HNS Review of The Last Banquet and upcoming reviews…

The Europa rep at BEA raved about this novel, therefore I simply had to read it…how could I not?  And here are my conclusions:

the-last-banquet-jonathan-grimwood-143x200Jean-Marie d’Aumout’s sharply distinctive and intelligent voice narrates his life story spanning 18th-century France, from desperate poverty to the viciousness of boarding school for destitute aristocratic boys, to military academy, marriage that brings fortune and titles, and beyond, to face his own demise. “Our lives are built almost entirely on a foundation of events colliding,” D’Aumout philosophically states, as he ponders the unlikely chain of events that comprise his life.

D’Aumont rises to fame guided by his exceptional sense of taste and eagerness to explore flavors without regard to social taboos. A primal desire to sample all the world offers guides him in his journey through the rise of the Enlightenment, the war with Corsica, and the fall of the aristocracy in the French Revolution. He is a man of great intellect, with an undisguised disdain for the degenerative decadence of Versailles, comparing the “underlying sourness” of the food at the palace with its corruption; corresponding with the likes of other great minds of the time – Voltaire, de Sade, and Benjamin Franklin, for example. But he is also lover, husband, and father, with a fondness for rescuing exotic creatures that earned him the title Lord Master of the Menagerie.

The Last Banquet is a bold gastronomic adventure (one not for the squeamish, however), a quest to fully live before the passage of time and history stamps out the flame. Written with just the right combination of rumination, contemplation, and startling – at times shocking – action, the prose is seductive and sophisticated. Jean-Marie D’Aumont is an ingenious human embodiment of the age of reason, with an at times morbid streak of scientific and intellectual curiosity, matched by a profound and masterful understanding of the human condition. Another fine work of literary fiction from Europa Editions. Highly recommended.


The next two books I’ve taken on for the HNS (to help reduce the orphan pile!) are Escape from Paris by Carolyn Hart, a reprint–sort of because it includes the entire text, some of which had to be cut for the first edition–of her 1986 WW2 thriller; and The Daring Ladies of Lowell, a drama set in the mid-ninteenth-century Massachusetts textile mills. I have also received Liza Perrat’s second novel, Wolfsangel, set in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, this time during the German occupation of France in 1943. I am excited for this one, and will write a full review here.


Happy reading!

Holiday Picks from The Queen’s Quill

I am finally finishing The Cross and the Dragon. I do apologize for taking so long. I hope to have a review up by the end of this week.

Since it’s the holiday season, and books are always a good gift (if you are part of the gift-giving crowd), here is a roundup of my favorite Indie review books from 2012. Honestly, the books I am listing were all engaging and engrossing reads–and the narratives and settings were so varied–that I simply cannot chose just one to recommend as an overall best book. This was a great year for Indie reading!

Spirit of Lost Angels-Liza Perrat

Vivaldi’s Muse-Sarah Bruce Kelly

Burning Silk– Destiny Kinal

Sea Witch-Helen Hollick

Oleanna-Julie K. Rose

The Afflicted Girls-Suzy Witten

Happy Holidays and I will see you at the end of the week for the next review.

Review: Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat

Liza Perrat’s Spirit of Lost Angels is a tale to lose oneself in… a sparkling example of an Indie publication. The cover is gorgeous and attention grabbing. The layout and text are indistinguishable from mainstream-published books. And the content…

Victoire Charpentier guides the reader into her world of Revolutionary France…and  this is no one else’s world—it is uniquely a product of her station in life and forces that shape her future.  Hers is a humble, yet strong and powerful, voice, a feminist voice in a time of revolution and female suppression. It is a story of betrayal and loss; suffering and anguish, yet also good fortune and reunion—a bittersweet, multilayered tale that will touch your heart.

Born of humble peasant roots in Lucie-sur-Vionne, Victoire’s innocence was shattered when her father is carelessly and recklessly killed by an uncaring nobleman…when she is sent into domestic work in another nobleman’s house, she is vilely used and forced to abandon her own beating heart. The tragedies continue to accumulate until she is arrested and forced into the notorious La Salpêtrière asylum for “insane and incurable women” (Invention of Hysteria, Georges Didi-Huberman).

The book vividly depicts the violent and inhumane methods doctors used to “treat” mental illness in women (or simply melancholia, perhaps not even mental illnesses at all) at Salpêtrière. To me, this was perhaps the most fascinating portion of the story- descriptions of the appalling conditions under which the women were kept, the rivalries that developed among cell mates, the rules one had to learn in order to survive this prison. The narrative was stark and believable and, believe it or not, educational. Since I’ve finished the book, I’ve been looking up the history of the Salpêtrière Hospital, intrigued at how low mental health care and the care of women had deteriorated at that time. Introducing an urge to learn more, dear readers, is the mark of excellent historical fiction.

There she meets Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy—author of the infamous Necklace Affair that brought down Queen Marie Antoinette. Victoire is intimately involved in the by-products of this affair, and her fortunes finally begin to look up. In her new life outside the asylum, she becomes actively involved in the politics of the Revolution and is swept up in the hysteria of the Bastille storming of 1789.

Liza Perrat persuasively combines fact and fiction in this engrossing novel. The peasants’ fury, the passion building up to the Bastille storming, and the sense of political explosion are just a few of the vivid illustrations of this in Spirit of Lost Angels. Although immersing oneself in Victoire’s tragedies can at times be unsettling, don’t miss this book. It is an impressive example of well-crafted historical fiction as well as being a professionally published Indie novel. Very impressive indeed. Highly recommended.

Liza Perrat, Spirit of Lost Angels, Triskele Books, 2012, 978-2-9541681-1-1, $15.50 pb/$4.38 Kindle edition

DISCLAIMER: I received a review copy of Spirit of Lost Angels from the author, in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Coming Up Soon: Review of Liza Perrat’s The Spirit of Lost Angels

I am nearing the end of The Spirit of Lost Angels and hope to post a review before I go to London for the HNS Conference next Thursday. I will definitely blog from the conference about all the wonderful participants, the panel sessions, and the medieval banquet on Saturday night. I, along with Sarah Johnson (Reading the Past) will be attending Margaret George’s talk at the Tower of London on Monday evening. There is so much to do still before I go!

After completing Lost Angels, I will be shifting the schedule a little to read Kim Zollman Rendfeld’s The Cross and the Dragon, “a tale of revenge, sacrifice, and enduring love set in the Kingdom of the Franks during the beginning of Charlemagne’s reign”*– Sarah Johnson has just interviewed Kim Rendfeld on her blog, Reading the Past, and it makes for some fascinating reading about the author’s thinking behind the writing of the book. Visit the page here:

Thus, the October review will be The Cross and the Dragon. Thank you to the author for going out of her way to send me a printed copy of her book at my request.

*quote from Sarah’s interview



Next up for review…

The next book up for review is Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat. I am overwhelmed by the beautiful cover design and the pleasingly thick paper in this POD book. It’s gorgeous to look at and luscious to handle, and although I’m only 50 pages into it, the writing is drawing me in, strongly. I am looking forward to curling up with this book when my daughter falls asleep tonight!

The series  “From Mainstream to Indie” is ongoing.  Please contact me if you know of any authors who would like to speak on this topic.

Oleanna, Darkness into Light, and what’s coming next…

I have completed Oleanna and Darkness into Light. I am holding myself back from writing a full review for Oleanna right now, due to the fact that I am reviewing this for the HNS and it is our policy not to post reviews on our personal blogs until after the issue has come out. I plan on adding a link to the HNS review, which is limited to 300 words, as well as elaborating on my comments here, in August. To summarize my thoughts on Oleanna, however, I found it to be a gently told tale with quiet depth, atmospherically stark yet richly detailed (how can that be? I will explain in the review), like the culture and the people of Norway herself. Quite beautiful.

For Sam Baty’s post-WW2 thriller, Darkness into Light, which continues the adventures of Jennifer and Otto (survivors from the first adventure during the war), I would write exactly the same review for this book as I had for the first installment. Thus, the problem with reviewing books in a series. In order to avoid useless repetition, I will simply direct you to the first review, HERE.

Next up: Eucalyptus and Green Parrots (Lori Eaton) 

THEN: Vivaldi’s Muse (Sarah Bruce Kelly), Spirit of Lost Angels (Liza Perrat), The Concubine’s Gift (K. Ford K), Saving Gerda (Lilian Darcy–with its beautiful cover–I really wish this wasn’t only an e-book!), and The Other Alexander (Alexander Levkoff). That should take us into the winter, and I am trying to read faster so that I can also fit in a few other e-book  titles before the new year.

Our Summer Reading Journey Begins…

I am grateful and thrilled to have been offered so many intriguing books to review, and I regret that I cannot set aside the time to review them all this summer! If I haven’t responded back to your query yet, I will; please be patient.

This summer we will journey from WW2 Argentina to post-WW2 Europe; from the world of classical music in 18th-century Venice to a family tale set in early  20th-century Norway; from late 18-century France and the heart of the Revolution to  the exciting and treacherous  world of pirates, and from a rebellious king’s daughter’s adventure in chaotic medieval Europe back to the present with a contemporary love story set in small-town Pennsylvania.

*Please be aware that if I feel I cannot do the book justice after 50 pages, I will be sure to let the author know of my decision and update the schedule. All plot descriptions are borrowed from

June’s book is the second in Sam Baty’s  adventure-thriller series, Darkness into Light:

Even though the ferocious battles of World War II have concluded, the world is unfortunately not a safer place. The iron curtain has dropped in front of Eastern Europe, Josef Stalin is focused on world domination, and United States Army nurse Jennifer Haraldsson is on a mission to find her former patient and foe, German POW Otto Bruner. Once attracted to Otto until wartime secrets divided them, Jennifer must know the truth. Does she love him or not? After Otto is transferred to a detention camp in West Germany, he remains devastated by the loss of Jennifer and witnessing the post-war destruction of his beloved Germany only makes it worse. Desperate to win Jennifer back, Otto summons his friend Ernst Peiper to help, but they soon discover they are being targeted by a group of Nazi extremists and must be transferred to another camp. But Otto is ready to risk everything for love and escapes off the transporter truck into the dark of the night. In a last-ditch effort to rendezvous, Otto and Jennifer throw caution to the wind and cross into the other’s territory, never realizing that their unsettled world is much more complicated than they ever imagined.

July: Eucalyptus and Green Parrots by Lori Eaton:

Virginia Reed has followed her husband, Clem, to Argentina, trading in her mother’s Texas poultry factory for an apartment in Buenos Aires and a cocktail-bright social life among American expatriates. But it is 1943. The Nazis have overrun Europe, Japan dominates the Pacific, and Allied and Axis agents are fighting a secret war for control of Argentina. When Clem’s clandestine activities put her family at risk, Virginia is shaken from her comfortable life and forced to take control of her family’s destiny. As Virginia navigates the political undercurrents of a country struggling to remain neutral in a war that is consuming the world, she finds friends in unlikely places and enemies frighteningly close to home. In the face of conflicting loyalties and desires, Virginia uncovers a hidden strength and a dormant thirst for independence.

August: Vivald’s Muse by Sarah Bruce Kelly:

Vivaldi’s Muse explores the life of Annina Girò, Antonio Vivaldi’s longtime protégée. Annina first falls under the spell of the fiery and intriguing prete rosso (red-haired priest) at a young age, when Vivaldi is resident composer at the court of Mantua, her hometown. Stifled by the problems of her dysfunctional family, she has long dreamed of pursuing operatic stardom, and her attraction to the enchanting Venetian maestro soon becomes inseparable from that dream.

One review for August issue of HNS Indie Reviews: Julie K. Rose’s Oleanna:

Set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, this richly detailed novel of love and loss was inspired by the life of the author’s great-great-aunts. Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth are the last of their family working their farm deep in the western fjordland. A new century has begun, and the world outside is changing, but in the Sunnfjord, their world is as small and secluded as the verdant banks of a high mountain lake. The arrival of Anders, a cotter living just across the farm’s border, unsettles Oleanna’s peaceful but isolated existence. Sharing a common bond of loneliness and grief, Anders stirs within her the wildness and wanderlust she has worked so hard to tame. When she is confronted with another crippling loss, Oleanna must decide once and for all how to face her past, claim her future, and find her place in a wide new world.

September:  Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat:

Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her poor peasant roots. Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in Paris, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the ancien régime. Can she muster the bravery and skill to join the revolutionary force gripping France, and overthrow the corrupt, diabolical aristocracy?

Spirit of Lost Angels traces the journey of a bone angel talisman passed down through generations. The women of L’Auberge des Anges face tragedy and betrayal in a world where their gift can be their curse.

Amidst the tumult of revolutionary France, this is a story of courage, hope and love.

In between these intriguing books, I am chomping at the bit to dive into the next two books in Helen Hollick‘s fantastic Sea Witch Series: the second voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne, Pirate Code; and the third, Bring it Close: “meticulously researched, full-blooded adventures full of heart-stopping action, evil villains, treasure, and romance.” I would also like to do an interview about her publishing experiences of going from mainstream to Indie.

I am also trying to squeeze in two e-books, the first, Wanting Rita by *Elyse Douglas (which looks to be an intriguing contemporary novel–I think–not my normal type of reading selection):

When his high school sweetheart experiences a devastating tragedy, Dr. Alan Lincoln reluctantly returns to his Pennsylvania hometown to see her. It’s been 15 years. Rita was a small town beauty queen—his first love whom he has never forgotten. He was a nerd from a wealthy family. Her family was poor. They formed a strong connection during their senior year, but Rita married someone else, and the marriage ended tragically.

Alan’s marriage of three years is disintegrating, and he sees in Rita the chance to begin again with the true love of his life. Rita has been mentally and emotionally shattered, but she reaches out to Alan and fights to build a new life with him. During a passionate summer, however, the past and present converge and threaten their rekindled love, as Alan and Rita must struggle with old ghosts and new secrets.

*Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington

And the second,  Loud, Disorderly, and Boisterous by Adam M. Johnson:

Imagine for a moment that you are a dangerously clever, thoroughly over-educated sixteen year old, who feels wholly disconnected from her current station in life and hates her father. Imagine also that you have the further misfortune to find yourself alive during the 13th Century, that your father is the philistine king of a small Central European country, and that he does not approve of the fact that you can quote Aristotle more expertly than you can curtsy. Finally, to top everything off, imagine that you have just learned that you are to be married off to a German nobleman who believes that you will make an excellent pawn in an ongoing struggle to become Holy Roman Emperor…

What do you do?

If your name is Aletheia––first and only daughter of his Royal Highness Edward IX, and most indubitably born in the wrong century––you proceed to flee. If your name is Aletheia, you also find yourself embarking on a bizarre and comic odyssey across perilously chaotic medieval Europe. During her journey our heroine will encounter cross dressing Romanians, bamboozle criminally incompetent highwaymen, crush spherically odious tutors (using only the power of pure logic), and, in at least one desperate instance, impersonate the Virgin Mary, all in the hopes of reaching a final destination that is about to be sacked by an army of waylaid Crusaders…


So many wonderful authors have sent me requests for intriguing Indie titles that I wish I didn’t have a full-time job so I could accept everything! I am rather booked up for the summer at this point, but if you can wait a little longer for a review (until the fall), I’m happy to accept queries.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been visiting and requesting reviews!