Even in the hottest months of the year, when the rest of us are quietly wilting and Hoping It Will All Go Away Please, there are reviewers still industriously at work. We like to picture them reclining under shady trees, with the quiet plash of water nearby and a drink or an ice cream close at hand. (If they’re beavering away in airless attics above busy main roads. we are even more grateful to them than usual!)
Reviewer Olivia Waite, writing in the Seattle Review of Books, tried Farah Mendlesohn’s SPRING FLOWERING on a recommendation and found it very much to her taste.
“This is absolutely a romance reader’s romance — delicate and subtle and complex, playing with tropes and expectations and story rhythms like a virtuoso at an antique ivory keyboard. It’s some of the best Austen I’ve seen outside of Austen.”
Considering the book as part of a group in which the reviewer discusses ‘The Niceness Industrial Complex’ – an expression that could well catch on! – she concludes that a romance (or a romantic book) can also explore important social issues. That’s the Manifold Press philosophy in a nutshell: it needn’t, not always, but it absolutely can!
Thank you, Olivia, and thank you, Seattle Review of Books, for your time and your very good opinion. We wish you cool streams, cool drinks, and cool books to read.
We were delighted to see a new review by Jess on the Love Bytes LGBTQ Book Reviews site, for our recently released novella ANH SANG by Barry Brennessel. It seems as if Jess was just as impressed as we were!
Brennessel’s writing is stark and neat. He never pulls his punches. He packs rage, confusion, and fear into Minh’s thoughts and dialogue, no matter how brief. I can’t believe this is only a novella-length work, because there’s so much good story in so few words. If an author manages to write historical fiction that makes you want to read a dozen more books on the subject, you know he’s passionate about his work.
The romance between Minh and Thao, a local farmer, is sweet and spare, always popping up when both Minh and the readers just need a little bit of hope and sunshine.
As Jess points out, this is a really unusual (perhaps even unique) setting for a love story, and we agree that readers will be rewarded in all kinds of ways for giving this a try.
Thank you, Jess and Love Bytes!
Barry Brennessel’s original story ANH SANG, which appeared in our Great War anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES, left many of us wanting more – including reviewer Kazza K from On Top Down Under reviews. We were delighted (though we have to admit not overly surprised) to find that she was not disappointed in Barry’s novella-length development of this heart-wrenching story.
It’s sublime writing, so authentic and beautiful. … Barry Brennessel knows how to write innocent and tender love juxtaposed against a tough time, particularly first love. He has an ability to write characters that speak to me on such a visceral level, just like Minh and Thao did.
It is probably redundant to say that we are in full agreement with this 5-star review. Thank you, Kazza!
Anne Barwell is a good friend of Manifold Press – she’s helped us out with questions of fact and cultural sensitivity issues in the past – but we had absolutely no idea she was planning to review one of our books on her blog!
We love a good historical – which is why we grabbed Heloise West’s ARDENT with both hands when it was offered to us – and apparently Anne does, too:
Ardent is very well researched and it shows. I loved the descriptions of the settings—they were very easy to visualize and made me feel as though I was there watching everything going on as I was reading. I enjoyed learning about the artists’ process, and especially the day to day life of the masters and their apprentices in the workshops of the time. […] I loved the descriptive language and thought it suited the time period of the story well.
This review was a lovely and unexpected treat, and we’d like to thank Anne for her time – and especially for her concluding words:
I’d recommend ARDENT to readers who enjoy a well researched historical with lush descriptions, interesting characters, and a murder mystery.
We’re in total agreement with her about that – and in fact we couldn’t have put it any better ourselves!
We did, briefly, wonder whether we were experiencing deja vu when this review came to our notice this morning; the reviewer’s name seemed uncannily familiar. And yes, we checked – Heather Rose Jones has actually reviewed Farah Mendlesohn’s delightful SPRING FLOWERING before. However, on investigation, this turned out to be whole new review in a different venue, six months after the last, although we’re reassured to learn that Heather’s opinion of the book doesn’t seem to have altered in the slightest.
This is a perceptive review, and we especially appreciated this paragraph:
“The most common failure mode of historical romance is to drop modern women into the past and have them react in anachronistic ways. Mendlesohn’s characters are a delightful exception: neither too modern in their self-awareness of their sexuality, nor tormented and angsty about it in a way that only really developed in the 20th century.”
We know that’s what our historical authors are always aiming for, so confirmation that one of them has hit the target is particularly welcome!
The review’s conclusion:
“…a book for those who want their historic romance to be as true to the history as to the romance. I found it a breath of fresh air and hope it will be an inspiration for more stories of this type…”
would make us want to go out and buy the book immediately ourselves, if we didn’t already have a copy or two stashed away. Thank you again, Heather; we really appreciate your good opinion, and are once again grateful to you for sharing it.
We’re delighted to say that another new review has crossed our path this morning, this time from reviewer Jules at The Novel Approach who has recently been reading Elin Gregory’s SHEEP’S CLOTHING.
It’s not a long book so Jules has very wisely kept the review short to match – but it does include this wonderful passage:
“I found myself immediately taken in by the cheeky humor of the story and the characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed author Elin Gregory’s easy comedic style and dialogue. […] I loved the originality of this fun little read. Definitely check this one out if you’re in the mood for something different that will make you chuckle!”
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, Jules – and thank you for your time and your comments!
Once more we’re indebted to our friends over at the Historical Novel Society for some hugely encouraging reviews of our output. HNS reviewer Viviane Crystal has been considering two of our more recent publications, with highly gratifying results:
Speaking of Morgan Cheshire’s A TIME TO KEEP, the reviewer clearly enjoyed the author’s gentle tone:
This story of their love is depicted in serene, peaceful ways, highlighting the normalcy of their relationship
and concludes by calling it “[n]icely crafted historical fiction“, with which we can only concur!
The reviewer was also impressed with our Second World War anthology CALL TO ARMS, singling out some stories for individual mention – such as Megan Reddaway’s ‘The Man Who Loved Pigs’ and Julie Bozza’s ‘We Live Without A Future’ – before concluding that the book as a whole is “An interesting […] and memorably inspiring body of historical fiction.”
Coming from someone who presumably by definition reads a great deal of historical fiction, this is quite an accolade – and one we’re immensely pleased with.
Thank you so much, Viviane Crystal and the HNS! We’re thrilled that you enjoyed our books so much, and grateful that you took the time to let us know!
A reviewer rather splendidly named Optimist King’s Wench, over at Boy Meets Boy Reviews, has been enjoying her first encounter with Elin Gregory’s writing through reading her highly-praised THE BONES OF OUR FATHERS.
Among other very welcome comments there is this delightful paragraph:
“This is my first experience with this author and even though there weren’t a lot of bells and whistles that I typically enjoy in my reads what I realized somewhere along the way was a growing familiarity with these characters that snuck up on me. It’s a quiet story that packs a punch, a sneaky, ninja punch, but still.”
Since we definitely know Elin to be a sneaky ninja, we’d have to agree with this assessment…
Thank you, Optimist, we’re glad you enjoyed the book, and hope you and other readers will be intrigued enough to follow up on some of Elin’s other titles as well!
Actually, as we don’t always get notified when new reviews appear, these are a few weeks old by now – the festive season having intervened. Nevertheless we’re always delighted when reviewers take the time to comment on our work!
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On 25 November 2017 Dee England at Love Bytes Reviews gave this assessment of Farah Mendlesohn’s debut novel SPRING FLOWERING:
“This wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me. If you enjoy historical lesbian fiction with an extremely languid pace, and a sex scene or two to spice it up, this could be just the ticket.”
Disappointing as this is, we do understand that it’s not possible to hit the bullseye every time – and we’re also aware that many readers consider the book’s leisurely construction one of its greatest assets – so we’ll thank the reviewer for their time and politely agree to disagree on this one, we think!
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Also at Love Bytes Reviews, Becca – in a review published on December 13 – delivered an emotional response to Morgan Cheshire’s Rainbow Award winning A TIME TO KEEP.
“This book was exceptional. It depicts the life of two very young lovers as they start their journey and live their lives. […] The story weaves you on a path full of love, hope and loss in a very … almost poetic way.“
Having witnessed the writing process at close quarters we know this review will mean a great deal to the author, so on Morgan’s behalf we’d like to thank the reviewer for her most encouraging words.
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It’s not impossible that there are more reviews, of these and other MANIFOLD PRESS titles, which haven’t reached us yet at Megaheadquarters. If you know of one that we haven’t mentioned, on a substantive review site or blog, please don’t assume we’ve seen it and ignored it; the day-to-day practicalities of keeping the Press going often mean that things get missed accidentally, and we’re always grateful for a timely reminder!