My Historical Novels Review article has been published!

A Study in Perspective: The Cultural Themes of Kamila Shamsie’s Epics

by Andrea Connell

A God in Every StoneKamila Shamsie has written novels of extraordinary power and depth, epics that transcend genres and time periods. Her historical fiction is packed with hard-hitting themes and exploration of cultures and locations — and combinations of these — that one does not commonly see on bookstore shelves.

Shamsie was born in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1973, into an English-speaking family; her mother and grandmother were both writers. She herself studied creative writing in the United States, publishing her first novel in 1998 while a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts. Now she divides her time between Pakistan and the UK, as well as teaching in the United States. She has written six novels, two of which are historical fiction. Burnt Shadows, her fifth novel (Bloomsbury, 2009; reviewed in HNR Issue 48, May 2009), was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize and translated in more than twenty countries, while her latest novel, A God in Every Stone (reviewed in this issue), was released in the United States by Atavist Books (August 2014).

Her historical works show her passion for unearthing stories related to Pakistan’s history, as well as utilizing the influence of intercultural factors on relationships as a metaphor for larger political or social issues. Both these books are intricate literary feasts, exploring the tumultuous periods and relationships between vastly different cultures from the First World War to the beginning of the War on Terror. With so much variation in each novel, just how did the author’s conceptions for her multicultural epics arise?

Shamsie elaborates: “With Burnt Shadows I thought I was going to write a book set in Karachi during the summer of 1998 when India and Pakistan tested their nuclear bombs, but that led me to think about the use of atom bombs in Japan in 1945 — and next thing I knew I had a novel starting in Nagasaki; researching Nagasaki 1945 made me think of parallels with post 9/11 New York — so the entire geographical trajectory of the novel changed. With A God in Every Stone, I was interested in exploring the city of Peshawar and thought that, as with Burnt Shadows, I would write a multi-part novel that would come up to the present day. But I discovered that actually it was the early 20th century story I was interested in, so I cut out everything later and concentrated on 1915 and 1930. And those stories led me from Peshawar to the Eastern and Western front of the First World War.”1

A God in Every Stone transports the reader from the killing fields of Flanders in 1915 to the bloody Peshawar massacre of 1930, while digging through ancient discoveries that intertwine with the dramatic events of the present. Young London archeologist Vivian Rose Spencer, fascinated by the history of ancient empires, joins a dig in Turkey in 1914. A bond forms between her and Turkish archeologist Tahsin Bey, with promise of a future engagement; what happens to their relationship, however, is a tragic consequence of a wartime choice Vivian makes. She also mentors Najeeb, a gifted Indian boy, in whom she senses great potential. In turn, Najeeb is quite taken with her search for the silver circlet of Scylax, a fifth-century BCE explorer who worked on behalf of the Persian king Darius I, and indeed he pursues this passion, in spite of the antagonism of Qayyum, his brother, who is an infantryman in the 40th Pathan Regiment of the British Indian Army.

The archeological theme that threads through the book originated from the author’s fascination with ancient history: “The city of Peshawar is so rich in material for a novelist. It’s been continuously inhabited for over 2500 years and was part of the Persian empire (Herodotus writes about it); Alexander and his armies came through there; later it became one of the great centers of Buddhism; and it’s home to the extraordinary syncretic Gandhara art which shows all these influences. One of the first things I knew about the novel was that it would have archaeologists and an ancient artifact that everyone was looking for (perhaps my childhood love for Indiana Jones coming through there).”

After returning to Peshawar from Flanders, where he was wounded during the battle of Ypres, Qayyum discards the idea of violent revolt against the Raj. He joins an organization of nonviolent revolutionaries but must defy Pashtun tradition and convince his fellows of the plausibility of nonviolence. The strained relationship between the brothers, separated by an immeasurable cultural divide, again surfaces when Najeeb discovers an artifact of great archeological importance and tries to re-establish contact with Vivian at the dig in April 1930. Soon after this, the simmering unease erupts as a nonviolent — yet provocative — protest turns deadly, resulting in the Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre. The forces of empire and the anger of second-class Indian subjects clash, as do the past and the present, and the brothers — one a protégé of the British, the other a disillusioned soldier turned nonviolent anti-imperial activist — finally cross into each other’s worlds.

Burnt Shadows picks up, in a manner of speaking, where A God In Every Stone leaves off, during the demise of the British Raj. However, the novel begins unexpectedly with the horrific atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka, a 21-year-old schoolteacher-turned-wartime munitions factory worker, is content until her lover, Konrad Weiss, an idealistic and artistic German expatriate, suddenly becomes nothing more than a shadow on a rock and Hiroko is left branded with burns in the shape of the birds on the kimono she was wearing on that fateful day. As a hibakusha — a survivor of the bomb — Hiroko is ostracized from Japanese society, and she finds refuge in New Delhi. It is the end of the British reign in India, and the rest of the story encapsulates, through the protagonists’ relationships, the chaotic demise of the Raj and the devastating upheaval caused by man-made boundaries combined with ethnic and religious hatreds.

Burnt Shadows is an historical epic in every sense of the term — spanning sixty years, four countries, and several generations. To that effect, we see interwoven relationships that cross continents, and world events that have rippled consequences as, once again, Shamsie tackles large themes from distinct and unique angles. In Burnt Shadows, the reader views the empire and its subjects’ relationships from a Japanese perspective. The Partition, the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan, 9/11, the involvement of the CIA and private military companies in the war in Afghanistan, and finally — perhaps most intriguing of all — a foray into the minds of radical Islamists — are all political topics covered in Burnt Shadows. This is a rich book, full of insights into human nature and human relations as well.

The author describes the evolution of her thought process for this unusual sequence of events from Japan to Pakistan: “If you look closely enough at history, it’s all so interlinked. Pakistan’s history is the most obvious link between those stories: nuclear bombs and Afghan wars are both so much a part of the country’s recent history that I don’t really see it as much of a jump to get from one to the other. I suppose another way of saying that is that the novel follows its characters, and the characters travel from one link in history to another. What I mean is, I didn’t start off thinking I would go from Nagasaki to Afghanistan and New York, but I allowed the characters to follow their trajectory through history.”

A hallmark of Shamsie’s books, and what makes these novels “multicultural epics,” is her ability to showcase a foreign perspective.2 The Western perspective is not dominant in these stories; rather, they focus on Pakistanis, Indians, and Japanese, and portray events as seen through their eyes. These characters relate their own versions of events and speak from their own cultural points of view, which are deeply influenced by the ethnicities and traditions they inhabit. We see events in A God in Every Stone through the eyes of Qayyum, whose affiliation with his Pashtun ethnicity is the cornerstone of his identity. Shamsie said, in the process of writing, she discarded one idea after another but, “what remained was an impulse to write about the Pathans [Pashtuns] in a way that goes beyond the crass stereotypes of people who live and die by the gun. In the early 20th century there was a very sophisticated and popular movement of nonviolent resistance to colonial rule which I wanted to explore in the novel, while also exploring the very old syncretic traditions of Peshawar.”

Shamsie’s historical fiction is also unapologetically political, portraying strong opinions on hot-button topics. This is a writer not afraid to be publicly critical of the “Islamization” of her native country in her fiction. She is outspoken on the subject of women’s treatment, unafraid to delve into the Indian version of the chaos during the Peshawar massacre of 1930, as well as able to offer a strong Muslim-focused point of view of the Partition. The issue of patriarchy — as a type of imperialism — is also deeply embedded in both novels. Hiroko and Vivian often express negative opinions on this issue, regardless of the different periods in which they live — and the author’s personal opinion on patriarchy is unambiguous: “Wherever in the world you go, you’re living in the world’s oldest and most pervasive empire, which is the empire of patriarchy. I don’t know a place I’ve been to where it doesn’t exist.”3

Yet despite the underlying political commentary in her books, ultimately Shamsie’s protagonists are humans caught up in larger dramas, and the purpose of her books is to be, in the author’s words, “novels which look at what it means to live individual lives entwined with history — how to reconcile the awfulness of the world with the joy of it; how to love, how to be loyal.”

About the contributor: Long-time member of the HNS and National Book Critics Circle, ANDREA CONNELL is a reviews editor for HNR and has been professionally reviewing historical fiction for over a decade. For her day job, she is a project editor for a small university press, as well as a freelance editor for a think tank in the Washington, DC area.

Notes:
1. Email interview with Kamila Shamsie, 29 September 2014, posted in its entirety on thequeensquillreview.com.
2. Jordan Konell, “US fiction perspective skewed,” Yale Daily News, 27 September 2011, http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2011/09/27/us-fiction-perspective-skewed/
3. Natalie Hanman, “Kamila Shamsie: Where is the American writer writing about America in Pakistan? There is a deep lack of reckoning,” The Guardian, 11 April 2014.

Thoughts on Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck

I have to admit, I am hung up on  Cecilia Ekbäcks Wolf Winter. It’s well written and engaging, but my goodness, the violent (yet necessary) detail is tough for me to stomach. Truth be told, I have not read much Noir- and never Nordic Noir, which seems so popular today.

The atmosphere is bleak and stark like the frozen ground on which the story is set. The wolfwriting is sparse and crisp, beautifully descriptive through both actions and words–reminding me a little of Julie Rose’s Oleanna in that way. It’s those gory details that I don’t think I can continue with, due to my sensitive nature I suppose. I am almost halfway through the book, and I FEEL the mental pain emanating from the characters’ hearts, which is actually the sign of an excellent novel.  It is potent, disturbing, and definitely off the beaten path. A story of a Finnish family trying to survive the wilderness of Sweden’s Lapland in the early 18th century- I’m not sure how much more off-the-path you can get!

Please bear in mind that I’ve only read 175 pages of this 375 pg book. I cannot fully and authoritatively comment on it. This is not a review, this is a personal opinion and explanation. If I had a stronger tolerance for the disturbing detail, I would have continued on. I guess I should stay away from Nordic Noir thrillers in the future…

Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck, Weinstein Publishing, forthcoming 1/2015, 376 pp, $26.00, hb, 9781602862524

Note: The cover image is from the  2014 UK publication of the novel.

Historical Fiction Challenge 2014 update

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1) Escape from Paris by Caroline Hart

2) The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott.

3) Bellagrand by Paulina Simons

4) Revolution Baby by Joanna Gruda

5) The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton

6) A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie

7) Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

8) currently reading Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck for blog review

9) Then Damascena by Holly Lynn Payne for blog review

10) For HNS review, White Gardenia by Belinda Alexandra

By December, I should be a RENAISSANCE READER! Yay! Perhaps, if I push myself even more, I could make it to MEDIEVAL by the end of the year…

Interview with Kamila Shamsie about her works of historical fiction

images5I am grateful for the invitation to write an article for the HNR about Kamila Shamsie’s historical fiction with the 2014 publication of A God in Every Stone. I read both A God in Every Stone and Burnt Shadows as part of my research and was astounded at how this author tackles so many hot-button topics in her novels. From the relations between subjects and Empire during the Raj in India to the WW2 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, to the Partition and formation of Pakistan and a inside look at the Afghan mujahedin  (opposition groups who initially rebelled against the government of the pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Afghanistan  (DRA) during the late 1970s, and fought the DRA and the Soviet forces during the Soviet War in Afghanistan), even to a glimpse at modern-day terrorism. Not only does she tackle historical periods and events but also social topics like feminism, morality,  cultural divisions, and everything in between.

I was fortunate to conduct an e-mail interview with Ms. Shamsie, which helped inform my article. Much of the interview could not be covered in the piece and has some interesting information for fans of the author, so here it is, in its entirety from September 29,  2014:

BECAUSE THE AUTHORS BOOKS SEEM TO RANGE BETWEEN LITERARY FICTION AND TRADE FICTION, I WAS CURIOUS ABOUT HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOOKS IN THIS SENSE

1) Who are your literary influences?

It’s such a hard thing to pin down–much more easy to talk about literary loves. I love Virginia Woolf, but I don’t know that I can claim to be influenced by her, for example. So let me pick a few loves and readers of my work can decide if there’s influence there. Earliest loves – Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh. University-era loves: Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Virginia Woolf, Italo Calvino. More recent loves: Ali Smith, David Mitchell. I tend not to let go of old loves; just add more onto them as time moves on.

2) Do you consider your books to be literary fiction or more trade-focused? Do different novels fall into different categories?

I always cringe a little at the term ‘literary fiction’ which seems to imply all other books lack literariness – or that you can either be literary or commercial (which is just insulting to readers.) Having said that, the books I read fall within the category referred to as literary fiction, and I suppose I write into that area where I read.

HERE, I WAS TRYING TO GET AT THE ESSENCE OF WHO SHE FEELS SHE IS WRITING FOR, WHAT KIND OF AUDIENCE SHE TARGETED WHEN SHE CAME UP WITH HER CONCEPTS.

3) What audience are you aiming for with your books?

Honestly? Anyone who’ll read them.

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4) Your novels have been described as international historical epics- how would you describe them?

Generally if someone asks me to describe my book I turn to the nearest friend or relative and say, ‘please describe my books for me.’ I suppose if I had to I’d talk about them as novels which look at what it means to live individual lives entwined with history – how to reconcile the awfulness of the world with the joy of it; how to love, how to be loyal.

THIS WAS THE MOST FASCINATING RESPONSE OUT OF ALL THE QUESTIONS, FOR ME AT LEAST, IN LIGHT OF THE POLITICAL NATURE OF HER WORK…

images35) How is your work received in different parts of the world? Different reception in the UK, in India, in Muslim countries? Have any of your books caused controversy?

I don’t really recognise ‘Muslim countries’ as a category. All my books are connected to Pakistan, which is where I’m from, so of course my work is going to speak far more directly to people there than in, say, Indonesia or Iran. No major controversy that I’m aware of – though in Pakistan, there were quite a few people raising eyebrows when my novel Salt and Saffron depicted a relationship between people of different classes (that caused more of a stir than anything I’ve ever written about politics or religion). But yes, different countries have different responses based on their own histories and anxieties. With A God In Every Stone the UK responses were very much centred on the figure of the Englishwoman in the novel and the First World War, while in both India and Pakistan the Pathan/Pashtun figures got more attention as did the colonial aspect of the book. With my previous novel Burnt Shadows journalists in Denmark and Norway asked a great many questions about my thoughts on migrants – very much tied to Scandinavia’s very recent history of having to contend with having a migrant population.

THE REST OF THE QUESTIONS ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE TWO HISTORICAL NOVELS.

6) How did you choose the settings and time periods for these two books?

There’s nothing particularly ordered about my writing process. With Burnt Shadows I thought I was going to write a book set in Karachi during the summer of 1998 when India and Pakistan tested their nuclear bombs, but that lead me to think about the use of atom bombs in Japan in 1945 – and next thing I knew I had a novel starting in Nagasaki; researching Nagasaki 1945 made me think of parallels with post 9/11 New York – so the entire geographical trajectory of the novel changed. With A God in Every Stone I was interested in exploring the city of Peshawar and thought that, as with Burnt Shadows, I would write a multi-part novel that would come up to the present day – but after writing my way from 1915 to 1981 and beginning to imagine sections in the 90’s and 2009, I discovered that actually it was the early 20th century story I was interested in, so I cut out everything later and concentrated on 1915 and 1930. And those stories lead me from Peshawar to the Eastern and Western front of the First World War.   Somehow it all comes together in the end, but it’s a terrifyingly haphazard process.

index7) Where did the archeological historical theme running through Gods in Every Stone originate?

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient history – and the city of Peshawar is so rich in material along those lines for a novelist. It’s a city that’s been continuously inhabited for over 2500 years – it was part of the Persian empire (Herodotus writes about it); Alexander and his armies came through there; later it became one of the great centres of Buddhism; and it’s home to the extraordinary syncretic Gandhara art which shows all these influences – you have statuary of Buddha being supported on the shoulders of Atlas and other such wonderful images. Hard not to be drawn to that as a writer. One of the first things I knew about the novel was that it would have archaeologists and an ancient artifact that everyone was looking for (perhaps my childhood love for Indiana Jones coming through there…)

images47) Burnt Shadows: Interesting evolution between a bomb survivor of Nagasaki leading to a young man choosing his allegiance in the war in Afghanistan- how in the world did you get from one place to the next? Can you talk about your thought process?

If you look closely enough at history, it’s all so interlinked. Pakistan’s history is the most obvious link between those stories – nuclear bombs and Afghan wars are both so much a part of the country’s recent history that I don’t really see it as much of a jump to get from one to the other. I suppose another way of saying that is, the novel follows its characters, and the characters travel from one link in history to another. What I mean is, I didn’t start off thinking I would go from Nagasaki to Afghanistan and New York but I allowed the characters to follow their trajectory through history. (I would argue, though, that the young man is never unclear about his allegiances – it’s the people around him who doubt where his loyalties lie)

8) One of the major themes threads through both books is the English-Indian relationship, and you write about the overarching themes in this relationship. What is empire to its subjects? Was colonialism enlightenment or slavery (being treated as second class citizens)? What are your thoughts about this issue?

Colonialism was a system of economic exploitation which justified itself on the basis of racist ideas about the superiority of the ‘civilised’ English over the ‘uncivilised’ Indians. Hard to see that as enlightenment. But as a novelist what I’m most interested in is how the inequality of historical positions gets in the way of relationships between people of different nations who do have a certain degree of affinity for each other. And of course there are other complications – if you’re an Englishwoman in Imperial India, as is the case with Viv Spencer in A God in Every Stone, there’s a complex interplay of patriarchy and imperialism going on.

9) We have seen in the news since America got involved in Pakistan much about the Pathan culture- did you write this book with current events in mind? If so, how did they influence this story?

As I mentioned, the novel was originally supposed to end in 2009, so yes, I did very much start with current events in mind. All that changed, but I suppose what remained was an impulse to write about the Pathans in a way that goes beyond the crass stereotypes of people who live and die by the gun – in the early 20th century there was a very sophisticated and popular movement of non-violent resistance to colonial rule which I wanted to explore in the novel, while also exploring the very old syncretic traditions of Peshawar.

10) Confusion over cultural identity and loyalty to one’s nation/sect/tribe seem to be overarching themes in both books- are these things you have personally struggled over? Family history? Witnessed? What led to your focus on these themes?

In some odd way, I think I’m interested in it because I haven’t considered it a struggle. It’s been pretty angst-free for me to move between Karachi, London and the East Coast; and within my own Pakistani family there’s a German grandmother, Danish cousins, England-raised mother etc etc. – none of which I’ve ever regarded as problematic or confusing to me personally. But I suppose at a certain point I realised that not everyone has the luxury of feeling simultaneously so fixed and so fluid about their relationship to nations and ethnicities and other such groupings, and that divergence from my own experience became an interesting thing to examine. Though really I’m just guessing here – I have a strange superstition about not really wanting to examine the connections between my life and what I’m interested in writing about. It’s almost as if I think the tap will turn itself off it I try to work out why it’s flowing.

******************************************************************************************************

*Thank you very much to Meghan Walker at Tandem Literary for arranging this interview.

Reading binge complete

I have finished The Tiger Queens, Burnt Shadows, and A God in Every Stone. I need to write up the article by the end of the month and then I will make some comments here.

The HNS review for The Tiger Queens will be out in November, and suffice it to say if you enjoy a classic historical fiction door stopper, a view of the life of a famous warrior from his women’s perspective, you will enjoy this. I did. An absorbing read, with a few quirks that tossed me out of the story for a few moments but were not hard to reconcile.

Upcoming…

Coming soon will be an article I am working on about the epic novels of Kamila Shamsie. She is not as well known in the United States as she has been in Europe, and I’m thrilled to have been asked to write a feature about her unique novels, Burnt Shadows and A God in Every Stone. Although set during different time periods within the twentieth century, these stories revolve around both the big picture political and more personal spheres of the Indian-English relationship, the reality and legacy of the British Raj, and the Indian (both Hindu and Muslim) search for self-identity. I have a lot to say about these novels and I will be interviewing the author as well, so expect a few lengthy posts on these topics (and many more) by the end of September.  

My daughter is actually growing up, leaving me more reading, thinking, and writing time! I never thought it would happen : ) She is a young girl with an appreciation for books already, and I am one proud mommie!

The other novel I’m engrossed in is Stephanie Thornton’s The Tiger Queens, a huge epic of the lives of the women of Genghis Khan. And it is a tome, at nearly 500 pages, but I have not a single regret for offering to review it–the novel is spectacular. This is for the November issue of the HNS magazine as well.

I have also taken it upon myself for October to review an historical novel the likes of which I don’t often see, a topic that has not been overwritten and that many Western readers would most likely consider exotic and off-the-beaten path: Holly Lyn Payne’s Damascena: The Tale of Roses and Rumi. Set in thirteenth-century Persia, Damascena follows the life story of the living saint Damascena, whose relationship with the famed poet Rumi forever changes her life. The novel has been receiving glowing and heartfelt reviews so far.

 

Historical Fiction Daily-for anyone obsessed with the genre

A daily online newspaper of all the historical fiction news, compiled by Richard Lee, founder of the Historical Novel Society (in other words, our guru!) can be found at http://paper.li/histnovel/1311169881. It’s basically a time-saver. News comes first to Twitter, but you’d have to follow a huge number of accounts and watch them pretty constantly to keep up to date. Instead, our news spotters do this for you, and all you need to do is click on the link. (from the HNS website)

I’d like to embed this paper into the main page of my blog, but how in the world to do that is beyond me. I’ll keep trying to figure it out.

Review of Paullina Simon’s Bellagrand

Bellagrand is indeed BELLA GRAND!!! This book came straight from the author’s heart. Readers will understand the less-than-stellar lead up to this heartbreaker now…

bella2

 

BELLAGRAND

Paullina Simons has returned in fine form! The love story of Alexander’s parents is continued from Children of Liberty, and is the prequel to the stunning Bronze Horseman. Nothing I could write can describe this gem of a book better than the author’s poignant words: “[This book is about] Gina, a passionate, strong, good woman, who wants nothing more than to love and to be loved. The book is about all the things that stand in her way. In this story, you will also meet Alexander, and you will witness the love that had made him and in the end that saved him, the love that offered him, years hence, the possibility of a new life. It was all borne out of Bellagrand, out of the lifelong love affair between Gina and Harry, Alexander’s mother and father.” (from author’s website)

Gina and Harry’s journey spans four decades and two continents, from the troubled industrial immigrant town of Lawrence, Massachusetts, to the blue-blood society of Boston, to South Florida where the dream of perfection is found and lost, to a new life in a dangerous, foreign land.

Bellagrand is an epic journey, a suitable prequel to the momumental love story of Alexander and Tatiana. Simons wraps up all the plot threads cleanly, but not before wringing your heart and dragging you through an emotional roller coaster ride. Bellagrand is a poignant and mature exploration of marriage and commitment, of sacrifice and consequences. It is a dark tale with rays of light that will touch you.

(from my review for The Historical Novels Review)

Paullina Simons, William Morrow, 2014, 576 pp, 9780062103239, paperback Continue reading

You’ve got to love small presses!

I have just turned in my review for Paullina Simon’s Bellagrand. Ohhhh….it’s a heart breaker. Similar to The Bronze Horseman. Hold on to your hearts if you decide to read it, and I will post the review here after the May issue of The Historical Novels Review is published. I also reviewed The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott….not impressed.

Sarah Johnson at Reading the Past has been posting galleries of upcoming small press titles, and her latest post of international titles is fascinating. THESE are the kinds of books that readers like me are hankering for-exotic locations (to us Americans, of course) and different themes than the usual fare we see in the States. One book in particular makes me chuckle, as I’m so unused to seeing American settings from an international point of view: The Hedge by Ann McPherson, set in 17th century Hartford, Connecticut. To Canadians, Connecticut must sound exotic, but it’s hard for me to imagine, being a native New Englander, someone conceiving of Connecticut the way I view Bombay… But everyone’s home is exotic to someone somewhere else.

The settings are refreshingly diverse: Western Australia, India, Singapore, North America, Spain, and the Middle East, for example. This is the appeal of Indie historical fiction-both self-published and mainstream small press-a refreshing gust of wind from a different direction. A chance to learn something fresh, educate yourself outside of your comfort zone, and grow into a worldly, sophisticated connoisseur of words. At least that’s the lofty goal. My goal right now is a soft couch, a warm fuzzy blanket, and a cup of tea with my multicultural entertainment…

Enjoy perusing Sarah’s list, and I will be writing up a review for Liza Perat’s haunting second novel, Wolfsangel, as soon as I can finish it. So far, three books for the 2014 Historical Fiction Challenge- that puts me on the road toward being a Victorian-level reader….oh the things we book lovers do for kicks!