Author Archives: tometraveller

About tometraveller

Carey lives in New Hampshire with her husband of fifteen years. She has been an avid reader all of her life and loves to travel to the places she reads about.

Daphne: A Novel About the Author of Rebecca by Justine Picardie

In this interesting fact-based novel the author tells the story of how Daphne du Maurier came to write her biography of Branwell Bronte in the early 1960s, The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte.

When the novel opens Daphne du Maurier is in her early fifties and is dealing with a host of personal problems. Her husband Tommy has had a breakdown and is temporarily hospitalized. Their relationship is rocky in any case because of Daphne has found out that he had a recent affair. She is portrayed as being rather unstable, she frequently hears the voice of her most famous character, Rebecca, and she can hardly ever bring herself to leave her isolated house, Menabilly.
As Daphne becomes enthralled with the Brontes and writing a biography on Branwell, she begins to write letters to J. Alexander Symington who had edited a Collected Works of the Brontes and been the librarian of a large collection. It becomes clear that he has a large collection of original Bronte manuscripts (questionably acquired!) and he offers to sell some of them to her. But since he has planned to write a book himself for many years he only sells her a few unimportant pages, keeping the best back for himself.
The story is told from alternating points of view: Daphne du Maurier, Mr. Symington and a young female narrator who is not named. She is a young student who is working on Daphne du Maurier’s obsession with the Brontes for her PHD. She discovers the letters between Daphne and Mr. Symington by accident but they end up having quite an impact on her personal life.
This novel is packed with facts that make it a fascinating read for any lover of English Literature, Daphne du Maurier or the Brontes. For example, J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, adopted Daphne’s five male cousins after they were orphaned in 1910. (That part of the story was made into a movie a few years ago, Finding Neverland). He was part of the family, Daphne called him “Uncle Jim.” And Daphne du Maurier put her diaries of her early life in a bank vault in 1979 with orders that they not be released for fifty years!
It’s an intriguing story, well written and carefully researched. I recommend it!
Daphne by Jutine Picardie will be released by Bloomsbury in August, 2008.
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Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim by Tom Corwin, illustrated by Craig Frazier


In this slim volume you will find the eye opening story of Mr. Fooster’s travels. He goes for walks with seemingly no purpose but to see what he will see. Along the way he has interesting and surprising encounters and makes good use of his old bottle of bubble soap.


The author has written a lovely tale that encourages adults to think outside the box and try to remember the wonder and imagination that we had as children. As we grow up we forget to stop and really look at things and we forget to ask questions. In so doing, we miss opportunities that we might have had, were we more open-minded.


The lyric prose is accompanied by Craig Frazier’s lovely sepia toned pen and ink illustrations that enhance the story. You can see the Mr. Fooster brought to life at the website !

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Stealing Athena by Karen Essex

 If you have been to the British Museum in London you could not have missed the Elgin Marbles, those lovely white carvings taken from the Parthenon in Athens. What you might not have done is imagined the arduous task it was to move them there. In this historical novel Karen Essex has painted the picture for us of the personal lives of the people involved.

In 1799 Lord Elgin was appointed ambassador to Constantinople. He was a newlywed and took his wife, Mary, with him to his post. He was glad to have been given the position because he was an architecture buff and believed that what the Ancient Greeks built was the pinnacle of architectural perfection. At the time, Athens was occupied by the Ottoman Turks. They were camped at the Acropolis and were smashing the marbles to use for building materials, using the core metal to make ammunition. He wanted to make moldings and have drawings done so that those historical buildings would not be lost forever.

Mary was only twenty one and pregnant at the start of this odyssey. But she was a lovely, smart and charming young woman. She won the admiration of the Sultan and other high ranking Turks. The Turks put no value on the ancient buildings in Greece and, as a favor to Mary, ended up allowing the Elgins to remove whatever ancient item they desired from the country.

Removal of the priceless ancient sculptures became an obsession for Lord Elgin. He spent an enormous amount of money extracting the artifacts, becoming deep in debt, causing transportation nightmares, ruining his health and his marriage. All the while competing with Napoleon and the French for artifacts in between the Napoleonic Wars.

While we see the destruction of the Parthenon through Mary’s eyes, the author also gives us a glimpse of it’s construction through the eyes of Aspasia. She was the mistress of the man behind the building of the Parthenon, Perikles, and a philosopher in her own right. Through her the reader is given a window into the society of ancient Athens and their political structure, which shows us the roots of our own.

Since that time the debate has raged: where do the marbles belong? The Greeks would like them back and have even built a new museum to house them when they return. The British Museum shows no sign of letting them go. It is questionable whether the marbles would even still exist now if they had not been removed when they were.

This is a great historical novel with it’s basis in fact. The author did extensive historical research and it shows in the story line. It is a fascinating story of two strong women who had the courage to take control of their own lives.

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The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories by Pagan Kennedy

In this interesting collection of unexpected true stories Pagan Kennedy introduces us to some eccentric characters. From Alex Comfort, the middle aged mastermind of The Joy of Sex to Vermin Supreme, fringe candidate extraordinaire, the mix is wonderful and thought provoking.

Ms. Kennedy hooked me in right away with her introduction. She talks about being read Alice in Wonderland by her Grandmother and wanting to get through the looking glass herself. After an unsuccessful attempt she decides that the secret must lie in the words on the page. A woman after my own heart. This discovery would be part of her future life as a writer. She has a warm and open way of writing that is very easy to read.

After twelve true tales that read like fiction, she gives us three short essays about herself and her world. It is a great way to end an interesting and entertaining book.

The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories will be published by The Santa Fe Writers Project in September, 2008.

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The Little Book by Selden Edwards

Dilly Burden was a legend and a hero. He excelled at his Boston boys’ school and at Harvard, was a star baseball player and gave his life in World War II when he was tortured and killed by the Gestapo in France. His only son, Wheeler, has no memory of his Dad but has spent his life living up to the legend.

Where Dilly was an icon, Wheeler is more eccentric. He followed in his father’s footsteps to the Boston boys’ school and despite guidance from a much beloved teacher, the Haze, (who had also taught his father), he was an average student. He did show talent in baseball but his real love was music. He found great success in his life and was quite a music star in the late 1980s but never stuck to anything, or anyone, for any great length of time. He was always looking for something he couldn’t put his finger on.

But that’s not where the story begins…

Suddenly one day Wheeler is walking along and begins to realize that he is somewhere he does not recognize. He soon discovers that he is in 1897 Vienna, in his modern clothes and with all of his memories intact. He doesn’t know how he got there or how long this visit will last. But as one day stretches to two, he realizes that he is going to need some help. Thanks to the Haze, Wheeler speaks German well and knows a bit about this part of European history. After much consideration he approaches Sigmund Freud, a little known figure at the time, for help. Their discussions and the journal Wheeler starts to keep help him to begin to understand this amazing thing that has happened to him.

During his stay in Vienna, Wheeler discovers his past in a way that is entirely surprising and leaves you hoping that Selden Edwards has somehow really figured out the way the universe works.

There are many well developed characters that appear in the story. The reader gets to know them all and will realize that this book isn’t just about Wheeler or even most importantly about Wheeler but about his loved ones and the patterns that life weaves.

This is an absolutely wonderful book. It has layers of meaning and an interconnectedness that make it a breath-taking read. It’s a history lesson and a love story, a mystery and a psychology lesson. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Little Book will be published in August, 2008 by Dutton.

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Admit One: A Journey Into Film by Emmett James

Emmett James has been in love with movies his whole life. He grew up in a
nondescript London suburb where, to him, things seemed very ordinary, even
boring. He can remember his first movie at the age of about three, Walt
Disney’s The Jungle Book, which he largely slept through. The beginning and
the end are clear, though, and he liked what he saw. Now, how to stay awake?
The answer? Every child’s best friend…SUGAR, of course!

In this funny and upbeat memoir Mr. James takes us on a “This is your life”
kind of ride by linking his past to the films that shaped his world. The
yearly television viewing of The Wizard of Oz and the terror of the Wicked
Witch inevitably caused him to have a bladder accident. Plus if it looked
remotely gloomy outside he was jumpy, watching the skies for a rogue
tornado. Poor kid, England has gloomy weather fairly regularly.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial inspired a love for the BMX bike and eventually
led to a short lived life of teen crime, causing his parents to move the
whole family from London to Cambridgeshire, a fate worse than death to the
author. Especially when the new home, built in about 900, turns out to be
haunted. The author’s room is the scene of a hair-raising ghost sighting.

Emmett’s love of films inspire him to be an actor and so, at the first
opportunity, he moves himself to Hollywood looking for his own piece of the
American Dream. He finds it, too.

I happen to be about the same age as the author and as I was reading I was
thrust back in time, back to my own movie experiences. When I had to be
taken out of Walt Disney’s Bambi because I cried and cried when his mother
was shot. When my best friend and tough girl astonished me by crying at E.T.
(I’d never seen her cry before).

This is a story to take you down your own memory lane and remind you of the
wonder and magic of the movies.

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The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Salem, Massachusetts is an unusual town. And the Whitneys are the most unusual family in Salem. Their family roots in Salem go back hundreds of years. They fit right in with the eccentric witches, most of the Whitney women have the ability to sense bits of people’s thoughts and see glimpses of the future when they look through a piece of lace.

Towner Whitney is in her early thirties and she has just returned to Salem from her self imposed exile in California because her beloved Great Aunt Eva has disappeared. Towner fled to the west coast fifteen years before, running from the violence and grief that was part of her life as a teenager when she lost her twin sister, Lyndley. She is a damaged soul and Salem is the last place she wants to be. Her memories of her life in Salem are sketchy and she struggles to put the pieces of her childhood together while dealing with people from the past that she is not prepared to see.

Eva was in her eighties but still swam in the ocean every day. When her body is found out in the water it’s hard to believe that she drowned on her own. The police suspect her estranged son-in-law, Cal. While married to Emma, Eva’s daughter, Cal beat her so badly that Emma was left blind and mentally impaired. Somehow he managed to escape any legal penalty and now he is an Evangelist with a very warped following. Towner’s return and Eva’s death rip open the past and send everyone concerned reeling.

This is a book about the damage that people do to each other and the incredible lengths that the human soul will go to in order to survive. At times haunting, heartbreaking, mystical and magical, it has an ending that will surprise you and show you the healing power of love.

The Lace Reader will be published by William Morrow on July 29, 2008

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Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan

Meet Kim Larsen. She is eighteen years old, pretty and popular, and about a month away from leaving for college and the wider world. She can hardly wait. Like most small town kids, she and her friends chafe from the sameness and boredom of daily life. They drink more than they should and experiment a bit with drugs. But they are good kids at heart and are so looking forward to going away, being on their own, growing up.

Then, somewhere in the short distance between her home and her workplace, she seemingly vanishes into thin air. No trace of her, or her car. No one has seen anything. She’s just gone. This is the story of those left behind. The author changes the point of view for each chapter and the reader feels the reaction of each person: Mom, Dad, sister, best friend, boyfriend. We see how they react and try to cope with the reality of Kim’s loss.

Her Mom Fran gets organized, makes lists, makes calls, starts a website, talks to the press.

Her Dad Ed gets outside, taking the lead in the numerous searches that start immediately and continue for months.

Her younger sister Lindsay retreats into herself, a book, her I-Pod, the tv, the computer. Anything to keep people away. Especially her parents who can’t resist the impulse to smother their remaining child with protectiveness. More than anyone else, this is her story.

Young girls disappear every day, not only in the US but around the world. Many are never seen again and their fates are often never known. Songs for the Missing gives you a glimpse of the flattening anguish and grief that the loved ones suffer when this happens.

Despite the emotional subject matter, this book is a surprisingly easy read. The author’s smooth and comfortable style allow the reader to sink into the story, empathize with the characters, be a member of that family. Stewart O’Nan is a talented writer who has written a book that will resonate long after you finish it.

Songs for the Missing is scheduled for release on November 3, 2008 by Viking.

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The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman

Katie Hickman’s “The Aviary Gate” is a story within a story. In present day Oxford Elizabeth Staveley, a graduate student, is looking through the Bodleian Library archives in search of material for her thesis on captivity narratives. She finds a fragment of a manuscript which describes a shipwreck and the unfortunate aftermath when the ship is boarded by Turkish pirates. The captain of the ship is murdered and several of the women are taken captive by the pirates, among them the captain’s daughter, Celia.


Elizabeth immediately feels a connection with Celia and wants to find out more of her story. At the same time her personal life is experiencing upheaval. The man she is in love with is a wandering womanizer and as much as Elizabeth would like to break away, she is having trouble severing her ties to him. On an impulse, she abruptly leaves her life in Oxford and flies to Istanbul, not knowing what she is looking for but anxious to do SOMETHING. She seizes on following Celia’s trail as a way to force change in her own life.

Woven in to Elizabeth’s story are segments of Celia’s life in 1599 Constantinople. She is bought for the Sultan’s harem, intended to be his next “favorite” concubine. The reader sees the secretive world of the Ottoman harem. The female population is full of political maneuvering and infighting and Celia struggles to learn the hierarchy and her place in it. They even have a silent language they use amongst themselves when speaking is prohibited. For Celia it is a prison full of confusing rules, conflicting gossip, drama and backstabbing. When she discovers that her fiancee is in Constantinople on an errand for Queen Elizabeth I, she dreams of a chance to see him again.

The author paints a lush and beautiful picture of the secluded world of the harem and the women who inhabit it. Present day Istanbul is also described well. She presents an interesting peep into how that world might have been. I love books that transport you to a place which you can never visit, and make it seem like you have been there. I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading other titles by this author.

The Aviary Gate was released by Bloomsbury on May 27, 2008.
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The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

First time Canadian author Andrew Davidson’s novel The Gargoyle is an intriguing, unexpected story. The narrator, who is never given a name, is an unapologetic drug addict and pornographer who admits that he has never known love. He is driving in a drug-induced haze when his car sails off of a cliff into the ravine below. He is severely burned and narrowly escapes death. As he lays in his hospital bed he plans his suicide in detail, believing that he could never live with what his body has become.

Marianne Engel, a temporary patient in the psychiatric ward, enters his room one day and speaks to him as if she knows him, though he has never seen her before. She claims that she was born in the year 1300 and that they had been married when they both lived in Medieval Germany. She is a sculptor of stone gargoyles and she says that the talent does not belong to her but that she is guided by God to produce her statues. Though the narrator thinks that she must be mentally ill, he is nevertheless drawn to her and to the stories that she tells him. They become close and when he is released from the hospital she takes him into her home. Unfortunately he continues his addictions, this time to morphine, and has a hard time letting go of his lifetime habits.

This book centers on the gradual redemption of the narrator’s soul and the fulfillment of Marianne Engel’s life purpose. The author weaves in references to and instances from Dante’s Inferno that illustrate the narrator’s hellish journey from his pre-accident immoral life to the ultimate decision that redeems him.

I found this book well written with vividly described scenes and interesting historical detail. The storyline was fascinating, though the ending stops short of answering all of the reader’s questions. It is among the most unique novels that I have ever read.

The Gargoyle is scheduled to be published on August 5, 2008 by Doubleday.

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