Wednesday, November 23, 2011

REVIEW: Smonk by Tom Franklin


It's 1911 and the secluded southwestern Alabama town of Old Texas has been besieged by a scabrous and malevolent character called E. O. Smonk. Syphilitic, consumptive, gouty and goitered, Smonk is also an expert with explosives and knives. He abhors horses, goats and the Irish. Every Saturday night for a year he's been riding his mule into Old Texas, destroying property, killing livestock, seducing women, cheating and beating men&#8212all from behind the twin barrels of his Winchester 45-70 caliber over and under rifle. At last the desperate citizens of the town, themselves harboring a terrible secret, put Smonk on trial, with disastrous and shocking results. 

Thus begins the highly anticipated new novel from Tom Franklin, acclaimed author of Hell at the Breech and Poachers.

Smonk is also the story of Evavangeline, a fifteen-year-old prostitute quick to pull a trigger or cork. A case of mistaken identity plunges her into the wild sugarcane country between the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, land suffering from the worst drought in a hundred years and plagued by rabies. Pursued by a posse of unlikely vigilantes, Evavangeline boats upriver and then wends through the dust and ruined crops, forced along the way to confront her own clouded past. She eventually stumbles upon Old Texas, where she is fated to E. O. Smonk and the townspeople in a way she could never imagine.

In turns hilarious, violent, bawdy and terrifying, Smonk creates its own category: It's a southern, not a western, peopled with corrupt judges and assassins, a cuckolded blacksmith, Christian deputies, widows, War veterans, whores, witches, madmen and zombies. By the time the smoke has cleared, the mystery of Smonk will be revealed, the survivors changed forever. 

  • ISBN-13: 9780061142772
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/6/2007
  • Pages: 272

About the Author
from Goodreads

Tom Franklin was born and raised in Dickinson, Alabama. He held various jobs as a struggling writer living in South Alabama, including working as a heavy-equipment operator in a grit factory, a construction inspector in a chemical plant and a clerk in a hospital morgue. In 1997 he received his MFA from the University of Arkansas. His first book, Poachers was named as a Best First Book of Fiction by Esquire and Franklin received a 1999 Edgar Award for the title story. Franklin has published two novels: Hell at the Breech, published in 2003 and Smonk published in 2006. The recipient of the 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, Franklin now teaches in the University of Mississippi's MFA program and lives in Oxford, Mississippi with his wife, the poet Beth Ann Fennelly, and their children.

Find the author on Goodreads

My Thoughts

It was the eve of the eve of his death by murder and there was harmonica music on the air when E.O. Smonk rode the disputed mule over the railroad tracks and up the hill to the hotel where his trial would be.

Old Texas, Alabama

I learned of this book from author Alden Bell when reading an interview with him for my review of his book The Reapers are the Angels. He listed Smonk as one of his favorite books, and I said at that time that after reading the synopsis for Smonk, I could see where he got his inspiration for his character Temple in The Reapers are the Angels.

This book is a rip-roaring ride! I had mentioned to my friends early on that this book was the most vile and obscene book I’d ever read, and yet the most entertaining. The author is unapologetic in his approach, seeming to set aside all sensibilities and censor. Brash and unadulterated, this story is totally in your face, almost daring you to be offended.
The widows fired and fired and fired and fired until the final cartridge hull clattered to a stop on the wagon floor and what was left of the judge resembled a steaming mass of afterbirth, blue and dripping. The silence of the world shocked them all. (p. 95)
Smonk is portrayed as a pretty despicable character, and is easily disliked from the beginning.
I heard he killed his own momma, he said.

For starters, said the other. (p. 8)
Evavangeline, on the other hand, while tough and unforgiving, and a 14-year-old prostitute on the run, is portrayed with a certain vulnerability. I found myself hoping for her redemption.
She tipped out the blood and prized free a gold molar with her knife and let him go and when he fell his head bled across the bunk like a can of paint overturned. She stepped back reloading. The gunpowder at such range had burned the web of skin between her thumb and forefinger. The Gramophone’s needle had been knocked ajar and she set it back and then, for a moment of her life, as smoke curled in the air, she listened to strings of Handel. (page 23)
The cover is as fascinating as the book was, and can’t really be described. The silhouette of a mean looking outlaw in front of a rundown town straight out of the wild west. The rain, the orange moon, the skeletal canine formed out of willowy smoke. Fascinating!

As for the writing style, I like the shorter paragraphs. One thing I did have difficulty with was the lack of quotations used in dialogue, initially making it difficult to tell the conversations apart from the narration. But I got used to this pretty quickly, so it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.

This is my first book by Tom Franklin, and I look forward to reading more of his work. I think Hell at the Breach may be next on my list.

Final word: Pick up this book, sit back with a drink, cover your ears and brace your sensibilities. You’re in for the ride of a lifetime!

My Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CHALLENGE: 2012 ARC Reading Challenge

The 2012 ARC Reading Challenge is hosted by The Eclectic Bookshelf. I thought that this challenge would be a good way to keep track of my ARC books, as well as those I am requested to review.

The nitty gritty:

What qualifies for this challenge?:

1. Actual Advance Reader Copies - this includes from tour sites like ATW Tours.
2. Any book that YOU ARE ASKED by either an author, publisher, publicist, media group, etc. to review.
3. Book Sneeze, Pump Up your Books, Tyndale and S&S Galley Grab ("they send out a monthly list & the first ~100 to get to their site gets the book to review").

What does NOT qualify for this challenge?:

1. Any book that YOU personally asked for a review copy of.
2. Netgalley

The Rules:
  • Anyone can join.
  • You don't need a blog to participate.
  • Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the monthly wrap-up post on Jamie's blog.
  • Audio, eBooks, and bound books count.
  • No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
  • Create a sign up post and link to the linky below.
  • Challenge runs from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012.
  • Crossover challenges is ok
There are four levels:
  1. The Mini ARC Challenge – Read 4 ARC's.
  2. The "Fun Size" ARC Challenge – Read 10 ARC's.
  3. The Jumbo Size ARC Challenge – Read 20 ARC's.
  4. The Mega size ARC Challenge – Read 21+ ARC's.
NOTE:  You may UPGRADE your challenge but you can NOT DOWNGRADE your challenge.

I'm trying for the "Fun Size" of 10 ARCs.
  1. The Expats by Chris Pavone
  2. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen 
  3. Getaway by Lisa Brackmann 
  4. Edge of Light by Cynthia Justlin 
  5. Overseas by Beatriz Williams 
  6. One Moment by Kristina McBride 
  7. The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay 
  8. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller 
  9. And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman 
  10. John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk 
  11. Backyard Foraging by Ellen Zachos (review scheduled for 2/2713)
  12. Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
  13. Wilderness by Lance Weller
  14. Sleep Talkin' Man by Karen Slavic-Lennard
  15. Dog by Matt Hlinak

Monday, November 21, 2011

CHALLENGE: 2012 "Bucket List" Reading Challenge

The 2012 "Bucket List" Reading Challenge is hosted by The Eclectic Bookshelf.

The nitty gritty:

1. Challenge starts on January 1, 2012 and goes until December 31, 2012.

2. You don't need a blog to participate.

3. Create a "sign up" post and link to the linky below.

4. There are 4 levels to this challenge....

      a. The Mini Cooper level - 4 "bucket" list books
      b. The Mid-sized Sedan level - 8 "bucket" list books
      c. The Pick Up level - 12 "bucket" list books
      d. The Semi level - 13 or more "bucket" list books

NOTE:  I am adding a stipulation to this challenge.  If you originally decided to start small with the Mini Cooper level and decide to upgrade that is fine.  But once you decide to go big you can NOT downgrade.

5. Each month a review link will be posted.  Please feel free to link up your reviews where ever you happen to post them...your blog, goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

I am going Mini Cooper level, although I hope to read more. But it's best to start small and work your way up! Here is a link to my bucket list.

1. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
2. The Passage by Justin Cronin
3. One Second After by William R. Forstchen

CHALLENGE: 2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

The 2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge is hosted by The Book Vixen. I'm initially setting this for one book beyond what I expect to do this year. If I wind up not doing what I expect, I may adjust this number in 2012.

The nitty gritty:

  • Runs January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012 (books read prior to 1/1/12 do not count towards the challenge). You can join at anytime. Sign up on The Book Vixen’s blog.
  • The goal is to outdo yourself by reading more books in 2012 than you did in 2011. See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you. Nothing is set in stone; you can change levels at any time during the challenge.
  • Books can be any format (bound, eBook, audio).
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • Grab the reading challenge button and post this reading challenge on your blog to track your progress. Please include a link back to this sign-up post so others can join the reading challenge too. You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you could track your progress on Goodreads or LibraryThing.
  • Getting my heart rate up – Read 1–5 more books
  • Out of breath – Read 6–10 more books
  • Breaking a sweat – Read 11–15 more books
  • I’m on fire! – Read 16+ more books
I will be going for 1-5 more books than I read this year. I'm thinking I may set my goal at 35, but won't have my definite number until 2012, after I see what my final totals are for 2011.

CHALLENGE: Just for Fun 2012

It's time to begin the challenge commitments for 2012. The first one that I've signed up for is the "Just for Fun" challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book. I have so, so many books just waiting to be read, yet I keep getting buried under review books. Hopefully this will help remind me to take the time to read "just for fun"!

The nitty gritty:
  • All book formats are allowed, printed, audio, e-book.
  • These books can be counted in your total books read for the year challenge and to one other challenge such as a Where Are You Reading Challenge but try not to cross them over to many other challenges as they really are to be read. 
  • JUST FOR FUN! Everyone that completes the Challenge, 12 books in 12 months will be entered in a drawing for a $25 dollar Gift Certificate or $25 at The Book Depository for International Participants.
  • Sign up: Start your own thread on the JUST FOR FUN GoodReads Reading Challenge 2012.
JANUARY- Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go by Naomi Dathan

FEBRUARY- Lone Survivor by Marcus Lutrell

MARCH- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
All Her Father's Guns by James Warner

APRIL- The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Cove by Ron Rash
The Getaway by Lisa Brackmann
Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
Freaks of the Heartland by Steve Niles
Edge of Light by Cynthia Justlin

MAY- The Passage by Justin Cronin
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

JUNE- The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

JULY- Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury

AUGUST- Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

SEPTEMBER- On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

OCTOBER- Not Famous Anymore by Michael Loyd Gray
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Wilderness by Lance Weller

NOVEMBER- The Names of Things by John Collman
Viewer Discretion Advised by Cindy Roesel

DECEMBER- Dog by Matt Hlinak

Santa's holding all my packages again!

It's that time of year again! I started a tradition a couple of years ago, whereby any books coming into my house up through Christmas go straight under the Christmas tree (along with any Secret Santa gifts), to be opened by me Christmas morning (or maybe Christmas eve). So Mailbox Monday will be on hiatus until January. Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Author Ann Patchett's Impromptu Speech

Author Ann Patchett makes an impassioned impromptu speech in support of the grand opening of Parnassus Books Nashville on November 19th.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Giveaways in Blogworld (11-19-11 edition)

NOTE: A reminder that you are free to email me about any giveaways that you are having, if you want me to blog them, and I'll be happy to try to post them even if I am not entering them. Just include a link to the giveaway, what you are giving away, how many copies are being given away, and the deadline in order to assure being included. Email me at nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com.

Here is a list of some giveaways going on in Blogworld*. Please note that new giveaways that were added this week are indented in Blockquotes:
Fresh Fiction is giving away 20 copies of Love Me to Death. Deadline is November 21.
Peeking Between the Pages is giving away The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. Deadline is November 26. US/Canada only.

I am a Reader, Not a Writer is giving away Crossed. Deadline is November 28. US only.
Lila DiPasqua is giving away a collection of romance novels! Deadline is November 29. 
Madeline Hunter is giving away an ARC of The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne. Deadline is November 30.
Cathie Linz is giving away Smart Girls Think Twice. Deadline is November 30. US only.
Wendy Corsi Staub is giving away If Only in My Dreams and The Best Gift. Deadline is November 30. US only.
Fresh Fiction has tons of giveaways! Most seem to be romance:
 Peeking Between the Pages is giving away The Strangers on Montagu Street. Deadline is December 3. US/Canada only.

Fantasy's Ink is giving away your choice out of fifteens books. Deadline is December 8. International!

Books Like Stars is having a massive "Debut Author" giveaway! US only.

*Courtesy Note: Please keep in mind the many, many hours of work that goes into me compiling this list each week. Please be courteous and thoughtful, and do not steal my text. Either recreate your own list, or link to this list and direct your readers here for giveaway information. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Wanna...Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen

Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen

Little Finn lives with his mother in an apartment in a working-class suburb of Oslo. Life is a struggle to make ends meet, but he does not mind. When his mother decides to take a lodger to help pay the bills, he watches with interest as she freshens up their small apartment with new wallpaper and a sofa paid for in installments. He befriends their new male lodger, whose television is more tempting to him than his mother would like. 

When a half sister whom he never knew joins the household, Finn takes her under his wing over an everlasting summer on Håøya Island. But he can’t understand why everyone thinks his new sister is so different from every other child. Nor can he fathom his mother’s painful secret, one that pushes them ever farther apart. As summer comes to a close, Finn must attempt to grasp the incomprehensible adult world and his place within it. 

Child Wonder is a powerful and unsentimental portrait of childhood. Roy Jacobsen, through the eyes of a child, has produced an immensely uplifting novel that shines with light and warmth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

National Book Award Winners Announced

The 62nd National Book Awards were held last night, and here are the winners:

Young People's Literature

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama. 

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree. 

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next. 


The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions. 

The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting.

As the twelve days that make up the novel's framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.


Head Off and Split by Nikky Finney

The poems in Nikky Finney's breathtaking new collection Head Off & Split sustain a sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African American life: from civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, from a brazen girl strung out on lightning to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. Finney s poetic voice is defined by an intimacy that holds a soft yet exacting eye on the erotic, on uncanny political and family events, like her mother s wedding waltz with South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, and then again on the heartbreaking hilarity of an American president s final State of the Union address.Artful and intense, Finney's poems ask us to be mindful of what we fraction, fragment, cut off, dice, dishonor, or throw away, powerfully evoking both the lawless and the sublime.

Check out the article by Publisher's Weekly.

Live Broadcast Schedule of Miami Book Fair Author Interviews

The Miami Book Fair International has been going on for the last week (I was sooooo tempted to make the long drive there last weekend!), and there is a list of author interviews going on Saturday, November 19th and Sunday, November 20th. See their website for the schedule.

Introducing...Smonk by Tom Franklin

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

It was the eve of the eve of his death by murder and there was harmonica music on the air when E.O. Smonk rode the disputed mule over the railroad tracks and up the hill to the hotel where his trial would be. It was October the first of that year. It had been dry and dusty for six weeks and five days. The crops were dead. It was Saturday and hot. Ten after three o'clock on the afternoon according to the shadows of the bottles on the bottle tree.

-- Smonk by Tom Franklin

(I'm half-way through this book, and loving it so much that it could definitely become one of my favorite books ever if it keeps this up!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Because of You by Cathy Maxwell


Is a reckless rogue worthy of the love of an innocent enchantress? 

Pretty Samantha Northrup knows it is her duty to marry—but the chaste English vicar’s daughter secretly desires to be swept off her feet by a man whose kisses leave her breathless. And when a seductive stranger arrives at her door one stormy night, Samantha’s neat and orderly life is turned upside down—especially when she finds herself in a most compromising position . . . and is forced to marry a man she barely knows! 

Samantha is unaware that her mystery bridegroom is Yale Carderock, the dashing, disinherited rakehell son of a duke, banished by his father years before. Now Lord Yale has returned—wealthier but only somewhat reformed—and he is bewitched by his lovely new bride’s awakening sensuality and innocent fire. But can this marriage of convenience be something more . . . and can a confirmed cad and society outcast truly change his ways enough to merit the lady’s tender love? 

GIVEAWAY: If you love romance, here's your shot to win a copy of Because of You by Cathy Maxwell. See my review here.

Rules (you knew there had to be some):
  • You must be 18 years or older
  • Open to US and Canada residents only
  • To enter, just comment below. Be sure to leave your email address in your comment, or have it visible in your profile.
  • For extra entries, follow my blog, follow me via Facebook and/or Networked Blogs, and/or blog about this contest. Sidebars are okay. Up to 3 extra entries.
  • Leave a separate comment for each entry.
  • That's a total of 4 possible entries!
  • Those who don't follow the rules risk being disqualified.
Deadline is November 30, 2011

Good Luck! Ready, Set, Go!

ARTICLE: "100 Best First Lines of Novels"

As stated on
The editors of American Book Review selected what they consider the most memorable first lines of novels. The titles on the list span centuries and genres and include classics and contemporary novels that are certain to become classics.
 Here are a few of my favorites from the selected 100:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

 A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

 The Good Soldier by For Madox Ford

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard."

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"I am a sick man... I am a spiteful man."

The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein

"Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. 'Stop!' cried the groaning old man at last, 'Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.'”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board."

Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish

"Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa's antipodal ant annexation."

The Crow Road by Iain M. Banks

"It was the day my grandmother exploded."

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."

Tracks by Louise Erdrich

"We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall."

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

"A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead."

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person."

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

"You better not never tell nobody but God."

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

"'To be born again,' sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, 'first you have to die.'”

A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis

"Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law."

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson

"Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women."

Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."

Check out the list of 100 books in its entirety. Awesome!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ARTICLE: "The 50 Best Literary Put-Downs" has put together a list of the 50 "snarkiest jibes in literature". Here are a select few:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

"Well, well, well, well. If it isn't fat, stinking billygoat Billy-Boy in poison. How art thou, thy globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip-oil? Come and get one in the garbles, if you have any garbles, you eunuch jelly thou."

My Booky Wook by Russell Brand

"I couldn't possibly have sex with someone with such a slender grasp on grammar!"
After Claude by Iris Owens

"If looks could kill, you'd soon find out that yours couldn't."

 Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

"It should take you about four seconds to walk from here to the door. I'll give you two."

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me"

The Lion and the Unicorn by George Orwell

"He is simply a hole in the air."

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

"Any woman who counts on her face is a fool."

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

"Everything people do that doesn't work has to be somebody else's fault. Next time you know, geezers'll be suing the government for getting old and kids'll be taking their mommies to court because they come out ugly."

Hannibal by Thomas Harris

"On a related subject, Signore Pazzi, I must confess to you: I'm giving serious thought to eating your wife."

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

"As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking."

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

"All morons hate it when you call them a moron."

See all 50 "put downs" on their website.

ARTICLE: "A new theory on the death of Jane Austen"

For all the Jane Austen fans out there, an article on Yahoo! News suggests a new theory on how the beloved author died. The theory involves arsenic, and you can learn more here.

REVIEW: Because of You by Cathy Maxwell


Is a reckless rogue worthy of the love of an innocent enchantress? 

Pretty Samantha Northrup knows it is her duty to marry—but the chaste English vicar’s daughter secretly desires to be swept off her feet by a man whose kisses leave her breathless. And when a seductive stranger arrives at her door one stormy night, Samantha’s neat and orderly life is turned upside down—especially when she finds herself in a most compromising position . . . and is forced to marry a man she barely knows! 

Samantha is unaware that her mystery bridegroom is Yale Carderock, the dashing, disinherited rakehell son of a duke, banished by his father years before. Now Lord Yale has returned—wealthier but only somewhat reformed—and he is bewitched by his lovely new bride’s awakening sensuality and innocent fire. But can this marriage of convenience be something more . . . and can a confirmed cad and society outcast truly change his ways enough to merit the lady’s tender love?
About the Author  

Born in Olathe, Kansas, Cathy Maxwell’s family roots go back to the Mayflower and the Revolutionary War. She has long called Virginia home, noting she is “a Virginian by choice, but a Kansan by nature.” She worked in television news as a broadcaster before spending six years in the Navy. She attended Air Force intelligence school, worked in the Pentagon and did a tour with Naval Intelligence. Cathy began her writing career in 1991 while her children were still small. “It wasn’t easy,” she says. “I worked full time, my husband travelled, we had three kids, I volunteered and I was writing from four until seven every morning.” Now, twenty years later, she is the author of seventeen national bestsellers and her novels appear regularly on The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. A rarity in the book world, Cathy has published every one of her novels with the same publisher, Harper Collins/Avon Books.

Q&A with Cathy Maxwell

Q: Do you remember the first Regency historical you read?  What was it? 

A: Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer. I was hooked. Heyer is still one of my favorite writers.

Q: Do you have favorite historical literary devices (forced marriage, heroine posing as boy...? What are they? Can you link any of them to novels you have written?

A: I use the marriage of convenience quite often. First, a book doesn’t have the time to go through a whole courtship, but also how many of us truly “know” the person we marry? You can date someone for years, even live with that person—and discover you don’t know each other at all once you marry. I haven’t figured out why, but marriage really does change everything. Sometimes it is perspective, sometimes expectations. All I know is that after I married, I started cooking casseroles—something I’d never done before marriage!

Q: What do you most want readers to take away from BECAUSE OF YOU?

A: BECAUSE OF YOU is my take of the Prodigal Son. The Biblical Son was lucky his father was alive when he returned. Yale was not so fortunate. I marvel at how easily we assume others will be there for when we need them. The truth is, we only pass this way once and must treat each day as unique. There is no time for grudges or misunderstandings. What Yale must learn over the course of the book is to forgive himself for not reconciling with his father.

Q: Besides all being Regency era historicals, are there aspects of your books that repeat themselves?

A: Besides, of course, strong relationships, great dialogue and a happy ending. My female characters share a common trait—they are not happy with their lives and they realize if there is to be change, it is up to them. I believe each of us has the power to make our lives better if we are willing to toss expectations to the wind and seize living with everything we have.

Q: What kind of research do you do for your novels?

A: I have a super research library that I rely on and that I delve into again and again. However, the point of a romance is not the history. It’s the dynamic between two people who are falling in love—and that has never changed whether we are talking about ancient Rome or light years into the future.

Q: All the talk about ebooks and the end of the mass market paperback makes it hard to know what to expect to happen within the romance genre. What do you think?

A: I think romance is in a heyday. So many choices. So many wonderful reads. And with many authors releasing their backlist titles as ebooks, there’s even more opportunity to enjoy favorite writers.

Q: What are you working on?

A: I’m working on a trilogy involving an ancient curse and the family it is determined to destroy.

Q: Can you tell us what we should look for from you in stores in 2012?

A: The first book of the trilogy LYON’S BRIDE will be out in May. The second book in November. I’m so excited about these characters and their stories. Also, Avon Books will re-release one of my classics, When Dreams Come True on March 27. Please check in at for updates.

Q: Please recommend a few books for my winter reading list?

A: Grab a copy of Princess Charming by Nicole Jordan. Wonderful read! It will be out February 2012. You can’t go wrong with a book by any of my fellow Avon authors. I did break down and buy The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan that has been on the bestseller lists for so long. It’s an e-book and a good read.

Q:How will you be celebrating this Thanksgiving?

A: Cooking and writing! Two of my children, the Coast Guard officer and her husband, and my son the college student, will be here along with their friends. Should be a grand time and exactly the sort of day Thanksgiving was meant to be.

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My Thoughts


Northumberland and London, England. A small portion of the book took place in Ceylon, which I learned is now known as Sri Lanka. This image was taken of an estate in Ceylon, about 80 or so years after the timeline in the book.
Tea estate bungalow, Ceylon, late 1800s
First line:
The persistent banging woke Samantha Northrup from a sound sleep.
Samantha Northrup is the daughter of the old vicar, now deceased, and considered the town "spinster", unmarried at twenty-six. She's found herself at a crossroads in her life, and then enters Yale Carderock. Brash and handsome, the mysterious stranger finds himself directing the path that Samantha chooses, and her life is thrown into a tumult.

It’s been awhile since I have read a romance novel, and it’s been awhile since I’ve read a mass paperback, and I realized one of the things that I love about both-- they are a fast read! I am such a slow reader, reading in short bursts, so books commonly take 2-3 weeks for me to get through them. But a book like this has less text per page and easily readable content and dialogue to absorb, so I fly through the book! It was a light escapist read, and just what I needed right now!

The characters were likable, and there was adequate character development. I was left with a good feel for each of them, and their actions and behavior felt appropriate to what I knew of their character.

The main issue I had with the book was that there were several moments that I felt were unrealistic, and it went beyond me simply being a little jaded when it comes to romance. The moments felt “cheesy” with romance, or seemed highly unlikely to have occurred as depicted in the culture and era as it was supposed to have occurred. But, all things considered, I still enjoyed the story. It touched me emotionally, as I “boo-hooed” countless times throughout the course of the story, and the characters were likable.

My other issue was that, although I don’t read much romance, when I do I like a more complex storyline. The romance novels that I’ve enjoyed most have included mysterious side stories with murders and kidnappings and love triangles. They have kept me guessing, with little surprises in the endings.This story was lacking that complexity. While I don’t remember ever actually being bored, I found the storyline to be predictable and mostly uneventful.

My final word: A simple story with light moments of wit, intermingled with heavier moments of emotion and romance, this was a comfortable “medium” romance. A great escape!

My Rating: 7.5 out of 10


I received a copy of this book to review from Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.