Monday, December 28, 2015

Review & Giveaway: Becoming George Washington By Stephen Yoch

02_Becoming George Washington

George Washington, action hero . . . Long before Washington was the old man on the dollar bill, he was a fatherless boy with few resources and even less education.

So how did he become the most famous person in American history?

Becoming George Washington tells the story of a young man with boundless energy, bravery, and passion, who grew from a fatherless boy into a self-confident leader. At the same time, he struggled to suppress both an awful temper and his love for a married woman, Sally Fairfax. A courageous war hero, Washington rose to the pinnacle of Virginia politics. His experiences as a young man allowed him, decades later, to lead the Revolution.

This compelling historical novel reveals the person behind the famous face and how he grew to become America’s leading Founding Father.


Publication Date: September 1, 2015 
Wise Ink Creative Publishing Paperback &
 Ebook; 382 Pages 
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****

READ EXCERPTS

I really surprised myself in how much I enjoyed this book, it spurred a touch of jealousy in this Canadian as I would love to read about the men that shaped this great country.

I think we all know about George and Martha Washington, but Stephen Yoch has taken us back to his teen years, a time that isn't that well known.

There are many things that Becoming George Washington has going for it.  First off was the writing style, it was engaging and it didn't take long to get lost in this book.  This is the authors debut and I think he is off to a great start.  It is evident that a vast amount of research went into this book, with well written descriptive details it wasn't hard to visualize the land in the 1700's, the life style as well as gruesome battle scenes giving this book the authentic feel of the time period.

The character of George Washington was based on actual documentation as were events that took place - though remember it is historical fiction.  This book explores his life from a teen until he is 27. He isn't the rich man that I had originally thought but a fatherless farmer.  It isn't all a bed of roses either, with a dominating mother his struggles to build a life for himself and serve his country isn't an easy road.  I learned a lot about Mount Vernon, his family, as well as his relationship with both Sally and Martha and even that little snippet about the White House.

Not only did the author provide authors notes, but this time we got treated to extended authors notes, so for the person carving that little bit more, it is there.  All in all a great debut that was entertaining, educational and has me hoping for a sequel.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND

About the Author


Steve doesn't golf or fish and is a below average hunter, but his love of history and writing compelled him to pick up his pen and tell the little-known stories behind the men that made American history. After years of extensive research, Steve wrote his first book on young George Washington. Steve lives in a suburb north of St. Paul, Minnesota with his supportive wife and two fantastic teenage sons. He graduated with honors from Boston College and the University of Minnesota Law School. He has enjoyed over two decades of practicing law in the Twin Cities, helping individuals and businesses solve complex problems.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: The Dream of the City by Andrés Vidal


Part love story, part chronicle of the modernist years of Barcelona and a society about to change irrevocably, The Dream of the City is an homage to the genius of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)—an exciting historical novel in which we tour the most bohemian parts of Barcelona.

In Barcelona, at the beginning of the 20th century, the destinies of two families, the Jufresas and the Navarros, converge: Francesc Jufresa is the head of the bourgeois family which runs the most renowned goldsmith workshop in the city. His daughter, the beautiful Laura, rejects the limited future of a housewife and mother to work with the brilliant Gaudí on the sculptures for the Sagrada Familia. Juan is the head of the Navarros, a poor family whose members must work hard to survive. Dimas, the first born, embodies his father’s hopes and resents the dangerous and ill-paying work of a streetcar mechanic. When the independent Laura and the ambitious Dimas meet, the encounter will change their lives forever.

Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Open Road Integrated Media
eBook; 557 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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 eBook as part of tour
***

"Patience consists of waiting, not passively, but rather working with persistence, even when the solution does not appear near to hand."

Antoni Gaudi
As soon as I heard about this book I really wanted to read it.  I have been to Barcelona and visited the Sagrada Familia, it is stunning and words are hard to come by that would adequately describe it.

I was hoping for more about the Sagrade Familia in this book but the story inside was still interesting.  It showed a side of Barcelona in the early 20th century, a city growing and two families involvement in that. The characters were likable, Laura (a woman of privilege) with her desire for independence and going after what she wants. Dimas, growing up poor doesn't want to live like that forever and takes whatever steps to prevent that from happening.  The author clearly depicted an authentic picture of the time period, focusing on the dreams of it's citizens as well as disappointments and working for a better life. It is obvious that a fair amount of research went into writing this book. 

What prevented me from giving this book more stars is the spelling/grammatical errors throughout.  I am taking into account that maybe I received an unedited version, but things like there/their, here/hear, ate/eight just got out of hand as well as words missing letters made me pause in my reading and interrupted the flow.

I am not sure if this is the authors debut, I would definitely read more by Andres Vidal provided it was edited properly.

AMAZON (KINDLE) | BARNES & NOBLE (NOOK)

Andrés Vidal is the pseudonym of Marius Molla. He is the author of two other novels that were successes in Spain: Inheriting the Earth (2010) and The Dream (2012). By training the author is an industrial engineer in Barcelona.

Follow Andres Vidal on Facebook.

 

 

 Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, November 24
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Wednesday, November 25
Excerpt at To Read, or Not to Read
Friday, November 27
Excerpt & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Monday, November 30
Review at Beth’s Book Nook
Tuesday, December 1
Excerpt at So Many Books, So Little Time
Thursday, December 3
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, December 4
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Monday, December 7
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Monday, December 21
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Interview with Anna Belfrage (plus giveaway)

I am thrilled to have Anna Belfrage visit JustOneMoreChapter today.


It was great to meet you in Denver at HNS2015. Do you attend these types of conferences often?
  
I enjoy attending the HNS conferences as they allow me to interact with people as crazy about HF as I am plus there are always ample opportunities to expand my knowledge. Other than the HNS Conferences, I've attended a couple of Writer's Conferences.

I get the impression that you enjoy traveling, what's your favorite destination? Do you visit places that you write about?
  
I travel a lot with my job, which gives me the opportunity to visit very different places on this world of ours. My favourite destination is a tough one: I think I'll say London -:and Istanbul. Yes I do visit places I write about. Sometimes, it's the other way around, I visit somewhere and that inspires me to write.

Is that how Kit and Adam came to be? 

No. They came to be as a consequence of a picture of a very old mirror - I could just about make out the features of the young redhaired woman in the dull reflection . Plus I have always wanted to write about Roger Mortimer. 

So lets talk about Kit and Adam. Totally different setting and time period from Alex and Matt, how hard was it to switch gears away from a couple you obviously bonded with and start over again?

Very difficult. But also a bit of a life-saver, as I was feeling very low after finishing the eighth book in The Graham Saga. Fortunately, Adam and Kit are very different to Alex and Matthew, as are the times they live in, thereby offering a "clean break" of sorts. Of sorts, mind you, because Matthew and Alex do have more stuff to tell me... 

Really!? Do tell (if you can) 

Nope. Not yet. Let's just say Matthew threw a marvellous tantrum, and that just had me hurrying back to 1692 to see why he was so aggravated. 

That Matthew does have a temper, can't wait to see how Alex handles him. 

Adeptly. But then, my leading ladies are quite good at managing their men. Kit is far more subtle about it, and in view of her being a 14th century lady, she is also very aware of the fact that in some matters her husband's word is final. 

Yes a 14th century lady after the strong willed Alex would have been a totally different character sketch. 

So what the average day like for you, you are writing full time correct? 

At present, yes I am - but I don't think that will be the case going forward. Being a writer full time is a bit...lonely? Plus conversations become very one-sided. I talk to Rufus, my dog, he rarely responds...Anyway: I try to get up relatively early, then I spend some time doing social media before either plunging into my writing or my research. I also try to read a lot - I think reading broadly is crucial for all writers. I take breaks: long walks with the dog, visits to my Mum, a lot of time spent on spoiling youngest son with a series of home-cooked meals...But all in all, I probably do 8-10 hour days. 

How much research do you do before the writing begins or do you research as you go along? Have you been to places in this series? 

I would say I do a lot of historical non-fiction reading all the time. I'm not always aware of researching as I research, if you see what I mean, but I always attempt to have a good grip on the period as far as political events go - plus including stuff like food and clothes - prior to writing. As I launch into my first draft, I often discover thgings I'll need to research further, but I usually do that after the draft is completed (but prior to putting it in the "curing cupboard" for a couple of months) 


Ok gotta ask, what's the 'curing cupboard'? 

You know, you set stuff to cure or age... if you want, you can use storage instead.

So after they spend all that time in the cupboard do you encounter any attention seekers, those that wanted more limelight then you originally planned on giving them? 

No. I find a lot of excessive speech tags, plot twists that need to be tweaked, and several mantles that have ended up as mantels...

What do you do while they are in cupboard? 
 
 Btw I am picturing narrow cupboard, like an ancient pizza oven that you side your book in, slap the dust off your hands and walk away muttering 'where's the wine?'

More or less. While the drafts are in the cupboard, I generally throw myself at a new draft - or start working on one that has been sitting for some time in the dark.

If I recall correctly the Graham Saga was only to be 3 books long but grew to 8 (so far). This new series is set for 4 books, what are the chances of it taking on a life of its own also and growing?
  
Originally - but that is ages ago - yes, The Graham Saga was to be 3 books. This new series has a somewhat more definite ending point due to real historical events - but it has already grown from 3 to 4 books. I don't think it will expand further, but one never knows... 

Well thanks so much for taking the time to chat, it was a pleasure.



Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 eBooks and 1 paperback! To enter, see the GLEAM form—–>

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/IezOD/in-the-shadow-of-the-storm
Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on December 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
 
 



 

Review: In the Shadow of the Storm (The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book One) by Anna Belfrage

 Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Sir Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Sir Roger for his life and all his worldly good, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Sir Roger thinks she is. So when Sir Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.

England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down, and fate is a fickle mistress, favouring first one, then the other.

Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but at present Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and the baron, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.

Kit de Courcy has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. What will Adam do when he finds out he has been duped?

Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Sir Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.

In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his baron, his king, and his wife.

Publication Date: November 1, 2015
Silverwood Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
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 **** 1/2

 I am sure that there are quite a number of reviews that share my initial thoughts about In the Shadow of the Storm.  As big fans of the Graham Saga and Anna Belfrage we awaited this new book with both eager anticipation and that little bit of trepidation.  Can she create another couple to replace, no replace is the wrong word because you can't replace Alex and Matthew.  But can she create this new couple, Kit and Adam, with their own unique personalities and traits?

The answer of course is a resounding yes!  Right from the first page Anna grabbed my attention and kept it throughout.  Women from the 1300's were political pawns and you married who you were told to marry,  but in Kit's situation it was totally different  (see synopsis above).  The author made me care for her right from the first page.  Though Kit and Adam are fictional characters,  Roger Mortimer, Despener and King Edward II are real as are events that take place.  The depth of research the author has done is evident here, it wasn't hard to visualize not just what was taking place but also feel the emotional vibes as well. 

There are scenes of violence (nothing too graphic, but enough to get the picture) that totally reflect the time period and there are scenes of love (this is Anna Belfrage here, she knows how to write them).  Of course the authors writing style was smooth and it wasn't hard to get lost in this book.  All in all a great start to a new series, one of which I anxiously await book #2.

Series Graphic

 About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, will be published in the autumn of 2015.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.

http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/intheshadowofthestormblogtour/
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Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 eBooks and 1 paperback! To enter, see the GLEAM form below.
Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. In the Shadow of the Storm

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Hanging Mary by Susan Higginbotham

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

 This week I am waiting for:

  
Paperback – March 1, 2016

As hope fades for the Confederacy and victory looms for the Union in the fall of 1864, the widowed Mary Surratt, left heavily in debt by her drunken husband, moves to Washington with her children, John and Anna, and opens her home to boarders. There she welcomes the friends of  John, a Confederate courier, even as she is disturbed by her son's increasingly secretive behavor.

Fresh from convent school, bookish Nora Fitzpatrick finds a second mother in Mary, and is fascinated by the odd characters who frequent her landlady's house. But none of the visitors is so thrilling as John Surratt's new friend, the dashing actor John Wilkes Booth, who captivates Nora and Anna with his charm and good looks, and whose fervor for the Southern cause draws John—and Mary—into an audacious scheme to save the dying Confederacy.

Then on Good Friday, 1865, Booth commits an act that will reverberate through history. Suddenly everyone in the boardinghouse is under suspicion, and everyone has something to hide or to reveal. And in the tumultuous weeks that follow, some will be changed forever—and some will lose everything.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Audio Review: The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

Passion, redemption, and a battered suitcase full of secrets: the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers returns with another engrossing tale.

Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.
 
Published May 27th 2014 by G.P. Putnam's Sons 
audiobook from library (via overdrive)
14 hours 42 mins 
paperback - 503 pages
****

Beatriz Williams is a new author to me as is Kathleen McInerney (the reader of this the audio version).  McInerney does a wonderful job here, she brings this story to life and I was not disappointed.

Told in 1st person with the story weaving back and forth in time, it all began with a suitcase.  I love a longer book, when done correctly the author has time to develop characters, to create a plot without rushing and to create twists and turns not always predictable.  Such was the case with The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Vivian is funny, spunky and a spitfire but there is also a sensitive compassionate person, with her telling the current time period story I found it to be very entertaining.

I struggled at the beginning in understanding Violet.  The 1910's was a tough era for women.  For Violet to leave her family, travel to Europe to study physics told me that she was a strong independent 'ahead of her time' type and I really couldn't figure out how she allowed the situation with Grant to take place.  Once I got past that I enjoyed this side of the book.  Also the ending was one I didn't expect, it had some twists that I didn't see coming and I love when an author does that.

There are 3 sisters in the Schuyler family, with this book we see Vivian's story.  You can read more of the other two in these 2 books (clicking on them will take you to their Goodreads page.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23398629-tiny-little-thing
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24875387-along-the-infinite-sea 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Audio Review: Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2) by Stephen King

1978: Meet Morris Bellamy, the man who robs the safe of America's most famous reclusive writer, John Rothstein. But it isn't just the money he is interested in. Morrie is obsessed with the author's notebooks and is prepared to kill the author for them.

2009: Meet young Pete Saubers, whose father was knocked down by an out-of-control Mercedes in a job line-up. When he discovers a buried trunk of money and notebooks of a famous writer, he has the means to rescue his family from poverty. If he can keep it secret.

2013: Morrie is up for parole. And he's hell-bent on recovering the notebooks.

That's when retired detective Bill Hodges - who has set up a company called Finders Keepers - discovers the scheme.

Finders Keepers is spectacular suspense. It is also King writing about how literature shapes a life - for good, for bad, for ever.
Read by award-winning narrator Will Patton, who was nominated for an Audie Award in the Solo Narration - Male category for his work on both Mr. Mercedes and Doctor Sleep.
 

Audible Audio
Published June 2nd 2015 by Simon & Schuster Audio 
source - library via overdrive
*****

I cannot believe that I have turned into a Stephen King fan.  He has the reputation as a horror writer (at least in my mind as I recall Carrie, Cujo and Pet Sematary).  11-23-63 was the start of my conversion, there seems to be a slew of mystery/suspense/thriller type book out there that I am just discovering by King. But at the same times King's books lend themselves perfectly in audio format (well at least the ones I have listened to so far do - MiseryDelores Claiborne and Mr. Mercedes).


Will Patton is the read of of Finders Keepers and it's the reader that can make or break the audio, in this case Will Patton was brilliant.  His voice brought this book to life, I had a hard time turning my iPod off.  Of course the book is central and Stephen King has shown himself to be able to deliver.  Told in 1st person with 3 different pov's this reader was able to get inside each character, get to know them and what makes them tick.  There was lots of action and plenty of twists and turns making this an extremely suspenseful book that was highly entertaining.


There is the connection to Mr. Mercedes here but I think this could work as a stand alone, however with book 3 coming out June 2016 I recommend starting with Mr. Mercedes. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman

From the New York Times-bestselling author of Lionheart comes the dramatic sequel, telling of the last dangerous years of Richard, Coeur de Lion’s life.

This long-anticipated sequel to the national bestseller Lionheart is a vivid and heart-wrenching story of the last event-filled years in the life of Richard, Coeur de Lion. Taken captive by the Holy Roman Emperor while en route home—in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders—he was to spend fifteen months chained in a dungeon while Eleanor of Aquitaine moved heaven and earth to raise the exorbitant ransom. But a further humiliation awaited him: he was forced to kneel and swear fealty to his bitter enemy.

For the five years remaining to him, betrayals, intrigues, wars, and illness were ever present. So were his infidelities, perhaps a pattern set by his father’s faithlessness to Eleanor. But the courage, compassion, and intelligence of this warrior king became the stuff of legend, and A King’s Ransom brings the man and his world fully and powerfully alive.
 
Hardcover, 685 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Marian Wood Books/Putnam
personal library
 ***** 





I couldn't decide which cover to include here so I put 2 of them, different but yet both reflecting the time period.

Part of me thinks that if I just say the words 'Sharon Kay Penman' than everyone should nod their heads and understand my feelings here.  That they would know her name is synonymous with epic historical fiction, door stopper sized books and has the ability to cause one to mourn figures long departed this world.

I love reading a time period that I know next to nothing about and A King's Ransom is one of those time periods.  The 5th book in her Plantagenet Series, though it does work as a standalone I highly recommend starting at the beginning with When Christ and His Saints Slept.  It's been awhile since I finished Lionheart but SKP was able to get me up to speed in no time, not with drawn out scenes but enough to refresh my memory.  What I loved about this series is the authors ability to make everything extremely realistic.  I could feel the fear and anxiousness of Richard and his travelers as they try to make it across Europe undercover.  His capture, sub sequence captivity and then the aftermath of adjusting to life again showed his physical and emotional state, humanizing him.  There is more that I would love to say and expound on, but I must stop myself for fear of spoilers, I don't want to give anything away of this wonderful book.

This book wasn't just about Richard, but his sister Joanna and the ever courageous Eleanor.  It was sad to say goodbye to them all and I will admit that this was one of those books where I had to take a breath (or two) before I could start something fresh, such emotional writing.

Suffice to say Sharon Kay Penman is a favorite of mine, it isn't hard to get lost in her books.   I have taken to going to ebook route for the sheer fact that my arms get tired holding her books (they are huge).  I had the awesome opportunity this past June of not just meeting her but talking with and listening to panel discussions that she was involved in.  An absolutely friendly lady, she took time to chat, eager to listen to me - it was truly a privilege.
 






Monday, December 7, 2015

Review/Giveaway: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion by Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.
A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.
An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.
A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.
A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.
An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.
A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

Publication Date: November 13, 2015
Knight Media LLC
eBook & Paperback; 440 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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*****

I started reading A Year of Ravens with a little trepidation, only because I have never read one book written by 7 different authors.  Plus I make it a rule never to read reviews of what I am reading, but when I see 4 and (mostly) 5 stars ratings flying around that does something to the old expectation levels.  That being said, being familiar with 4 of the writers I knew a real treat was in order and I was not disappointed.

Historical fiction is a favorite of mine, especially lesser know figures, which Boudica is - at least to me she is.  Told from the POV of 7 different characters one would think it might be disjointed and lack the smooth flow and transition needed to make a compilation work. Here it worked nicely, everything meshed  together and the different writing styles actually enhanced this story. 

Taking place in 60 AD the era was realistic and vivid, bringing this time period to life.  Getting into the heads of various individuals and the vastly different roles they played was interesting and further fueled my desire to know more about the times.  As the different characters roles are played out they are not forgotten in subsequent chapters which again makes this book flow together.  Though I am not a big fan of blood, guts and gore, but when its done in the right context it enhances the story, so suffice to say there were times that I was 'squint reading', it was a brutal time period after all.

This book was written with feeling and emotion, the attention to details and the depth of character actually made me feel sorry for the Romans (as well as outrage) at the same time as compassion for Boudica's people. The author notes at the end just finished this book off nicely and I enjoyed reading them as much as this book.   Definitely one I highly recommend.


AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES

Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, 
S.J.A. Turney, & Russell Whitfield

http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/ayearofravensblogtour/
click on banner for more stops on this tour

 

GIVEAWAY

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a Celtic inspired set of silver tone metal and red Swarovski crystal beads, including a necklace, bracelet, and earrings inspired by the setting of A Year of Ravens! Please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below.
Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US and UK.
– Only one entry per household.
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A Year of Ravens

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review: Excerpt & Giveaway: The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great by Stephanie Thornton


A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for “strong and determined female protagonists” (Historical Novel Society) and “a sprawling historical saga” (Renee Rosen)...
We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

Publication Date: December 1, 2015
NAL/Penguin Group LLC.
eBook, Paperback; 496 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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arc received as part of tour
*****

Stephanie Thornton became a favorite of mine with The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora and The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan. She writes about lesser known women of history - those that were close to the action, whether wife, lover or daughter of someone famous.  The Conqueror's Wife is no exception.

This is a time period I have never read before and knew next to nothing of Alexander the Great.  With that amount of knowledge it is always great to hunker down with no preconceived ideas of what to expect and can enjoy the ride.

Again Stephanie Thornton did not disappoint, she has that wonderful ability to breath life into her characters.  Each one of them with unique personalities and traits, it's through them that we get a clear picture of Alexander.  Alexander was a great man in his time, but it was through the women in his life that helped shape who he was.  With his half-sister, Thessalonike (determined and ready for action), Drypetis (warrior) or Roxana, (his beautiful queen) alternatively telling their story that we see who Alexander the Great was.  There is also his male friend Hephaestation that rounds out the narrative.

This isn't a small book, coming in at almost 500 pages leaving plenty of time for the strong character development here as well as depth to the story.  Even with these 4 narratives the story flowed along nice and smooth, Thornton's historical detail shows her knowledge of this time period, it wasn't hard to visualize so much that was taking place, it was easy to get lost in the pages.  I highly recommend The Conqueror's Wife to lovers of HF, especially those that crave strong lesser known women.

Be sure to read the prologue below and entry for a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book.



Prologue

Alexander deemed himself a god, the mythic descendant of Achilles and the son of Zeus, and entire nations fell to their knees in ecstatic worship of him. But he was no god any more than we were nymphs and dryads, benevolent four-hoofed centaurs or vengeful three-headed chimeras.

He called himself Alexander the Great and claimed that he conquered the world. But he would have been lucky to conquer a stinking midden heap populated by swarms of biting flies had it not been for our cunning and daring.

Alexander founded cities of culture and learning, and named them after himself in a fit of hubris. But he razed more cities than there are stars in the sky, slaughtered their men, and burned their ancient palaces so that the four winds carried the gray ashes to rain down upon lands more distant than Alexandria-the-Farthest.

 He claimed that the earth trembled, mountains quivered, and oceans overflowed their shores at his approach, but without us, Alexander would never have mounted a single golden throne or worn the coveted eagle diadem of Persia, much less the combined crowns of Greece, Egypt, and India.

Like Achilles, he sought glory and everlasting fame, and beseeched the gods that his name would echo throughout history. Yet so many of his baser deeds have been forgotten, or retold to forge him into a hero worthy of epic ballads.

But that is only part of the story.

It was because of him, and for him, that we did great, and also terrible, things.

Just as Zeus sat in his throne room atop Olympus, surrounded by the gods of violence and light, the goddesses of desire and the hearth, so too was Alexander surrounded by us.

His lover.

His sister.

His wife.

His soldier.

We were murderers and poisoners, innocents and warriors. And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.

Instead, he was a god.


03_Stephanie ThorntonStephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

"The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora," "Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt," and "The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan" are available now. "The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great" will hit the shelves in December 2015.

For more information please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.




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Waiting on Wednesday: The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer

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:
 
 
 
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 5th 2016 by St. Martin's Press
 
 As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel--the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author's own experiences as a ship's officer and a lawyer.
 
 
What are you waiting for?
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?
 
  
Hardcover, 373 pages

Published January 29th 2015 by Harper Collins 
arc via netgalley
*** 

I was rather intrigued while reading the premise for The Ice Twins, it appeared to have a number of elements going for it - spooky, mysterious, emotional and suspenseful.

  I am not sure if this is the authors debut but hats off to her/him for genuinely making me care about this family.  There are many emotions that death brings on, especially when it's your child.  This book brought that out but when you add a twins strange and shocking behavior - how does one cope and even understand it.

That being said as much as I cared for the Moorcraft's I really struggled at times here.  Even though I finished this book in a matter of days, (I just needed to find out what was happening to Angus, Sarah and Kristie/Lydia), I found it somewhat depressing and sad.  Needing a fresh start this family moves to a small Scottish island hoping for a chance to regroup and try to put the past behind them.  There is a lot going on here and you really need to pay attention. I couldn't grasp the fact that Sarah could not recognize her own daughter, she is 7 years old and I suppose maybe if I was around twins it might be possible at that age to get them mixed up but as a mom I feel she would know which was which.  Secrets and more secrets seem to be the theme here and even when I finished the book I still had questions left unanswered.   The ending is what really left me feeling down, hats off to the author for bringing that kind of emotion out.

The author does have a way with words, with vivid descriptions I had no problem visualizing the lighthouse, the island and even the house where the tragedy occurred.



Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won't open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Hardcover, 292 pages

Expected publication: January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire 
arc via netgalley
***
If you are regular follower of this blog then you most likely will realize that this genre is not one that I visit often.  It was an impulse request on netgalley, but I will say that it has a couple things that attracted me - a debut author (love them) and YA (always a favorite).  I spend so much time in the past and thought something current was in order.

I really, really hope that I don't give too much of the story away here, I have lots on my mind about this book.  First off, this book left me emotionally drained - read the synopsis and you'll understand why.  Adding the fact that I was right in the middle of it when the recent events in Paris took place, I actually had to set it aside for a week.  So hats off to the author for writing a book that can draw that kind of emotion in a reader.

Now that being said I did struggle at times.  Taking place over 54 minutes, with the flashbacks it did seem longer and I couldn't help wondering where and when help would arrive.  The scenario and how things played out didn't resonate well with me, basically because it didn't seem plausible.  Some books it's easy to suspend you disbelief but I had trouble here, just for the simple fact I struggled with how events played out.  This is a small town school with a large student body and everyone is in the gym?  (well except those few running the track). 

I found it hard at times to separate the various characters, they just sounded the same and what I really found lacking was an in-depth look at the killer and getting into his mind so that I could understand his motives better.  Yea we are given his story but in a superficial way - I needed to know more.  What really blew it for me was his second to last act, it wasn't necessary and just downright mean - not that his prior actions weren't but I think you would have to read the book to know what I am getting at here.

I am giving this book 3 stars because of the way the author made me feel when I finished.  Though it had flaws, it stayed with me for days afterwards.

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


Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and is an executive member of We Need Diverse Books, the founder of DiversifYA, and a founding contributor to YA Misfits. She lives in the Netherlands. Visit her at mariekenijkamp.com. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Excerpt: Zenobia - Challenging a Legend (Zenobia Book Series, Book Two) by Russ Wallace

After winning the famous Alexandria horse race, Zenobia, a young Syrian warrior and an aspiring scholar, assumes her life will return to normal. Wrong! A tumultuous romance develops with her instructor, widely considered the most brilliant academic on earth.

Unknown to her, an enemy plans to kidnap Zenobia for his harem. The hired mercenaries never suspect their intended victim is a deadly warrior. The attack is thwarted, but the Syrians are alerted to a slave trade in young girls.

Meanwhile, a Nubian princess has been captured by the slavers. She struggles to survive in the dangerous situation while she seeks a way to escape. Can she succeed?

Zenobia’s impetuous nature continues to impel her to take unwise risks, both in class and on a hunting trip. When a second kidnap attempt on her fails, the last attacker escapes. She decides to run him down to save her family. Thus begins an epic chase on horseback across the desert in the dead of night. It culminates in a shocking revelation that threatens her very future.

Circumstances now force Zenobia into roles for which she is untrained. As she meets the challenges, she begins to unleash her strategic genius, which will one day raise her to the pinnacle of her world.

“Book two in the Zenobia book series has it all …the book is full of adventure with kidnappings, hunting, fighting, revenge, chases, escapes, and piracy. Zenobia learns a heart breaking truth about love and this will mold her into the women she is destine to become. This was an ARC…You'll want to put this book on your TBR list.” – Julie Martin Wallace

Publication Date: November 14, 2015
Geode Press LLC
Hardcover; 512 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Action & Adventure/Young Adult
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Chapter 43
  
 Almost as an afterthought Zenobia asked, “How many men do you know that you can really trust?”

    “How many men can I really trust?” Jasmine repeated Zenobia’s question. After careful thinking, she replied, “None! Whatever you are thinking of doing, if it requires trustworthy men, forget it!”

    The look of controlled, determined intensity on the girl told her that was not likely to happen. This girl is dangerous, extremely dangerous!

Russ Wallace is an avid student of history and religion. Zenobia, one of the deadliest and most fascinating women of history, comes to life in his series about her. Russ is working on future releases in the Zenobia book series.


Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, November 14
Tour Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, November 16
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Tuesday, November 17
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Wednesday, November 18
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Thursday, November 19
Excerpt & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Friday, November 20
Excerpt at Let Them Read Books
Saturday, November 21
Spotlight at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Tuesday, November 24
Excerpt & Giveaway at Room With Books
Thursday, November 26
Excerpt at Just One More Chapter
Friday, November 27
Review at Book Nerd
Saturday, November 28
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Sunday, November 29
Interview at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf