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.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

A stunningly ambitious and beautiful debut novel, perfect for fans of Sarah’s Key and All the Light We Cannot See, the story of a twelve-year-old girl’s harrowing experience fleeing Nazi-occupied Germany with her family and best friend, only to discover that the overseas asylum they had been promised is an illusion.

In 1939 before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. Her family moved in Berlin’s highest social circles, admired by friends and neighbors. Eleven-year-old Hannah was often taken by her mother for an afternoon treat at the tea room of the beautiful Adlon Hotel, both dressed in their finest clothes. She spent her afternoons at the park with her best friend Leo Martin. But, in an instant, that sunlit world vanished. Now the streets of Berlin are draped with red, white, and black flags; their fine possessions are hauled away, and they are no longer welcome in the places that once felt like home. The two friends make a pact: come what may, they promise to have a future together.

As Hannah and Leo’s families desperately begin to search for a means of escape, a glimmer of hope appears when they discover the Saint Louis, a transatlantic liner that can give Jews safe passage to Cuba. After a frantic search to obtain visas, the Rosenthals and the Martins depart from Hamburg on the luxurious passenger liner bound for Havana. Life aboard the ship is a welcome respite from the gloom of Berlin—filled with masquerade balls, dancing, and exquisite meals every night.

As the passengers gain renewed hope for a bright future ahead, love between Hannah and Leo blossoms. But soon reports from the outside world began to filter in, and dark news overshadows the celebratory atmosphere on the ship; the governments of Cuba, the United States, and Canada are denying the passengers of the St. Louis admittance to their countries, forcing them to return to Europe as it descends into the Second World War. The ship that had seemed their salvation seems likely to become their death sentence.

After four days anchored at bay, only a handful of passengers are allowed to disembark onto Cuban soil, and Hannah and Leo must face the grim reality that they could be torn apart. Their future is unknown, and their only choice will have an impact in generations to come.

Decades later in New York City on her eleventh birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious envelope from Hannah, a great-aunt she has never met but who raised her deceased father. In an attempt to piece together her father’s mysterious past, Anna and her mother travel to Havana to meet Hannah, who is turning eighty-seven years old. Hannah reveals old family ties, recounts her journey aboard the Saint Louis and, for the first time, reveals what happened to her father and Leo. Bringing together the pain of the past with the mysteries of the present, Hannah gives young Anna a sense of their shared histories, forever intertwining their lives, honoring those they loved and cruelly lost.

ebook, 368 pages
Published October 18th 2016
by Atria Books

I think the cover for this book is striking which is what drew my attention to The German Girl. Books on World War 1 and 2 are quite popular these days and I will admit being on the lookout for something unique and out of the ordinary.  Though I have heard about this ship and its situation I did not know any details, suffice to say between the cover and the subject I looked forward to digging into this one.

Anna is only 12 years old living in Manhattan 2014 when this book begins. I will admit to being a little skeptical about her age and whether there was the depth required to make her story work. Hannah on the other hand has room to grow and the reader should be able to get to know her and the conflict.

For the first part of the book I was drawn right in, with a brief introduction to present day Anna the majority of this book tells Hannah's story, whom with family and friends escape Germany at the brink of World War II. The German Girl had more of a young adult feel to it, though even a younger rating would be fine as I think girls the same age as Hannah/Anna might enjoy this also. I am a reader of all age groups so I didn't mind that aspect.  What I struggled with here was the similarity between Anna and Hannah, it was hard to feel any connection.  There were times I wondered if Anna's story was even necessary, Hannah's story would have been fine on its own.  The plot moved at a slow pace and at times I struggled to stay focused.

There are lots of 4/5 star ratings for this book and while my feelings differ I think there was great potential.  The story of the St. Louis is very interesting and one that I think should be more commonly known.

I rated this book 2 1/2 stars but rounding up to 3.  Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Audio Review: Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

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.

Kindle Edition, 546 pages
Published November 22nd 2012 by Quercus (first published 2010)
Audible - 16 hours 28 minutes
*****
I have discovered lately that there is a gold mind of Australian authors and have been on a quest the past few few years to find them. Thankfully with Kimberly Freeman her books are easily available worldwide.

Wildflower Hill was an audiobook for me and with dual narratives sometimes that is hard to pull off. The difficulty comes during the transition of time periods and whether the audio can handle the changes in a smooth manner not disrupting the narrative and flow of the story.  In this case there was no issues, with each chapter title paving the way.  As usual for me I am always drawn to the past story but the present day one was just as captivating.

Beattie Blaxland is introduced to us when she was only 19 years old, a young lady with a bright future ahead of her, but that future is dashed when she falls for a married man. Ending up clear across the globe she is forced to rebuild her future, which now includes a daughter. I loved her character I love the way she was portrayed, hard-working, smart and brave enough to take a stand as needed. There are many obstacles she is forced to deal with and it was a great process to watch.

In our present day story we have Emma who is Beattie's granddaughter returning to Australia from England after an injury sidelines her ballerina career. As she begins clearing out her grandmothers personal effects Emma not only discovers who her grandmother really was and the significance of Wildflower Hill but she also learned a lot more about herself and what really matters.

Kimberly Freeman is a wonderful author and I am so glad to have finally read one of her books, which, of course, has resulted in the rest being pushed to the top of my TBR our file. Her writing prose is such that I was drawn into the story right away and had me to caring about the characters and their plight. I was able to visualize so much of the Tasmania countryside and feel the emotional side of this wonderful story.

Definitely an author I highly recommend, especially fans of Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Spotlight: The Popish Midwife by Annelisa Christensen

02_The Popish Midwife

In seventeenth-century London, thirteen years after the plague and twelve years after the Great Fire, the restoration of King Charles II has dulled the memory of Cromwell's puritan rule, yet fear and suspicion are rife. Religious turmoil is rarely far from tipping the scales into hysteria.

Elizabeth Cellier, a bold and outspoken midwife, regularly visits Newgate Prison to distribute alms to victims of religious persecution. There she falls in with the charming Captain Willoughby, a debtor, whom she enlists to gather information about crimes against prisoners, so she might involve herself in petitioning the king in their name.

‘Tis a plot, Madam, of the direst sort.’ With these whispered words Willoughby draws Elizabeth unwittingly into the infamous Popish Plot and soon not even the fearful warnings of her husband, Pierre, can loosen her bond with it.
This is the incredible true story of one woman ahead of her time and her fight against prejudice and injustice.

Publication Date: July 14, 2016 
The Conrad Press Paperback & eBook; 454 Pages 
 Genre: Historical Fiction
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03_Annelisa ChristensenAnnelisa Christensen was born in Sussex, took a psychology degree at the University of Stirling in Scotland, then returned to the south to partner in a fashion design company with her childhood friend, Julia. They had fun selling to shops and in street markets all over London, but dissolved the business when children came along, both believing in putting their families first. Delighted to be offered the job of laboratory technician in the local secondary school, in which she had herself been Head Girl twenty years earlier, Annelisa simultaneously wrote a magical realism series (as yet unpublished). She wrote The Popish Midwife after falling in love with Elizabeth Cellier in some 300-year-old loose pages of a trial she bought on the internet. The more she discovered about Elizabeth Cellier, the more Annelisa wanted to share this amazing woman’s story.

The Popish Midwife is the result of years of research and writing.

For more information, please visit Annelisa Christensen's website.

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Sign up for her Newsletter.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, October 19
Spotlight at The Book Connection
Spotlight at Blogarama
Friday, October 22
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Monday, October 24
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, October 25
Spotlight at Broken Teepee
Friday, October 26
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Thursday, October 27
Guest Post at Books, Dreams, Life
Friday, October 28
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, November 1
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, November 2
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, November 4
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Monday, November 7
Review at SJ2B House of Books
Wednesday, November 9
Interview at The Book Connection
Guest Post and Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Friday, November 11
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Review: The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2) by Sally Christie

02_The Rivals of Versaille

 And you thought sisters were a thing to fear!

 In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie’s clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.

 The year is 1745 and Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had mapped out Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms. All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeoise interloper with a more suitable mistress.

As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals—including a lustful lady-in-waiting, a precocious 14-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters—she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity.

Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution. Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe: history books say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour.

Alongside Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria, she is considered one of the three most powerful women of the 18th century, and one of the most influential royal mistresses of all time.

In The Rivals of Versailles, Christie gets to the heart of Pompadour’s legendary relationship with Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” king. Pompadour was not only his mistress, but his confidante and influential political adviser for close to twenty years.

 Full of historical insight, decadence, wit and scandal, The Rivals of Versailles is about one woman’s trials and triumphs, her love for a king, and her role in shaping a nation.

Publication Date: April 5, 2016 
Atria Books eBook &
 Paperback; 448 Pages 
Genre: Historical Fiction
****
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"If they write a book of my life, long after I am dead, will it be just a litany of one rival after another, until I am finally defeated?"

The Rivals of Versailles is book 2 in The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy. You can read my review for the previous book The Sisters of Versaillies, by clicking on the title. While book 2 works as a standalone novel I recommend going back and starting at the beginning just for the simple fact that it is a good book and this one picks up right where it left off.

Where book one main focus was on the Nesle sisters book 2 is told mostly from the point of view of the Marquee de Pompadour, Jeanne/Reinette. There are a couple other narratives throughout this book but it was hers that I found the most interesting and intriguing. As a young girl she is told by a fortune teller that she would earn the love of the king, which is what she focused her life on.

My knowledge of the French court, especially this time period is very limited making these books all the more interesting. King Louis XV had many mistresses in his life and the author does a wonderful job of describing court life and you can feel the injustices taking place.  He isn't portrayed in the best of light which I think was the author's intent. You can feel the tension as the Revolution inches closer.

This is a series that I would recommend to anyone interested in the French court. Enemies of Versailles is the next book in this series which has a March 2017 released date. Fans of French history will enjoy this one.

"Love is a pleasure for season, or friendship last an entire life."

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Kobo

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

"Perfectly paced, highly suspenseful, and heart-rending...enthralling right up to the shocking final twist." 
-A. J. Banner, Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Good Neighbor

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.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages 
Expected publication: January 1st 2017 by MIRA
arc given to me via netgalley
****1/2


This is Kimberly Belle's third book and I can say I have read everything she has written. Beginning with The Last Breath and The Ones We Trust I have become a faithful fan. She knows how to grab this reader right from the beginning and doesn't let go until the very end.

The Marriage Lie is a book of suspense, mystery and heartache, with the sudden death of her husband Iris is faced with not just the act of grieving but understanding why and how this could even be happening. Surely it must be some horrible mistake and her quest to discover the truth is filled with confusion and danger.

While there were times I had questions it was like the author knew and every concern I had was addressed. When I thought I figured out how this story was playing out there would be more twists and turns to throw me off the track. I love a good mystery that keeps me guessing right to the end and I was not disappointed to here.

The Marriage Lie was a roller coaster ride of emotions, the ending was perfect, right down to the very last sentence.  Definitely a book and author I highly recommend. 

Thank you to netgalley for granting my request for an arc.

I couldn't decided which cover to include, both are great, so I put both up.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cover Reveal: THE COMPETITION: Da Vinci’s Disciples Book Two by Donna Russo Morin

Ready (willing and eager) to see the cover of the much-anticipated second book in the Da Vinci’s Disciples trilogy? 

Well, we hope so, because here it is (be sure to read to the end of the post for an extra special bonus!).  
02_the-competition

Here’s what the author has to say about the next book in this thrilling trilogy and its cover: 

 “I knew I wanted the second book in this trilogy to be a little more personal, get into the lives of these courageous women, and da Vinci himself, a bit more deeply. Oh, they are still daring to go where women had never gone before in the Renaissance, and they put everything on the line for the love of their art—their marriages, their family relationships, even their lives—to do it, to bring their work out into the open, no matter the consequence. Another form of art is explored through their eyes, through their hands. But in THE COMPETITION, I’ve pulled back more of the layers of their lives and the secrets they may hold. Love bursts to fulfillment, desire is ignited, disastrous illnesses change lives, and familial condemnations are shattered. All set amidst the glory that is Florence during the Renaissance. These women are bold; there can be no doubt. But they are elegant women and this cover, like the first, captures that elegance to perfection. It is the seamless companion to the first, and they look dazzling together.” 

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

A commission to paint a fresco in the church of Santo Spirito is about to be announced and Florence’s countless artists each seek the fame and glory this lucrative contract will provide. Viviana, a noblewoman freed from a terrible marriage, and now able to pursue her artistic passions, sees a potential life-altering opportunity for herself and her fellow artists. The women first speak to Lorenzo de’ Medici himself, and finally, they submit a bid for the right to paint it. And they win. The very public commission belongs to them. But with the victory comes a powerful cost. The church will not stand for women painting, especially not in a house of worship. The city is not ready to consider women in positions of power, and in Florence, artists wield tremendous power. Even the women themselves are hesitant; the attention they will bring up) on themselves will disrupt their families, and even put them in physical danger. All the while, Viviana grows closer to Sansone, her soldier lover, who is bringing to her a joy that she never knew with her deceased husband. And fellow-artist Isabetta has a flame reignited, sparked by Lorenzo himself. 

  Power and passion collide in this sumptuous historical novel of shattering limitations, one brushstroke at a time.

THE COMPETITION: Da Vinci’s Disciples Book Two goes on sale April 25, 2017. 
Pre-order a copy here. Add it to your Goodreads shelf


Do you love it?! Haven’t read the first book yet? Now’s your chance at a special reduced price. For the next SEVEN days (beginning November 2 until November 9!), the Kindle version of PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY IS ONLY $.99…that’s a $7 savings! Get your copy now!


 “Russo Morin’s elegant command of language and composition left me breathless, but the story itself, with its flawless depiction of power, corruption, defiance, intrigue, and retribution makes Portrait of a Conspiracy an absolute must read.” Flashlight Commentary

 “...a page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition...a masterful writer at the peak of her craft.”—C. W. Gortner, author of THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE’ MEDICI

“This riveting book is filled with art, assassinations, retribution, and a sisterhood of fascinating women who inspire as well as entertain.”—Stephanie Dray, NYT Bestselling author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER

“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's prose is as sharp as a Medici dagger...Thwarting danger, finding love, and creating masterpieces, [these women] remind us just how powerful the bonds of womanhood can be.”—Marci Jefferson, author of THE ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS

“A 15th-century Florence of exquisite art, sensual passion and sudden, remorseless violence comes vividly to life in Donna Russo Morin's new novel.”—Nancy Bilyeau, author of THE CROWN

“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's rich detailing transports the reader to the heart of Renaissance Italy from the first page.”—Heather Webb, author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE 

“Illicit plots, mysterious paintings, and a young Leonardo da Vinci all have their part to play in this delicious, heart-pounding tale.”—Kate Quinn, author of THE EMPRESS OF ROME SAGA


03_donna-russo-morinDonna Russo Morin is the award winning of author of historical fiction. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, she lives near the shore with her two sons, Devon and Dylan, her greatest works in progress. Donna enjoys meeting with book groups in person and via Skype chat.

Visit her website at www.donnarussomorin.com; friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @DonnaRussoMorin.


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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review: The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother’s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she’ll ever return. 

 An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path. 

 Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother’s legacy behind to save all that she loved.


   Paperback, 384 pages 
Published September 6th 2016 by Berkley
Audio via Audible (personal library)
11 hours 27 minutes
****
Book people are here for a short time but books are eternal. 

The Velvet Hours was an audio book for me and while I usually find dual times tricky to do in audio format this one worked. Two distinct voices were used for each of the main character which enhanced the experience. Kate Reading and Tavia Gilbert were the readers, both are favorites of mine and they did a great job bringing this story to life.

The discovery of the abandoned apartment in Paris has led to many novels being written about Madame de Florian. While we may never know exactly what happened it is fun to speculate and the author does a great job in that area here. Marthe de Florian is a young woman during the late 1800's and it is her apartment that is abandoned during the onset of World War II. Solange is her granddaughter and the second voice to this story.  This is a new revelation to Solange and she doesn't waste time getting to know her grandmother. There is more to the story then their new relationship and as Solange struggles with uncertainty during the birth pains of WWII in Paris she is forced to make decisions that ultimately lead to this abandoned apartment.

While this story goes back-and-forth in time the author does a great job with the historical details of both time periods. The Velvet Hours is a well executed and entertaining story of love, secrecy and intrigue.

This is my first time reading anything by Alyson Richman and her writing prose is elegant and captivating. Definitely an author that I will recommend and read more of.

My copy was purchased via Audible as part of my personal library