Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Spotlight: Arroyo by Chip Jacobs

by Chip Jacobs

Rare Bird Books
October 15, 2019
Historical Fiction
Hardcover / ISBN: 9781644280287

Set against two distinct epochs in the history of Pasadena, California, award-winning writer and debut novelist Chip Jacobs writes in Arroyo the parallel stories of a young inventor and his clairvoyant dog in 1913 and 1993. In both lives, they are drawn to the landmark Colorado Street Bridge, or "Suicide Bridge," as the locals call it, which suffered a lethal collapse during construction but still opened to fanfare in the early twentieth century automobile age. When the refurbished structure commemorates its 80th birthday, one of the planet's best-known small towns is virtually unrecognizable from its romanticized, and somewhat invented, past. 

Wrought with warmth and wit, Jacobs' vividly descriptive debut novel digs into Pasadena's most mysterious structure and the city itself. In their exploits around what was then America's highest, longest roadway, Nick Chance and his impish mutt interact with some of the big personalities from the Progressive Age, including Teddy Roosevelt, Upton Sinclair, Charles Fletcher Lummis, and Lilly and Adolphus Busch, whose gardens were once tabbed the "eighth wonder of the world." They cavort and often sow chaos at Cawston Ostrich Farm, the Mount Lowe Railway, the Hotel Green and even the Doo Dah Parade. 

But it's the secrets and turmoil around the concrete arches over the Arroyo Seco, and what it means for Nick's destiny, that propels this story of fable versus fact. While unearthing the truth about the Colorado Street Bridge, in all its eye-catching grandeur and unavoidable darkness, the characters of Arroyo paint a vivid picture of how the home of the Rose Bowl got its dramatic start.


"Who'd have thought the ghosts clustered under an old bridge could slip so artfully into a cast of real and imagined characters? ... Arroyo is unrelentingly bizarre, perversely funny, and absurdly true —mostly. Pure jazz!" —Ron Franscell, bestselling author of The Darkest Night and The Deadline

"Chip Jacobs combines the historical deep-dives of Erik Larson and Caleb Carr with the sweep and grandeur of E.L. Doctorow's best work, albeit with a sense of ... whimsy ... Jacobs' maiden venture into the realm of fiction ... is an almost impossible blend of the historical with the supernatural...and the result is sublime." —David Kukoff, screenwriter and editor of the bestselling Los Angeles in the 1970s: Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine

"[An] amazing history ... Jacobs is one of the best wordsmiths I know, and his Arroyo and ... unique presentation of the real facts using real and imagined characters, along with a nice bouquet of romance and you have a story that is guaranteed to bring you a lot of laughs, a few tears and a very real knowledge of Old Pasadena and the important role it played in the formation of early LA. A delightful read, highly recommended" —Steve Hodel, bestselling author of Black Dahlia Avenger

"I hear T.C. Boyle. I hear Tom Wolfe ... This trans-dimensional tale revolves around the ... Colorado Street Bridge (the so-called Suicide Bridge), an iconic Southern California structure, an architectural gem with a sordid and glorious history — and some unfinished business ... Edgy and satirical, yet rooted in fact, Arroyo is a fact-paced technicolor timepiece that bridge life and death and the present" —Mike Consol, author of Hardwood

About the Author:

Chip Jacobs grew up in northeast Pasadena. In 1985, he graduated from the University of Southern California with BAs in journalism and international relations. He lives in Southern California with his wife, a USC public relations professor, and their two children. Chip's previous non-fiction books include Strange As It Seems: The Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler, The People's Republic of Chemicals, and the international bestselling Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. His reporting has appeared in Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Daily News, CNN, The New York Times, Bloomberg, L.A Weekly, Pasadena Weekly, and San Gabriel Valley Tribune, among others.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

From the Back Cover:

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time.

However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor Samuel Moore appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life—especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam. Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history—and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

My Thoughts:

The Widow of Rose House was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it did not disappoint! I'm not going to go much into plot so as not to spoil anything. I'm just going to tell you how I feel about it.

First, it's hard to believe this is a debut novel. The characters are fantastically drawn. While I may not have made the same decisions Alva did, I found her to be admirable. The poor thing tried so hard not to show vulnerability and not to rely on anyone else. To watch her seize control of her life and learn to trust again was very rewarding. You can't help but root for her happily ever after. And if you don't fall in love with Professor Sam Moore, well, there's no help for you! I certainly hope his siblings (including Henry) will be getting books of their own? Please? Pretty please? The banter among the boisterous Moore family is delightful, and I love their dynamic. They need their own books. Just sayin'. But seriously, Sam's a genius from a family of geniuses, and he's also a big old sweet potato. I love the way he thinks and the way he observes everything, including Alva, and how he can't help but want to find solutions to problems, often to humorous effect. But the story does have several very serious and tragic aspects, and it's all balanced together really well, hitting all the right notes in all the right places.

I'm very tempted to give this five stars just for the feels alone. My only real complaints are that it's a little wordy (and I found myself skimming a page here and there), and I do feel the ghost story could have been a bit more developed and played a larger role in the story. While it is the mechanism that brings Alva and Sam together, it's far into the book before they really start making any progress. The spook factor is rather tame, though surprisingly unpredictable. But when the meaning of the house's name and its purpose were revealed at the end, I shed a tear. I'm bumping it up a notch just because of my reading experience, alternating from having a goofy grin on my face to crying to needing a cold shower.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Danger of Postpartum Depression in 1800s America: Guest Post by Loretta Miles Tollefson, Author of Not My Father's House

Please join me in welcoming Loretta Miles Tollefson back to Let Them Read Books! Loretta is celebrating the release of her new novel, Not My Father's House, and she's here today with a guest post about postpartum depression in early America.

Suzanna hates everything about her New Mexico mountain home. The isolation. The short growing season. The critters after her corn. The long snow-bound winters in a dimly-lit cabin.

But she loves Gerald, who loves this valley.

So Suzanna does her unhappy best to adjust, even when the babies come, both of them in the middle of winter. Her postpartum depression, the cold, and the lack of sunlight push her to the edge.

But the Sangre de Cristo mountains contain a menace far more dangerous than Suzanna’s internal struggles. The man Gerald killed in the mountains of the Gila two years ago isn’t as dead as everyone thought.

And his lust for Suzanna may be even stronger than his desire for Gerald’s blood.

Amazon  ~  Apple  ~  Barnes & Noble  ~  Kobo  ~  Goodreads

The Danger of Postpartum Depression in 1800s America
by Loretta Miles Tollefson

There were a lot of different methods for treating depression in America in the early 1800s. 

Water immersion, which involved submerging the patient as long as possible without actually drowning them. 
A specially designed spinning stool, intended to bring on dizziness and to reorganize the contents of the patient’s brain into their proper positions. 
An early form of electroshock therapy that Benjamin Franklin had introduced.
Physical restraint. 
Bloodletting, a therapy that was apparently thought to cure just about everything. 
A course of enemas. 
Induced vomiting. 

If none of these worked, drugs were always available. These included opium and calomel, a white tasteless powder that was also called mercurous chloride and used as both a purgative and fungicide. Later in the century, institutionalization in an insane asylum was also an option.

So when a new mother showed symptoms of what is today known as postpartum depression, she could expect to be subjected to any one of these options.

Fortunately for Suzanna, the late-1820s protagonist of my novel, Not My Father’s House, she doesn’t live in the United States. She lives in New Mexico when it was still owned by Mexico, where there were no insane asylums and the type of science that recommended electroshock and spinning stools hadn’t yet made inroads.

Suzanna lives in an isolated mountain valley with only her husband, Gerald, and his business partner for company. She suffers from seasonal affective disorder brought on by long snow-bound winters cooped up in a small cabin with no real windows. 

When Suzanna’s first child is born in December 1828, the weather is already making her miserable. And then the postpartum depression hits.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: The Queen of Warriors by Zenobia Neil

Please join me in welcoming Zenobia Neil to Let Them Read Books! Zenobia is touring the blogosphere with her newest release, The Queen of Warriors, and I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about women warriors and her main character, Alexandra of Sparta. Read on and enter to win a copy of Psyche Unbound and The Jinni’s Last Wish!

Alexandra of Sparta vowed her sword and her heart to the goddess Artemis. And the goddess blessed her. But no warrior lives at peace, and soon, Alexandra loses her title, her troops, and all she holds dear, including the man who holds her heart.

Cursed by a Babylonian witch, she is forced to return to a city she once conquered to make amends, but is captured by the powerful Persian rebel, Artaxerxes. As his prisoner, she awaits judgment for her crimes. But Artaxerxes is not what he seems. With death approaching, Alexandra must face her violent past and discover the truth of her captor’s identity before it’s too late.


Women Warriors: Fact and Fiction
by Zenobia Neil

“If I killed you in battle, you died honorably. If it shames you to have been killed by a woman, know I am not any woman. I am of Sparta—any of my countrymen would have dispatched you just as quickly.” ~Alexandra of Sparta, talking to the ghosts of the men she has killed in the beginning of my new historical fantasy, The Queen of Warriors

Throughout history, women have been relegated to stories where their only chance at change was marriage—where their own success would be to bear an heir. I’ve enjoyed reading many novels about women struggling to exist in the past and to raise their status by marrying up. I completely understand that for many women that was the only acceptable way to succeed. But that was not the story I wanted to write.

I wanted to create a character who was not a victim of the stars, but who charted her own course. I imagined a badass woman warrior who did not follow or fear the rule of men, but who was held up by men, by her own men—Spartan men who were strong enough to not fear being led by a woman.

I created Alexandra of Sparta—Xena: Warrior Princess combined with Alexander the Great with a dash of Game of Thrones, all inspired by Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy. There is no historical record of such a woman, but there are records of female warriors. In times of war, women fought—they might not have been well trained, but they still fought. During Xenophon’s perilous journey back to Athens, the women in his party fought too.

Alexandra of Sparta, a foreigner in the former Persian Empire, is fearless—except when it comes to matters of her own heart. She has no interest in a husband, and no desire to have children. As a child, she vowed that instead of giving the goddess a son to be a warrior, that she would be that warrior. At the height of her power, like any male commander of the time (and inspired by The Persian Boy), she has a bed slave and a harem of slaves she keeps for herself. She is encouraged to take the Persian boy as her bed slave by her lover Mithra, a Babylonian former-concubine/sorcerer. What Alexandra does not expect is to fall in love.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Q&A with Judith Starkston, Author of Priestess of Ishana and Sorcery in Alpara

Please join me in welcoming Judith Starkston to Let Them Read Books! In advance of the launch of the second book in her award-winning historical fantasy Tesha series, the first book, Priestess of Ishana, is available for FREE Oct 2-6 on Amazon. So this seemed like the perfect time to ask her about her intriguing Tesha series, based on the life of a very real Hittite queen. The second book, Sorcery in Alpara, will launch on Oct 14 and is available now for preorder

A curse, a conspiracy and the clash of kingdoms. A defiant priestess confronts her foes, armed only with ingenuity and forbidden magic.

A malignant curse from the Underworld threatens Tesha’s city with fiery devastation. The young priestess of Ishana, goddess of love and war, must overcome this demonic darkness. Charred remains of an enemy of the Hitolian Empire reveal both treason and evil magic. Into this crisis, King Hattu, the younger brother of the Great King, arrives to make offerings to the goddess Ishana, but he conceals his true mission in the city. As a connection sparks between King Hattu and Tesha, the Grand Votary accuses Hattu of murderous sorcery and jails him under penalty of death. Isolated in prison, Hattu’s only hope lies in Tesha to uncover the conspiracy against him. Unfortunately, the Grand Votary is Tesha’s father, a rash, unyielding man, and now her worst enemy. To help Hattu, she must risk destroying her own father.

Step into this exotic world of historical fantasy, with its richly imagined details of the Bronze Age, evocative of the Near East. In a whirlpool of magic, politics, family crisis and love, Tesha pursues justice over the dark forces arrayed against her. 

Hi Judith! Welcome to Let The Read Books!

You based your fictional main character, Tesha, on a real Hittite woman, Queen Puduhepa. She is not exactly a household name. How did that source of inspiration come about?

Puduhepa had the misfortune to rule a kingdom that got literally buried and forgotten amidst the upheavals at the end of the Bronze Age (c. 1200 BCE). Hence, even though she ruled for decades over the most powerful empire of the world at the time, she’s barely made it into the history books and only very recently. I discovered Puduhepa originally when researching my first novel set in the Trojan War (Hand of Fire). The culture of Troy was largely that of the Hittites. Fortunately, recent archaeology and the decipherment and translation of many thousands of clay tablets have filled in parts of the lost history. As I researched, I came across the letters, rites, and judicial decrees of a highly influential queen who ruled for decades. While doing research, it is enthralling to hear a historical voice coming from across the centuries. Counter to my expectation based on the surrounding kingdoms of the time like Egypt or Babylonia, Hittite queens had full political power by law and custom and remained rulers even when their husbands died. A powerful queen in the extremely patriarchal ancient Near East? I was hooked. Puduhepa caught my imagination with her combination of pragmatic leadership and mystical religious beliefs. I chose her name in my fiction, Tesha, after the Hittite word for "dream" because Puduhepa was famous for visionary dreams sent by her goddess. The other thing she was known for in her lifetime was an astonishingly happy marriage and the equal partnership she maintained with her husband. That also was not the norm in her world.