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If you’ve ever read a book based on the story of King Arthur, you probably have a pretty good idea on the story line.  Perhaps you remember the sword in the stone, his love Guinevere, or the magical Merlin.  Helen Hollick gives readers a fresh new look at a magnificent tale that has fascinated many for generations.  The Kingmaking strips away everything you thought you knew about Arthur’s life.  

The first part of a trilogy, The Kingmaking gives us a rather realistic look into what Arthur’s life may have been like before becoming a king (if indeed he did exist at all - no one’s sure!)  Gone are such fantastical elements as a small boy pulling the Excalibur from a stone; but what Hollick has replaced these scenes with will leave readers wondering if she’s known something of the truth all along. 

While The Kingmaking is a work of fiction, it reads as a well-researched historical dramatization.  Most certainly much research has gone into adding credibility and an amazing amount of detail to the book.  Anyone with the least bit of interest in such history (the book takes place in the mid 400’s AD) will thoroughly enjoy the rich and historical detail.  I closed the book feeling I’d learned a great deal about the time period, and in fact felt I’d not only read about, but visited Britain’s Dark Ages.

Most impressive of all is Hollick’s ability to lose the reader in her craft of storytelling.  Scenes come alive, jumping off the page and engaging the reader.  Many was the time during this 600-page novel when a battle scene had me so drawn in I was sure I could physically hear it.  I even remember one scene jumping and thinking, “I hope it doesn’t wake my son!”  No, he slept peacefully as I sat in the living room engaged in battle from my couch.  Fortunately I had a sword at the ready for protection.

Not once during The Kingmaking did I ever think, “My, what a long book!  I’m ready for something else.”  No, instead I finished with a sigh, wondering where the time went and hoping that Helen Hollick has that second of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy well underway.  Because I don’t know how long I’ll be able to wait to get back to old Britain.

I am happily bestowing carp(e) libris reviews’ Goldfish Award on The Kingmaking.  I dub it an award-winner most certainly!

Want to win your own copy of The Kingmaking?  I thought you would…


Rules for Entry:

1.) Just Leave a Comment telling me why you’d be interested in reading The Kingmaking.   (You may enter once a day - following entries don’t require you to answer the question.) Remember, leave an interesting comment.  If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Email subscribers get an extra entry for as long as their subscription is active.

     Already a subscriber?  Leave me a separate comment on this post to let me know you’re interested in this giveaway.

     Want to subscribe?  Just enter your email address in the “Subscribe” box on the left. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you do not receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post.  Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post. (If your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry - I may have to approve it first.  My blog might think it’s spam but gosh darn, I certainly don’t!)

4.) I’m feeling Twittery.  If you Twitter a link to this giveaway, come back and comment here to let me know your Twitter name for another entry! (I’m dkmommy if you want to follow me.)

Feel free to do all four to gain several entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Tuesday, March 3, 2009, to enter.

Follow the booktour for The Kingmaking and find some great new book blogs: 2/20 2/21 and interview 2/27 2/23 2/23 2/23 2/23 and guest blog 2/25 2/25 2/26 and guest blog 2/27 2/26 2/26 2/27 3/1 3/1 3/1 3/1 3/2 3/2 3/2 3/2 and interview 3/3 3/3 3/3 3/3 and interview on 3/5 3/4 3/4 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/6 3/6

Check out all current giveaways for both my blogs here.

16. December 2008 · Comments Off on Other Lives by Andre Brink · Categories: Book Reviews, Goldfish Award Books, South African Literature · Tags: ,

Take an accomplished South African writer nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature three times, add a surprising Hitchcock-like plot with a message and stir.  What comes out will be a book you will never, ever forget.  Andre Brink’s Other Lives is one of the most creative novels I’ve read in a long time.  

Three separate stories merge, crisscross, and get you tangled as they weave through the pages.  Imagine a white South African man who, upon entering his studio, suddenly discovers it’s been transformed into a house.  In it are a black woman who calls him her husband and two little children thrilled to see their daddy.  He’s never seen these people before in his life. Or a white man who wakes up, looks in the mirror, and finds he’s no longer white.  Or a famous pianist who is in love with a singer who won’t allow him to get close to her.  Even after tragedy strikes.  You’ll be hanging onto the edge of your seat throughout the novel, pondering, rethinking what you thought you knew about bigotry and racism, no matter what your color.  

Other Lives is a fantastic novel on so many levels.  Don’t let your book club miss this one - it’s ripe with discussion material.  Once you read it, it will be kept on your “favorites” shelf waiting for the time you’ll pick it up and read it again - and you will.  This is a book that would make excellent study material for psychology, sociology, and South African culture courses.  The message refuses to get lost in the story line as Brink has a way of putting you in the characters’ heads. What would you do if you discovered you aren’t at all who you thought you were?  Want to find out?  Read Other Lives.  You won’t be able to end the book without discovering the answer to that question.

No surprises here - this book gets the carp(e) libris reviews Goldfish Award.  Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.

When a photographer stumbles upon a Kentucky mountaintop homestead and upsetting one of the residents, everything for this small community begins to change and shift.  Chain reactions are set into place, and the results in Ziesk’s latest novel The Trespasser will draw you into a world where you will definitely change your mind over and over again about who the trespasser really is.  Living in the Appalachians is its own unique challenge, and not for everyone.  Sometimes it’s for hermits who never want to leave, other times it becomes a prison to those who don’t want to stay.  Whichever one you turn out to be, The Trespasser is a book you’ll stay with to the end.

I loved Ziesk’s style of writing; very visual, beautiful writing with just the right amount of darkness about it.  The characters are well-constructed and believable, the scenery plays like a movie in your mind, and the plot took turns I never expected.  When you read a lot of books, this is a nice surprise indeed!  Overall, her style offers something I always look for in a book: an air of mystery with characters I keep thinking back to long after the book is closed.  The Trespasser just has to receive the Goldfish Award, and I happily give it.

Edra Ziesk has written two other novels: Acceptable Losses: A Novel and A Cold Spring.  Will I be looking for them?  Most definitely.

Congratulations to Rebekah, the winner of The Front Porch Prophet.  

A.J. has just discovered his best friend is deathly ill, so he decides it’s time they got over their rift and made amends.  But Eugene is no simple friend.  His dying requests are killers.  What A.J. has to face is more than just sorting through their friendship’s past.  He also has some big decisions to make, and it’s time to see how far he’ll go for friendship.

Set in the mountains of Georgia, The Front Porch Prophet gives the reader a look at quirky small town life.  Amidst humorous dialogue and unusual townsfolk, Atkins weaves a tale that will have the reader hard-pressed to set the book down. The Front Porch Prophet is a touching and clever novel that looks at life, death, and friendship with a warm Southern slant.  If you like John Nichols (The Milagro Beanfield War), you’re gonna love Raymond L. Atkin’s new novel.  This book does all the things a good novel should do:  It inspires, brings on the tears, makes you laugh out loud.  That’s why The Front Porch Prophet gets the Goldfish Award.  And that’s why I’m so pleased to tell you I have an extra autographed copy to give away.  

If you don’t win, do yourself a favor and go buy a copy of The Front Porch Prophet.  This is the kind of novel to read when the autumn weather is moving in and you just want to curl up in your favorite spot with an absorbing book.  

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me what you’ve done for a friend or what they’ve done for you.  Did it change you?  Did it change your friendship?  Be thoughtful with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Monday, October 6, 2008, to enter.

I hope you’ll excuse my brief absence. I was taking my leisure with some skunk. Skunk A Love Story, that is. When I first stumbled upon this book, I was immediately taken in by the premise: A man, obsessed by the odor of skunks, falls in love with a woman equally obsessed with fish. While the storyline definitely got my attention, I couldn’t help but wonder-could Courter pull it off through an entire book? After all, the story was originally published as a short. I had a hard time imagining it going any further than a few chapters. But I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Skunk A Love Story is a whirl of imagination and one-of-a-kind humor. I spent much of my reading time laughing out loud and then rereading the portion of text to laugh some more. While the premise may seem completely unbelievable and a rather tall tale when told in summary, the way in which the book is written will have any reader buying it hook, line, and sinker. Another big surprise? Skunk’s plot line takes several drastic turns, and I’d love to tell you what happens but I won’t be a stinker. I’ve seen many books fall flat when the author decides to rip the protagonist out of his comfy setting and plunk him somewhere totally unexpected. But Courter makes these transitions brilliantly without leaving the reader straining to find his way back into the groove.

I am pleased to bestow the great and not-yet coveted Goldfish Award on this most worthy of books. Skunk will make for fantastic summer reading. Sarcastic humor, unusual story line, and the only thing fluffy about it are those cute black and white critters. You’ll want to breathe this one in and savor it as I did. So here’s your chance. I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.

3 Ways to Enter:

1.) Leave a comment telling me something you’re really hooked on. I’ll go first - I admit to liking the smell of skunk. Yes, I am a skunk sniffer, but only at a distance. I’ve never had one as a pet, but I knew someone who did and I was jealous. Don’t tell anyone, please. It’s rather embarrassing.

2.) Subscribers are automatically entered into this and all future giveaways. Just plunk your email address in the little white box on the right column. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Wednesday, May 21, 2008, to enter.

***Read the first three chapters of Skunk A Love Story online. This book is available in June from Omnidawn.

Ever read a book that haunted you? One that would not, no matter how you tried, allow you to put it down until the last page was read? If it’s been awhile since you’ve had that type of a reading experience, then it’s time to read Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow by Dedra Johnson.

Sandrine, a girl of nine living in New Orleans in the mid-1970’s, has had to grow up much faster than any little girl should have to do. Her mother makes it painfully clear she was never wanted and has interfered in her mother’s life in every way possible. Her father loves her, but only from a distance. She seems to be tossed aside carelessly by everyone who is supposed to love and care for her; no one protects her.

Written in first person, Sandrine is a very real character from page one. Despite the fact that it is told through the eyes of a child, the voice is intelligent and mature for her years. But Sandrine is still only a child. The reader will understand much more of what is happening in Sandrine’s life than she does. Sandrine is taken through difficulties no child should experience, including racism (even among her own family due to her light skin) sexual assault, and child abuse.

Dedra Johnson has a unique voice, and with her skills at writing page-turning narrative, I’m certain it’s only a matter of time before we hear more from her. Her work has an appeal that can easily hook you; with the right promotion, hers will become more than just another book on the shelf. I’m not the only one who feels this way - she’s been compared to Toni Morrison, and I have to agree it has that beautiful yet heartbreaking quality Morrison is known for.

Dedra Johnson is a New Orleans native. Dedra was a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Award for College Writers and Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow was a finalist for the 2006 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Check back tomorrow to read my interview with Dedra where she’ll give us some insight on her book.

I have a copy of Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow to give away to one reader. As always, subscribers are automatically entered in this and all future book giveaways. (If you’re not subscribed, please type your email address in the box in the right-hand column. Make sure you add Feedburner to your address book so you can verify your subscription.) You can also enter by leaving a comment telling me what interests you about the book, or link to this giveaway from your own blog. Do all three, and you have three entries. I’ll draw a winner on April 24, 2008, 12 midnight. (***Note: Contest is now extended to April 25, 2023 midnight. This drawing is now listed on Bloggy Giveaways, which is having a huge giveaway carnival. If you like giveaways, this is the place to be this week!)

A carp(e) libris reviews goldfish award book.

One of my purposes with carp(e) libris reviews has been to help you as a reader stretch out and discover literature you otherwise may not have found. I can’t ask you to try something out of the ordinary if I’m not willing to do it myself. For me, this reach is poetry - something I’ve always known I should grasp for, that it would fulfill a reading need of my own. And I have begun to search out poets to share here, in an effort to expand the horizons of my own bookshelf, along with yours.

Voice of Ice did something for me I cannot quite explain. So often with the craft of writing, pain is beauty. Voice of Ice by Alta Ifland is the perfect example. I can only imagine the poet being stopped by her own words as she wrote, just to weep. Alta Ifland is originally from Eastern Europe, and her feelings of being stuck between two worlds which are both and neither her own, is transcribed into her poetry.

Ifland’s poems hover in a dreamlike state, and I felt as though reading her words, I was reading my own half thoughts I’ve never dared express aloud. She’s made a beauty of what we have all struggled to understand about ourselves, trying to figure out where we fit into this very imperfect world. Her words are so personal that I hesitate to share with you how they touched me because if you read it (as I hope you do), you may learn too much about who I am. That, as I am learning, is good poetry.

Not only is this a stunning work to read, it is wonderful to hold and look at. The care with which Les Figues Press put the book together is apparent. It’s slender and a little weighty with a glossy cover and a beautiful work of art on the back. Danielle Adair has done the artwork for each book in the TrenchArt series of which Ifland’s is a part. I don’t always talk about the appearance of books, but I’ve noticed that independent presses have an artistic way of putting together a book that I appreciate. This one gets an A from me!

(Later Note: Alright, alright. P.J. Grath is correct - in the comments she mentions I’ve really raved about this book. This one really deserves the Goldfish Award, so I’ve come back and bestowed it upon this very worthy book. It’s been making me itch that I didn’t put it there in the first place. Carry on, dear readers.)

Now that I’ve got you wishing you could have your own copy, I do have one here for a giveaway. As always, subscribers are automatically entered into this and all future giveaways. Or you may leave a comment telling me what intrigues you about this book. Posting a link to this giveaway on your blog enters you as well. Do all three, and you have three entries. I’ll randomly choose a winner on April 5, 2008, at 12noon EST.

If you’re looking for a series of short stories that will completely absorb you, the kind that keeps you up later than you intended thinking “I’ll read just one more,” then I’ve got your book.

Eight Dogs Named Jack is filled with everything from street rats and made men to hardworking honest people. Set in the contrasting locations of wooded Northern Michigan and the city of Detroit, all the stories are held together with fascinating characters. Large Italian families fill the pages with lingo that makes one misty-eyed over the loss of The Sopranos. You can’t help but start using words like “mamaluke” or “Maddon” or craving Italian sausages grilled with a little beer dumped on for good measure. The author, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist Joe Borri, seasons his writing with fantastic metaphors and similes. One of my favorites? “Tighter than an accountant’s rosebud.” No one talks like that in my neighborhood. What a pity.

My biggest surprise in this book was how Borri could take stories anywhere from a tough Detroit setting to the remote and beautiful wilderness of upper Michigan and back, and make it a perfectly cohesive collection. His singular voice pulls all the stories together in a unified group, yet each plot is unique.

And let’s not forget the artwork. Each story contains drawings by the author that I really enjoyed, reminding me of the sort of art I often see in my favorite mystery magazines or pulp fiction novels. The subjects vary as much as the story topics, and it adds to the book’s appeal.

Overall, Eight Dogs Named Jack is an absolute blast to read. Giving you everything from on-the-edge-of-your-seat mob thrills to tear-jerker tales about man’s best friend, this book has wide appeal. So take a copy to your favorite outdoor chair and break out your best cigar. Because if you miss this one - well, fuhgetaboutit.

I’ve got one hardcover copy to give away thanks to Momentum Books, so leave a comment telling me what you find intriguing about the book. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you’re automatically entered to win this and all book giveaways here. I’ll select a winner on 03/15/08, 12noon EST. Check the Giveaway Rules for more details and another shot at winning. Don’t be a mamaluke - just enter.

A carp(e) libris goldfish award book.

A handful of times in my life I have finished a book and turned it over to start again. Sometimes I want to carry the book around with me even after I’ve closed the pages, just to look at the cover and remember. I finished reading I’jaam - An Iraqi Rhapsody by Sinan Antoon three days ago, and I keep going back to pick it up and read.

In this fictional memoir, a forgotten manuscript is found in a filing cabinet of an Iraqi prison. Someone must read through it and determine what should be done with it. The entire book is that manuscript, which was written by a poet jailed during Sadaam’s regime. The mixture of beauty and pain throughout reminds me of Elie Wiesel’s Night, a deeply moving story of a Nazi concentration camp victim.

Weighty in substance but not difficult to read, I’jaam deserves to go down in history as an account of what happened in the Iraq of Sadaam’s terror. This book is not political. It is deeply human, and no matter what your race, religion, or ethnicity, you will walking away with more understanding and compassion. The book’s 97 pages allows the reader to finish in a few submersed hours which gives it more of an impact.

Sinan Antoon was born in Baghdad and now lives in New York where he teaches Arabic literature and culture at NYU. He’s also a poet, a novelist, and a filmmaker, having co-directed and produced a documentary called About Baghdad.

Win Your Own Copy: If you want to experience I’jaam too, I am fortunate enough to have a copy to give away. Leave a comment here telling me what intrigues you about the book. For another entry, post a link on your blog to this giveaway. If you are subscribed to carp(e) libris reviews, you are already entered to win this and all other book giveaways here, but feel free to comment and link for extra entries as well. The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday March 2, 2008, at 12:00pm.

Buy I’Jaam here and support carp(e) libris and your local bookseller.

Published by City Lights Books.

carp(e) libris goldfish award book

Sometimes a book draws you in like a lucid dream. You smell, hear, touch; you see everything before your eyes but printed words on a page. This was the journey I took in Locke 1928, guided by the masterful storytelling of Shawna Yang Ryan. The pages are filled with Chinese folklore, moving flashbacks, and a vivid attention to detail. The narrow streets lined with Old West-style wooden buildings harbor lost souls, broken dreams, and the possibility of ghosts. When three Chinese women float to shore on a dilapidated boat after having been adrift at sea for over a month, the men of the town line up to woo them. The madame of the local brothel begins having visions she takes as a warning. The pastor’s wife, the only “whitewoman” in town who isn’t a prostitute, takes two of the women under her wing, and it could be a big mistake.

Locke 1928 reveals a real town in the Sacramento Delta very few Americans have heard of. The first town in America built by the Chinese for the Chinese, the city of Locke still exists today, and looks much the same as when it was first built in 1915. I was fascinated by the pictures on the city’s website because Locke looks just as Ryan portrayed it in her writing. In fact, Ryan’s seven years of obvious hard work on this book gives it such realism it feels as if she walked in the shoes of each and every character herself.

Locke 1928 is breathtakingly haunting. I’ve ingested the characters and will carry them with me, and for this reason, I am giving Ryan’s first novel the carp(e) libris Goldfish Award. A completely moving work worth reading, without a doubt. If you have a to-be-read list, this one must be placed at the top.

Published by El Leon Literary Arts.