Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.  This weekly gathering is hosted by Mailbox Monday.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Got some gems this week.
(click on cover to take you to Goodreads)

For review


What arrived in your mailbox?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Bride of a Distant Isle (Daughters of Hampshire #2) by Sandra Byrd

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill  at  Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.   

 This week I am waiting for:

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: March 22nd 2016 by Howard Books

An unforgettable romance set in Victorian England, Bride of A Distant Isle is the engrossing story of Annabel Ashton, who fights to save her family home and her mother's honor while trying to figure out if the man she loves wants her—or just wants to use her to achieve his own ambitions.

Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.

Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.

She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?

And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?

An absorbing, transportive Victorian romance infused with intriguing details and delicious imagery. Sandra is a master of the historical novel. Engaging to the last page. ~Susan Meissner
Author of Secrets of a Charmed Life

Lovers of wind-swept moors and Bronte-esque intrigue will devour Byrd’s latest romance! Annabel Ashton, like Jane Eyre before her, doesn’t accept her circumstances or let mysteries rest unsolved, but instead invites you along as she proactively uncovers truths and searches out her own happily ever after. ~ Katherine Reay, author of The Bronte Plot

Bride of a Distant Isle is an enthralling novel filled with mystery, intrigue, and a compelling romance. Sandra Byrd’s twisting plot and vibrant characters weave a rich and satisfying story that absorbs the mind and captivates the heart. ~Stephanie Landsem, author of The Tomb
What are you waiting for?


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson

Moonlight Over Paris cover

An aristocratic young woman leaves the sheltered world of London to find adventure, passion, and independence in 1920s Paris in this mesmerizing story from the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France and After the War is Over.

Spring, 1924 Recovering from a broken wartime engagement and a serious illness that left her near death, Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr vows that for once she will live life on her own terms. Breaking free from the stifling social constraints of the aristocratic society in which she was raised, she travels to France to stay with her free spirited aunt. For one year, she will simply be Miss Parr. She will explore the picturesque streets of Paris, meet people who know nothing of her past—and pursue her dream of becoming an artist. A few years after the Great War’s end, the City of Light is a bohemian paradise teeming with actors, painters, writers, and a lively coterie of American expatriates who welcome Helena into their romantic and exciting circle. Among them is Sam Howard, an irascible and infuriatingly honest correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Dangerously attractive and deeply scarred by the horror and carnage of the war, Sam is unlike any man she has ever encountered. He calls her Ellie, sees her as no one has before, and offers her a glimpse of a future that is both irresistible and impossible. As Paris rises phoenix-like from the ashes of the Great War, so too does Helena. Though she’s shed her old self, she’s still uncertain of what she will become and where she belongs. But is she strong enough to completely let go of the past and follow her heart, no matter where it leads her?

Artfully capturing the Lost Generation and their enchanting city, Moonlight Over Paris is the spellbinding story of one young woman’s journey to find herself, and claim the life—and love—she truly wants.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 19, 2016)

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I have enjoyed both of Jennifer Robson's previous books, After the War is Over and Somewhere in France.  Though some of the same characters are connected in all 3 books each of them definitely works fine on their own.  But if you haven't read them, I highly recommend.

The synopsis above does a great job of describing what this book is about and in a way I lack words to add to that.  I liked Helena, she was determined to have a life for herself after all that she has gone through in the past few years.  I liked her drive, seeing her emerge out of a mold that her parents had her in to strive for something better and most importantly to do something she wanted to do for herself.  She took risks at the same time as staying true to herself.

 The war has been over for a number of years and Paris is in full swing again. The authors writing style is one I like, she knows the time period here, between the social classes in England to life in Paris I was captivated.  I loved the guess appearances of famous individuals in Paris and Helena rubbing shoulders with them.

Fans of Downton Abbey and those who like the roaring 20's should give Robson's books a try.

I had the pleasure of meeting the author last fall, it was wonderful to listen to her talk about getting her books published and to learn more about her, it was a privilege.

Jennifer Robson is the USA Today and #1 Toronto Globe & Mail bestselling author of Somewhere in France. She holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford, where she was a Commonwealth Scholar and an SSHRC Doctoral Fellow. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children.

Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you to TLC Tours for allowing me to be part of this tour, check out more stops on this tour.

Tuesday, January 19th: BookNAround
Tuesday, January 19th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, January 20th: Kritters Ramblings
Thursday, January 21st: 5 Minutes For Books
Friday, January 22nd: Reading Reality
Monday, January 25th: From L.A. to LA
Wednesday, January 27th: The many thoughts of a reader
Thursday, January 28th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Friday, January 29th: A Splendidly Messy Life
Monday, February 1st: M. Denise Costello
Tuesday, February 2nd: Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, February 3rd: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, February 4th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, February 8th: Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, February 10th: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, February 12th: Luxury Reading

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.  This weekly gathering is hosted by Mailbox Monday.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy,
toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Got some gems this week.


“Seventy-two hours, then we have to be back at the clearing. Sunrise on the third day.”

Being “the homeschooled girl,” in a small town, Hope Walton's crippling phobias and photographic memory don't help her fit in with her adoptive dad's perfectly blonde Southern family. But when her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope's secluded world crumbles. After an aunt she's never met invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic. She's a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is actually trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now Hope must conquer her numerous fears and travel back in time to help rescue her mother before she's lost for good. Along the way, she'll discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free… or the key to Hope's undoing.

Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail,  is an Outlander for teens.

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.


Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

What arrived in your mailbox last week?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Review & Giveaway: Follow the River by James Alexander Thom

Woman of Dignity
Woman of Spirit
Woman of Courage

Here is the magnificent saga of Mary Ingles' daring escape from Indian captivity and her remarkable journey home.

Mary Ingles was twenty-three, married, and pregnant, when Shawnee Indians invaded her peaceful Virginia settlement in 1755, kidnapped her leaving behind a bloody massacre. For months they held her captive.  But nothing could imprison her spirit.

With the rushing Ohio River as her guide, Mary Ingles walked one thousand miles through an untamed wilderness no white woman had ever seen.  Her story lives on, extraordinary testimony to the indomitable strength of a pioneer woman struggling to return to the comfort of her own people, the arms of her own man.

Paperback, 406 pages
Published November 12th 1986 by Ballantine Books(first published 1981)
personal library

Well here you have it, my first 'Best of 2016'.  I would never have discovered this book on my own, but thanks to a friend on Goodreads I discovered it on the list 'The Unknown, Hidden Gems of Historical Fiction'.  Follow the River is number one.

It's great as a reader when you have your favorite authors, those trusted ones your go to and aren't disappointed.  On the other hand it is great to discover new talent out there.  Such is the case here with James Alexander Thom, though not a new author but new to me.

Follow the River is a story that showed a raw and violent side of early America.  It's the story of a remarkable young woman named Mary Ingles and her unrelenting determination in what looks to be a hopeless situation, she is forced to make decisions no mother should ever have to make, but was courageous in her quest for freedom.  When the Shawnee seeked to take revenge on white people, they targeted the settlers in Drapers Meadow, where Mary and her family lived.   

Thom's writing style was one I enjoyed, he didn't tell the story but rather showed it.  Told in vivid detail the author didn't hold anything back.  From the various aspects of the life style of the Shawnee to Mary's journey home I could visual and feel so much. It wasn't just Mary's emotional state but others as well, how they struggled to adapt to what was happening.  Be warned there were a couple of graphic/disturbing scenes that I had a hard time with (especially the opening massacre).  
"It seemed very important somehow, though she knew she was presuming things about the Indian character, that she and the others should exhibit all the dignity their destitute circumstances would allow. Somehow, she felt, dignity might be all that could keep them alive. It was a notion she had arrived at largely by watching the straight-backed carriage of the tall chieftain."
For Mary it wasn't just herself but 2 young sons and newborn baby as well.  Based on a true story makes it all the more heart wrenching, but at the same time to marvel at her determination and strength made this a very captivating story.

The authors knowledge and research is evident, he even hiked part (all?) of the route himself, showing his desire to tell Mary's story in a realistic manner (which were spot on).  The historical/author notes I enjoyed as much as the book itself.  Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

On that note I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader.  This is a mass paperback, used but loved.  Just leave a comment, tell me about a new author you've discovered.  It's open for a week, you can enter once a day and more entries if you spread the word and follow this blog.  Contest ends Feb 7th.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: End of Watch by Stephen King

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill  at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I am waiting for:

Hardcover496 pages
Expected publication: June 7th 2016 by Scribner

Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney, who delivered the blow to Hartsfield's head that put him on the brain injury ward. Brady also remembers that. When Bill and Holly are called to a murder-suicide with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put not only their lives at risk, but those of Hodges’s friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Because Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Bill Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the supernatural suspense that has been his trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and up-all-night entertainment.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

A woman uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her husband's family in this chilling page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

Sarah Quinlan's husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia's accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack's past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth you are in frshe may not be prepared for.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2016 by MIRA 
arc via netgalley 

There are some authors that are automatic 'must reads', those that you have read enough times to know you are in for a real treat.  Heather Gudenkauf is one of those authors.  Her books have always kept me engaged and I love her writing style.  With Missing Pieces I didn't even read the synopsis but just dove right in.

Missing Pieces is a murder mystery that reopens events from years ago.  It's about a husband who kept his true past a secret from his wife, telling lie after lie to conceal a past that he didn't want exposed. But now that all explodes with dire consequences.

Told from the point of view of Jack's wife Sarah the story begins with them returning to Jack's hometown when tragedy strikes.  I had a hard time getting into this book initially, but when it took off I was hooked.  The story line kept me engaged, dawning my sleuth cap trying to figure out what took place years ago and what might happen next.  Heather Gudenkauf has a nice ability to ingrain twists and turns to keep one guessing.

But I did have a hard time connecting with some of the characters here - I was suspicious of the whole lot, which I suppose is a good thing.  I didn't really feel any sympathy for any of them. But the thing that I really struggled with here was Jack and Sarah's relationship.  Being together for over 20 years and with the strong bond (I was lead to believe they had), it was hard to see her doubt him.  To think him capable of such violent acts and to actually fear him, that didn't resonate well with me.

That being said I can't say that this is her best, but it was still an entertaining book.

Here are some of her other books that I have enjoyed (Little Mercies being one of my favorites of 2014)

Review: Solitary by Travis Thrasher

His Loneliness Will Soon Turn to Fear….

 When Chris Buckley moves to Solitary, North Carolina, he faces the reality of his parents’ divorce, a school full of nameless faces—and Jocelyn Evans. Jocelyn is beautiful and mysterious enough to leave Chris speechless. But the more Jocelyn resists him, the more the two are drawn together. Chris soon learns that Jocelyn has secrets as deep as the town itself. Secrets more terrifying than the bullies he faces in the locker room or his mother’s unexplained nightmares. He slowly begins to understand the horrific answers. The question is whether he can save Jocelyn in time.

This first book in the Solitary Tales series will take you from the cold halls of high school to the dark rooms of an abandoned cabin—and remind you what it means to believe in what you cannot see. 

400 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by David C. Cook
ebook via Netgalley
*** (I liked it)

Young adult has always been a favorite of mine, and I think I requested this book because I heard it would appeal to fans of Frank Peretti (his earlier books were favorites of mine).  Though the synopsis does not make any reference to this being Christian fiction knowing the publisher made that evident to myself.

Solitary was an enjoyable enough story, it wasn't hard to feel the loneliness of Chris's new found situation.  Trying to fit in in the mist of his parents divorce and being forced to move away from all he had ever know,  High School is hard enough but doing it without a friendly face just adds more pressure.

The author filled in the background of Solitary, NC with just enough hints to show that something weird was going on.  I didn't really connect or trust many characters here and some of the situation didn't always ring true to me.  But then I remind myself that this is book 1 of 4, so not all my questions/doubts will be answered right away.

All in all a solid start to this series.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.  This weekly gathering is hosted by Mailbox Monday.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy,
toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

My first Mailbox Monday post, a little late to the party but I am here.  So being late this post will include the past 3 weeks hopefully future mail boxes won't be this full.

Kindle deals


Book Tours


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Guestpost: Grounded in History by Kaaren Christopherson, author of Decorum

Grounded in History: the history–fiction mix in historical fiction
By Kaaren Christopherson, author of Decorum

Chief among the many questions a writer of historical fiction must ask herself is, How much history and how much fiction? Historical fiction runs a very wide gamut on the history–fiction continuum. A particular era may form the backdrop for a story that is largely fictional. Another story may recreate a historical event so faithfully that it reads more like creative non-fiction, only inserting a minimum of fiction into the plot or cast of characters. A story may incorporate one or two (or more) historical figures into a fictional plot, or the reverse—a fictional character may be a witness to a momentous event. In writing my first novel, Decorum, a story of deception, love, bigamy, and murder in Gilded Age New York, I chose to create fictional characters who lived out a fictional plot in a real time and place amid real events.

Before you think this option is easy or doesn’t require much research, let me assure you that historical research may be even more critical to making a fictional work believable. Though we may find the corsets and petticoats, top hats and walking sticks we read about alluring, the author also must capture the world in which the characters move and function: Gas lamps or electricity? Horse-drawn carriages or motor cars? A lavish mansion or a sweat shop fire trap? When a character approaches a house, does he use the tradesman’s entrance or the front door—and if it’s the front door, is there a bell chain to pull, a buzzer to push, or a door knocker to tap? Often tiny details are the very things that transport the reader to the time and place.

I like to say that Decorum’s fictional characters chose me and I stuck with them and their surroundings. Tycoon Connor O’Casey and his paramour Blanche Wilson de Alvarado were the first to appear in my imagination, in full dress of the 1890s outside a New York hotel, quickly followed by heiress Francesca Lund and a host of others who began spinning their tale. As their story unfolded, no historical figures were present; I decided not to force the issue for a couple of reasons. First, since Decorum was my first novel, I wanted to concentrate on making the characters as three-dimensional as possible. I created backstories and biosketches that told me about their parents, siblings, birthplaces, marital status, education, employment, religious beliefs, and favorite pastimes to help me give the characters depth. Second, I was concerned that working a real historical figure into the story might throw the book off balance—either the person would be flat and wooden next to my well-developed fictional characters, or the historical figure would be so larger than life that he or she would overwhelm the story. This was the right choice for Decorum, a choice I made deliberately.

Similarly, the plot of Decorum is fictional. To help ground the story in history, however, I used a few events judiciously to advance the fictional plot. For example, Nellie Bly completed her round-the-world-challenge in early 1891. I used her success as the impetus for one of the fictional characters landing a job. The modern hotel business was booming in 1890s New York. I used Flagler and Vanderbilt as unseen competitors to the fictional characters’ hotel aspirations. Moreover, the trip to Banff was ostensibly a chance to see what W. Cornelius VanHorne and the Canadian Pacific Railway were up to in dotting the continent with hotels. Decorum’s fictional tycoon O’Casey tells the guests at Thanksgiving dinner about witnessing the historic 1889 fight between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain. In the case of Connor O’Casey, having done the extensive background on him early on made including the mention of the Sullivan–Kilrain fight a natural.

Finally, using my great-grandmother’s etiquette book for research turned out to be a great bit of serendipity when it comes to grounding Decorum in history. Starting each chapter with a short quotation was a reminder to the reader of how characters were supposed to act—not necessarily how they do act. With attention to historical events and using resources like the etiquette book, Decorum’s fictional plot and characters became grounded in the life and events of the 1890s.

To read the Thanksgiving chapter of Decorum for free, go to
To see more backstories and bios for the characters and stories of historical events, go to

To see more about my great-grandmother’s etiquette book, go to