Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard

On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.

Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation.

Kindle Edition, 426 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Lake Union Publishing 
arc - netgalley

I came away from The Midwife's Revolt with the feeling this book was a mix of history and friendship.  Lizzie Boylston is a young widow from Boston, a midwife and healter.  She is brave, strong and confident.  I couldn't help admiring her and how she deals with her lot in life.  In 1775 women were not expected nor encouraged to take care of themselves, but rather rely on a father, husband even the in-laws to provide for them. With all able bodied men off to war the work at her homestead showed her resilience. This book was a refreshing change.

Though Lizzie is a fictional character I like to imagine that isn't the case, her relationship with Abigail Adams brought out the political side of the story which I found intriguing.  I haven't read a lot of books taking place in the 1770's, so this was a learning experience as well as entertaining.

I liked Jodi Daynard's writing style, this is her debut and she is coming out of the the gate with a strong showing.  This book flowed nicely, easy to get lost in the story and it also shows the authors vast knowledge of the time period.  If you are a lover of HF, I encourage you to give this one a try.

Thank you to the publisher (via netgalley) for providing me an ebook copy for review purposes only.

Jodi Daynard is a writer of fiction, essays, and criticism. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals, including the New York Times Book Review, the Village Voice, the Paris Review, AGNI, and the New England Review, as well as several anthologies. She is the author of The Place Within: Portraits of the American Landscape by 20 Contemporary Writers and the translator and editor of Gaito Gazdanov’s An Evening with Claire. Daynard’s work has received notable mentions in Best American Essays as well as Pushcart Prize nominations. She has taught writing at Harvard University, at MIT, and in the MFA program at Emerson College.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert

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 LOVED the first book in this series, so excited for this one!!

Paperback, 384 pages

Expected publication: July 27th 2015 by Lion Fiction

The exiled family of King Aethelfrith of Northumbria arrive, after much hardship, on the island of Iona, where the monastery founded by St Columba has become a centre of worship and learning. Young Oswald becomes firm friends with a novice, Aidan. When Aidan professes his final vows, Oswald and his little brother Oswiu are received into the church. As befits a young prince, Oswald learns to fight. However, Aidan's example attracts him and he is on the point of deciding to become a monk when news reaches Iona that his half brother, Eanfrith, has been killed by Cadwallon, the king who defeated Edwin. Oswald sails back to Northumbria and meets Cadwallon in battle, defeating and killing him. Oswald, now undisputed king of Northumbria, gives Aidan the island of Lindisfarne as his base. But Penda, the last great pagan king in England, is raising troops against him.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Curse of Anne Boleyn by C.C. Humphreys (GIVEAWAY)

Sourcebooks Landmark
May 5, 2015
ISBN: 9781402282300
$14.99 Trade Paperback

Purchase The Curse of Anne Boleyn here:

"If you like Bernard Conwell's Grail Quest series, you'll love The French Executioner and The Curse of Anne Boleyn. To my mind Cornwell is good, but Humphreys is better."—Sally Zigmund, Historical Novels Review (UK)

From the masterful C.C. Humphreys, comes the captivating sequel to The French Executioner.

Nearly twenty years have passed since Anne Boleyn died at the hands of her slayer and savior, Jean Rombaud. All he wants is to forget his sword-wielding days and live happily with his family. Yet her distinctive six-fingered hand, stolen at her death—and all the dark power it represents—still compels evil men to seek it out.

When Jean's son, Gianni, joins the Inquisition in Rome and betrays all his father worked for, Jean discovers that time alone cannot take him—or his son—far from his past. But he never expected his whole family, especially his beloved daughter Anne, to become caught up once more in the tragic queen's terrible legacy.

From the savagery of way in Italy to the streets of London and Paris and the wilds of North America, The Curse of Anne Boleyn sweeps readers into a thrilling story that puts love, loyalty, and family to the ultimate test.

"With The French Executioner, Humphreys established himself as a quality purveyor of historical detail and vigorous action...This unusual story line is dispatched with consummate skill."
—Good Books Guide (UK)

About the Author

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys is an actor, playwright, fight choreographer and novelist.  He has written nine historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers; Vlad – The Last Confession,  the epic novel of the real Dracula; and A Place Called Armageddon. His latest YA novel is The Hunt of the Unicorn. His work has been translated into thirteen languages.

Twitter: @HumphreysCC

An Excerpt from THE CURSE OF ANNE BOLEYN by C.C. Humphreys

The freezing mist seemed to pool thicker about the chapel doors, yet no one seemed anxious to seek shelter from it. Tucknell fiddled with the keys in his hand, the three laborers leaned on shovels and picks, avoiding each other’s eyes. Even Thomas felt a reluctance to proceed. Outside the iron-studded doors, the frigid air was at least connected to the world of the living, their footprints in the frost a trail back to light and warmth. Ahead, within the darkness, lay a deeper cold – the realm of the dead. And they were there to violate that realm.
After a few moments watching plumes of breath stripe the night, Thomas shifted, made to speak, to command. Before the breath could become a voice in him, the warder pulled him slightly to one side, whispered, “Sir. Let me ask of you once more. Beg of you. Do not do this. It is a sin.”
“I have my orders, Tucknell. And you have yours. You saw the signature on the papers. This command comes from the Queen herself.”
It was not strictly true, but the officer was not to know that. He drew back, seeking Thomas’s eyes.
“I know our gracious sovereign Mary has little reason to love… she who lies here. But to thus despoil her tomb?” His voice softened. “You are an Englishman, sir, and a gentleman I can tell. Let us spare an English lady further humiliation.” Off Thomas’s silent stare he cried, “For Jesu’s sake, man, hasn’t she suffered enough?”
Thomas leaned in, so his voice, softened now, beguiling, would not carry to the waiting, shifting men.
“I do not like this either, man. But we have had reports that this woman may have taken something with her to the grace. Something that may… be of use to Her Majesty.”
Tucknell’s face twisted, as if containing a violent struggle. “She took nothing with her save a prayer book and the clothes she wore. I know, sir, because I was there.” The struggle overpowered him. “I know because I helped to kill her and to bury her afterward. May God have mercy on my soul!”
Thomas watched a tear that had nothing to do with the harsh wind run from this tough soldier’s eye, and wondered at the power this woman, dead nearly twenty years, still had over the living. A power to be turned into a weapon for the Catholic cause, so his superiors in the Society of Jesus believed. But only if he, Thomas Lawley, did his duty now.
“Come, Master Tucknell. You have merely to show me the way. If there is sin after that, it is I, and I alone, that will commit it.” The soldier before him hardened, the tears withdrawn. Without another word he turned to the door and fitted into its lock the largest of the keys he carried. It grated there, with a cry like that of the raven defending its cache of food. The doors, in contrast, swung open, as silent as on any tomb.

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3 copies of THE CURSE OF ANNE BOLEYN by CC Humphreys
Open until June 1, 2015

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After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson

The USA Today and #1 Globe & Mail bestselling author of SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE returns with her sweeping second novel. 

For fans of Downton Abbey. England, 1919 In the months following the Armistice, Charlotte Brown leaves behind her wartime work as a nurse and returns to her life as a social worker in Liverpool. There she sets about helping her fellow citizens better themselves, though the world is still reeling from the devastation and loss of the Great War. 

In her journey she is guided by friends old and new, among them the other women at her boarding house, her colleagues at work, and a radical young newspaper editor who may have romantic designs on her. But even as she tries to look ahead, one man continues to pull her back into her past: Edward, now the Earl of Cumberland, the brother of Charlotte's dearest friend. She hasn't seen him in years and is shocked to discover him utterly changed. Once charming and infuriatingly arrogant, he is now broken by all he has seen. Still Charlotte sees the specter of the captivating man she knew, and knows he could offer her a world far different from the one she's worked so hard to build for herself.

As the country seethes with unrest, and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte fears that the only way to keep her independent life of purpose may be to turn her back on the only man she has ever loved.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 30th 2014 by HarperCollinsCanada
personal library via Audible:  narrator - Lucy Rayner,  10 hours, 28minutes

This is the sequel to Somewhere in France but it is not necessary to have read it before this one.  I opted for the audio version here and the story lent itself very nicely to this format.  Lucy Rayner is the reader and she did a great job - it was a pleasure to listen to.

The war is over but for some life continues where it left off but for the majority, its a struggle both physical and mentally.  Charlotte spent 4 years as a nurse and now dedicates her life to help those in need.  I liked Charlotte she had conviction, she had the drive to help the less fortunate, usually putting others before herself. 

Jennifer Robson has a nice writing style, pulling me into this story with details of post war England, which shows her vast knowledge of this time period.  Written with emotion brought out feelings of compassion and empathy.

This isn't a fast paced book but rather a reflection of England, proving that no matter your social class the war affected everyone.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland (Book Tour)

British Occupied Manhattan, 1777. American actress Jenny Leighton has been packing the John Street Theater with her witty comedies, but she longs to escape the provincial circuit for the glamour of the London stage. When the playwright General John Burgoyne visits the city, fresh from a recent success in the capitol, she seizes the opportunity to court his patronage. But her plan is foiled by British intelligence officer Severin Devere.

Severin’s mission is to keep the pleasure-loving general focused on the war effort…and away from pretty young actresses. But the tables are turned when Severin himself can’t resist Jenny Leighton…

Months later, Jenny has abandoned her dreams of stage glory and begun writing seditious plays for the Rebels under the pen name “Cornelia,” ridiculing “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne and his army—and undermining the crown’s campaign to take Albany. With Jenny’s name now on the hanging list, Severin is ordered to find her—and deliver her to certain death. Soon, the two are launched on a desperate journey through the wilderness, toward an uncertain future shaped by the revolution—and their passion for each other…

Publication Date: March 3, 2015
NAL Trade
Formats: eBook, Paperback
416 Pages
Series: Renegades of the American Revolution (Book 3)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Donna Thorland has a knack for bringing US history to life.  Mistress Firebrand is the 3rd book in her Renegades of the American Revolution Series, each book deals with a different cast of characters so no need to be reading them in order.

What I really liked about this book was the attention to details and the clear picture of life during the Revolution.  Though I have read a number of books about the Revolution, none taking place in New York and none with the stage as a backdrop.

Jenny is an actress and playwright, I liked her, she knew what she wanted and went after it. Not the norm for a women of that time period.  But, of course nothing goes as planned, her life is in danger and the enemy is no longer an enemy.  This isn't the first time reading a book by this author, so I knew I was in for a wonderful ride.  This book was hard to put down, keep me on my toes and proved yet again that Donna Thorland really knows her subject matter.  There is a lot going on in this book, aside from the romance, but also danger, mystery, suspense and of course spying (it's the American Revolution spying is just a given). 

The other books in this series are:

Buy Mistress Firebrand

Amazon (Kindle)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble

A native of Bergenfield, New Jersey, Donna graduated from Yale with a degree in Classics and Art History. For many years she managed architecture and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and wrote and directed the Witch City’s most popular Halloween theater festival, Eerie Events. She later earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Donna has been a sorority house mother, a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow, a WGA Writer’s Access Project Honoree, and a writer on the ABC primetime drama, Cupid. Her screenwriting credits include episodes of the animated series, Tron: Uprising. Her short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Albedo One. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project, The Night Caller, aired on WNET Channel 13 and was featured on Ain’t It Cool News. Currently she is a writer on the WGN drama SALEM.

She is married with one cat and divides her time between the real Salem and Los Angeles.

For more information visit Donna Thorland’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Mistress Firebrand Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 6
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Excerpt & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, April 7
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, April 8
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Thursday, April 9
Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing
Friday, April 10
Spotlight at Broken Teepee
Sunday, April 12
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, April 13
Spotlight, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, April 16
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes
Friday, April 17
Spotlight at I’d So Rather Be Reading
Saturday, April 18
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream
Monday, April 20
Review at Book Nerd
Tuesday, April 21
Guest Post & Giveaway at Book Babe
Wednesday, April 22
Guest Post & Excerpt at The Lit Bitch
Thursday, April 23
Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Friday, April 24
Review at Back Porchervations
Monday, April 27
Review at Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, April 28
Review at Historical Readings & Views
Wednesday, April 29
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews
Thursday, April 30
Review at Bookramblings
Friday, May 1
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Drey’s Library
Spotlight at Genre Queen
Sunday, May 3
Review at Forever Ashley
Monday, May 4
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at To Read, or Not to Read
Tuesday, May 5
Excerpt at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, May 6
Review at Unabridged Chick
Thursday, May 7
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Friday, May 8
Interview at Scandalous Woman

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown

An acclaimed international bestseller, The Perfume Garden is a sensuously written story of lost love, family secrets--and the art of creating a perfect scent.

High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, and the garden, laden with orange blossom, grows wild. Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. Emma is London's leading perfumier, but her blessed life has taken a difficult turn. Her free-spirited mother, Liberty, who taught her the art of fragrance making, has just passed away. At the same time, she broke up with her long-time lover and business partner, Joe, whose baby she happens to be carrying.

While Joe is in New York trying to sell his majority share in their company, Emma, guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed to her in Liberty's will, decides to leave her job and travel to Valencia, where she will give birth in the house her mother mysteriously purchased just before her death. The villa is a perfect retreat: redolent with the exotic scents of orange blossom and neroli, dappled with light and with the rich colors of a forgotten time. Emma makes it her mission to restore the place to its former glory. But for her aging grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed in Valencia during Spain's devastating civil war, Emma's new home evokes memories of a terrible secret, a part of her family's past that until now has managed to stay hidden. With two beautifully interwoven narratives and a lush, atmospheric setting, Kate Lord Brown's The Perfume Garden is a dramatic, emotional debut that readers won't soon forget.

Published April 7th 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books
(first published 2012) 
ARC - netgalley
  The location of The Perfume Garden is what drew me to it.  Having been to Barcelona and Malaga recently for a visit and seeing the countryside, peaked my interest in its history.  The way this book was written is also a favorite of mine.  Starting in 2001 (Sept. 11th) and then back to 1936 Spain, add a forgotten and neglected house hiding secrets kept hidden for generations.  Well, that is just a recipe for something enticing.

The plot was intriguing, maybe a little predictable at times, but still an interesting story.  Beginning in 2001 with the collapse of the World Trade Centers, Emma's world is turned upside down.  Needing a change she heads to Spain to live in a house recently purchased by her mother. A house with a past, with secrets that could change Emma's life.  I liked Emma, she was genuine, searching for something though not sure what it was she was looking for.  She was strong in the sense of getting away from the familiar and going into the unknown.  But she was also vulnerable and nervous about the future.

The author painted a vivid and emotional time for Spain, a Civil War pre WW II under the Franco regime.  This is a part of history that I am unfamiliar with.  Kate Lord Brown's knowledge of this time period is evident not just with the physical effect but the emotional impact this war had on the country.   Emma's grandmother Freya a nurse during this time and keeper of secrets that she knows will come to light one day.

This is is Kate Lord Brown's debut, I like her writing style, it was engaging, bringing to life a past that is not often written about.  Thank you to netgalley for the opportunity to review The Perfume Garden.

"Sometimes the people you trust most with your heart are the least worthy.  People are fallible, they screw up.  It's up to you whether you can bear that, and forgive, or whether you should walk away.  Sometimes life, and love, is as much about deciding who to let go as who to take with you on this journey."

"Never let your capacity for love be diminished by the actions of others.  Stay true to your heart."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Guestpost with Marianne Perry author of The Inheritance

 Food Is More Than Something You Eat

What does Clafoutis (a rich cherry dessert) make you think of?
a). France
b). Italy 
c). a dessert for peasants
d). a dessert for the upper class
Historical fiction writers use many tools to authenticate time and place and ensure descriptions of everyday life are accurate. The Inheritance is set from 1897 to 1913 in Calabria, a region in southern Italy. It tells the story of Caterina, an atypical peasant woman who challenges social norms and the tragic chain of events her determination to live a life of her choosing ignites. Showing Caterina enjoying Clafoutis for daily dessert, therefore, would be incongruous with where she lived, her social standing and the era during which the book occurs.

Why is melanzana al funghetto, an eggplant, mushroom and tomato dish, a good choice?
Santo Marino owns the Villa San Michelle Estate and Caterina’s father works for him. Bruno is Santo’s cook and he prepares him this for lunch. Eggplants, mushrooms and tomatoes are staples of the Mediterranean diet and the meal is popular throughout southern Italy.

Are chocolate-covered figs okay for Bruno?
Figs are plentiful in Calabria and families throughout the region cultivate them. They thrive in the hot dry sunny climate and Bruno’s penchant for the chocolate-covered variety is appropriate.
Every detail in a historical fiction contributes to the creation of a believable world that enhances the reader’s experience and in The Inheritance, food is more than something you eat.

What are your favourite recipes?
Marianne Perry welcomes your comments and may be contacted at her website where she blogs about writing, travel, family dynamics and genealogy.

 I took this photograph at the Mercato di Capo in Palermo, Sicily. The purple eggplants reminded me of the lunch Bruno cooked for Santo Marino

The Inheritance tells the story of a family disintegrating from conflicting loyalties in Calabria, southern Italy. Set during the period 1897 to 1913, the region was subject to earthquakes and tsunamis; the land was harsh and poverty the norm. Superstition clashed with religion and a class system ruled the people. Calabria is the perfect backdrop for the tragedy that unfolds in The Inheritance.

Caterina is an atypical woman, and The Inheritance chronicles her life from birth to young womanhood. Born with an inheritance of loss into a society that has predetermined what she can and cannot do, she vows to live a life of her choosing. Caterina refuses to allow the limits of her gender, the constraints of her class and the demands imposed by those in power to stand in her way. Caterina remains steadfast in her commitment to become the woman she imagines. Her decisions ignite conflicts and fuel a chain of events that result in dire consequences for all whose path she crosses.

 Publication Date: November 28, 2012
Formats: eBook, Paperback, Hard Cover
Pages: 280
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
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Family dynamics, genealogical research to solve ancestral mysteries and international travel are Marianne Perry’s priorities. A second-generation Canadian-Italian, she is the author of The Inheritance, a historical fiction/romance set in Calabria, southern Italy from 1897 to 1913 that was inspired by her grandmother’s early life. With a thirty-year career in education and communications, Marianne holds a Master of Education Degree from The University of Western Ontario (Canada). A past member of the Board of Trustees, the Canadian National Arts Centre Corporation, she has also published non-fiction genealogical articles throughout North America. As a girl, Marianne fell in love with The National Geographic Magazine and dreamt of exploring the world. With her January 2014 visit to Antarctica, she achieved her goal of stepping foot on every continent. The mother of two grown children, Marianne and her husband live on the shores of the St. Mary’s River, which drains Lake Superior on the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. She continues to research her family’s history and write non-fiction genealogical articles. In addition, she is working on her second novel and planning further adventures.

Marianne blogs about genealogy, travel, family and writing on her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

The Inheritance Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 13
Review at Unshelfish
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Wednesday, April 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, April 16
Interview at Book Babe
Friday, April 17
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Sunday, April 19
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, April 23
Review, Interview, & Giveaway at Virtual Hobby & Coffee Haus
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, April 28
Spotlight at Broken Teepee
Thursday, April 30
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Interview at Books and Benches
Friday, May 1
Review at Library Educated
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog

Waiting on Wednesday: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

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, 352 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by NAL/Penguin

In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England...and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.
London, 1887.

As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley by Susan Ornbratt

From the shores of The Great Lakes to the slums of Bombay and a tiny island in between, this love story takes the reader on an intimate journey to unravel a family secret that’s lain hidden for generations.

To satisfy her wandering feet, eighteen-year-old Gillian McAllister is sent from Ireland to Canada in the summer of 1932. She arrives with her Irish ways intact, determined not to let the wiles of crop duster Christian Hunter woo her into submission. Yet as the summer unfolds and the sweet taste of love grows, Gillian’s appeal lures more than she anticipates, shattering the life they’ve built.

Fourteen years, a Great Depression, and a World War later, Christian sets out to discover why Gillian was ripped from his life. What he discovers on the Isle of Man will change them both forever. Not even a thatched cottage by the sea, a spritely Gillian, or memories sprinkled on a page can mask the secret that has been buried for too long. 

But it isn’t until a set of poems is given to Gillian’s granddaughter that the real mystery—Gillian’s true secret—is freed. 

Paperback, 338 pages
Expected publication: April 23rd 2015 by Light Messages Publishing 
ARC - Netgalley

The book with the long title, don't let that scare you off like it almost did me.  The cover is what grabbed my attention and the blurb just glitched it.  A weird quirk of mine is location.  When I saw Bruce Peninsula, the Great Lakes and Tobermory I was sold, these are my stomping grounds.
Gillian spent the next several days trying to imagine why on earth Daddy would want her to go to Canada of all places.  She needed to let the idea soak in.  Honestly, she was furious with the man.  India sounded so exotic -- all those spices!  Canada sounded, well... wild.
With such a great setting my expectations rose somewhat.  I really hate putting pressure like that on any author, beautiful setting must equal beautiful story, right?.

Did Susan Ornbratt rise to the occasion? Of course she did, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley was an absolute pleasure to read!  The authors writing style made it extremely easy to get lost in this story.  Told in various time periods this reader had no problem connecting with Gillian.  First introduced when she is 89 years old (2003), then she takes us back to 1931 and then 1946.  Gillian is such a likeable character, she is adventurous, open minded and genuine.  First she is a nanny for a family from India, then off to the wilds of Canada.  Her relationship with her sister and father was played out nicely, the bantering between them added much to this story.    I loved the strong bond between Gillian and her granddaughter, Gilly (who is tasked with writing her story) was the finishing touch this story needed. 

The plot was intriguing, kept me on my toes.  There is much going on here, a beautiful love story, mystery, trauma of WW II and more.  With vivid descriptive prose it wasn't hard to picture scenery and the added poems was a unique idea and enhanced this story nicely.  While the story weaves back and forth in time, as well as alternating POV's it wasn't hard to get totally invested in this book.
It's such a strange phenomenon with writers, the way a story starts to breathe life, the way the characters become real, the way a writer becomes a servant to the story as much as its creator. 
This is Susan Ornbratt's debut, reminiscent of Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley, I highly recommend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review & Giveaway: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella (Book Tour)

Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

Publication Date: April 1, 2015
Lake Union Publishing
Formats: eBook, Paperback
ISBN-10: 1477821384
Genre: Historical Fiction
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I am fascinated with Troy and Helen and Paris, I don't read as much as I would like.  What drew me to this book was that it wasn't about the Trojan Wars but about Helen before Paris came into the picture. 

This book was written in a way that grabbed me right from the beginning, feeling the anxiety that Helen felt as a result of nightmares she experienced.  Knowing the ultimate fate of Helen I couldn't help rooting for her as she endeavors to escape her ultimate destiny - to launch a thousand ships because of her great beauty.  The author portrayed Helen as a real woman who cared about others, Sparta and deflecting a devastating war.  She was a woman with feelings and at the mercy of others, which is a nice change from how she is usually portrayed.

The descriptive writing was something I enjoyed, it wasn't hard to visualize the settings, what life was like in that time period.  Mixing Greek mythology with historical facts, ancient legends and fiction made this a very enjoyable read.  Definitely an author I will be on the lookout for more of  (a sequel maybe??). 

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Amalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too).

For more information, visit her blog at She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Amalia Dillin.

You can also connect with Amalia on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter here and here.

Helen of Sparta Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, April 1
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, April 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, April 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Saturday, April 4
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, April 6
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Tuesday, April 7
Review at
Wednesday, April 8
Review at Historical Reads and Views
Thursday, April 9
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Friday, April 10
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, April 13
Interview at Book Babe
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession
Tuesday, April 14
Review at Forever Ashley
Wednesday, April 15
Review at Just One More Chapter
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, April 16
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Friday, April 17
Review at Impressions in Ink
Saturday, April 18
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Monday, April 20
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Tuesday, April 21
Review at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, April 22
Helen of Sparta

Friday, April 10, 2015

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

From the New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice Lisa Genova comes a powerful and transcendent new novel about a family struggling with the impact of Huntington’s disease.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core. 

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Gallery Books 
arc - netgalley
I remember years ago hearing about a book that was self published (no one wanted to take a chance on it), but it ended up winning a number of awards - that book was Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I think it was one of the first books I read in less then 24 hours. Such an emotional story that I hestiated reading her next 2 books - could my heart handle the emotion she invoked?

When Inside the O'Brien was available on Netgalley I figured I was able to handle another dose of her emotional writing (bear in mind that I mean all this in a very good way).  In the end I opted for the audio version (via Audible).  The audio was phenomenal and I am so glad that I went that route, the reader evoked a pace and tone that brought this story to life.

The story begins by spending some time introducing the reader to the O'Briens, getting to know this family, what makes them tick, their beliefs and Irish heritage with subtle hints that all is not right with the patriarch Joe.

Having never heard of Huntington's Disease before I found this an education lesson but not in a clinical manner.  Told mostly through the POV of Joe and his youngest daughter Katie the author managed to make this reader feel empathy for the whole family.  With various reactions to being tested you can see each side and their reasonings.  

As I got closer to the end of this book I wondered how the author could pull it off without disrupting the flow of the story, I was not disappointed it was a fitting end.  Written with authentic and believable reactions this emotional book is a reminder that we aren't guaranteed tomorrow, love today, enjoy life because you never know what the future holds.