Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: The House by the Lake by Ella Carey

Anna is content with her well-ordered life in San Francisco. But her world is turned upside down when her beloved grandfather, Max, reveals a startling secret: Anna is part of an aristocratic family who lost everything during World War II. What’s more, Max was forced to leave behind a precious item over seventy years ago in their estate in old Prussia. It’s now his ardent wish that Anna retrieve it.

Anna burns with questions as she heads for Germany: What memento could be so important to her grandfather? And why did he keep their history hidden? As she searches for answers, she finds herself drawn to Wil, a man who may hold the key to unlock the mystery. Together they discover that her family’s secrets are linked with an abandoned apartment in Paris, and these secrets go deeper than she ever imagined.

Alternating between 1930s Europe and the present, The House by the Lake illuminates the destiny of a family caught in the tumult of history.

Kindle Edition234 pages 
Published March 29th 2016
Lake Union Publishing

I really enjoyed reading Ella Carey's debut, Paris Time Capsule last year.  Though I can't seem to discover info suggesting that this (The House by the Lake) is part of a series, I feel like it is. Where Paris Time Capsule focused on the discovery of the apartment, this one looks at the apartment from a different angle.

Jumping between present day and the dawn of WW II, the author has yet again treated me to an interesting and unique background story to the history of said apartment. Anna's grandfather Max is in both time periods adding the elements to make this an interesting and captivating read.

My interest was mostly in the apartment, so the present day plot wasn't my favorite part.  It kept my attention but was a little too neat and tidy for me.  The past story line was intriguing, it was about trust, loyalty and friendship in a time period that was turning volatile.  In the years before WW II the author shows a clear picture of its effect on citizens of Europe, not German.

Though this one could be read as a stand alone I do recommend Paris Time Capsule.  Thank you for Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for an ARC.


Ella Carey is a writer and Francophile who claims Paris as her second home. Her first book is Paris Time Capsule, and her work has been published in the Review of Australian Fiction. She lives in Australia with her two children and two Italian greyhounds.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: Loving Eleanor By Susan Wittig Albert (plus tour wide giveaway)

02_Loving Eleanor
When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the wife of the 1932 Democratic presidential candidate, the two women become deeply, intimately involved. 

Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship that ends only with both women's deaths in the 1960s—all of it documented by 3300 letters exchanged over thirty years. 

 Now, New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert recreates the fascinating story of Hick and Eleanor, set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War. Loving Eleanor is Hick's personal story, revealing Eleanor as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation's First Lady, as well as by a compelling need to care and be cared for. For her part, Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life.

 Drawing on extensive research in the letters that were sealed for a decade following Hick's death, Albert creates a compelling narrative: a dramatic love story, vividly portraying two strikingly unconventional women, neither of whom is satisfied to live according to the script society has written for her. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see and celebrates the depth and durability of women's love.

Publication Date: February 1, 2016
Persevero Press; Thorndike (Large Print)
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Large Print
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction
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This is my second book by Susan Wittig Albert, the first was A Wilder Rose (click for review). As with A Wilder Rose, Loving Eleanor was an easy book to get lost in.

 As you can read from the synopsis above Loving Eleanor is told from the point of view of Hick, friend and reporter.  This is the story of Hick in which Eleanor Roosevelt plays a key role.  There isn't anything really political taking place in this book but rather it's about friendship, forbidden love and living with the public watching your every move.

Hick was a strong woman who endured much to make it as a reporter.  The author captured that fully as well as her compassion and drive.  I never knew about this 'friendship' with Eleanor, I found it entertaining and educational at the same time.

While I remind myself that this is historical fiction the author has based this book on letters held in FDR's library.  The author's notes are extensive and I enjoyed reading them as much as the story.

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03_Susan Wittig AlbertSusan Wittig Albert is the award-winning, NYT bestselling author of the forthcoming historical novel Loving Eleanor (2016), about the intimate friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok; and A Wilder Rose (2014), about Rose Wilder Lane and the writing of the Little House books. 

Her award-winning fiction also includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Darling Dahlias, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.

 She has written two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place, published by the University of Texas Press. Her nonfiction titles include What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (winner of the 2009 Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction); Writing from Life: Telling the Soul's Story; and Work of Her Own: A Woman's Guide to Success Off the Career Track. She is founder and current president (2015-2017) of the Story Circle Network and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

 For more information please visit and, or read her blog. You can also find Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Like the Loving Eleanor page on Facebook.

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Three copies of Loving Eleanor by Sisan Wittig Albert are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form below.

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  Loving Eleanor

Friday, May 27, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: Béla's Letters by Jeff Ingber

02_Béla’s Letters
“Béla’s Letters” is a historical fiction novel spanning eight decades.

 It revolves around the remarkable life story of Béla Ingber, who was born before the onset of WWI in Munkács, a small city nestled in the Carpathian Mountains. The book tells of the struggles of Béla and his extended family to comprehend and prepare for the Holocaust, the implausible circumstances that the survivors endure before reuniting in the New World, and the crushing impact on them of their wartime experiences together with the feelings of guilt, hatred, fear, and abandonment that haunt them. At the core of the novel are the poignant letters and postcards that family members wrote to Béla, undeterred by the feasibility of delivery, which were his lifeline, even decades after the war ended.

Publication Date: February 18, 2016
Paperback; 596 Pages
ISBN: 978-0985410025

Genre: Historical Fiction

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03_Jeff IngberJeff is a financial industry consultant, who previously held senior positions at Citibank, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation. His latest book is "Bela's Letters," a family memoir based on his parents, who were survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust. Jeff also has written a screenplay entitled "The Bank Examiners." He lives with his wife in Jersey City, NJ.

For more information visit Jeff Ingber's website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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To win a copy of Béla's Letters please enter using the GLEAM form below.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 4th. 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.

Béla's Letters

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review & Giveaway: Promised to the Crown (Daughters of New France, Book One) by Aimie K. Runyan

02_Promised to the Crown

Bound for a new continent, and a new beginning.

In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony. They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens.

 Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness. Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

An engaging, engrossing debut.”—Greer Macallister, USA Today bestselling author of The Magician’s Lie
An absorbing adventure with heart.”—Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Paperback & eBook; 352 Pages
Series: Daughters of New France
Genre: Historical Fiction
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I am happy to be part of this tour of Promised to the Crown.  Being Canadian I am always on the lookout for historical fiction taking place in this beautiful country.  It's sometimes hard to find and this being the first in series means more to come.  This is Aimie K. Runyan's debut and I feel she is off to a really good start.  

Following the lives of 3 young women, Elizabeth, Nicole and Rose, all with different backgrounds and various reasons for going to Canada.  The author kept my attention throughout this book, she didn't sugar coat the crossing or the struggles these women faces in making decisions.  It wasn't hard to get to know them, feel their plight and sympathize with what life throws at them.

I found this book to be character driven and it would have been nice to learn more about the culture, lifestyle and see more interaction with the natives.  But then again this is the first in series so we'll see what comes next.  I still ended up giving this book 4 stars, being captivated in this story it was hard to put down and I am interested in the next chapter.

One of the things that stood out for me was the author's passion and desire to share this time period. Love author's notes!

"My purpose is not to depict these women as angels.  They were not.  They were real women with struggles, aspirations, and fears, who had the remarkable opportunity to help found a nation.  If they had a common virtue, it was bravery.  They left a prosperous, flourishing France, sacrificing all they had, with little chance of return, in order to marry strangers and raise families on a foreign and often dangerous frontier."

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

03_Aimie K. RunyanAimie K. Runyan, member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association, has been an avid student of French and Francophone Studies for more than fifteen years. While working on her Master's thesis on the brave women who helped found French Canada, she was fortunate enough to win a generous grant from the Quebec government to study onsite for three months which enabled the detailed research necessary for her work. Aimie lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.

 For more information please visit Aimie's website.

 You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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Two copies of Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan are up for grabs!

To enter, please use the GLEAM form below.

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  Promised to the Crown

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: Alice in Bed by Judith Hooper

One of her brothers is the greatest English novelist of his time; another is inventing American psychology.

The James family is famous in Boston and New York for its brilliance, eccentricity, and mesmerizing conversation. Alice James is no less remarkable than her brothers (Henry and William), but there is a problem: she is a girl. Her education has been haphazard, there are no colleges for women, and young ladies are expected to be Angels in the House. No one could be less suited to angelic domesticity than the tart-tongued, defiantly original Alice. She must chart her own course, but how?

Falling mysteriously ill while crossing the Atlantic at age 38, she becomes confined to her bed in a lodging house in provincial England. Thus begins her second life, when she recalls or redreams her life and struggles to make sense of it. How did her collapse begin? Was it “Father’s Ideas”? The night she drank absinthe and fell in love with a girl? The time William went to the asylum? The childhood years in Paris, when Father fired each of her governesses in turn? Was it the horrors of the Civil War, the erotic relations with the Temple cousins, the day Henry deserted her and sailed to Europe? Was it simply the oddness of “growing up James”?

Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.

Hardcover, 325 pages 
Published October 13th 2015 by Counterpoint

Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness.

She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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I have an extra print copy up for grabs as well as one digitial copy.  Please note print copy mailed in Canada & US only.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Review and Giveaway: Portrait of Conspiracy: Da Vinci's Disciples - Book One by Donna Russo Morin

02_The Portrait of Conspiracy
One murder ignites the powderkeg that threatens to consume the Medici's Florence.

 Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place. 

Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins a series of Da Vinci's disciples with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant.

"A riveting page-turner unlike any historical novel you’ve read, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition into the first of a trilogy by a masterful writer at the peak of her craft." -C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de’ Medici and The Vatican Princess

Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Diversion Books
eBook & Paperback; 290 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
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"Together, there is not a greater power than the strength of women bound to each other."
Donna Russo Morin is a relatively new author to me.  I enjoyed her book The King's Agent and felt privileged to have meet her last June in Denver (we talked about tattoo's,) and sadly I didn't grab a picture together.  I was super excited to hear she had a new book coming out.  Thank you to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and Netgalley for an arc for review purposes.  

Portrait of Conspiracy takes place in one of my favorite countries, Italy during the time of Leonardo Da Vinci,  a man I know little about.  He doesn't take center stage here but offers a supporting role to a group of women artists. Not your ordinary group of women, it's a secret group reflecting the times when women weren't suppose to follow their own ambitions.  But when 2 witness the brutal murder of Giuliano de Medici and another suddenly disappears their bond further tightens. 

There was so much I enjoyed with this book. The character development made me connect with these women, to hear about their lives and get a great feel for the time period, landscape and life styles. 

 The story line was unique, though much was based on historical fact and I loved how the author laid that out in her 'What is Historically Factual and What is Not' chapter.  From the mysterious painting, the horrors of  Lorenzo de Medici's revenge to forbidden love this book kept me entertaining and longing for more.

The is the first book in Da Dinci's Disciples and I can't wait to hear what is next on the plate for this group of artist. 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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

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


To enter to win an eBook of PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY by Donne Russo Morin please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. FIVE copies are up for grabs!

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 3rd. 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.

  Portrait of a Conspiracy

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: The Dark Lady's Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare's Muse by Mary Sharratt

02_The Dark Lady's Mask
Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

 London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

 Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

 The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Mary Sharratt is a relatively new author to me.  I loved her book Illuminations and eagerly looked forward to this one.  I was not disappointed at all.

 What I loved about The Dark Lady's Mask is that even though Shakespeare is a big part of this story he doesn't take center stage.  As you can read above Aemilia is an interesting character and the author made this an interesting and unique story.  Mary Skarratt breathed life to a little known historical character.  Though there isn't much actual details about her life the author made this one authentic reflecting the location and time period nicely.

The authors writing style made it easy to get lost here, I could feel Aemilia's frustrations, struggles as well as visualize so much.  Definitely a story I highly recommend.

Advance Praise

“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may — or may not — be Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.” — MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady’s Mask is a gem not to be missed.” — LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!” — M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

03_Mary Sharratt
MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. 

The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

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