Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family.

When she discovers her husband cheating, Ella Hawthorne impulsively moves out of their SoHo loft and into a small apartment in an old Greenwich Village building. Her surprisingly attractive new neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement at night. Tenants have reported strange noises after midnight—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the place hid a speakeasy.

In 1924, Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin becomes entangled with Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers.

Headstrong and independent, Gin is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Roaring Twenties, Gin’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead—secrets that will echo from Park Avenue to the hollers of her Southern hometown.

As Ella discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her exuberant predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city too. . . .

 ebook, 384 pages 
Expected publication: January 17th 2017 by William Morrow
****


I am familiar with two previous books by Beatriz Williams, The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Along the Infinite Sea, both audio reads for me and I loved them. Her writing style, with its whimsical tone, witty descriptions and entertaining dialogue works perfectly in that format. Written in first people made it feel like the characters were right there telling me their story. I was a little nervous reading The Wicked City wondering whether it would yield the same feelings. Once I finished the first chapter, as Ella moves into her new apartment and sets about to do laundry, well it reminded me of why I loved her previous books.

Most of the story takes place in the past time period, the Roaring Twenties which is a time I haven't really read much about and nothing involving the Prohibition Era.  There really isn't much for me to say about the plot since the synopsis does a great job doing that.

Gin (Geneva) is an interesting and likeable gal (as I find all of Williams characters to be), her background story is slowly revealed and I could see where she was coming from and what made her tick.

While the reader gets to know Ella and another interesting storyline is revealed a connection to the Schuyler girls from the author's previous series takes shape.

The conclusion here was satisfying on one hand but also left the door open for the sequel, Cocoa Beach which I believe is being released mid 2017.  I am anxious to read it since the author has made me interested in what happens next for Ella and Geneva and her prose is entertaining and captivating.

Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy (via Edelweiss).





Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her. As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.

The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A.S.A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.

audiobook, 9 hours 50 minutes 
published September 27th 2016 by Atria Books
****
The Vanishing Year is my first book of 2017 and sometimes a mystery/thriller is just what this reader needs.  This is also my first book by Kate Moretti, I've seen her name floating around the internet the past few months and when The Vanishing Year became available in audio format at the library I jumped at the chance.

It didn't take long to get drawn into this story, Zoe has a past, she wasn't always rich and living the high society life.  Running from her past and trying to keep her secrets seem to finally have caught up with Zoe.  There are many layers to this story and the author peels them back creating twists and turns I didn't see coming.  As the story deepened the suspense built up putting me on a marathon read (listen).  

The Vanishing Year is a well written suspenseful, edge of you seat book, definitely an author I will read more of and recommend.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Review: A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

London, 1887 ... 

Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman's noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

 But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime.

 From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed...

Hardcover, 352 pages
January 10th, 2017, Berkley Books
*****
A Curious Beginning is the first book in this Veronica Speedwell Series and while A Perilous Undertaking does not give too many clues or back flashes to the first book I do recommend going back and starting with that one.  Not only is it that good, it was great getting to know Veronica and Stokers from the start. 

There are so many things I loved about this book, with the first one being Veronica, she is not your average heroine but rather someone who has spunk, is witty, rather feisty and loves her butterflies, she brings this story to life.  While there is definite sexual tension in the air her relationship with Stoker played out with its witty bantering giving this book a humorous and engaging tone. At times I found myself forgetting about the mystery and just enjoyed their relationship.  They both have haunting pasts creating stumbling blocks that I hope resolves in the not to distant future.

Deanna Raybourn has a writing style that I love.  How everything in this mystery wove together and was revealed kept me guessing.  There was enough action to keep the story moving right along and and it wasn't hard to feel the elements along the way.  I am not sure how many books will be in this series, but I know I am looking forward to the next installment.

Thanks to Berkley Books (via Netgalley) for arc.


Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 in review

I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge at 100 books for 2016.  On April 27th when I was 10 books ahead of schedule my son was diagnosed with a serious illness sending me into a serious reading slump. My attention span was short and audio books turned into my best friend, since son lives 2 hours away and any down time left my brain contemplating worse case scenarios. Now that he is on the road to recovery it's only been in the last couple of months that I have felt able to pick up my pace and somehow managed to finish 91 books.

My goal for 2017 is set to 75 books, during the past year I have learned so much about what's important and things I want to do. Life can change so quickly, we don't know what tomorrow brings and its a reminder that it isn't too late to pursue your dreams, goals or ambitions and to do it  NOW.

For myself I have a couple writing projects that I am working on and would like to devote more time over 2017 to work on them.

I read some great books from 2016, also some not so great ones and this year I can count more dnf books since I did not want to waste precious time reading something just for the sake of reading..

Of those 91 books I've read:
39 were new to me authors
47 were provided via Netgalley
35 were audio books

In no peculiar order here are my best of 2016.
click on cover to take you to my review

Veronica Speedwell returns in a brand new adventure from Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries... 

 London, 1887 . . Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman's noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

 But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime.

 From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed...

review coming this week
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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. 

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The New York Times bestselling author of A Long Time Gone now explores a Southern family’s buried history, which will change the life of the woman who unearths it, secret by shattering secret.

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

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America's First Daughter cover In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France. It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age.

Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter. Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad. 

The author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.

 This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.

Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Leaving Maureen to her chores, Harold heads to the corner mailbox, intending a quick walk to post his reply. Instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce's remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie will live.

Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest through the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit of youth and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood come rushing back to him-allowing him to reconcile his losses and regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.

And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.

A novel of unsentimental charm, humour, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise-and utterly irresistible-storyteller.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Sometimes the only way through darkness is to return to where it began. 

Marianne Stokes fled England at seventeen, spiraling into the manic depression that would become her shadow. She left behind secrets, memories, and tragedy: one teen dead, and her first love, Gabriel, badly injured. Three decades later she’s finally found peace in the North Carolina recording studio she runs with her husband, Darius, and her almost-daughter, Jade…until another fatality propels her back across the ocean to confront the long-buried past.

In her picturesque childhood village, the first person she meets is the last person she wants to see again: Gabriel. Now the village vicar, he takes her in without question, and ripples of what if reverberate through both their hearts. As Marianne’s mind unravels, Jade and Darius track her down. Tempers clash when everyone tries to help, but only by finding the courage to face her illness can Marianne heal herself and her offbeat family.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One murder ignites the powder keg that threatens to consume the Medici's Florence.


 Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. 


When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Debut novelist Lisa Lewis Tyre vibrantly brings a small town and its outspoken characters to life, as she explores race and other community issues from both the Civil War and the present day.

Lou might be only twelve, but she’s never been one to take things sitting down. So when her Civil War-era house is about to be condemned, she’s determined to save it—either by getting it deemed a historic landmark or by finding the stash of gold rumored to be hidden nearby during the war. As Lou digs into the past, her eyes are opened when she finds that her ancestors ran the gamut of slave owners, renegades, thieves and abolitionists. 

Meanwhile, some incidents in her town show her that many Civil War era prejudices still survive and that the past can keep repeating itself if we let it. Digging into her past shows Lou that it’s never too late to fight injustice, and she starts to see the real value of understanding and exploring her roots. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I killed a man the summer I turned thirteen . . .

Thus begins C. S. Harris’s haunting, lyrically beautiful tale of coming of age in Civil War-torn Louisiana. Eleven-year-old Amrie St. Pierre is catching tadpoles with her friend Finn O’Reilly when the Federal fleet first steams up the Mississippi River in the spring of 1862. With the surrender of New Orleans, Amrie’s sleepy little village of St. Francisville – strategically located between the last river outposts of Vicksburg and Port Hudson – is now frighteningly vulnerable. As the roar of canons inches ever closer and food, shoes, and life-giving medicines become increasingly scarce, Amrie is forced to grow up fast. But it is her own fateful encounter with a tall, golden-haired Union captain named Gabriel that threatens to destroy everything and everyone she holds most dear.

Told with rare compassion and insight, this is a gripping, heart-wrenching story of loss and survival; of the bonds that form amongst women and children left alone to face the hardships,deprivations, and dangers of war; and of one unforgettable girl’s slow and painful recognition of the good and evil that exists within us all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier in this atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.

Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.

Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.

What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wildflower Hill is s compelling and romantic novel spanning three generations and half the world, from modern day London to Australia in the 1930s.

Emma is a prima ballerina in London and at a crossroads after an injured knee ruins her career. When she learns of her grandmother Beattie’s death, and her own strange inheritance—an isolated sheep station in rural Australia—Emma is certain she has been saddled with an irritating burden. But when she returns to Australia, forced to rest her body and confront her life, she realizes that she had been using fame as a substitute for love and fulfillment.

Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman, but she was pregnant and unwed. She eventually found success—but only after following an unconventional path that was often dangerous and heartbreaking. Beattie knew the lessons she learned in life would be important to Emma one day, and she wanted to make sure Emma’s heart remained open to love, no matter what life brought. She knew the magic of the Australian wilderness would show Emma the way.

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When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Everyone has secrets...

Iris and Will have been married for seven years, and life is as close to perfect as it can be. But on the morning Will flies out for a business trip to Florida, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt: another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers.

Grief stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. Why did Will lie about where he was going? And what else has he lied about?

As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to uncover what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she finds shock her to her very core.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During the 12th-century Welsh March Wars, King William Rufus orders Guyon, 28, to marry nearly 16-year-old Judith in order to secure lands from Judith's despised uncle, Lord Robert de Belleme.

As the marriage begins, Guyon is angry and Judith is terrified. He is experienced in both love and war, and is hostile about marrying this child and surrounding himself with such a nest of political vipers. Judith, having watched her father abuse her mother, expects her own marriage to include rape, beatings, and humiliation. What gradually develops between them is a trust and respect that eventually blooms into a passionate love.

Their story is tightly interwoven with a tenuous political situation as brothers battle for the kingdom and the barons divide themselves between the factions.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With a master storyteller’s skill and a historian’s precision, Sara Donati has delighted readers and critics alike with her bestselling novels of the nineteenth-century New York frontier. Now she brings us The Endless Forest, set in the remote village of Paradise, where the Bonner family that readers first met in Into the Wilderness make their home.

The spring of 1824 is a challenging one for the inhabitants of Paradise N.Y. when a flood devastates the village. But for Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bonner, it’s also a time of reunion as their children return from far-off places: Lily and her husband from Italy, and Martha Kirby, the Bonners’ ward, from Manhattan. Although Lily is nursing her own grief, it is Martha, fleeing a crushing humiliation, who brings with her trouble that will reverberate in all their lives.

In the sudden peace that follows the storm, as families struggle to rebuild, childhood friends Martha and Daniel, Lily’s twin brother, suddenly begin to see each other in a new light. But their growing bond is threatened when Martha’s mother arrives back in Paradise a decade after abandoning her daughter. Jemima Southern is a dangerous schemer who has destroyed more than one family, and her anger touches everyone, as do her secrets. Has Jemima come to claim her daughter–or does she have something else in mind? Whatever happens, Martha and Daniel and all the Bonners must stand united against the threats to both heart and home.

Painful secrets and hidden sorrows, joy, heartbreak, and passion follow the Bonners through a season of change and renewal. A rich, passionate, multilayered portrayal of family strength and endurance in a fascinating place and time, The Endless Forest will be remembered long after the last page is turned.

(review coming for this one)

I'd love to hear what your favorites were for 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Hillsong: Let Hope Rise (DVD/Blu-ray/Digital)

This inspiring film chronicles the spectacular rise of the Christian band, Hillsong UNITED, to a worldwide recording and concert sensation. Capturing the on-stage energy and off-stage hearts of the Australia-based band Hillsong UNITED, HILLSONG–LET HOPE RISE is a new motion-picture genre—the theatrical worship experience.

The film explores Hillsong’s humble beginnings and astonishing rise to prominence as an international church whose songs are sung every Sunday by more than 50 million people worldwide. 






The runtime for the film is 103 mins.
There are 38 minutes of the following Special Features, included on both the DVD and Blu-ray: · Bonus Performances: “Scandal of Grace”, “Captain”, “Wake”, “The Stand” · Behind the Scenes Footage: LA Record and San Clemente Writing
Release date Dec 20th, 2016



Hillsong United - the biggest band you've never heard of.

I have listened to the music of Hillsong for years and years, I think even as far back as when they first started up.  I've known they were from Australia but that's about it.  This video is a wonderful look at their beginnings and how they have grown to become the international success so richly deserved.

This DVD highlights the history of the band, from the youth band of the '80's to the highly successful band Hillsong is now.  The process of writing new material and their drive and passion to 'connect the human heart with heaven' was inspiring.  There was also backstage footage showing how this band travels worldwide highlighting some of the interesting places they have been to.  Some might find the excess amount of concert pieces much but I loved it, especially the 'Mighty to Save' piece with it's different languages, locations and cultures.

Let Hope Rise also takes viewers behind the scenes with interviews from its members, showing their homes, family and lifestyle.  While many associate success with financial freedom this 11 member band lives modestly and gives freely to missions.

All in all a great dvd, with high energy you can feel the passion that this group has not just for each other but their calling.

"Movie has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Book Blast: Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich by C.W. Gortner

02_marlene_paperback-cover

Paperback Release Date: December 13, 2016

William Morrow, Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780062406071; 432 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Contemporary Women/Biographical
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Marlene Dietrich’s femme fatale persona defined her, but behind the glitz of 1930s Hollywood was a remarkably modern woman, determined to live by her own terms.

A rebellious girl, Marlene’s genteel family expectations curtail her until Germany's defeat in the Great War gives rise to the decadence of Weimar Berlin. Here, Marlene finds her niche as a cabaret actress. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tuxedo, she performs to packed houses and has a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention until she finds overnight success in the scandalous movie The Blue Angel.

As Hitler seizes power, Marlene sets sail for America to become one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, starring opposite Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. When Hitler tries to entice her back to Germany, Marlene defiantly declares her stance, risking her life to perform for Allied troops. And upon the war's savage end, she finally returns to Germany to discover a heartbreaking secret amidst the war’s devastation.

MARLENE is out in paperback on December 13 and features exclusive extra content. A perfect gift for lovers of old Hollywood and strong dames! To find out more, please visit: www.cwgortner.com/Marlene.html.

Synopsis

From the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the tyrannical movie studios of Los Angeles, this sweeping story of passion, glamour, art, and war is a lush, dramatic novel of one of the most alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age: Marlene Dietrich.

Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When her budding career as a violinist is cut short, she vows to become an actress, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses and conducts a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention until she finds overnight success in the scandalous movie The Blue Angel.

For Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler rises to power, she sets sail for America to become a rival to MGM’s queen, Greta Garbo. As one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, she stars with such legends as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Defiant in her stance against the Nazis, Marlene chooses instead to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, she tours with the USO, performing for Allied troops in Europe and Africa. But one day, she must return to Germany, where she will discover a heartbreaking secret amidst the war’s devastation that transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling account of this extraordinary legend, MARLENE reveals the inner life of a woman of grit and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path.

“Skillfully evokes the cross-dressing, sexually fluid atmosphere of the seedy nightclubs that helped Marlene define her unique appeal. Well-detailed and truly moving; an ambitious account of the German-American star. ” —Kirkus Reviews

“Full of the sizzle and decadence of Weimar Berlin, and the scandal and soirees of Hollywood’s golden era, this is a gloriously entertaining read. CW Gortner’s Marlene is utterly beguiling, the kind of woman who only comes along once in a century. Reader, you can’t take your eyes off her!” —Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author

"From the ribald cabarets of Weimer-era Berlin to the glamour of golden-era Hollywood, beguilingly androgynous and fiercely passionate Marlene Dietrich . . . fairly leaps off every page." —Booklist, starred review

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C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog.

You can also find him on Facebook, Twittter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.


Giveaway

To win a paperback copy of Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich by C.W. Gortner, please enter via the Gleam form below. Two copies are up for grabs! Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US residents only. – 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.

  Marlene Paperback
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus. Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

 A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

ebook, 324 pages 
Published January 4th 2011 
by Gallery Books (first published 2011)
audiobook via OverDrive (library)
***

Lisa Genova's first book Still Alice was the first book I polished off pretty well in one night. Then came Inside the O'Brien's, which was another emotional story.   Reason only dictated that I would continue reading her books.  This was an audio read for me and given the first person narrative it worked great.

I don't think it was high expectations here that made me feel this one lacked the emotional impact I had come to expect. As you can read above there is a lot going on here, there are many layers to this story and I struggled to connect with the characters like in previous books.  The author used the first 20% introducing this family and letting the reader get a good glimpse of what life for the Nickerson family was like.  I found it rather dizzy and sad.  Sarah has so much going that I was exhausted for her.

This book is told from Sarah's point of view and while I found that interesting and did feel sympathy for her situation it was hard to like her.  Sarah's world revolved around Sarah.  I don't mean to sound harsh and make this sound like a terrible story.  I found the injury interesting and a condition that I have never heard of before, the treatment and living with Left Neglect would be difficult not just for the patient but family and friends as well. That being said it would really have been nice to hear Bob's side of this story, to know his thoughts and feelings.  The ending was predictable which isn't a bad thing, sometimes its unavoidable. 

There are things that resonates with me here, the first being put your phone away when driving, so many lives are destroyed because of them.  This story is a sad reminder that life can change just like that and we should living accordingly. 





Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris

I killed a man the summer I turned thirteen . . .

Thus begins C. S. Harris’s haunting, lyrically beautiful tale of coming of age in Civil War-torn Louisiana. Eleven-year-old Amrie St. Pierre is catching tadpoles with her friend Finn O’Reilly when the Federal fleet first steams up the Mississippi River in the spring of 1862. With the surrender of New Orleans, Amrie’s sleepy little village of St. Francisville – strategically located between the last river outposts of Vicksburg and Port Hudson – is now frighteningly vulnerable. As the roar of canons inches ever closer and food, shoes, and life-giving medicines become increasingly scarce, Amrie is forced to grow up fast. But it is her own fateful encounter with a tall, golden-haired Union captain named Gabriel that threatens to destroy everything and everyone she holds most dear.

Told with rare compassion and insight, this is a gripping, heart-wrenching story of loss and survival; of the bonds that form amongst women and children left alone to face the hardships,deprivations, and dangers of war; and of one unforgettable girl’s slow and painful recognition of the good and evil that exists within us all.


Hardcover, 320 pages 
Expected publication: December 1st 2016
 by Severn House Publishers
*****
Good Time Coming is a powerful story of survival, a coming-of-age story that has made me see the Civil War from a different prospective. Where one usually reads from the point of view of either the North or South this book stays away from the political aspects and rather the reader gets a truly authentic look at those left at home. 

Amrie is only 12 years old when this story begins. With wonderful dialogue, vivid descriptions and a touch of humor it wasn't hard getting to know her and to become completely enraptured with her character. She is curious, adventurous and constantly on the move, this war forces her to growup and leave her childhood behind.
"The idea that someone could take all this from me - my sense of identity, my connection to ancestors I'd never known, the image of my dead brother - made me feel anxious and vulnerable in a way I'd never before realized I was.  It also made me quietly, powerfully, and enduringly furious....But such wishings came from the imagination of a child, and my childhood was rapidly slipping away from me."
Amrie is telling the story here and she does it flawlessly. There are many layers to Good Time Coming and she is able to convey how this conflict affects not just her family but the lives of those around her giving the reader a truly realistic and heartbreaking view of this war.

What stands out for me in this book is the authors writing, she was able to connect me with all the characters and situations, to feel empathy for the struggles and what they were forced to endure while the men were of fighting this war. At times some of it was hard to take in it but this was a realistic look at the American Civil War. The descriptions made it easy not just to visualize but feel what was taking place.
"I suppose the point is, life is capricious.  We can never know the outcome of our actions or decisions, and the idea that we can control our lives is more often than not an illusion.  All we can do is what we think is right, and acknowledge that sometimes things will turn out horribly wrong anyway."
While this book had a fitting conclusion I can't help but miss Amrie and would love to see what happens next in her life, one can always hope for a sequel. This is my first time reading anything by CS Harris and she has a new fan, her Sebastian St. Cyr series is already patiently waiting in my tbr pile.

As a big fan of audio books I feel, with the right reader, that this would work perfectly in that format. Thank you to the Severn House Publishers for an advanced copy via Netgalley.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Interview: J. Marshall Freeman

Yesterday I reviewed Teetering by J. Marshall Freeman and today I am happy to have the author stop by Just One More Chapter for a chat.





What was the first book you read that really shook you / Is there a specific book you read that made you want to write?

Going all the way back to childhood, I think of the books my father read to me, especially the Alice books by Lewis Carroll and Kenneth Grahame's Wind in Willows. But the first book that made an impression and felt like it was MINE was Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.

At an age when a lot of boys were gobbling up Lord of the Rings, I found myself unmoved by swords and battles, but I loved L'Engle's tale of a corrosive enemy whose goal is to make you give up on yourself and conform. There's a lot in that book which strikes me as close to my own work. There is the combination of fantasy and science fiction tropes, the social commentary (some of which went over my head until later readings), and the vulnerability of the protagonists. Like Barnabas in Teetering (and Crispin in the book I'm writing now), Meg is not a likely hero, nor one who would ever describe herself in those terms. It is ultimately her ability to stay true to her core that makes her heroic.

How long have you been writing? 

As a child and teen, I wrote short pieces from time to time, as well as making short comics, but it was at University of Toronto that I first wrote prose with any kind of seriousness, as well as poetry and plays. However, I switched my focus to music after university and didn't write fiction again until my mid-40s. So, that makes 10 years now of serious writing.

What advice would you give younger-writing-you? I would give him advice about life in general: believe that your voice is important and worth expressing. Find allies who you believe in and who believe in you. Don't worry about the critics (external or internal) who say you should be other than you are. The honest writing will flow from this belief in yourself. Also, avoid excessive use of adverbs.

Let’s talk about Teetering, without giving too much away, of course. Teetering has a strong theme of young people challenging the structures of society in a positive way. Was this something you had always intended or did it just come out as you wrote the story? 

Sort of both. I often start a story from a central metaphor. In the case of Teetering, it was the idea that of a city sitting precariously at the edge of a crumbling cliff. From there, I realized that this is a secret being kept from the citizens, one that the protagonist, Barnabas, discovers. Once I had the idea of the authorities misleading the public, I understood that the novel was about the dangers of official secrets and ruling by duplicity. The specifics of the kids' rebellion grew from there. Being true to your metaphor is, for me, the key to writing coherent, resonant stories.

Who is your favourite character in Teetering? Ha. I love them all (says the diplomatic parent). There is some truth to this — I can't write a character without loving them — even the villains. Barnabas is so close to me that it's hard to hold him at arm's length and parse my love for him, but it's obviously there. However, the answer to your question is probably Wickram. He was the character I didn't plan (except as generic buddy and foil for the protagonist) and then grew to love… very quickly. Writing him was always easy and fun. I'm drawn to characters who wear their emotions on their sleeves and sometimes act like jerks, despite their basic kindly natures. He is also like many musicians I know, with a way of seeing the world that is wonderfully off-centre and mystifying.

What works would you say have influenced your writing of Teetering?

I read widely in both "literary" and "genre" fiction, and find the distinction between them to be arbitrary and unhelpful. Or maybe I just avoid works that are tritely genre-based or pretentiously literary and prefer the playful place in the middle. I'm drawn to writers who are whimsically comic and simultaneously tragic. Peter Carey and Salma Rushdie come to mind. I love Ursula K. Leguin, Anne Tyler, Robert Stone, Paul Auster, David Leavitt, Neil Gaiman. I also love to find literary inspiration in other arts. I'm just as likely to be inspired to write after seeing paintings, going to a concert, watching a movie, or reading a comic book. Behind the scenes stories of the creation of art fascinate and inspire me.

What other projects are you working on right now?

I am more than halfway through my next novel, whose name at the moment is Blood of the Dragon Groom. It's the first of a YA trilogy called "The Elemental Realms." Like Teetering, it is about a fantastic world adjacent to our real world. As a gay man, writing a vibrant queer teen protagonist has been a uniquely emotional experience. Crispin has a great voice I am privileged to transcribe. Teetering was self-published by your own publishing company, Rabbitfish Editions.

Were you always planning to self-publish this novel? Having gone through it all, would you have made the same choices again?

In retrospect, self-publishing seems inevitable. I made some attempts to place the book with publishers, but given the state of publishing these days, and a recognition that I am a control freak, self-publishing was an adventure worth pursuing. (Also, after a handful of rejections, I ran out of patience.) The idea of self-publishing was too scary to contemplate before the book was finished. However, once I was done and believed I had a good novel, I accepted the responsibility of getting it in front of readers. At that moment, "Publisher Jonathan" was born. He's still learning to walk.

Any plans for a sequel? 

Yup. The second (and possibly final) book in the series (which has now been named "The Real Education of Barnabas Bopwright") is pretty clear in my head. I will write it after I finish Blood of the Dragon Groom. Look for it in two years.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



J. Marshall Freeman is a writer, editor, musician, and cartoonist. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto, and a member of the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative. His novel, Teetering, will be released on October 27, 2016. His previous novel, Days of Becoming, was in the realm of fanfiction, written under the name Talktooloose. Upcoming work includes the young adult novel, Copper in the Blood, the novel, The Release Party, and the children’s books, Rhubarb’s Double Life and Holly, Solly, and Blue.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Teetering by J. Marshall Freeman

You think you know the world you live in… but you’re wrong!

The life of 15 year-old city kid, Barnabas Bopwright, is turned upside down when he discovers a transit map with a subway line he’s never seen before. The map leads Barnabas deeper and deeper into dangerous secrets that have been closely guarded for over a century.

When he uncovers a terror plot against the city he loves, he is shocked to discover that none of the adults in authority will lift a finger to stop it. Barnabas and his friends realize that if the city is to be saved, if the secrets are to be revealed at last, they must do it themselves.

Paperback/ebook - 434 pages
Published Oct 27, 1016
****

With character names like Barnabas Bopwright and Maestro Tragidenko, you won’t be surprised at the heavy circus motifs through this thoroughly enjoyable book. It’s a bit on the long side but, odds are you won’t notice that unless you get the hardcopy. The story flows along easily and I was swept up in the fast-paced plot and colourful characters. It’s action-packed, with heists and terror plots and dark tunnels and a wild circus.

Underneath the circus, Teetering is a meaty story about a boy named Barnabas who discovers that his City, a City he thinks he knows well and loves, is built and based on illusions and lies. One of the most engaging themes of the book is Barnabas learning the real workings that prop up the City, and having to deal with the consequences of that knowledge.

Teetering is a difficult book to place on the genre spectrum—and that’s not a bad thing! There are sci-fi and fantasy elements, but most of Teetering’s world seems very much our own. The fantastic element is blended in seamlessly, and when things that are not in the ‘real world’ show up in Teetering, it works very well.

All in all, it’s an exciting read that doesn’t make the 400+ pages seem long. The characters are bright, likeable, and flawed. The plot is engaging and the stakes are high. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys YA set in a deeply created world. It’s the kind of book that stands on its own, but you really hope there’ll be a sequel.

Click here read an excerpt on the author's page.  Also stay tuned for tomorrows post when the author stops by for a visit.