The idea of running away with the circus definitely appeals sometimes - especially when your own life has turned into one - but Gruen's gritty, real account of that life in "Water for Elephants" is enough to make me tuck in and contain myself to watching Cirque on tv. Scariest part about it is that I know it's based on the truth - not the story, but the time. She did great research on travelling circuses.
The romance was gorgeous. And while I refuse to give out spoilers, I will tell you that she surprised me. I was sure the romantic outcome was going to come out one way and she made the change beautifully.
The ending? Maybe a little saccharin, but why not? You can't leave the circus without candy floss.
When I picked up "Lady of the Forest", I almost didn't. It had one of those really gushy, Fabio-type covers that I can't stand (not like this one I've posted). But who doesn't love a Robin Hood story? The book is hugely long, which at first was mildly intimidating, but in the end I was glad of that. I could have read that book all day. Jennifer (and yes, I spelled her last name correctly) has two others in the series and has some other books as well, which I haven't had the pleasure of exploring yet.
* ADDENDUM: About five years later I picked up "Lady of Sherwood", wondering if I'd still love Roberson's work, and was delighted to discover that I love it even more now. She writes with such an elegant, graphic touch, her language (both dialogue and narrative) completely comfortable, as if the author actually did exist in 1199.
I read Ms Canham's Scotland Trilogy about six years ago and was swept away by the intensity of the story. Combined historic truths and fictional situations felt so natural I actually had to go and look some of them up afterwards (yes, I'm a history geek), because I was so convinced they were real.
Ms Canham has joined the E-Book revolution, and has now put all her hard-to-find books (including this one) on e-book, where they are all affordable and accessible.
I was fortunate to receive a copy of Kaki Warner's first novel, "Pieces of Sky" when I was first introduced to Berkley/Penguin. I'll admit, I've never read westerns before and I was skeptical when I picked this one up.
Well, I was blown away. Ms Warner paints gorgeous images of the 1800's, love and adventure on the ranch, grudging heroes and their no-nonsense ladies. "Pieces of Sky" won the RWA Rita award for "Best First Book", and apparently Ms Warner was only getting warmed up. She has a couple of series out there, and they're all terrific.
It's so difficult to judge a book by its cover ... and from personal experience I now know that the author has very little say over their own book's cover. It is the publisher who decides what "will sell".
When I first saw Penelope's covers I feared they'd be schmaltzy romance, too sugary for me. Was I wrong! These are incredible books, full of controversy for the time, clinically evil bad guys, women who struggle on despite some pretty awful histories, men who become heroes despite themselves. Gorgeous writing.
I haven't been able to find Penelope online. If you do, let me know!
Sara Donati's series is a beautiful, epic historical adventure. It begins with "Into the Wilderness", which was the first novel I picked up while I was trying to find a new author when I'd finished all Diana Gabaldon's books (after I'd read them all at least three times).
"Into the Wilderness", the series, follows a wonderful, mixed breed kind of family through adventures thick with heroism and realism, passion and heartbreak. I loved 'em all.
I have to start with Diana Gabaldon, because her books are the reason I began to write in the first place. So much passion, excitement, heartbreak, information, humour ... and then there's Jamie ...
Absolutely everyone should read "Outlander". Some people tell me they can't make it past the first fifty pages, and I tell them to stick with it. That's just the intro. You're about to step on the ride of your literary life ...
Here's the 20th Anniversary special edition cover, though you can still get the regular price book!