Monday, June 18, 2018

Review/Giveaway: The Underground River by Martha Conway

Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love. 

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters. 

As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.


Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Touchstone
Hardcover, eBook, AudioBook
Genre: Historical Fiction

***


It’s 1938 when The Underground River begins and Mary tells her story. It’s also 10 years before the Civil War begins where the Ohio River is the boundary separating free blacks from those not.

Martha Conley has definitely done her homework and was able to place me right there, I could visual and feel the tension that existed between the north and south. The feel of the landscape was clear as well as the way of life. I knew nothing about River Theatres and I found that aspect quite interesting.

It isn’t until the last half of the book where most of the action takes place that is described in the synopsis above.  I kinda wish that started a little sooner and went on longer to really show this part of history.  I'm sure there are more people like me that have heard of the underground railway but never the river being used as paths to freedom.

Again the author definitely knows her history and I'll be checking out her other books.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-a-Million | Powell’s


Martha Conway grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, the sixth of seven daughters. Her first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and she has won several awards for her historical fiction, including an Independent Book Publishers Award and the North American Book Award for Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in the Iowa Review, Massachusetts Review, Carolina Quarterly, Folio, Epoch, The Quarterly, and other journals. She has received a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing, and has reviewed books for the Iowa Review and the San Francisco Chronicle. She now lives in San Francisco, and is an instructor of creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension. She is the author of The Underground River.

For more information, please visit Martha Conway's website.

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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Giveaway!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 5 custom-made coffee mugs!

To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 26th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen

The Underground River


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: The Mayflower Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #1) by Kimberley Woodhouse

A New Series Begins for Lovers of History, Adventure, Romance, and Ancestry

 Mary Chapman boards the Speedwell in 1620 as a Separatist seeking a better life in the New World. William Lytton embarks on the Mayflower as a carpenter looking for opportunities to succeed—and he may have found one when a man from the Virginia Company offers William a hefty sum to keep a stealth eye on company interests in the new colony. The season is far too late for good sailing and storms rage, but reaching land is no better as food is scarce and the people are weak. Will Mary survive to face the spring planting and unknown natives? Will William be branded a traitor and expelled?

 Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series begins with The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse.

 More to come in the Daughters of the Mayflower series: The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo - set 1725 New Orleans (coming April 2018) The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep - set 1760 during the French and Indian War (coming June 2018)

 Kindle, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2018
by Barbour Books
***

Daughters of the Mayflower series begins with The Mayflower Bride. Coming in at 256 pages it’s a relatively quick read chronicling the voyage in 1620 of the Mayflower to the New World.

I enjoyed the historical setting and was interested as these Separatists wanted to start over in a place where they have the freedom to worship as they saw fit. Most of this book takes place on the ship and it's where the real test of endurance takes place.  There are lots of themes to this book - survival, love and loss, faith and the day to day struggles on a voyage that brought heartache and tested so many.

While I didn’t always connect to the characters and would have loved a little more depth to the story The Mayflower Bride was an enjoyable read and a series I will continue to read.

Thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an arc in exchange for honest review.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Spotlight/Giveaway: The King's Justice by E.M Powell


Publication Date: June 1, 2018
Thomas & Mercer
Paperback & eBook; 288 Pages
ISBN-978-1542046015
Series: Stanton and Barling #1
Genre: Historical Mystery

A murder that defies logic—and a killer on the loose.

England, 1176. Aelred Barling, esteemed clerk to the justices of King Henry II, is dispatched from the royal court with his young assistant, Hugo Stanton, to investigate a brutal murder in a village outside York. The case appears straightforward. A suspect is under lock and key in the local prison, and the angry villagers are demanding swift justice. But when more bodies are discovered, certainty turns to doubt—and amid the chaos it becomes clear that nobody is above suspicion. Facing growing unrest in the village and the fury of the lord of the manor, Stanton and Barling find themselves drawn into a mystery that defies logic, pursuing a killer who evades capture at every turn.

Can they solve the riddle of who is preying upon the villagers?

And can they do it without becoming prey themselves?

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com.

You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 6 paperback copies of The King's Justice!

To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
 – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  The King's Justice

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review: The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

With the colonies at war and his country divided, Hamilton Lightfoot must choose sides: Fight for the British Crown or for the Independence of America. But after witnessing the death of his family at the hands of redcoats, he fears he’ll fight for revenge instead of honor. On the verge of a great battle, he pens a letter to Esther, the woman he loves.

 Esther Longfellow is in love with Hamilton, but her father is a loyalist, living in upcountry South Carolina and working for a wealthy British lord. When the Revolutionary War comes to her doorstep she is forced to choose between devotion to her father and her love for Hamilton.

 Chloe Daschle is the daughter of Hollywood royalty—a great director and an Oscar-winning actress. Yet her career has taken an unexpected turn: She’s the queen of death scenes. Trying to break out, she accepts a supporting role in a revolutionary war film. But she longs for the perfect role and the perfect real-life romance. Does happily ever after only exist in the movies?

 After a life-changing tragedy, MIT graduate Jesse Gates decides to leave his life behind and move to LA to try his hand at acting and screenwriting. When he finds a page from one of his ancestor’s letters, he becomes consumed with the love he finds there. Determined to help his grandfather find happiness at the end of his life, Jesse writes and sells a screenplay based on the events surrounding the lost love of previous generations.

 When Jesse meets the woman he has cast to play Esther Longfellow—his grandfather’s one true love—the stories of all four collide across time and space. The love letter from the past might have more power to affect the future than any of them could have imagined.

Kindle, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 12th 2018
by Thomas Nelson
*** 

Authors probably cringe when a review starts with something like ‘I am really not a fan of ‘such and such genre ‘ when I see that myself my first thought is why are you even reading it then? So here so, I am not a big fan of romance novels, but I am a big fan of historical and dual time period stories. Ever since reading Rachel Hauck's books The Wedding Dress and The Writing Desk I have become a fan. Both those books grabbed me with the unique stories and characters.

The Love Letter follows along with its dual time period but this time it was a bit softer, quieter almost in the plots.  I wasn't totally absorbed in the present day story there were times it was a little too neat and tidy.  The historical aspects is usually what draws me right in and I found the letter interesting as well as the connection to Jesse.  I would have loved more of that time flushed out.

 Faith played a big part in both story lines.  The characters are flawed, carrying around a load of guilt.  Ultimately The Love Letter is a story of discovering oneself, letting go of baggage and of course love.  I can't say I enjoyed this as much as her 2 previous books but she is still an author I will continue to read more of.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.  The Love Letter can be found on at your favorite bookstores starting tomorrow (June 12th).



Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

New York Times bestselling author imagines the affair between JFK and Alicia Corning Clark - and the child they may have had.

 Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.

 Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.

 The Summer I Met Jack is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together.

Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Expected publication: May 29th 2018
 by St. Martin's Press
****


Michelle Gable is a new author to me, her book The Paris Apartment has been sitting very patiently waiting but instead I grabbed this, her latest. I was given an ARC from the publisher (with my sincere thanks) but time just got away from me. The Summer I Met Jack was released last week. I grabbed the audio version and my kindle alternating between the two.

Beginning in 1951 when Alicia meets Jack Kennedy. I don’t know a lot of Jack's history but I’ve gleamed enough over the years to get a feel for his character. It’s obvious that a lot of research went into this book. Based on fact the author filled in the gaps nicely to create this fictional account of Alicia and Jack's long affair. There were lots of well known names dropped and the Kennedy’s were a powerful family that took care of themselves. Told from Alicia's side of the story it wasn't hard to feel her plight, from immigration, to friends, to the Kennedy's and just surviving in this new country.

“...my goal was to make the story plausible” and that Michelle Gable did very nicely.

Thank you to St. Martin Press (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

A compelling story of murder, betrayal, and the secrets of the past… Georgina, known as Geo, is a 30-year-old rising executive when her world comes crashing down. Her high school boyfriend has been identified and arrested for a series of serial murders, including Angela, Geo's best friend in high school. Angela disappeared without a trace at 16 and her body has just been found. Now Geo is under arrest for helping her then-boyfriend cover it up. And it's one of her other close friends from high school, Kaiser Brody, who arrests her.

While Geo is sent to prison for her part, Calvin escapes from custody and is on the run. Geo, now thirty-five, is about to be released from prison to try and start over. But someone has started killing people and dumping their bodies in her old neighborhood, with some of the markers of the missing Sweetbay Strangler—her old boyfriend Calvin. Is these killings some kind of message from Calvin? Are they some of revenge? Is she herself now in danger?

 Everything turns on what really happened that tragic night back when Geo and Angela were high schoolers. Everyone thinks they know the truth, but there are dark secrets buried deep within other secrets, and it may be too late for anyone to survive the truth.

Jar of Hearts is a compelling edge-of-your-seat thriller that grabs readers from the very beginning and holds them rapt, as the truth of both the past and the present is skillfully unfolded, until the very last page.

 Kindle Edition, 320 pages
 Expected publication: June 12th 2018
 by Minotaur Books
*** 1/2

Jennifer Hillier is a new author to me, Jar of Hearts releases next week and already its garnered a huge amount of 4/5 star ratings. In terms of anticipation I can see that, I was flipping the pages in my kindle to see what would happen next, trying to figure it out myself. I knew there were twists and turns coming and I was genuinely curious about the outcome. But there were just a few things that bogged me down and the thing is I really cann't say anything more for fear of spoiling someone else's ride. These are things not mentioned in the synopsis but if you are really interested check out this review on Goodreads where I can hide behind the spoiler button.

Having said that I enjoyed how the author went back and forth in time, it was smooth and each tidbit of the past only heightened my curiosity. I found it hard at times to connect with the characters, I just didn’t feel the emotional side of them or understand some of their actions.

Jar of Hearts is a book of secrets, heartache and survival.  While it wasn't perfect I would still recommend it to those that like a good mystery. 

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advance copy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

 Introduction by Gillian Flynn • Afterword by Patton Oswalt

 “A brilliant genre-buster.... Propulsive, can’t-stop-now reading.” —Stephen King

 For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

 Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

 I’ll Be Gone in the Dark —the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle's dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

 Paperback, 352 pages
 Published February 27th 2018
by Harper
****

I caved to social media pressure to read this one, everywhere I looked I saw this book. Especially when news reports of an arrest started coming through.

Michelle McNamara had a blog called TrueCrimeDiary and had a fascination (to put it mildly) with unsolved murders and the EAR/Golden State Murders is the focus of this book. She writes with grace and respect for the victims, she didn’t glorify the acts but protected the innocent. Her research is almost obsessive and it’s sad that in her passing she was not able to see his arrest.

This book presented the era, the various locations with detail as well as the criminal procedures in a time before DNA testing. This is a gripping story and for those that sleep uneasy you might want to have your dog close by, I read a lot of this while alone for a weekend and I think I even made my dog nervous. But really what did I expect, it’s a book about some absolutely horrible crimes.

I don't read a lot of true crime, nonfiction book and am trying to rectify that this year.  My copy was from my personal library.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review: Keturah (The Sugar Baron's Daughters #1) by Lisa Tawn Bergren

In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father's estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

 Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they're determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined--and that's just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.

 Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

 Set on keeping her family together and saving her father's plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

Paperback, 354 pages
 Published February 6th 2018
by Bethany House Publishers
****

This is my first novel by Lisa T. Bergen, I’ve heard and seen her books about and finally decided to see what the excitement was about. While romance isn’t a favourite of mine on its own but add the historical element and I perk right up. The location was another added bonus, I love reading about places I’ve been to, easier to visualize and get that feel of the island.

The synopsis above does a great job of describing Keturah. She is brave, determined but also vulnerable (after a traumatizing marriage).  Women of 1772 were to be taken care of not sailing across the ocean to save a cane plantation with no male escort.  With 2 sisters in tow that is exactly what Keturah did.  It's an eye opening greeting in Nevis, from slaves sold in the market square to not being taken seriously in their task.

Keturah is ultimately a book of strength, determination and letting go.  The faith of these girls grows on this journey and while this book wasn't perfect (I had a couple of issues), all in all I enjoyed it. The ending was fitting with a few unresolved issues that I am sure will work themselves out in the next book.

This is book 1 in The Sugar Baron's Daughters Series and one I will continue with. 

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review: Side by Side: A Novel of Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie #2) by Jenni L. Walsh

"A deftly researched, compassionate rendering of Bonnie Parker, one of the most fascinating women in recent history. With great empathy and skill Walsh portrays Bonnie's collision course with disaster, allowing us to ride shotgun all the way. And what a compelling ride it is!" - Ariel Lawhon, author of I Was Anastasia

 Texas: 1931. It’s the height of the Great Depression, and Bonnie is miles from Clyde. He’s locked up, and she’s left waiting, their dreams of a life together dwindling every day.

 When Clyde returns from prison damaged and distant, unable to keep a job, and dogged by the cops, Bonnie knows the law will soon come for him. But there’s only one road forward for her.

 If the world won't give them their American Dream, they'll just have to take it.

 "Compulsively readable, Walsh’s prose hooks you from the beginning as Bonnie and Clyde come alive for the reader, their exploits leaping off the page. Atmospheric, action-packed, and richly detailed, Side by Side will delight historical fiction fans." - Chanel Cleeton, author of Next Year in Havana

Kindle, 320 pages
Expected publication: June 5th 2018
 by Forge Books
****

Side by Side begins with Becoming Bonnie and I highly recommend starting with that book first. Becoming Bonnie introduces Bonnielyn Parker and gives a clear picture of who she is and what makes her tick. Side by Side begins as she is now known as just Bonnie not Bonnielyn (or Saint Bonnielyn - gotta read the story).

I love books that take me to another place and time, when you get a good sense of the time and era the characters are living through.  Naturally when I finished reading, I googled and discovered that the author has drawn from the pages of history then she filled in the gap‘s nicely, capturing the way of life and feeling the toll of the Great Depression. Believe it or not Bonnie and Clyde had dreams for the future.

Jenni L. Walsh's debut was Becoming Bonnie followed a year later with Side by Side (next week it hits book shelves) and I have to say how impressed I am with her writing.  She has taken two historical figures and breathed life into them, she humanized them and while their crimes are terrible she was able to tell Bonnie's side of the story.  I was totally engaged, the characters were well developed and she stayed true to history.   I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Jenni L. Walsh.

My thanks to the publisher (via netgalley) for an advance copy of this book. Be sure to click on the cover below to take you to my review of Becoming Bonnie


Monday, May 28, 2018

Review: House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg, Julie Morstad (Illustrator)

An affecting biography of the author of Anne of Green Gables is the first for young readers to include revelations about her last days and to encompass the complexity of a brilliant and sometimes troubled life.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Maud who adored stories. When she was fourteen years old, Maud wrote in her journal, "I love books. I hope when I grow up to be able to have lots of them." Not only did Maud grow up to own lots of books, she wrote twenty-four of them herself as L. M. Montgomery, the world-renowned author of Anne of Green Gables.

For many years, not a great deal was known about Maud’s personal life. Her childhood was spent with strict, undemonstrative grandparents, and her reflections on writing, her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression, her "year of mad passion," and her difficult married life remained locked away, buried deep within her unpublished personal journals.

Through this revealing and deeply moving biography, kindred spirits of all ages who, like Maud, never gave up "the substance of things hoped for" will be captivated anew by the words of this remarkable woman.

Kindle, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 12th 2018
 by Candlewick Press
****
We’ve all heard of Anne of Green Gables and other novels by famed author L. M. Montgomery. I remember watching the series with Megan Follows and loving it, my initial impression was that the author shared the same personality traits as Anne did.

Right from the beginning I was captivated with the story of Montgomery's life and going in with no inclinations of what to expect I was blown away with her story.  From her childhood right to her final years Liz Rosenberg used personal journals to write this book.  This is non-fiction for young adults and was illustrated very nicely. 

It was her adult years that really stood out for me and you could say I was saddened with all she went through, it wasn't a time when women could be independent but Montgomery endured so much to follow her dreams.  The author wrote an in-depth story of what life was like in the late 1800's early 1900's until Montgomery’s end in 1942. There were a few times I got confused with the back-and-forth of time and sometimes I wondered if the frank talk about depression and it’s behavior (suffered by both wife and husband) might be too much for a younger reader.

I would have loved to see photos but given this was an advanced ebook they might appear in the print version.

I feel with all Montgomery went through and getting to know her better my desire to read more of her books has definitely peeked. Especially knowing her frame of mind while writing them. 

My sincere thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.