As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Queen of Palmyra - Minrose Gwin (Giveaway!)

I was asked to join the TLC Book Tour for Minrose Gwin's novel The Queen of Palmyra. I'll have to admit that I was a bit hesitant because this is not normally the type of book I choose to read. But since I moved to the sort-of-South, I thought I'd broaden my horizons in reading. All I can say is Thank Goodness I did because this is an amazing novel. I sucked it right up and immediately gave it Five Stars on GoodReads.

The Queen of Palmyra takes place that fateful summer in 1963 in Mississippi when temperatures got to record breaking highs, JFK and Medgar Evers were assassinated, and the country's racial tensions were at an all time high.

Florence Forrest is a young white girl and it is the summer between her fourth and fifth year in school. However, she is way behind in studies because for the past year, her father and mother have been on the "lam" as she calls it, traveling around while her father unsuccessfully tries to hold one job after another. They finally return home to Millwood, Mississippi and that's when things start to crumble.

Florence's father, unbeknownst to her, is part of the Klan which is something her mother abhors. However, her father is a bit of a terror and as their marriage slowly crumbles, he tries to keep Florence close by telling her stories that have deeper darker meanings. Her mother manages a quite successful cake business but Florence starts being pawned off more and more on others, mainly Zenie, her grandmother's black housemaid. That summer, Zenie's college student niece, Eva, comes to stay with them. Florence is made a witness to all and must finally grow up and choose for herself which path she must follow.

I found this to be such an absorbing novel. I normally don't choose to read novels with such obvious serious topics. In the past, I normally tried to read lighter books for an escapism type of enjoyment. But I'm finding that more and more I'm steering toward books with tougher topics. This is definitely one of those novels.

Florence is such an interesting character because of her obvious lack of understanding but she observes everything and tries to figure out what is going on. She's such a neglected character. She is left to fend for herself often and goes long periods of time without food, a bath, or a a change of clothes.

I have to say that all the other characters were so well written as well. Her father, though while a terrifying character, is flawed and realistic. Her mother refuses to stand up and chooses to escape. Zenie and Eva were my favorite characters. Zenie, named after Zenobia the Queen of Palmyra, tells Florence stories about the Queen. While a good influence on Florence, Zenie views the care-taking of Florence as just another job and often refers to the girl as "it". Eva...well you'll just have to read the story to find out about Eva.

I keep wanting to blab about the book so I think this would make a perfect Book Club book. While I've never read The Help, I have read The Color Purple and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

***Would you recommend any books like this that are all absorbing?

The TLC Book Tour Stops:
Tuesday, May 4th: five borough book review
Wednesday, May 5th: The Bluestocking Society
Monday, May 10th: Rundpinne
Tuesday, May 11th: Natty Michelle
Wednesday, May 12th: Pam's Perspective
Wednesday, May 12th: My Reading Room
Wednesday, May 19th: Staircase Wit
Thursday, May 20th: Lit and Life
Tuesday, May 25th: Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, May 26th: Take Me Away
Thursday, May 27th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Monday, May 31st: Green Jello
Tuesday, June 1st: Crazy for Books

More reviews:
Devourer of Books

This is Herbert Schmalz's 19th Century painting of the Queen of Palmyra.

You can also listen to Minrose Gwin talk about her book over at Book Club Girl

Now for the giveaway: I have an extra copy of The Queen of Palmyra. All you have to do is leave a comment, a way to contact you, and answer the question is asked just above. The giveaway is open through June 11th and like always, my contest is open international so good luck!


  1. Still Alice by Lisa Genova is a book I could not
    put down, it is about early onset Altzheimers.
    I would love to win this book.
    The review makes it very interesting.

    cenya2 at hotmail dot com

  2. Ooh, wow. What a review!

    No need to enter me (even though this sounds like something I'd love). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

  3. Thanks for a great review Amanda.

    Sounds like this one is well worth picking up.

  4. I love reading Cleopatra's Daughter and Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. I'd love to enter your giveaway!

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

  5. The most all-absorbing book I've ever read was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

    Please enter me in this giveaway!

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

  6. Molakai; Brennert is a book that touched me deeply. I'd love a chance to win this book. Thanks so much

    bibliophilebythesea AT gmail DOT com

  7. I have been seeing this book on quite a few blogs recently.

    Push by Sapphire was one book that had me absorbed and also The Secret Lives Of Bees.

    shwetasbookjournal at gmail dot com

  8. Hi Amanda...

    This sure sounds like an interesting book, have read some good reviews about it...I just finished reading "The Help" and I would surely recommend that book to everyone... Kathryn Stockett has done a great job in her debut novel and I am looking forward to her next book...



  9. I immediately thought of The Help, because Evers is actually mentioned in it. Another recent tale of the South that I really enjoyed was Saving Ceecee Honeycutt--more like women's fiction that a big social movement, but really good. Thanks for the great info on the book, I may have missed it otherwise. Thanks for the chance to win.

  10. The only book I've read recently that I just could not put down was Lightning by Dean Koontz. So fabulous!

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

  11. The Kaffir Boy was one that had me totally absorbed. This giveaway book sounds wonderful. Thanks!
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  12. James Michener's Hawaii is a book I would recommend.
    I'd love to win this! Please enter me! Thank you!
    mittens0831 at aol dot com

  13. I liked Angela's Ashes, thx for the contest..

  14. I love books that make you want to talk about them when they're finished! Books like that are special. :) Thanks for being on this tour!

  15. i loved the book A STRAY DROP OF BLOOD by Roseana White....thanks for the chance to read this novel :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  16. I do like Cleopatr's Daughter by Michelle Moran.

    Great giveaway!

    Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

    avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

  17. Sounds like a great book. Your review really got me curious.

    carianmoonlight at gmail dot com

  18. I also immediately thought of The Help, but one of my favs that you'll agree with too, is The Art of Racing in the Rain. Totally absorbing.

    Definitely enter me! homebetweenpages at gmail dot com


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