Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nicole Galland: Godiva Interview & Giveaway!

I was so excited when I got the chance to interview Nicole Galland in regards to her new novel Godiva.  You can check out her website for her complete bio - in a nutshell she's a Harvard graduate, from Martha's Vineyard, is a screenwriter and theater co-founder, and has written a handful of novels.

If you haven't checked out my review yesterday, pop over and read it. Stick around and enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

Welcome to A Library of My Own!  Thank you so much for letting me review your novel Godiva and answering a few questions!

1) What I loved about Godiva is that it seems to be a novel about relationships: Godiva and her friend Edgiva, and Godiva and her husband Leofric.  Do you think these relationships were typical or realistic for the time period?  

That’s an insightful question, and two answers come to me at once.

First, yes, relationships are very important to me, I love to write about them... but they are so very context-dependent. We can’t begin to understand or know the emotional rules of engagement in an era so vastly removed from our own; we can only imagine them. I like to imagine them as being familiar to me and my readers. While it is flattering to be told that one has “captured the authentic feeling of an era,” there isn’t really any way to know if that era has been captured authentically unless the person saying so has time-traveled from that era to the present day.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: there’s no way to know if these relationships were typical or realistic in 1046 England. They are, however, typical and realistic in Nicole Galland’s imagination ;-)

Second: to the degree that I can hazard an educated guess, it is true that women in Anglo-Saxon England had more social and personal clout/freedom/agency than their descendants over the next, oh, 900 years. So these relationships are more realistic for the late Anglo-Saxon era than for the Norman, high medieval, Renaissance, Restoration, Enlightenment, Early Modern, Victorian, etc... Than most of the eras that followed.

2) Lady Godiva is such a fascinating character.  She is wealthy in her own right, married to a well-positioned man, and cleverly smart.  I can see her character being loved or hated because she used her sexual appeal for political purposes. What made her character appealing to you?

She came to me fully fledged, like Athena out of Zeus’s head. I almost didn’t have a say in it (she is, as you have perhaps noticed, like that). Originally, of course, I was drawn to her because she rode naked on a horse as a tax protest, which made her intriguing before I really “knew” her.

The sex-appeal-as-weapon (which as I said, was her idea! She showed up and informed me of it. Very charmingly, of course)... through most of human history, women have been valued largely as sexual objects, which means per their sex appeal. (Not that every woman who was ever made a concubine was “hot,” but the “hot” ones, the flirty ones, generally received more attention.) Even in “modern American society,” there is tremendous pressure on women to present themselves as sexually desirable. We don’t use that as a political weapon but we do use it as a social one – or rather, consumer society is set up to encourage us to do so. And so many of us have internally that message, we don’t even realize it. We mostly notice it as a sense of insecurity or low self-esteem when we are “failing” to appeal.

What I like about Godiva is that she has a clear-eyed understanding of “the male gaze,” and uses that understanding for big-picture, practical purposes. She doesn’t feel persecuted by the pressure to be pretty, nor does she feel offended by it; she accepts that this is how men work, she doesn’t hold it against them, and she doesn’t rely on her beauty to feel good about herself. It is simply a tool to be used for matters of importance to her. She’s not a spring chicken; her allure is largely in her self-confidence, and if no man ever melted under her gaze again, she’d just shrug and find some other way to get on a level playing field with them – and continue to feel good about herself. She’s above having an ego-attachment to her attractivenes; her ego is healthy independent of her attractiveness (to the point that the attractiveness is almost like a costume she likes to don), and I admire that. 

3) I haven’t read many novels set during this time period, the 11th Century.  I especially liked reading about the interactions between the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans and your depiction of King Edward.  How did you do your research and what drew you towards writing about this time period?  

When I was writing my first novel, The Fool’s Tale, I was taken in by a wonderful couple named Alan and Maureen Crumpler, in the town of Leominster, UK. (There’s a great story about meeting them on my website, somewhere. It’s one of the 10 Great Anecdotes of My Life) They told me the story of Abbess Edgiva and Earl Sweyn, which was my initial impulse to write a novel about this era. I was drawn to their story because there are two historical flavors to the events: one sees their story as an act of violence, the other as a genuine romance. I wanted to explore different ways to tell the story... But then, in my research about Leominster Abbey, I learned about Leofric (since he was the abbey’s patron) and then Godiva... And once Godiva showed up, she took control.

4) Besides being an author, you’ve also directed plays and worked in the theater.  Can you envision any actors who’d play your characters?

Funny you should ask, one of the books (I better not say which one) has been turned into a screenplay and is making the rounds, so there’s been a lot of talk about this. It’s hard for me to chime in on it. I see my characters as themselves, for lack of a better way to put it. I think Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones would be an excellent Godiva when she’s older, although so, in a very different way, would Emilia Clark. Now see, that’s just because I was thinking about Game of Thrones today... Otherwise, I would not have even have been able to come up with those ideas!

5) We both agree that authors are rock stars.  What authors do you think are rock stars?

I’ll limit this answer to living authors, as a list of all authors through history would go on forever (although of course, Shakespeare tops the list and Tolstoy is right behind him, followed by Dr. Seuss...and for historical fiction it is absolutely Dorothy Dunnett... but after that, see, it gets tricky because there are at least 5 dozen more I could then rattle off...)

Living authors... Too many again to list, but here are a few categories, because I have wide-ranging taste:

Author who, when I hear he has a new book out, I squeal most loudly with delight: Christopher Moore
Authors who leaves me speechless with astonishment for sundry reasons: David Foster Wallace, David Mitchell, Dave Eggers
Author whose book I have read the most times in a row and I never cease to rave about: Norton Juster, who wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, my favorite book ever
Authors whose work I love so much I wish I had written it: Susan Cooper (the Dark is Rising series) and Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible)
Authors whose use of language makes me want to speak it aloud as I read it: Geraldine Brooks, Ursula LeGuin, and I know I am forgetting others because I’ve spent years of my life trying to read things I like out loud to other people.

That is a partial list... Thanks for asking me to think of them! That was fun.

Now for the giveaway!!  I have a beautiful paperback copy of Godiva for one lucky winner.  Just fill out the form below.  The giveaway is open through October 7th and US residents only.  Thanks!!

This could be your nightstand (lamp and mug not included)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Godiva - Nicole Galland

Title: Godiva
Author: Nicole Galland
Paperback: 305 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Published date: July 2013
FTC: Received from author to review

Last year I read Nicole Galland's amazing novel I, Iago (my review) and she rapidly rose to one of my favorite authors.  I, Iago is the story of Othello seen through the eyes of Iago, the villian of the story, and I was blown away how sympathetic she made such a character.  When I heard she was coming out with a new novel, Godiva, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I was even more amazed when the author herself emailed me to see if I wanted to do a review AND I got the chance to interview Nicole Galland. I was beyond excited and nervous!  While I, Iago is still my first and favorite Galland novel, I thoroughly enjoyed Godiva.  Come back tomorrow to check out my interview and enter for a chance to win a copy of Godiva

Back of the book:

According to the legend, Lady Godiva lifted the unfair taxation of her people by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, by riding through the streets of Coventry wearing only a smile. It's a story that's kept tongues wagging for nearly a thousand years. But what would drive a lady of the court to take off everything and risk her reputation, her life, even her wardrobe - all for a few peasants' pennies?

In this daringly original, charmingly twisted take on an oft-imagined tale, Nicole Galland exposes a provocative view of Godiva not only in the flesh, but in all her glory. With history exonerating her dear husband, Godiva, helped along by her steadfast companion the abbess Edgiva, defies the tyranny of a new royal villain. Never before has Countess Godiva's ride into infamy - and into an unexpected adventure of romance, deceit, and naked intrigue - been told quite like this.

My thoughts:

I've always thought Lady Godiva's story must have been quite interesting.  As a history major - and taking some art history classes - who could forget such a classic image as John Collier's Godiva:

Yes, Lady Godiva was a real historical figure and not just a chocolate mascot.  I absolutely loved how Nicole Galland portrayed this historical figure.  This Godiva is a strong and smart woman who understands how politics work and knows how to get things done.  She is financially well off on her own but she also has a strong marriage with her husband Leofric.  I loved that she didn't come off as pretentious, silly, or unnaturally gorgeous.  She just knew what she wanted and didn't mind using her womanly charms to get things done.  If that didn't work she'd just try something else.

Relationships play a big part of this story.  I love that Leofric and Godiva had a strong marriage and Godiva was a faithful and loving wife to Leofric while Leofric was a loving and understanding husband.  It was interesting to note the time period this story took place in.  Godiva was an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman.  I don't think I've read any novels about this time period and it's interesting to see the difference in customs and women's roles during this period.  In the P.S. section at the end of the book, Nicole Galland mentions the differences of how after the invasion, the Normans disempowered women.  But women like Godiva, Anglo-Saxon and before the invasion, held political and personal power.  I loved reading about this time period an how different women's roles were before the Norman invasion.

A large portion of Godiva's story revolves around the friendship between Godiva and Abbess Edgiva.  Their interactions were almost like sisters - each loving each other but often not approving or quite understanding the other.  However they both would go through a lot to help the other out. I adore novels about sisters so their relationship and story is ultimately why I enjoyed reading Godiva.


TLC Book Tours held a tour of Godiva back in July so check out what other bloggers thought of Godiva.

Come back tomorrow to check out my interview with Nicole Galland and enter to win a copy of Godiva!

Friday, September 20, 2013

TIME for Kids Dinosaurs 3D

Title: TIME for Kids: Dinosaurs 3D
Author: Dougal Dixon
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: TIME for Kids
Published date: 2013
FTC: Received to review from Goodman Media

I've decided to try and do a some children's books reviews from time to time on my blog.  With two little boys, I'm realizing that a lot of my book reading time is made up of children's books.  My 2 year old and I both know many books by heart.

When I was asked if I wanted to review TIME for Kids Dinosaurs 3D I jumped at the chance.  My son LOVES dinosaurs and to be perfectly honest, I needed to brush up on my dino facts.  I really only knew Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops.  He keeps asking me what his dinosaurs are and I have no clue.

My son and his beloved dinosaurs:

This is the best dinosaur book we have...and we actually have a few.  This one is special and he calls it his "dinosaur glasses" book.  He's a bit too young to be left alone with it so we break it out on special occasions.  It's a beautifully large book and at 80 pages it's got a ton of 3D images and packed with information.

I love the book because it goes through the major dinosaurs and gives a handy pronunciation guide.  I can now tell my son he has an Euoplocephalus toy dino and actually know how to pronounce it.  My son loves it because with each dinosaur it gives examples of modern day animals comparing traits and attributes.  And of course - the best part is the 3D.  It seriously is pretty darn cool.  Even my husband snagged it after snapping our picture and was pretty amazed at the 3D quality.  I have a feeling that this book is going to get a lot of use.

What does my son think? In his words "so awesome!"

Friday, September 6, 2013


If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you'll know that each year I look forward to September.  Football season, the change in seasons (not so much in Las Vegas but still), and of course, Carl's R.I.P. Experience.

Readers. Imbibing. Peril. Eight

Dark Fantasy.

As I'm sitting here typing this and having a brief few minutes of peace (wait, baby is waking up, nix that) it's thundering and raining outside.  I could never live in Seattle but I'll take a good gloomy rainy Las Vegas any day. I'm drinking a hot cup of Earl Grey tea and overindulging in Hershey's chocolate minis.

Here are snapshots of brief ideas for R.I.P. books.  I'm currently loving The Big Sleep as I've never read a Raymond Chandler novel but LOVE the Bogie/Bacall flick.  Gaiman's going to be a win and we'll see about Setterfield's newest.  Both are review books.  The second photo is of languishing review books that fit this bill. I'm currently mid-way through Three Seconds and while it's not what I was expecting, it's pretty good so far.

I'll also be trying to review some books I read the past year or so that I never got around to reviewing but are classic R.I.P. reads.  I'm talking Shirley Jackson, Dashiell Hammett, and a creepy ghost story by Kate Mosse among others.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Silver - Andrew Motion

Title: Silver: Return to Treasure Island
Author: Andrew Motion
Paperback: 402 pages
Publisher: Broadway/Random House
Published date: 2012 (paperback May 2013)
FTC: Received from publisher to review

I was excited when I got an email from Random  House asking if I wanted to read Silver: Return to Treasure Island. It's been on my to-read list since it came out last year.  While I'm a fan of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters type novels, I'll admit that I'm also a huge fan of the more action packed "boy" classics.  It also gave me an excuse to read Treasure Island for the first time - check out my review.

 Back of the book:

Almost forty years following the events of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver have seemingly put their maritime adventures to rest. Jim has settled on the English coast with his son Jim, and Silver has returned to rural England with his daughter Natty. While their escapades may have ended, for Jim and Natty the adventure is only just beginning.

One night, Natty approaches young Jim with a proposition: return to Treasure Island and find the remaining treasure that their fathers left behind. As they set sail in their fathers' footsteps, Jim and Natty cannot imagine what awaits them. Murderous pirates, long-held grudges, noxious greed, and wily deception lurk wickedly in the high seas, and disembarking onto Treasure Island only proves more perilous. Their search for buried treasure leaves every last wit tested and ounce of courage spent. And the adventure doesn't end there, since they still have to make their way home...

My thoughts:

I loved this sequel to Treasure Island. Wow.  Andrew Motion is quite the writer.  Get this - Sir Andrew Motion was poet laureate for the United Kingdom from 1999-2009 and I think he was the perfect choice to tackle a sequel to such a classic tale.  I read Treasure Island and then picked up Silver and it was almost like Robert Louis Stevenson himself was carrying on the story.  Well done.

The story is so vivid and there are so many scenes that stand out.  When Jim and Natty first meet (I keep picturing a young Thandie Newton as Natty) or when Jim first meets the legendary Long John Silver.  I love that there were so many loose ends in the original Treasure Island that made a perfect sequel set up: the bar silver left on the island, the three pirates left marooned on the island, and the whole Israel Hands thing - the pirate Jim Hawkins killed in an epic scene in the original (totally comes back to haunt his son.)  Like the original, most of the narration is done by young Jim. But also like the original, we get glimpses from other narrators, my favorite being Natty.  The argument is that including a girl in the adventures, the novel is more accessible to all readers.  But I am sure that just like the original, there would be plenty of girls who'd read pirate stories - with or without a cool Natty character.

Such a fun sequel. I'd totally recommend reading Treasure Island first though, if you haven't read it before.  I also loved that Andrew Motion named one of the crew members of Jim and Natty's ship Stevenson. I'd like to think this is an homage to the original author.


I love the paperback cover above but I also really like the hardback version too:

This other hardcover edition is also pretty darn cool: