Win the March ’15 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

March 1, 2015

MAR 15
March is truly international with thrillers that move through New York, Paris, Belfast, Croatia, Swedish Lapland and more! I updated the Win Books page with some terrific books. This month there is a mix of NY Times bestsellers, the latest in some of my favorite series, and a debut.

The Patriot Threat  is the latest Cotton Malone novel by New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry and offers a tantalizing premise; what if the Federal income tax is illegal? Full Tilt by Rick Mofina is a chilling thriller about a manhunt for a killer who’s kept a collection of victims prisoner for years without detection and is sure to be an all night read. A woman looking for love online is entangled in a killer’s terrifying scheme in The Black Widow by Wendy Corsi Staub.

Several new historical thrillers are offered, starting with David Morrell’s latest Thomas De Quincey novel, Inspector of the Dead, set during the Crimean War, with Queen Victoria the target of a killer. M.J. Rose brings us the latest in her brilliant Daughters of La Lune series, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, a gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris. Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews is a tense and enthralling historical thriller in which British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming attempts to foil a Nazi plot to assassinate FDR, Churchill, and Stalin.  

Adrian McKinty brings back series favorite Belfast Detective Sean Duffy, who is struggling with burn-out as he investigates a brutal double murder and suicide in Gun Street Girl. Doug Wynne’s latest, Red Equinox,  is an homage to Lovecraft, and the Lovecraft eZine says, “No Lovecraft fan–or horror fan for that matter–should miss this one.”

Finally, the debut novel Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback is another historical thriller, set in Swedish Lapland in 1717, when the harshest winter in memory, the “wolf winter,” leaves settlers struggling to survive living in the shadow of a mountain with a dark history.

You can win autographed copies of all these books! If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers organization. We put together a list of books including bestsellers and debut authors, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except eBooks) are signed by the author!

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter. Check out the Win Books  page for more information on all these books and how you to enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

THE PRICE OF BLOOD by Patricia Bracewell

March 28, 2015
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

By the spring of 1006, Emma has succeeded in providing King Æthelred with a son. In spite of already fathering six legitimate sons, the king announces him heir to the throne, making his elder children view Emma as more of an enemy than she was before. All of them except Athelstan, that is. As the two try to fight their feelings for one another, Æthelred suffers a devastating loss that he views as further punishment for his participation in the death of his brother. His paranoia increases and he begins to imagine plots against him even by those closest to him. And when it’s revealed that his own Ealdorman in the north is indeed planning to forge an alliance with the Danes, Æthelred’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic. Fearing for the safety of her children Emma must begin to take steps to protect herself, all the while knowing that if her husband catches any whiff of her plans she could find herself accused of treason against the king.

Things certainly haven’t improved for Emma since the end of Shadow on the Crown. In spite of her efforts, Æthelred’s affection for her hasn’t grown a bit and the ghosts that haunt him have him firmly in their grasp. So much so that the entire kingdom is in danger.

Amazingly, Emma’s story still isn’t finished. This second installment in Bracewell’s trilogy takes readers up to 1012. At this stage, Emma is still on the first of her marriages, or the first crowning of this “twice crowned queen.”

3/15 Becky LeJeune

THE PRICE OF BLOOD by Patricia Bracewell. Viking (February 5, 2015). ISBN: 978-0525427278. 448p.

SHADOW ON THE CROWN by Patricia Bracewell

March 26, 2015
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

At just fifteen years of age, Emma, the sister of Richard II, duke of Normandy, is sent to England to marry King Æthelred. The alliance is purely for political purposes – both nations want support against the ever-growing threat of the Danes and both Richard and Æthelred believe Emma is the key. Though this is a marriage she is greatly against, Emma has been raised for this purpose and vows to be a good wife. Unfortunately, Æthelred is interested in little other than fathering heirs. Young Emma finds herself alone in a cold marriage, increasingly aware that her husband has no regard for her skills or her support. And when she begins to fall for one of Æthelred’s sons, things become much worse for the new queen.

Emma, the “twice crowned queen” is a fascinating historical character and one that few know much about. Patricia Bracewell aims to change this in her proposed trilogy on the eleventh century monarch. She succeeds in breathing life into this little-known ruler, giving her a depth of emotion that the historical record could never provide. And while the author’s imaginings are in part fictionalized (her relationship with Athelstan, for example), Bracewell does a wonderful job representing the history of the time and using what resources there are to introduce Emma to fans of historical fiction.

3/15 Becky LeJeune

SHADOW ON THE CROWN by Patricia Bracewell. Penguin Books (December 31, 2013). ISBN: 978-0143124351. 432p.


March 24, 2015
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

David Morrell takes us for a second visit to mid 19th century Victorian London following on the heels of his novel, Murder as a Fine Art. As in the first book, a great deal of research sets the scene in the London and England of that day.

England is immersed in a war against Russia taking place in the Crimea. Due to a cadre of officers that have paid for their commissions and are not competent to command men in battle, the war is going badly for Britain.

A series of reports from a newspaper correspondent have caused the government to fall and the political situation is chaotic. Thomas De Quincey, his daughter Emily and two detectives introduced in Murder as a Fine Art are in London during the political crisis involving the setbacks in the war.

De Quincey and Emily are actual individuals living at the time of the action of the book. De Quincey, known as “The Opium Eater” due to his addiction to laudanum, a pain killer based on opiates, has proven his ability to utilize logic and as much of a scientific method as was available at the time to solve crime. Morrell utilizes an actual plot to assassinate Queen Victoria to set up a scenario involving a criminal that begins to kill persons in the upper ends of society, moving from the lowest end of that segment up to what is deduced to be the Queen herself.

As in the first book, action in London involves descriptions of specific areas from the poorest to the wealthiest and the peoples that populated them. Morrell has the gift of being able to reproduce the information he found in his detailed research to bring the reader into the period and the action described. The identity of the murderer is arrived at via exhaustive investigation by De Quincey and his associates. We follow his logic throughout the book in moving from one criminal act to the next until the criminal is unmasked. The ending is a satisfactory sequence, and appears to set up at least another book involving the characters in the first two books. An absorbing read amid the realization of how well Morrell has described the era and the events, and the probable thoughts and conversations that might have actually taken place.

3/15 Paul Lane

INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD by David Morrell. Mulholland Books (March 24, 2015).  ISBN: 978-0316323932. 352p.

CAPTURED by Neil Cross

March 22, 2015
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

Kenny has just learned that he only has a few weeks left to live. Before he dies, he vows to track down the people he feels he owes the most to and somehow make amends. The list is short: Mary, his ex wife; Thomas Kintry, a boy Kenny witnessed almost being kidnapped; Mr. Jeganathan, the convenience store owner who saved Kintry (Kenny was unable to identify the kidnapper in interviews with the police, something he’s always regretted); and Callie Barton, the only schoolmate who showed him kindness in his worst years of childhood.

Mary is easy, they’ve remained the best of friends but Kenny doesn’t want to tell her he’s about to die. Even Kintry and Jeganathan are fairly quick to track down. But Callie… Callie is a tough one. It seems Callie has been missing for quite some time and her husband is the prime suspect.

Cross, the creator of BBC’s Luther, has a very clipped and short style. His prose is quick and tight, but there’s very little in the way of setting or character development. Instead, much of the effort is in unexpected twists and violence. And in Captured he does excel at both.

All in all, this isn’t one that will likely blow you away with its clever plotting but it is one that reads quick and easy and packs a wallop in terms of action.

3/15 Becky LeJeune

CAPTURED by Neil Cross. Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller (January 27, 2015). ISBN: 978-1497692749. 268p.


March 21, 2015

Click to purchase

The Sinful Scoundrels (Book 2)

This is my second Vicky Dreiling book. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember I had read her before until I got to the end of this one and the “preview” of the next book in the series, What a Devilish Duke Desires. After reading the preview, I realized I had read that book and ended up just skimming most of it. I won’t review a book I haven’t read in its entirety, so I never reviewed it. I did read this book, although I’m pretty sure I nodded off now and again.

The premise is a fairly common one; Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire, a rakehell, assumes his family home, where his mother is buried, will someday be his. But he receives a letter from his father informing him that the property is to be sold. He rushes home and his father tells him he can have the property if he marries within 6 weeks.

Lady Angeline grew up as Colin’s neighbor but his drunken appearance at her debut made them enemies. Lady Angeline has a problem; she broke off her engagement to the scurrilous Brentmoor, who subsequently spread lies about her, severely damaging her reputation. The only way to salvage it is to marry quickly, and to someone with a title.

I usually love this storyline but not so much here. You know from the get go they will end up together, and that’s fine. But what isn’t fine is the repetition – the thoughts, the dialogue, the dog peeing in the water closet. There is more than one way to express a thought or emotion but not in this book. Some of the actions didn’t make sense either – she’s a virgin with a sullied reputation yet doesn’t hesitate to jump into bed?

I was too invested in these characters to give it up but I really can’t recommend this book.

3/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHAT A RECKLESS ROGUE NEEDS by Vicky Dreiling. Forever (March 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0062334657. 384p.

COST OF LIFE by Joshua Corin

March 20, 2015
Click to purchase Kindle only

Click to purchase

Larry Walder, veteran airline pilot, is fast asleep on the morning of July 4th.  If events move as they should he will awaken normally and ready himself to fly a plane filled with vacationers to Cozumel, Mexico. But events do not move as planned. He and his wife and child are rudely awakened when three men break into their house, take his family hostage, and tell Larry that he will fly the plane as planned, but to an airfield of their choosing.

Corin takes his readers on a giddy ride into terror with a plot that could occur in today’s world of extremist attacks with no aversion to murder. Captain Walder is forced into a car and driven to the airport to take command of his flight. On the way a police officer stopping the car for a minor infraction is shot to death by the terrorists. And that is just the first of many killings at the hands of the people kidnapping him and telling him that if he doesn’t do as told his wife and child will be murdered.

Why the take over and rerouting of the plane is the centerpiece of Corin’s engrossing novel. The terrorists have planned their actions with great care, and look like they have thought of every possible counter action that could thwart their interests. To call the book “an all nighter” does not do it justice. The reader will be caught up in details that are carefully plotted by Joshua Corin and will find it almost impossible to put the book down before finishing it.

Well done and certainly presenting the author as a master of plot and character and one to follow in the future.

3/15 Paul Lane

COST OF LIFE by Joshua Corin. Alibi (March 17, 2015).  ASIN: B00N6PEWCS. Print Length: 294 pages


March 19, 2015

Click to purchase

While Alice’s mother is pressing her to find a man and settle down, she doesn’t know that her young daughter has indeed found someone. But that someone is married and Alice becomes pregnant after just one night together.

It’s 1933 and to avoid the inevitable scandal, Alice’s mother reaches out to her childhood friend, a maid at Fiercombe Manor. Lord Stanton and his wife live abroad and after the story Alice’s mother spins – a tragic tale a young husband struck down in an accident – they offer up their home as a place of rest and respite for the duration of Alice’s pregnancy.

Fiercombe Manor is an ominous place and Alice immediately begins to feel weighed down by the secrets of its past. But as she tries to learn more, the few remaining servants become very secretive, especially when Alice asks them about the previous Lady Stanton, a woman whose fate seems to be a mystery even to the locals.

Kate Riordan spins this tale with two narrators and two timelines – Alice in 1933 as she waits out her term and Elizabeth in 1898 who is expecting her second child. Strangely, in Alice’s timeline no one really talks about Elizabeth. Alice learns that Elizabeth’s husband died, leaving his brother to inherit both the estate and mounting debts. She also learns that Elizabeth’s home, built by the deceased Lord Stanton, and its contents were all auctioned off just ten years after being built. All that remains of that home – Stanton House – is an overgrown foundation, the garden wall, and a glasshouse Alice has been forbidden from entering.

As Alice finds more and more clues about Elizabeth, Elizabeth herself shares pieces of her story. We meet her in alternating chapters as well as diary entries that Alice discovers hidden on the estate. Both women are very well drawn and their stories are both captivating and suspense laden. Fiercombe Manor is a great atmospheric read and a nice blend of mystery and drama.

(Published as The Girl in the Photograph in the UK.)

3/15 Becky LeJeune

FIERCOMBE MANOR by Kate Riordan. Harper (February 17, 2015). ISBN: 978-0062332943. 416p.

HOSTAGE RUN by Andrew Klavan

March 18, 2015
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

Mindwar Trilogy (Book 2)

Part of a trilogy by Klavan about a high tech attack on America. A terrorist has created a mind world in order to carry out his planned cyber attack on the U.S. Opposed to them is a secret American government organization working to thwart the planned attack.

Rick Dial was a star quarterback when his career was cut short due to injuries suffered in an auto accident. Unable to walk his gaming instincts were called to the attention of the government agency who then recruited him. Rick had already been trained and sent into the mind world as was described in a previous novel.

Information is gathered about another planned attack from mind world and Rick is the only one that is available to go back in and thwart it. The terrorists, as a means of stopping Rick kidnap his best friend Molly and threaten to kill her if he does not stop his actions in the mind world. The plight Molly is in and her attempts to escape are delineated along side of Rick’s actions to prevent the attack on the U.S.

The novel is, of course, science fiction, but is highly imaginative and logical based on the facts presented. It is very well done as an adventure story and keeps the reader glued to the book. The story is planned to be continued in the next book in the series with the ending of this crafted to lead logically into the next.

3/15 Paul Lane

HOSTAGE RUN by Andrew Klavan. Thomas Nelson (March 17, 2015).  ISBN: 978-1401688950. 352p.

Guest Blogger: Jacob Rubin

March 17, 2015
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

Win a copy of Jacob Rubin’s caffeinated and wildly comic debut novel, which was recently selected a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for spring 2015 and named a one of Huffington Post’s 2015 Books We Can’t Wait to Read.

In the same vein as George Saunders and Sam Lipsyte, THE POSER chronicles the hijinks and crises of Giovanni Bernini, the World’s Greatest Impressionist—a man whose bizarre compulsion and ability to imitate anyone he meets catapults him from small-town obscurity to widespread fame. As he describes it, “No one disguise is perfect. There is in every person, no matter how graceful, a seam, a thread curling out of them. . . .  When pulled by the right hands, it will unravel the person entire.”

Honed by his theatrical mother at a young age, his talent eventually takes him from his hometown to the nightclubs of the City and eventually the sound stages of Fantasma Falls, the glamorous, west coast city similar to Hollywood. As Giovanni’s fame grows, he encounters a cast of provocative characters—including an exuberant manager, a mysterious chanteuse, an enigmatic psychoanalyst, and a deaf obsessive compulsive—and becomes increasingly trapped inside many personas. When his bizarre talent comes to define him, Giovanni is forced to assume the one identity he has never been able to master: his own.

At its heart, the novel speaks to the power of performance, impersonation, acting, and what it means to find and understand the essence of someone, and of yourself. I think author Sam Lipsyte nails it when he says Rubin “is a great hope for comic fiction in the 21st century.” Though THE POSER is his debut, it certainly announces the arrival of a new and unmistakable voice in American fiction.

Check out the Book Trailer

Q&A with Jacob Rubin, author of THE POSER

Giovanni Bernini, The Poser’s protagonist, is known as the World’s Greatest Impressionist. He’s born with the uncanny ability to imitate anyone he meets instantaneously. Throughout the literary spectrum, plenty of stories have been written about performers or performing, but not impressionists specifically. How did you conjure up such an interesting character?

The Poser began, oddly enough, in the trash. Years ago I was working on a not very good short story about a man who wakes up in a woman’s apartment after a one-night stand. Remembering little of the night before, he begins to root around in her garbage for clues. One of the items he finds was, to my surprise, a black-and-white photo of a famed impressionist, a man who could famously imitate anyone he met. As I soon discovered, I was much more interested in this unexpected performer than I was in the guy who discovered him. I scrapped the story right then and wrote another one, very quickly, about this character Giovanni Bernini. After many years, it became The Poser.

You have experience as a performer—both as a juggler for hire and as the lead rapper of the hip-hop group Witness Protection Program, opening for groups like Jurassic Five and Blackalicious, to name a few. How has your background as a performer influenced the creation of Giovanni Bernini?

I can’t seem to get away from performance, in life or in writing. Personae, masks, fraudulence, disguise—all have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I think a lot about that Picasso line: that art is a “lie that tells the truth.” It seems to me this paradox can obtain in life, too. Like, I once read an article in the Times about a survivor of 9/11, a woman who had been in the south tower when the planes hit. After the tragedy, she organized these legendary support groups. They were these deeply cathartic events, arranged with great thought and care. Survivors and relatives of victims depended on her entirely, so strong was her empathy. Only later did it come out that this woman hadn’t been in the towers at all—she made the whole thing up. I find such behavior deeply disturbing, of course, but fascinating, too. The lie, for this woman at least, clearly felt like an emotional truth.

I did stand-up comedy for a little while, and I think the status of the stand-up comedian reflects a similar paradox: instead of a lie that tells the truth, maybe a stand-up states a truth so serious it has to be packaged as a joke. The stage offers a kind of loophole, a free zone in which what would otherwise be punishably inappropriate can be aired with impunity, even to applause. It’s what performance offers in general, I think: this magical, cordoned-off space where people can lie, hurl abuse, decompensate, and the crowd hoorahs! In The Poser, I wanted to explore a character who finds that his previously outrageous behavior is celebrated simply because it’s put on the stage.

A man with a million personas, Giovanni seemingly can be anyone except himself and at one point in the story undergoes psychoanalysis. Coming from a family of psychiatrists yourself, you must have some insight into analysis and some rather interesting stories, to boot. Will you talk briefly about growing up among psychoanalysts and how that may have shaped Giovanni as a character and the story as a whole?

My grandfather, Theodore Isaac Rubin, was a very famous psychiatrist in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. He appeared regularly on the Phil Donoghue show and wrote many bestselling novels and self-help books, one of which was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie, David and Lisa. Largely because of his influence, my father, aunt, and uncle all went on to become shrinks. Suffice it to say, there is no dearth of introspection at our family get-togethers. (Somewhat notoriously, I informed a classmate of mine in the third grade that he was “projecting”; I am still living this down.) And yet I also wanted to show how beneficial therapy can be. I think portrayals of analysis in books and movies are often pretty lazy, framing it as this ridiculous or masturbatory exercise. I wanted to show that there is true empathy in it – a kind of warm detachment – that can really help people.

The Poser is told from Giovanni’s perspective, at a point in his life where he’s looking back at everything that’s befallen him. What compelled you to use first-person confession as the mode for telling the story?

The enjoinder to “show don’t tell” is important for every young writer to hear, and yet so many of my favorite books wholly disregard it. Notes from the Underground, for instance, or Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, the novels of Robertson Davies and Stanley Elkin. Everyone knows novels can’t compete with movies or video games for sheer sensory onslaught, but books, for my money, capture better than any other media the interiority of experience, the “music of someone’s intelligence,” as Richard Ford once put it. My favorite books promise just this kind of intimate—and for that reason, often scandalous—experience. Like, Lolita or Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son. You open those books, and you’re encountering this presence, this personality talking about something it shouldn’t have done in a voice unlike any you’ve ever heard. My favorite books, probably for that reason, feel like a secret, and you feel slightly cheated when you find out someone else read it. You’re like, “Hands off. She told that to me and no one else.”

Thematically, I thought the first-person narrative was necessary for The Poser as it’s about a man struggling to find himself, which he does, in the end, by telling the story. I also liked the tension of having someone act a certain way, as a performer or fraud, while narrating his often discordant internal experience. He says one thing, but thinks another. This is something I think fiction can do particularly well.

Giovanni’s world is noir-ish, vaudevillian, even a bit surreal. The story is set in an imaginary country that somewhat resembles America of the 1950s and 60s. What was your thought process in setting the story in a parallel, fable-like world?  Did you do any research to flesh out its wonderful detail?

I knew I was taking a risk in setting the book in an imaginary place, a parallel America of the 50s and 60s, and yet it felt necessary for the kind of book I was hoping to write. The Poser, as I see it, is about Giovanni’s attempt to become a real person; it felt right that the landscape, too, might strain to be real, flickering between the evoked and the shadowy. I did do research about the corresponding time in America. Stuff about clothes, some slang, etc. I used as models for the noir prose style novels by favorites like Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler.

I can’t seem to escape the surreal. In visual art, it’s always been my favorite: Giacometti’s sculptures, for instance, or the paintings of Paul Klee. I think I’ve always aspired to whatever the prose equivalent of such a way of seeing would be. For me, it is rare that when meeting a person I note what color nail polish she’s wearing or which kind of ankle boot (this can be very embarrassing, mind you, for someone meant to be observant). Encountering a person can be a pretty damn surreal experience, much more like meeting a Giacometti or a Klee. I think the same is true of places. Just walking around and seeing people yammering on their cellphones or driving around in these motorized chrome bubbles—we live in a sci-fi movie! My agent, Jin Auh, once relayed a line the author George Garrett had about Fellini’s movies. He called them “science fiction set in the past.” I loved that. I think that’s what I’m trying to write.

Bestselling author Sam Lipsyte praised you as “a great hope for comic fiction in the 21st century.” Did you set out to write a humorous book? Were there any books or authors—comedic or otherwise—who inspired you while writing The Poser?

Sam Lipsyte has made me laugh so many times, so I was on cloud nine when I found out he enjoyed the book. I certainly hope the novel’s funny. My old teacher Barry Hannah used to say that books should offer “deep entertainment”; the unkillable ham in me can’t seem to let go of the second word. All of my favorite contemporary writers make me laugh: Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, Sam Lipsyte, Barry. Even very dark, supposedly depressing, classics are secretly knee-slappers. I’m thinking of writers like Knut Hamsun, Thomas Bernhard, Samuel Beckett, and Herman Melville. I read Paul Auster’s introduction to Hunger, in which Auster talks about how dark and miserable the book is (all of which is true, of course), but I also thought, it’s hilarious! The truly tragic is the funniest stuff there is! The fact that we live on a spinning ball in an endless void, or that we possess a seemingly infinite consciousness but will all die. It’s just so absurd. I think laugher is the sound of someone accepting their powerlessness and through that acceptance briefly somehow transcending it. And it shouldn’t ever be explained. And I now ruined it forever.

Besides working as a novelist, a magician, and a rapper, you also write screenplays. In fact, Times Square, a script you co-wrote with Taylor Materne, was recently optioned by Focus Features. In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference between writing a novel and a script, and do you prefer writing one form over the other?

I’ve found the two to be very different. In film, structure is king, so you really have to work out the entire plot as much as you can before setting off to write. It helps a lot to work with someone else to figure out what needs to happen when.  Of course, you often end up changing nearly everything anyway, but it’s almost more like assembling a watch or engine, some device that has to meet company-mandated specs. Fiction writing, for me, is a much more unwieldy, inefficient, foolhardy, and reliably meaningful experience. That said, I’ve always enjoyed writing dialogue, and the script stuff is a fun opportunity to pen snappy exchanges. In movie writing, you get to put down things like, “NO WAY OUT. The green creature on his heels, he GRABS the duffel bag and – screw it – LEAPS OFF the roof over the sea wall to the CHURNING WATERS of the GULF of MEXICO.”

The Poser is your debut novel. Is there a second in the works? If so, could you talk a bit about it? If not, would you mind divulging what other creative projects you’re currently working on?

There is a lengthy word file in my laptop that I hesitate to call a second novel, but perhaps it will be one day! It is too early to talk about it, but I hope it will be funny.

To win your own copy, please send an email to with “WIN POSER” as the subject.

You must include your snail mail address in your email.

All entries must be received by March 31, 2015. Two (2) names will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. Your book will be sent by the publisher, Viking Press.

One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.

3/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE POSER by Jacob Rubin. Viking (March 17, 2015). ISBN 978-0670016761. 256p.

JOSHUA: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane

March 16, 2015

Click to purchase

This is one of those books that I picked up because my library patrons kept raving about it and the reserve list is quite long. It also had the added attraction of being set in Brooklyn, my birthplace and my son’s current home. When there is that much interest in a book, I like to take a look at it, and I’m very glad I did.

At its heart, it is a coming of age story but it is also a history of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, starting in the late 1950s but with some additional historic information going back to the 1800s.

There are three main characters, four if you count Crown Heights and I certainly do. Joshua Eubanks is a young black boy whose mother is a maid for the Sims, a wealthy Jewish family on Long Island. Mr. Sims owns some apartments in Brooklyn, where he moves his maid/mistress and their son, but Joshua doesn’t know about his father. He does hear a lot about Paul Sims, his half-brother, and while they don’t know about their relationship they do know about one another.

Joshua befriends the only other black child in the building, Jerome, and as they approach adolescence, he falls in love with Jerome’s sister, Celeste. Unbeknownst to Joshua, she is having serious problems at home that have long reaching repercussions.

As Paul Sims approaches his bar mitzvah age, he is tutored by Rabbi Weissman, a Hasidic rabbi in Crown Heights. Paul falls in love with the rabbi’s daughter Rachel, but it is not meant to be. Paul’s family left their religious life behind when they Americanized their name, and are appalled that he is pursuing a more orthodox lifestyle.

Rachel makes up the last of the triumvirate. The rabbi’s daughter wants to become a doctor, but that is just not done in the Hasidic community. Women are expected to marry and produce lots of children, and not much more than that. She befriends Joshua, and their relationship has considerable influence on both their lives.

Crown Heights is the last main character, and also comes of age in this story. The community changes from Italian and Irish to African American but the Hasidim are the constant throughout, despite bigotry going in every direction and eventual race riots.

This a completely engrossing story, with well defined characters that the reader can’t help but care about. The tumultuous times add a lot of drama and action, making this a fast paced story as well. What I really liked is that the author showed both the good and the bad in all these racial and religious groups. There was no black and white, only the more realistic shades of gray.

There is a lot for book groups to discuss here, and I would highly recommend it for book discussion. I really enjoyed it, and will be thanking my patrons for recommending it.

1/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

JOSHUA: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane. Berwick Court Publishing (February 26, 2015). ISBN 978-0990951544. 480p.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 305 other followers