Tag Archives: historical novels for 2012

Casade is a Refreshing Novel of Literary Distinction that Deals with Change, Hope, and Dreams

CascadeCascade, by Maryanne O’Hara, is a beautifully written book. At the same time poignant and heart-wrenching, it’s also touching, revealing, and strong in the essence of knowing oneself.  At times when we don’t always know what is the best decision, this book shows a way to have the power to not meet societal norms or dictates, but to follow your heart and your mind’s desires.

I’m so happy to have read Cascade, as it shows a depression-era woman defying the odds and following her own true path.  It’s a vibrant novel that deals with the true issue of women’s rights. The right to own her own thoughts, plans, ideas, and to formulate her own journey. Women still struggle with this today, but in the 1930s, especially with the financial foundation of America crumbling, women did not usually have the means to pursue their dreams, especially creative dreams. People were losing money, which meant less was spent on luxury items like art, theatre, writing, and weekend get-aways.

Taking place in these bad economic times, the novel opens with artist Desdemona Hart Spaulding knowing she should be content with her good-looking Lindbergh look-alike and rich-to-the-times pharmacist husband even if she doesn’t love him….or want kids badly, as he does with a virulent immediacy. 

Dez is an artist and wishes to pursue her dreams, but she made the decision to marry him to survive at the moment.  Her father’s town playhouse was losing money, as most things were during the Great Depression, and he fell ill.  When he died, he left the playhouse to Dez’s husband, Asa. As she struggles with having made that decision to marry Asa, and vies with herself about not being able to be happy with being content, she meets a Jewish salesman, Jacob, of whom she shares a love of art.

Amid her own internal struggle is the dilemma in the town of Cascade, Massachusetts, where she lives at the opening of the book. Cascade is on the government’s list as a possible site to drown under water in the overflow from a new reservoir being built for Boston. She feverently wants to save her father’s Shakespearean theater, but it’s closed for business and not many rich city dwellers are apt to return to see the plays anymore.  She uses her artistic and creative ideas in order to add to the fight against the state government, showcasing the loveliness of Cascade. I enjoyed reading about her creative ideas as I also enjoy art as well as fighting for great causes in creative ways.

However, when her idea brings household recognition, she sees her dreams of being a professional artist within her sights and New York City keeps calling. Then there is Jacob. A murder. And a mystery is added to the mix.

Overall, the book truly deals with Dez’s emotional turmoil to come to terms with feeling confident about making her own decisions as a woman. She worries over pleasing others with her decisions, but just can never shake the feeling that she isn’t where she belongs.

Cascade was emotionally saturated with grief, loss, love, hope, survival, and desire. Above all, it takes the reader on a journey about change and being true to self. It was a great reminder about tossing the feelings of guilt that come with pursuing creative dreams.  I throughly loved this book and it’s a must read for fans of true literary fiction.

Note:  This is a great book for book clubs, reading groups, or discussion-oriented platforms. There is much to discuss in this book including women’s roles in society and family, government “land issues,”  living in a hurting economy, fighting for a cause, and more.

Come back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Maryanne, where she discusses some topics you won’t want to miss, plus there will be a giveaway!

 CASCADE, Synopsis~

CascadePublication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback; 384p

A Slate Magazine “Best Books 2012″
A People Magazine “People Pick”
A Library Journal 2012 “Best Bet”

During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Praise for CASCADE

“The protagonist is Desdemona Hart, a woman drowning in the choices she’s been forced to make: a marriage of necessity to save her father’s legacy and put a roof over his head as he dies……trouble escalates, and so will the rate at which you turn the pages. Cascade is perfect for sitting by the fire on a chilly day contemplating the immutability of things.” –Slate: 2012 Best Books, Staff Picks

“When state engineers created the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s, four Central Massachusetts towns disappeared beneath the waters. In her debut novel, Cascade, Ashland resident Maryanne O’Hara chronicles the fate of one such (fictionalized) town and its inhabitants, notably Desdemona Hart Spaulding, an ambitious artist trapped in a loveless marriage. O’Hara, a former Ploughshares fiction editor, shapes her protagonist’s story to pose questions like: If art is not lastingly valuable, what is? Ponder that over your next glass of tap water.” –Boston Globe, Best of the New, 2012

“Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.” –People Magazine

Link to the Official Book Trailer: http://www.maryanneohara.com/cascade-trailer/

Author Maryanne O’Hara, Biography~

Maryanne O'HaraMaryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at the award-winning literary journal Ploughshares. She received her MFA from Emerson College fifteen years ago, and wrote short fiction that was widely published before committing to the long form. She lives on a river near Boston.






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Detective Novel Unravels Mystery Behind Lincoln’s Assassination in Grand Fashion

Reading The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O’Brien was a mysterious thrill ride through history to a time shortly after President Lincoln’s assassination.  Presidential history has always intrigued historians, but has become a mainstream topic currently with politics, conspiracy theories, and intrigue heating up the entertainment industry. Books and movies about Abraham Lincoln, or the surrounding era and issues, seem to be at the forefront of material.  O’Brien’s new book fits right in as a must-read for your Holiday vacation or as a gift for someone you know who loves historical mysteries!!

Read on to find out more about the book, my thoughts, and ENTER TO WIN your very own copy or to give as a gift!

About the Book: The Lincoln Conspiracy

Publication Date: September 18, 2012 | Ballantine Books | 368p

DESCRIPTION: A nation shattered by its president’s murder. Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy. A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him

From award-winning journalist Timothy L. O’Brien comes a gripping historical thriller that poses a provocative question: What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined?

In late spring of 1865, as America mourns the death of its leader, Washington, D.C., police detective Temple McFadden makes a startling discovery. Strapped to the body of a dead man at the B&O Railroad station are two diaries, two documents that together reveal the true depth of the Lincoln conspiracy. Securing the diaries will put Temple’s life in jeopardy—and will endanger the fragile peace of a nation still torn by war.

Temple’s quest to bring the conspirators to justice takes him on a perilous journey through the gaslit streets of the Civil War–era capital, into bawdy houses and back alleys where ruthless enemies await him in every shadowed corner. Aided by an underground network of friends—and by his wife, Fiona, a nurse who possesses a formidable arsenal of medicinal potions—Temple must stay one step ahead of Lafayette Baker, head of the Union Army’s spy service. Along the way, he’ll run from or rely on Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s fearsome secretary of war; the legendary Scottish spymaster Allan Pinkerton; abolitionist Sojourner Truth; the photographer Alexander Gardner; and many others.

Bristling with twists and building to a climax that will leave readers gasping, The Lincoln Conspiracy offers a riveting new account of what truly motivated the assassination of one of America’s most beloved presidents—and who participated in the plot to derail the train of liberty that Lincoln set in motion.

So what are my thought after reading?

I was set to get into a good historical mystery in a world of men, but was pleasantly surprised at meeting such a strong woman, Fiona, within the first few chapters. I always love feisty women, but especially from an era such as the latter part of the 1800s when women were considered second-class citizens. I am always encouraged by the women who break those limits and boundries.  Yes, how dare she wear pants! Yes, how dare she be intelligent! Yes, that is sarcasm.  I loved her determination. Showcasing her was a great way for O’Brien to set us up into meeting our Washington D.C. Irish-American detective Temple McFadden (her husband)!

Detective McFadden certainly finds himself caught up in a myriad of historical machinations.  O’Brien does a superb job of mixing historical possibilities in a time period he researched and chronicled extremely well. There were many characters to sort out, but that was reminiscent to me of the time period when it always seemed so many hands stirred the pot. I didn’t think they were hard to keep track of if you really stayed focused on the book, which wasn’t hard since the mystery kept me turning the pages.  O’Brien pens fluidly and Journalistic short sentence structure served him well in this book.  I felt many of the characters, especially McFadden and Fiona, truly came to life off the page and became acquaintances in my own life. I can’t wait to continue on being engaged in more mystery with such a unique couple.

If you like historical detectives like Sherlock Holmes, you’re sure to love this book. It will make a great series in that regard. I know I am a huge fan of international detective novels, but having a duo in such a volatile time period of American history is really compelling as well. A fan of history, I think I rather liked this book more as a mystery thriller. I enjoy secret diaries and papers and de-coding, so this book also fit well into that category for me. I loved how he set-up the plot with these diaries.

It was not surprising to me that he chose the route of detective mystery in creating this book, as Journalism (which is O’Brien’s profession as well as mine) is so closely related to gumshoe research sometimes! I am sure he researched this time period as well as his fictional “case” much like he would a Pulitzer prize-winning article. Uncovering the truth is something both Journalists and criminal investigators have in common. I think O’Brien did an excellent job creating and solving this mystery based on vintage thoughts surrounding the truths of Lincoln’s murder.  America’s obsession with dead Presidents and their conspiracies now has another fantastical resolution to ponder!

I can’t wait to see what else Temple and Fiona take on in the next book. For now, don’t miss the opportunity to get your hands on The Lincoln Conspiracy!  Come back to my blog tomorrow (11/27/12) for an exclusive interview with the author Timothy O’Brien as he discusses his book and writing with me.

I was given this book as part of The Lincoln Conspiracy blog tour; however, all opinions expressed are my own.  To check out more tour dates, interviews, guest posts, giveaways, and more, click on the tour button below.


One (1) copy of Timothy L. O’Brien’s The Lincoln Conspiracy! To enter to win, please leave a comment below on my blog including e-mail to get in touch if you win, a note on Twitter to @ErinAlMehairi, or e-mail me to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.  Only those who leave e-mail for notification will be considered. Enter no later than 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2012.  Winner will be randomly chosen on Dec. 2 and notified. This giveaway is for US only.

Gain one extra entry for each extra thing you do:  Like my blog, Follow me on Twitter, or Follow me on GoodReads.

Author Bio~Timothy L. O’Brien

Timothy L. O’Brien is the Executive Editor of The Huffington Post, where he edited the 2012 Pulitzer Prize–winning series about wounded war veterans, “Beyond the Battlefield.” Previously, he was an editor and reporter at The New York Times. There, he helped to lead a team of Times reporters that was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 2009 for coverage of the financial crisis. O’Brien, a graduate of Georgetown University, holds three master’s degrees — in US History,Business and Journalism — all from Columbia University. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two children.

Learn more about or contact Timothy L. O’Brien at: www.timothylobrien.com

Follow the book tour on Twitter at #LincolnConspiracyTour!


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