Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Dominion by C.J. Sansom


1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule–the press, radio, and television tightly controlled, the British Jews facing ever greater constraints.

But Churchill’s Resistance soldiers on. As defiance grows, whispers circulate of a secret that could forever alter the balance of the global struggle. The keeper of that secret? Scientist Frank Muncaster, who languishes in a Birmingham mental hospital.

Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance and University friend of Frank’s, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank and David’s innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights.

C.J. Sansom’s literary thriller Winter in Madrid earned Sansom comparisons to Graham Greene, Sebastian Faulks, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, in his first alternative history epic, Sansom doesn’t just recreate the past–he reinvents it. In a spellbinding tale of suspense, oppression and poignant love, DOMINION dares to explore how, in moments of crisis, history can turn on the decisions of a few brave men and women–the secrets they choose to keep and the bonds they share.

Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Mulholland Books
Hardcover; 640p
ISBN-10: 0316254916 


C.J. Sansom is another new author to me, though I have seen his Matthew Shardlake series around (on my bookshelf in fact) and have heard nothing but good things about it.  I was very excited to be asked to be part of this tour. Once I read the synoposis of this book I knew I was in for a good read.  Coming in at over 600 pages it isn't for the faint of heart.  There is nothing better on these cold wintery days than a good door-stopper of a book that is also a remarkable story.  Alternative history is a new genre for me, having only read Stephen King's 11/23/63, I was anxious to see how this one would pan out.  It didn't take long for this book to grab my attention and I was not disappointed at all.

Between the two main protagonists David Fitzgerald (spy for the Resistance) and scientist Frank Muncaster the author's development of their characters was gradual and though I knew a lot about them I think that I bonded more with Sarah, David's wife.

An intriguing look at what England would have been like had they surrendered to Hitler back in 1940, this book (jumping to 1952) is rich in details and believable. As the story slowly develops there was this gradual change that took place which kept me reading and reading some more. Yes there were a few parts that got a bit wordy, but once past the mystery and suspense continued.

This book will appeal to those that like historical fiction, alternative history, suspense and mystery books.

I have a hardcover copy of this book up for grabs (US/Canada only).  Just fill out the form below for your chance to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
(be sure to click on the banner for more stops on this tour)

Buy the Book

About the Author

C.J. Sansom is the bestselling author of the critically-acclaimed Matthew Sharlake series, as well as the runaway international bestseller Winter in Madrid. He lives in Sussex, England.
You can find more information on C.J. Sansom and his novels at or on Facebook.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.
Hardcover, 373 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2014)

So I am going to be brutally honest with this review, though I always say how I feel about a book, but this time a little different.

First off, I had absolutely no desire to read this book, I didn't even know what it was about before I made that decision. Actually it wasn't a decision that I made because I wouldn't even have given this book a second glance.  Why is that you are asking?  First off, it's one of Oprah's picks and nothing personal against Oprah, but I've never had much success with her picks in the past. (does Oprah really read these books or does someone get paid to?).  Second (and this is going to sound worse), I didn't like the title of  The Secret Life of Bees, that book didn't appeal to me just because of the title. Boy that sounds bad (I'm really sorry Sue Monk Kidd).

So why then did I actually purchase a hardcover of this book and devour it in a matter of days?  Because my dear friend, Allison wrote this review:

           "Absolutely the best read in a long time! This story has had me enthralled from page 1 and when I have been dragged away has been calling me back for more! I even tried to drag it out towards the end but it wouldn't let me, it wanted to tell the story! I've just finished but I am already planning to re-read it! If haven't already - do! It's a must read!"

Allison and I have been friends for years (she lives in Australia and I am in Canada), we both have a love of reading and our tastes are very close when it comes to books (amongst other things). So what could I say, I bought the book.

What did I love about this book?

-it is based on the real lives of Sarah Grimke and her little sister Angelina, I love books based on lesser known women and the impact their lives had on society.  It wasn't until I read the author's note at the end when I realized this (I love author notes!).

- the author wrote about Sarah as a young girl with her dreams and ambitions in life.  But the 1800's was still not favorable to women and their desires

"The truth is that every girl must have ambition knocked out of her for her own good. You are unusual only in your determination to fight what is inevitable.  You resisted and so it came to this, to be broken like a horse."

"'ve fought harder than I imagined, but you must give yourself over to your duty and your fate and make whatever happiness you can."

-Handful was just a young girl with dreams and ambitions herself.

"My body might be a slave, but not my mind.  For you, it's the other way round."

-the author created a story that I visualized in my head the whole way through this book.  From the spirit tree, the view from the rooftop, the Work House, the quilts and so much more.
-this book flowed smoothly, from the horrific lives of slaves in the 1800's to the bold and active role Sarah and Nina played as they fought for the abolishment of slavery.

-I was sad it ended, not because I didn't like the book (I LOVED IT!) but because I was so invested in the lives of these people that I wanted it to continue and see what was still in store for them.

What didn't I like about this book?
-if I have to say anything it would be the paper used for the dust jacket,  it felt weird

So I will end with a super big apology to the author, Sue Monk Kidd.  Your writing is absolutely wonderful, and I can't wait to read The Secret Lives of Bees.

Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: That Night by Chevy Stevens

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

   This week I am waiting for:  That Night by Chevy Stevens

I loved her debut, Still Missing, so looking forward to this one.

A stunning breakout novel from the "New York Times "bestselling author of "Still Missing "in which a woman is convicted of her sister s murder

Toni Murphy was eighteen when she and her boyfriend, Ryan, were wrongly convicted of the murder of her younger sister. Now she is thirty-four and back in her hometown, working every day to forge and adjust to a new life on the outside. She s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back to prison. But nothing is making that easy not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who clearly doubts Toni s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni s life miserable in high school and who may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out the truth and clear her name.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: June 17th 2014 by St. Martin's Press 
What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Heads Above Water: Staying Afloat in France by Stephanie Dagg (France Tour)

Heads Above Water:
Staying Afloat in France

Heads Above Water: Staying Afloat in France is the story of our first couple of years as expats in France. And yes, there are lots of books about living in France out there already. But a lot of these are the short-term adventures of single people or retired couples or tourists. Moving abroad for good with a family and without a pension is a whole new ball game. That’s what makes Heads Above Water different. It’s about us, a family with three children, who stick the hardships out and make things start to work. It’s about actually making a living in a new country and dealing with the sort of rules and regulations that only the French could think of. It’s realistic, honest and gritty – but also fun, lively and very entertaining, and, I hope, ultimately inspiring.
 [provided by the author]

 Release date: November 10, 2012
at Smashwords
ISBN-13: 978-1301646401
  75,000 words
What a really interesting and fun book!  I once moved 30 kilometers away and thought that was a challenge.  Moving from one country to another, I can't imagine, especially with 3 kids and a dog.  Add to that a different language, way of life and customs, oh my!  Stephanie Dagg has written a wonderful book that had me shaking my head, cringing in places, wrapping myself up in a warm blanket in front of the fire, laughing out loud and ready to give her the 'women of the year' award.  There were a couple times that (I thought) it got bogged down with too many details (paper for back to school) and other times I wanted to know more (what did you do with all those treasures that were found in the farmhouse?).  Pictures would have been nice, but I realize that with an ebook they most likely wouldn't have done the place justice.
All in all,  I really enjoyed this book, I found it very entertaining, informative, amusing and educational.  And now I am now off to check out the authors website.
Purchase ebook on Smashwords | |
and all other Amazon sites.
You can access the author’s numerous children and other books
on this same Smashwords page and on her Amazon page.
Stephanie Dagg I’m Stephanie Dagg, married to Chris for 27 years and mum to Benj (22), Caiti (19) and Ruadhri (12). We live on a 75 acre farm in rural Creuse with llamas, alpacas, pigs, sheep, poultry and three lakes full of carp. We run a fishery and gite, and also a llama trekking business. We moved here in 2006 from Ireland, where we’d lived for 15 years. Before that we lived in England. You can follow our French adventures at

I’m an English graduate (Somerville College, Oxford) and Publishing Studies postgraduate (Stirling). I began a career in publishing in 1985 as a desk editor with Hodder and Stoughton, then I deviated from the path to become a sales rep for a couple of years for some academic presses and then an accountant. This is what meeting and marrying a guy who has a job in Newcastle does for you! Anyway, in 1992 I got back on track by becoming a freelance editor and indexer, working from home part-time around the kids. The same year we moved to Ireland.

I began to write stories for Benj, and then Caiti, and I won second prize in a contest in a magazine with one of my tales. That prompted me to begin contacting publishers. I got plenty of rejections but finally hit the right place at the right time with Mentor Press and O’Brien Press in Ireland in 1998. For the next eight years I wrote prolifically and spent many happy hours visiting schools and libraries to do workshops with kids.
Then we moved to France and I stopped writing for a while due to sheer exhaustion! Renovating a 200 year old farm that is falling apart takes a lot of effort, and so does running two businesses (running a holiday cottage and fishing lakes, and freelance editing). Life is interesting and full of challenges and we’re so glad we took the plunge and moved to France.

I have Twitter accounts @llamamum @bookeditorsteph and facebook


Monday, February 24
Review + Guest-Post + Giveaway
at Mommasez…
Tuesday, February 25
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, February 26
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway
at Words And Peace
Thursday, February 27
Review at An Accidental Blog
Friday, February 28
Review at Booksie’s Blog
Interview + Giveaway at The French Village Diaries

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
   This week I am waiting for: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

It's been awhile since I've read a good suspense/mystery and this one looks really good.

From the author of the acclaimed suspense novels Creep and Freak and whom Jeffery Deaver has praised as a "top of the line thriller writer," The Butcher is a high-octane novel about lethal secrets that refuse to die—until they kill again.

A rash of grisly serial murders plagued Seattle until the infamous "Beacon Hill Butcher" was finally hunted down and killed by police chief Edward Shank in 1985. Now, some thirty years later, Shank, retired and widowed, is giving up his large rambling Victorian house to his grandson Matt, whom he helped raise.

Settling back into his childhood home and doing some renovations in the backyard to make the house feel like his own, Matt, a young up-and-coming chef and restaurateur, stumbles upon a locked crate he’s never seen before. Curious, he picks the padlock and makes a discovery so gruesome it will forever haunt him… Faced with this deep dark family secret, Matt must decide whether to keep what he knows buried in the past, go to the police, or take matters into his own hands.

Meanwhile Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, has always suspected that her mother was murdered by the Beacon Hill Butcher—two years after the supposed Butcher was gunned down. As she pursues leads that will prove her right, Sam heads right into the path of Matt’s terrible secret.

A thriller with taut, fast-paced suspense, and twists around every corner, The Butcher will keep you guessing until the bitter, bloody end.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Expected publication: July 15th 2014 by Gallery Books 
What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau BOOK BLAST

A curse to kill a king, a fight to save a nation. Follow young Joanna Stafford right into the dark heart of King Henry VIII’s court in this stunning Tudor thriller.

England, 1538. The nation is reeling after the ruthless dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.

Cast out of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford – feisty, courageous, but scarred by her recent encounter with rebellion at court – is trying to live a quiet life with her five-year-old charge, Arthur. But family connections draw her dangerously close to a treasonous plot and, repelled by violence and the whispered conspiracies around her, Joanna seeks a life with a man who loves her. But, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny. She must make a choice between those she cares for most, and taking her part in a mysterious prophecy foretold by three compelling seers.

Joanna embarks upon a testing journey, and, as she deciphers the meaning at the core of the prophecy, she learns that the fate of a king and the freedom of a nation rest in her hands.

Paperback Publication Date: February 13, 2014
Orion Publishing
Paperback; 432p
ISBN-13: 978-1409135807
Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two
Genre: Historical Mystery

Praise for The Chalice

“Expect treason, treachery, martyrs and more.” — Choice magazine

“A time in which no one at all can be trusted and everyday life is laced with horror. Bilyeau paints this picture very, very well.” — Reviewing the Evidence

“Bilyeau creates the atmosphere of 1530s London superbly.” — Catholic Herald

“Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna Stafford’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page. — Historical Novel Society

“Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse.” — S.J. Parris, author of ‘Heresy,’ ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Sacrilege’

“Second in this compelling and highly readable Tudor thriller series following the 16th century adventures of (now cast out) nun Joanna Stafford. Treason, conspiracies and a dangerous prophecy draw Joanna back from the quiet life she had made for herself after being cast out of Dartford Priory – but she isn’t prepared for the gravity of the situation she finds herself in or the responsibility she now holds. Nancy Bilyeau has followed up her impressive debut with an accomplished historical thriller perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom, Philippa Gregory and S. J. Parris.” — Lovereading UK

“Sharply observed, cleverly paced and sympathetically written, this book more than fulfils the promise of THE CROWN, itself named as last year’s most impressive debut novel by the CWA Ellis Peters judges. If Joanna Stafford is to return to see out the final years of Henry’s tempestuous reign and the accession of his Catholic daughter Mary, I am sure I will not be alone in waiting eagerly for her.” —

“A stunning debut. One of the best historical novels I have ever read — ALISON WEIR

THE CHALICE offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t let you go even after the last exciting page” — KAREN HARPER, bestselling author of MISTRESS OF MOURNING

“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed.” — C.W. GORTNER, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

“Bilyeau paints a moving portrait of Catholicism during the Reformation and of reclusive, spiritual people adjusting to the world outside the cloister. This intriguing and suspenseful historical novel pairs well with C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution (2003) and has the insightful feminine perspective of Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Heretic’s Wife (2010).” — BOOKLIST

“As in The Crown, Bilyeau’s writing style means that the story reads almost flawlessly. The narrative really makes the reader throw themselves into the story, and makes it so the book is really difficult to put down. I was really very impressed with Bilyeau’s writing (As I was in The Crown), and honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough.” — LOYALTY BINDS ME

“THE CHALICE is a compelling and pacey time machine to the 16th Century. And when you’re returned to the present, you’ll have enjoyed an adventure and gained a new perspective on a past you’d wrongly thought to be a done deal.” — Andrew Pyper, author of THE DEMONOLOGIST

“The Chalice is a gripping, tightly-plotted mystery, with a beguiling heroine at its heart, that vividly conjures up the complex dangers of Reformation England. Bilyeau’s deftness of touch and complete control over her complex material make for a truly exciting and compelling read.”— ELIZABETH FREMANTLE author of QUEEN’S GAMBIT

“THE CHALICE is brimming with sinister portents, twisted allegiances, religious superstition and political intrigue. It’s a darkly fascinating Tudor brew that leaves you thirsting for more.” — PATRICIA BRACEWELL, author of SHADOW ON THE CROWN


Buy the Book

Amazon UK    Book Depository      Orion Publishing      Waterstones

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.
Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.


Author Links

Website     Blog     Facebook     Twitter     Pinterest     Goodreads

Sign up for Nancy Bilyeau’s Newsletter.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Between the Cracks: One Woman's Journey from Sicily to America by Carmela Cattuti (Book Tour)

Join Angela Lanza as she experiences the tumultuous world of early 20th century Sicily and New York. Orphaned by the earthquake and powerful eruption of Mr. Etna in 1908, Angela is raised in the strict confines of an Italian convent. Through various twists of fate, she is married to a young Italian man whom she barely knows, then together with her spouse, immigrates to the U.S. 

This novel is an invitation to accompany the young Angela as she confronts the ephemeral nature of life on this planet and navigates the wide cultural gaps between pre-World War II Italy and the booming prosperity of dynamic young America.

 Join Angela Lanza as she traverses the tumultuous landscape of Sicily and New York.

Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Three Towers Press/HenschelHAUS Publishing, Inc.
Paperback; 324p
ISBN-10: 1595982396 

 click on banner for more stops on this tour

Without going into too many details and listing that this happened and that happens I will say that I really enjoyed reading this book.  In a way it sounds almost sad to have enjoyed reading about this young girl, Angela, who loses so much as a result of the great earthquake of 1908.  Though there are lots struggles and heartache that she encounters, there is also joy and happiness.  Having left the security and comfort of her homeland and traveling to America with a man she just met much have been a scary experience. In this semi-biographical novel Carmela Cattuti has written a book of strength, perseverance, acceptance and more.  Watching Angela grow from a young orphan girl into a strong women with quite the story was an interesting experience. The author has described events in this book with clarity and simplicity that made it  easy to visualize so much, from the earthquake, the nun's, and the mother-in-law to New York, the hospital and even Gerry.  

Coming in at 324 pages I finished this book in a couple days, the author has a writing style that made this story flow right along. As I was getting closer to the end of the book I was beginning to have mixed feelings, I did not want the story to end.  Thankfully this is the first book in a trilogy and hopefully book 2 won't be long in coming as I really would like to continue with Angela's story. 

About the Author

Carmela Cattuti started her writing career as a journalist for the Somerville News in Boston, MA. After she finished her graduate work in English Literature from Boston College she began to write creatively and taught a journal writing course at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education As fate would have it, she felt compelled to write her great aunt’s story. “Between the Cracks” has gone through several incarnations and will now become a trilogy. This is the first installment. To connect with Carmela email her or leave a comment at

For more information please visit Carmela's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Visit the Between the Cracks Facebook page.

Purchase the Book

Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Winter Siege by D.W. Bradbridge (Book Tour)

1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.
While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.
When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.

He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.

With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.

When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Electric Reads
Paperback; 488p
ISBN-10: 1492795712  

click on banner for more stops on this tour


One of the things that I love about doing these tours is discovering authors that I would probably never have picked up or maybe not even noticed before. This is one book that I am glad to have read.  

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, however this is a time period I am unfamiliar with. The author did a really good job of describing this town of Nantwich, which I had no problem visualizing, from the workings of the town officials, cheese making to salt production. Set during the English Civil War I found the historical elements very interesting (though at times a bit over whelming and that could just be because I know little of this time period),  but I did learn a lot, which is why historical fiction is a favorite.  
I like how the author states “In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”  D.W. Bradbridge did a good job of 'filling in' the gaps that were believable and authentic. 

The main character, Daniel Cheswis, is a very likeable Constable who has his job cut out for him.  I don't read a lot of mysteries, but I really enjoyed this one.  From one murder to the next with its twists and turns this book provided an entertaining 'whodunit'. I enjoyed the authors writing style and hope that there will be more books in the future.

Buy Links

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble


About the Author

D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realization that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realized that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel."

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?"

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

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

   This week I am waiting for: The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

         (the sequel to The Lady Elizabeth, will be published in the U.K. on 26th June 2014)


 The sequel to The Lady Elizabeth

Their affair is the scandal of Europe. From the time of her accession in 1558, the young Elizabeth I – already reinventing herself as the Virgin Queen – and her dashing but married Master of Horse, Lord Robert Dudley, cast caution to the winds in pursuing their passion for each other. Many believe them to be lovers in the fullest sense, and Elizabeth soon becomes aware of rumours that she is no virgin at all, and that she has secretly borne Lord Robert children.

The young Queen is regarded by most of Christendom as a bastard, a heretic and a usurper, yet many princes seek her hand in marriage. Knowing her hold on her throne to be desperately insecure, Elizabeth encourages them in order to keep them friendly towards England. And thus she plays what becomes known as ‘the marriage game’, appearing seriously to entertain these suitors while holding them off indefinitely. The truth is that she has no inclination to marry, bear children or render herself subservient to any man. The prospect of marriage is anathema to her, and she has deep and compelling psychological reasons for wishing to avoid it. It is the game of love that is the breath of life to her - the thrill of the chase, the lure of forbidden fruit. She plays this dangerous, tantalizing game with Lord Robert Dudley – but it is a game, she realizes - almost too late, that could ultimately cost her the throne.

For Robert is the son and grandson of traitors, and his growing intimacy with Elizabeth makes him deeply unpopular: he is distrusted by her more sober ministers – notably William Cecil - and resented by her courtiers, who think him inordinately ambitious, unscrupulous – and worse.

The notorious affair between Dudley and the Queen quickly gives rise to rampant speculation throughout Christendom that she is determined to marry him, and even that they are plotting the murder of Robert's sick wife, Amy. There is universal shock when Amy is found dead, lying at the foot of a staircase with her neck broken.

In telling the captivating, tempestuous, often hilarious and ultimately poignant story of this most extraordinary love affair, and the political intrigues and marriage negotiations that surrounded it, I have delved into the various mysteries that encompass Elizabeth’s relationship with Dudley.

Did they or didn`t they? Rivers of ink have been spilt in determining the answer to this question, and as a historian I have my own strong views about it – not necessarily those that prevail in The Lady Elizabeth! In The Marriage Game, Elizabeth has reinvented herself as the Virgin Queen, but Robert Dudley is determined to overcome her fears of intimacy and become her lover, if not her husband. The other crucial issue is, of course, the fate of Amy Robsart, and this novel offers a dramatized version of my own theory.

It is a book packed with all the colour and splendour of the Tudor court – and a story played out amidst the most famous events of the Elizabethan age, culminating with the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It is a poignant tale of love and loss, focusing on the highs and lows of Elizabeth`s long affair with Dudley and the dynamics that enabled it to last for so long. A wealth of source material has enabled me to bring Elizabeth, that feisty, formidable, witty and mercurial woman, to life – and to get inside her head and relive this most extraordinary and controversial of royal love affairs.

What are you waiting for? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, And The Revolution by Will Bashor

Marie Antoinette has remained atop the popular cultural landscape for centuries for the daring in style and fashion that she brought to 18th century France. For the better part of the queen’s reign, one man was entrusted with the sole responsibility of ensuring that her coiffure was at its most ostentatious best. Who was this minister of fashion who wielded such tremendous influence over the queen’s affairs? Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution charts the rise of Leonard Autié from humble origins as a country barber in the south of France to the inventor of the Pouf and premier hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette.

By unearthing a variety of sources from the 18th and 19th centuries, including memoirs (including Léonard’s own), court documents, and archived periodicals the author, Professor Will Bashor, tells Autié’s mostly unknown story. He chronicles Leonard’s story, the role he played in the life of his most famous client, and the chaotic and history-making world in which he rose to prominence. Besides his proximity to the queen, Leonard also had a most fascinating life filled with sex (he was the only man in a female dominated court), seduction, intrigue, espionage, theft, exile, treason, and possibly, execution. The French press reported that Léonard was convicted of treason and executed in Paris in 1793. However, it was also recorded that Léonard, after receiving a pension from the new King Louis XVIII, died in Paris in March 1820. Granted, Leonard was known as the magician of Marie-Antoinette’s court, but how was it possible that he managed to die twice? 

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published October 16th 2013 by Lyons Press
 (be sure to click on the banner for other stops on this tour)

I love history and I tend to concentrate mostly over in England. Knowing very little on the history of France, let alone Marie Antoinette I was thrilled to be invited to review this book.  This book really grabbed my attention right from the beginning.  Though it is nonfiction it does not always read that way. I was engaged right away with this story and had a hard time putting this book down.  The pictures really enhanced the story and many a time I wondered how on earth Leonard could do those hairstyles without modern conveniences.

The author has a writing style that I really like, easy to read and to follow the story (though at times I was a little confused with all the French names, but I think that might be just me).  This book clearly shows that the author has done a lot of research and knows his subject matter.  Using Leonard Autie's own personal diaries and other court documents Will Bashor not only told an enticing story from Autie's point of view, but it also told so much about Marie Antoinette, her life and French culture during that time period.  Not only was Leonard the hairdresser but he was also a confidant to Marie, which resulted in an intimate look at her life.

I learned a lot about the history of France and am really glad to have read this book. Another thing that I love about this book is the cover, how cool is that?  It's original and a real eye catcher.
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PRAISE FOR Marie Antoinette’s Head:The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution
 “Bashor continues to offer original perspectives on the last Bourbons and those who served them. In this dual biography, Marie Antoinette emerges through the eyes and “magic comb” of Léonard Autié, her gifted hairdresser …Marie Antoinette’s Head not only entertains, it conveys both the events and the character of the age.”
Reed Benhamou, PhD, Professor Emerita, Indiana University
“This is a new and riveting account, in a clear and attractive style, of significant historical events that lead to the French Revolution of 1789, as seen through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s ambitious hairdresser…”
Aleksandra Gruzinska, School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University
“I have nothing but praise. The book is so well researched, so well written, so totally readable that it will appeal to a very wide public….”
David Wingeate Pike, American Graduate School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Paris 


Will Bashor has a doctorate in International Relations from the American Graduate School in Paris,  and he teaches at Franklin University, Columbus, Ohio.
His interests have ranged over many fields, among them the study of international law and business, linguistics, cultural anthropology, and European history.
As a member of the Society for French Historical Studies,
he attended its annual meeting sponsored by Harvard University in Cambridge in 2013.

 Visit his website, and connect with him:


Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

For fans of The House at Riverton and Rebecca—a debut spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from a magnificent estate in war-torn England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist, Julia, and the prominent Crawford family whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences for generations to come.

As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the great house where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to the tranquility of the estate. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.

When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Their search takes them back to the 1930s when a former heir to Wharton Park married his young society bride on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt on generations to come.

Lucinda Riley skillfully sweeps her readers between the magical world of Wharton Park and Thailand during World War II with irresistible and atmospheric storytelling. Filled with twists and turns, passions and lies, and ultimately redemption, The Orchid House is a romantic, poignant novel that became an instant bestseller in the UK and Germany.

Paperback, 449 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Atria Books (first published November 25th 2010

This is the Lucinda Riley's debut and I just love the cover!  Orchids are one of my favorite flowers and I can never grow them myself.

The ratings for this book are mixed, either you love it or you don't.  I didn't even look at the ratings when I purchased this book (it came highly recommended from readers that I have similar tastes with), then once I started reading I began to wonder and thats when I checked it out.

I am giving this book 3 stars, that means 'I liked it" and that's not a bad thing, right?

Let me start by saying that I love books with dual time period stories.  I love long lost letters/diaries that hold secrets to the past that affected the future in dramatic ways.  So of course this book really appealed to me. Comparing it to Kate Morton really grabbed me because she is one of my very favorites and I will grab anything she writes.

The opening of this book was really good and it did grab my attention. but as time went on I started to struggled to connect with most of the people in this book, especially Julia, whom the book focuses on.  The only one that I could feel any emotion for was Julia's grandmother, Elsie, but at the same time surprised as to her role in the present day story line.  Yes she played a big part, but for such a close family why wasn't she around more to support Julia in her tragedy? Taking place 9 months lately and this is their first encounter together.  I can only be vague here for those that have not read this book yet.

With the discovery of an old diary this story shifts back and forth in time. I found the past time period better written and more interesting, I was able to connect with Olivia, Elsie, even Harry (though I didn't like him much, the author did a good job of portraying him as unlikeable).  There was depth to these characters which showed more emotion and feeling.  I struggled with the present day people, they felt flat to me and really I wasn't all that interested in what happened to them.  Also parts of this storyline were predictable.

Will this stop me from reading more by Lucinda Riley?  Definitely not!  This is the authors debut and as far as I am concerned it can only get better.  Her 4th book is being released in March,  The Midnight Rose, I received a review copy and can't wait to dig into it.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

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

   This week I am waiting for: I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith
(I love all things Rome!)

                Her life would be marked by scandal and suspicion, worship and adoration...

Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Lake Union Publishing 

At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father's chief political asset and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, it is possible for a woman to influence public affairs,  reminding Livia that while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate she must also remain patient and practical. But patience and practicality disappear from Livia's mind when she meets Caesar's heir, Octavianus. At only eighteen, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia's family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect and her heart  will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.
What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

Sometimes I wish I could trade places with the dogs. They only have to worry about running and eating. They love fiercely and don't worry about things they can't control. And when someone dies, they can sit on top of their house, throw their head back and howl.

That's how 14-year-old dogsledder Victoria Secord has felt ever since her father died. A champion musher, Victoria is independent, self-reliant, and thanks to her father, an expert in surviving the unforgiving Alaskan bush. When an injured "city boy" and a freak snow storm both catch Victoria and her dog team by surprise, however, a routine trip becomes a life or death trek through the frozen wilderness. As temperatures drop and food stores run out, Victoria must find a way to save them all in this high stakes, high adventure middle grade novel of endurance, hope and finding your way back home.

Author Terry Lynn Johnson is a musher herself and her crackling writing puts readers at the reins as Victoria and Chris experience setbacks, mistakes, and small triumphs in their wilderness adventure.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: February 4th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
 (my copy provided by Netgalley for my honest review)

I loved this book!  I read it last week when it was -20C with my puppy curled up on my feet.  The author did an absolutely wonderful job writing this book.  She made Victoria into a totally likeable girl,  her pain and feelings were real and authentic. 

I had a hard time putting this book down and finished it in matter of days.  The descriptive writing made me able to visualize the setting perfectly, from the snow covered trails, to the icy cold river, the crispness of the cold Alaskan nights to the crackling of the campfire.   I loved the dogs and felt their devotion to Victoria and her love towards them. I cried and yes even laughed out loud.

This book is full of adventure, commitment, friendship, family, grief and so much more.  I was sad to see it end because I became engrossed in the lives of Victoria and 'city boy' and would have loved to see what happens next for them.

This book will appeal to adults even though written for middle grade age. Terry Lynn Johnson's first book Dogsled Dreams, is also a favorite of mine.
Terry Lynn Johnson writes outdoor adventures. She is represented by Caryn Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Terry's writing is inspired by her own team of eighteen Alaskan Huskies. Her passion for adventure has provided her with a rich background to write from.

She's a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and The Dog Writers Association of America - recently winning the Maxwell Medallion of Excellence.

When she's not writing, Terry enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, kayak expeditioning, and she occasionally tortures herself in a canoe race. Terry lives in Whitefish Falls, Ontario.

Be sure to check out the author's website: