’s youngest daughter, Alexandra, at the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival. There, she read and signed copies of Reading My Father, a powerful and mesmerizing memoir about her father who, as she candidly describes, was a drinker, a carouser and “a high priest at the altar of fiction.” Styron helped define the concept of the “Big Male Writer.” But he was also a loving father and a husband–a complex, compelling man who Alexandra was able to better understand through the writing of this book, and that she so generously shares with us. It’s a fabulous, insightful and inspiring read.

One of the official blurbs for the book says:

Alexandra offers a vivid look at the experiences that shaped William Styron’s life and his novels: the death of his mother; his precocious success with Lie Down in Darkness; his military service and his early loves. From Europe, where he helped found the Paris Review and met his wife, Rose, to New England where he would live out his storied career, William Styron is vivid in all his epic, tragic complexity in Reading My Father.

I loved Reading My Father and believe a most appropriate way to celebrate Styron’s life and birthday would be to add it, or one of his books, to your summer reading list. I’m adding Sophie’s Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner to mine.

– Cindy Wolfe Boynton

Novel Place: Carla Neggers’ Heron’s Cove

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NovelPlaces logoFans of Carla Neggers‘ Sharpe & Donovan series can walk the some of the same New England streets that FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan do. The southern Maine town of Heron’s Cove that appears throughout the series is fictional. However, Carla said she had Kennebunkport, Maine, in mind when she created Heron’s Cove–specifically time she spent walking along Ocean Avenue. The Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm in nearby Wells, Maine, was also an inspiration. As the previous links show, both are spots you can visit, too … even if you aren’t part of a popular FBI crime-fighting duo 🙂

Emma Sharpe, a former nun turned art crimes expert, and Colin Donovan, a deep-cover agent, have so far been featured in four of Carla’s books: Saint’s Gate, Heron’s Cove, Declan’s Cross and Harbor Island. Keeper’s Reach, the fifth book in the series, will be released Aug. 25. Carla also wrote Rock Point, a prequel e-novella.

An ocean view from Ocean Avenue.
An ocean view from Ocean Avenue.
Jamesway dairy barn at Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm.
Jamesway dairy barn at Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm.

“New England is a great place to set books,” said Carla when we she appeared on the very first Literary New England Radio Show in December 2011 to talk about Saint’s Gate. “It’s got everything–mountains, oceans, small towns, big cities. Lots of different people and things are going on. It’s also close to major cities like Washington, D.C., so it’s easy for Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan to travel from their FBI office in Boston to Washington. New England allows so many opportunities to create richness in stories. I love to hear from readers who say my books feel like a homecoming because of the strong sense of place. Others, who’ve never been to New England, have said my books make them want to come there.”

We also talked to Carla in February 2014 about her novel Cider Brook.

Carla herself is steeped in New England. The multi-times New York Times bestseller was born and raised in rural Massachusetts and now lives in Vermont.

Win a Copy of Accidents of Marriage, Out in Paperback Today!

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AccidentsJust in time for the summer beach-read season, Randy Susan Meyers’ best-selling Accidents of Marriage was released today in paperback–and we have a copy to give away to you! Be in the running to win it by Tweeting us your favorite spot to read in the summertime.

No photos needed. Words will do. But please tell us! Is your favorite summertime reading place the beach? Your porch? Sprawled out on the grass? Or maybe it’s rocking in a canoe. Enter our Accidents of Marriage contest by Tweeting @LitNewEngland. Deadline is midnight tonight.

When Accidents of Marriage was first released in hardcover, we featured Randy on the Oct. 27, 2014 episode of the Literary New England Radio Show. Listen to that show here in the Literary New England Radio Show archives, which in addition to Randy features interviews with Gregory Maguire on Egg & Spoon, Laird Hunt on Neverhome and Anne Girard on Madame Picasso.

Those, like Randy, who live in the Boston area can see her in person tomorrow night. At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, she and E.B. Moore, author of the novel An Unseemly Wife, will appear at Author’s Night at Stellina Restaurant, 47 Main St., Watertown, Mass.

A finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award, Randy is the author of three novels, including The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer’s Daughters. Accidents of Marriage received a starred review from Kirkus and was a People weekly pick, among other recognitions. In it, “Meyers deftly deploys a large cast of major and minor characters in telling this complex story,” wrote the Boston Globe. “Her painstaking description of both emotional abuse and brain injury are impressive. Accidents of Marriage isn’t for anyone who insists on happy endings, but it rewards readers in deeply satisfying ways.”

Good luck to all who enter our giveaway, and congratulations Randy! Hope you enjoy Accidents of Marriage‘s paperback rebirth today!

Review: Girl in the Moonlight a Luminous Novel

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Girl In the MoonlightIt’s clear why Charles Dubow’s Girl in the Moonlight is on so many summer reading lists: The story is passionate and engrossing; the writing simple, yet superb.

The novel tells the story of Wylie Rose who, at 9 years old, falls in love with Cesca Bonet–an impossibly beautiful, rich and incandescent girl a few years older. As teenagers, the two become lovers at her family’s summer home in East Hampton. But while Wylie wants forever, Cesca wants only freedom. As their paths cross and affair continues on and off over several decades, Cesca flees whenever Wylie’s passion becomes too constricting. Yet despite being hurt by Cesca time and again, Wylie’s devotion and desire never wanes. Instead, it flames into obsession, ruining him for other women (including the daughter of a count) and causing him to doubt his choices and his path.

A friendship with Cesca’s brother, an emerging painter named Aurelio, brings Wylie in and out of both Cesca’s life and the world of art. Painting plays a major role in the story as, through Aurelio, Wylie meets great artists and even gives a go at painting himself, attempting to live as an artist in New York City. In an interview with BookReporter, Dubow talks about his relationship with art, including how Goya’s Naked Maja and Manet’s Olympia inspired how he created and shaped Cesca: “There is an element of sensuality in the former and frankness in the latter, which I think sums up much of Cesca’s personality and the impact she has on people.”

Naked Maja, Goya
Naked Maja, Goya
Olympia, Manet
Olympia, Manet

“Sensual” is a great word to describe Girl in the Moonlight. Fans of Dubow’s debut novel, Indiscretion, won’t find the kind of R-rated sex that appeared there. Girl in the Moonlight is more PG or PG-13. But its sensuality is no less provocative and compelling. In fact, on many levels, it’s more real.

Not everyone will experience the kind of erotic passion that characters Claire and Harry do in Indiscretion. (Though how fabulous if we all did!) But the longing Wylie feels for Cesca–his ability, against reason, to move on and let go–is one that most of us have experienced, whether for a lover, a place, a talent or other desire that’s taken hold of our dreams and heart.

IndiscretionPeopled with engaging and poignant characters, Girl in the Moonlight takes readers from the wooded cottages of old East Hampton, to the dining rooms of Upper East Side Manhattan, to the bohemian art studios of Paris and Barcelona. As Kirkus wrote in its review, “Dubow offers a heady, intoxicating tale, and young Wylie’s journey to manhood is a memorable one.”

Charles Dubow will be one of our guests on the Monday, June 15, Literary New England Radio Show. Girl in the Moonlight will be among our giveaways that evening, as will Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness and Jean Zimmerman’s Savage Girl. The show will feature interviews with all three of these authors and, while listening, you’ll have the chance to Tweet or email us to win one of these terrific books!

The books you can win & authors you’ll hear on the 6/8 & 6/15 Literary New England Radio Show

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June8_3booksTonight, June 8, we feature three women authors as interesting as their books. Join host Cindy Wolfe Boynton at 8 pm for novel talk and book giveaways as she speaks with:

  • Laura Kasischke on Mind of Winter. The latest novel by this bestselling poet and recently released in paperback, it’s the story of a mother who wakes up on a snowy Christmas sure that 15 years ago, something dark followed their adopted daughter home from Russia and is now afflicting them all.
  • Miranda Beverly-Whittemore on Bittersweet. Now a paperback, this suspenseful and cinematic novel tells the story of Mabel Dagmar, a young woman whose East Coast college roommate gives her friendship, a boyfriend, access to wealth and, for the first time in her life, the sense that she belongs–until everything goes all wrong.
  • Maura Weiler on Contrition. An inspiring, debut novel about very different twin sisters separated by birth and then reconnected through art, faith and the father who touched the world with his paintings.

All three of these books are paperbacks, so you can throw them right into your favorite summer bag!

3_books_June15Also mark your calendars for the 8 pm Monday, June 15, Literary New England Radio Show and an hour of lively conversations with three diverse authors about three unforgettable books:

  • Sy Montgomery on The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness. This touching, entertaining and profound memoir explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus, and the remarkable connections it’s able to make with humans.
  • Jean Zimmerman on Savage Girl. Recently released in paperback, it’s the story of a wealthy and outlandish Manhattan couple who adopt a girl purportedly raised by wolves with the goal of civilizing and introducing her into the high society of the Gilded Age.
  • Charles Dubow on Girl in the Moonlight. A scorching tale on countless summer recommended reading lists about one man’s all-consuming desire for a beautiful, bewitching and beguiling woman.

On both the June 8 and June 15 shows, listen and Tweet or email us to win one of these titles! Our Twitter handle is @LitNewEngland and our email litnewengland@gmail.com.