Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: Novel Destinations

Follow in the footsteps of much-loved authors, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, and many more.

 For vacationers who crave meaningful trips and unusual locales, cue National Geographic's Novel Destinations—a guide for bibliophiles to more than 500 literary sites across the United States and Europe.

Check into Hemingway's favorite hotel in Sun Valley, or stroll about Bath's Royal Crescent while entertaining fantasies of Lizzie Bennett and her Mr. Darcy.

The fully revised second edition includes all of the previous sites—with updated locations—plus color images and an expanded section on all things Brontë.

The book begins with thematic chapters covering author houses and museums, literary festivals and walking tours. Then, in-depth explorations of authors and places take readers roaming Franz Kafka's Prague, James Joyce's Dublin, Louisa May Alcott's New England, and other locales.

Peppered with great reading suggestions and little-known tales of literary gossip, Novel Destinations is a unique travel guide, an attractive gift book, and the ultimate bibliophile's delight.

• Hardcover: 392 pages 
• Publisher: National Geographic
   
****

I love to travel and when I do I am always on the lookout for anything bookish to check out. Whether it's bookstores, museums or local hangouts of authors, I scour the net before leaving. I jumped at the chance to review this book, it's exactly what I am interested in and everything is in one neat package. Now it's a little big to take along but it is great for planning. Novel Destinations is also great to sit back and browse, not just to get ideas and plan your next great adventure but for curiosity's sake as well.

Divided into 2 parts with Travel by the Book: the best literary experiences at home and abroad being the first one. 
     Chapter headings like: Read 'Em and See: Author Houses
                                         Museums, Literary Festivals, Tours and More
                                         Booked Up: Literary Places to Drink, Dine and Doze
...just to name a few.

Part Two: Journeys between the Pages - the pages of literature come to life in the following 11 locales immortalized by famed novelists. These locations are mainly in Europe and the east coast of the US (and one stop in California).  All of them are authors that I have heard of but some I've never read. Reading about their story, seeing pictures of the places they would hang out has peaked my interest. From The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne) to A Sacred Place (Victor Hugo) and 9 more famous authors this book was insightful and a nice glimpse into their lives.  

Part of me feels that I liked Part Two better just because of the opportunity to get to know new authors better and see their background but then Part One journeys to museums, coffee shops and other places to visit and walk in their footsteps.  Each section was unique and interesting.

Thank you to TLC Tours for the opportunity to review this one.


Purchase Links


National Geographic StoreAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Shannon McKenna Schmidt is the co-author with Joni Rendon of Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads.

She has written for Arrive, National Geographic Traveler, Shelf Awareness, Gothamist.com, and other publications and websites. A former Hoboken, New Jersey, resident, she is traveling full-time in the United States and abroad and can be found on the web at EverywhereOnce.com and NovelDestinations.wordpress.com.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Coming Soon: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is a favorite of mine and come this fall she has a new book out.

From perennial bestseller Diane Chamberlain, a compelling new novel  


Hardcover, 384 pages 
Expected publication: October 3rd 2017
 by St. Martin's Press

In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

 The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

 When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: Evergreen Falls by Kimberley Freeman


From internationally bestselling author Kimberley Freeman comes a captivating new novel about a scandalous attraction, a long-forgotten secret, and a place where two women’s lives are changed forever. 

It’s 1926 and Violet Armstrong is a waitress at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel, where Australia’s glitterati are spending a winter vacation. Among the guests who remain are Sam and Flora Honeychurch-Blacks, a wealthy brother and sister ensconced in the hotel for an extended stay. Violet and Sam have an attraction that is as passionate as it is forbidden as the hotel closes down for the winter season. When a snowstorm moves in, trapping them all, no one could have imagined what would unfold. The group must let their secrets be buried by the snow, but all snow melts, exposing the truth beneath…

Eighty-eight years later, Lauren Beck takes a job at a café in the Blue Mountains, built as the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s return to grandeur. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect overseeing the project. As their budding relationship grows, Lauren discovers a series of passionate love letters dating back to 1926 that allude to a whirlwind affair—and a tragic secret. Lauren begins to unravel this long-forgotten mystery, but will discovering the truth finally make her brave enough to take a risk that could change her entire life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, Kimberley Freeman has created a complex tale of mystery, heartbreak, and love that will keep you guessing with every twist until the very last page.

 Paperback, 416 pages 
Published August 4th 2015 
by Touchstone
**** 1/2

I discovered Kimberly Freeman on my search for Australian authors. Previously I have read her book Wildflower Hill in the audio format. The reader did a great job with that book and I was hoping that more of her works would be available in that format, sadly that is the only one. I took the plunge with Evergreen Falls hoping it would yield the same results.

I love books that have dual time periods, the ones that have a common denominator connecting the two time periods. With Evergreen Falls the connecting thread is the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel. Beginning in 1926, with a prologue that sucked me right in, to present day, as this once magnificent hotel is being returned to its former glory days. Usually with these type of books I find myself favoring one storyline over the other, but with Evergreen Falls I found myself immersed in both of them though more time seems to be focussed on the past.

While there was some predictability to this book it did not take away from my enjoyment as I found the authors writing style kept me reading. This was atmospheric in that I could get a real sense of this hotel, those it caters to and the staff, feeling the hostility, prejudice and natural elements that all played a strong role here.

I enjoyed watching the transformation of both Violet and Lauren, both growing up with overbearing parents, confused about their place in the world.  They make mistakes  and are forced to deal with what life throws at them, both realistic and believable.

Kimberly Freeman is definitely an author I will continue to read and recommend. My copy of this book is from my personal library and part of my '2017 read from my TPR pile' challenge.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Review/Giveaway: Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

 
 Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. 

It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

"The writing is impeccable. The story has everything. Under the Approaching Dark is just perfect in every sense" - Sharon Bennett Connolly, History The Interesting Bits

Publication Date: April 28, 2017 
Matador eBook & 
Paperback; 424 Pages 
Genre: Historical Fiction
*****
I don't think it's a secret that I have been a fan of this author since reading her Graham Saga and I am equally enamoured with The King's Greatest Enemy Series.. Under the Approaching Dark is book three in this series and though you can read as a standalone I highly recommend going back to the beginning with In The Shadow of the Storm as well as Days of Sun and Glory - trust me you won't be disappointed.

The year is 1327, it's a time that I am unfamiliar with making my reading all the more enjoyable as I have no idea what will take place. So I get my dose of entertainment at the same time as being educated . The synopsis above does a great job with the storyline and as usual I will not add to it. Suffice to say my only disappointment with this series is that Adam and Kit are fictional characters. I would've loved for them to be real. They are put in the middle of real historical events with real historical figures bringing history to life. 

It is evident the author has done her research not just with this book but with the series. With her attention to detail and her superb descriptive writing I didn't just read the story but I felt it as well. England is in turmoil, a young King is on the throne (before his time) as his father sits in prison and to add more drama the Queen has taken a lover and not just any man but her husband's greatest enemy.  It isn't just the country but those around the court who wait and see what takes place next. 

Under the Approaching Dark is not just a political story, it is full of tension, uncertainty, bloodshed, and no Anna Belfrage is complete without romance.  Her writing style always draws me in, not just with a story I find entertaining but a pose that makes me appreciate her talent as a writer.

Definitely a series and author I highly recommend.


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Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she's multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer - or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveler, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive… For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she's still there.

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.

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

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Giveaway


To win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 30th. 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.

  Under the Appraoching Dark


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spotlight: The Hidden Thread by Liz Trenow

Today I had planned on reviewing this book, but life just got in the way and I haven't had a chance to finish it yet.  Instead I will showcase The Hidden Thread which released on May 1st, 2017.


The Hidden Thread is a breathtaking novel about the intricate craft of silk and the heartbreak of forbidden love. 



Paperback, 384 pages
 Published May 1st 2017 
by Sourcebooks Landmark

When Anna Butterfield's mother dies, she's sent to live with her uncle, a silk merchant in London, to make a good match and provide for her father and sister.

A chance encounter with a local silk weaver, French immigrant Henri, throws her from her privileged upbringing to the darker, dangerous world of London's silk trade. Henri is working on his 'master piece' to make his name as a master silk weaver; Anna meanwhile is struggling against the constraints of her family and longing to become an artist. Henri realizes that Anna's designs could lift his work above the ordinary, and give them both an opportunity for freedom . . .

This is a charming story of illicit romance, set against the world of the burgeoning silk trade in 18th century Spitalfields - a time of religious persecution, mass migration, racial tension and wage riots, and ideas of what was considered 'proper' for women.

 New York Times bestselling author Liz Trenow weaves a luminous tale of class struggle and star-crossed love.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

 Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

 In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

 Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.

 Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

Paperback, 356 pages
 Published March 2017 
by HarperCollins Christian Publishing
***


I think it was the cover for this book that drew me towards it, isn't it gorgeous!? As well as being introduced to a new to me author - who doesn't love discovering a new author?

Wren Lockhart is a fictional apprentice of Harry Houdini. Although this book takes place after his death there are flashbacks to her time with him. The synopsis does a great job outlining the plot here so I won't go into what takes place. This book doesn't just jump back and forth in time between Houdini and the present (1927) but also to Wren's childhood.

The author was able to describe Boston and the vaudeville era nicely as well as some of the illusionist details. This was an interesting read but I will confess that I wasn't totally enamored with the mystery part here. It didn't really grab my attention and at times my mind wandered.  With many 4/5 star ratings here it seems like I am in minority here.

I am giving this book 3 stars because I did like it and will read more by this author (they are patiently waiting on my kindle).  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the invite to be part of this tour.



 Amazon | Apple/iBooks | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller.

Her debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, was named to Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014 and nominated for RT Book Reviews’ Choice Awards Best Inspirational Novel of 2014 and for the 2015 INSPY Awards for Best Debut Novel. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal’s Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction) for February 2015 and a Top Pick for RT Book Reviews.

Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three young sons.


Connect with Kristy

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

You never know what's happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn't want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn't stand her crying.

 Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door.

 You'll have the baby monitor and you'll take it in turns to go back every half hour. Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last.

But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She's gone.

 You've never had to call the police before. But now they're in your home, and who knows what they'll find there. What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

Paperback, 308 pages
 Published August 23rd 2016 
by Pamela Dorman Books
****
I try not to let myself get caught up in the hype these days of the suspense thriller type books that seem to be everywhere. I read one and wasn't overly impressed so when new books come out that say 'hey if you read that book you would really enjoy this one'. I found The Couple Next Door  at a thrift shop for a cheap price, it has been sitting on top of my TBR, which I really need to clean out so I grabbed it and started reading.

I had a hard time putting it down, maybe because a missing baby took center stage and my curiosity was peaked as to what happened. I put on my sleuth hat, got the magnifying glasses out and set about looking for clues, seeing how long it would take to unravel this mystery. There are many twists and turns throughout this book, which I found to be very plot driven and will admit that I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Anne would've been the only one that I really felt any empathy for, as a mother I can only imagine what she was going through when her baby mysteriously disappears.

It was a satisfying ending, while I will admit I'm still trying to process the last chapter and not sure how I feel about that one yet. I still have a couple questions that were never resolved. If you're curious about what they are you can check out my Goodreads review where I can use a spoiler button.

All in all a quick and entertaining read that would be perfect for the beach, but be warned once you start it will be hard to put down.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Review: The Mourning Ring by Sarah Parke

 Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Bronte lives to tell stories. She longs to improve her fortunes through her writing. Charlotte’s father expects her to leave behind her childish fantasies in order to set an example for her three younger siblings.

 But the Bronte children hold a secret in their veins—a smidgen of fairy blood that can bring their words to life.

 When Charlotte discovers that the characters from their childish stories exist in an alternate world called Glass Town, she jumps at the opportunity to be the heroine of her own tale.

 The city of Angria teeters on the brink of civil war and Charlotte and her siblings must use their magic and their wits to save its people from a tyrant with magic abilities. But entering the fictional world means forfeiting control of their own creations. If they fail, the characters they have come to know and love will be destroyed.

 Charlotte is determined to save the city and characters she loves, but when the line between creator and character becomes blurred, will she choose her fantasy or her family?

Publication Date: October 10, 2016 
CreateSpace eBook & Paperback; 350 Pages 
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fantasy
    
   READ AN EXCERPT
****

The Mourning Ring is not your average book about Charlotte Bronte.  I will be totally honest here and say I have never read any books written by a Bronte, it isn't for lack of desire but rather lack of time.  I jumped at the chance to review this one and my sincere apologies for being late with my review.  

Charlotte Bronte is only 16 years old returning home from school. Stories are not just in her blood but her siblings as well, together they have created the world of Glass Town.   This wasn't your average magical adventure but rather a story of deception, intrigue and kinda whimsically.  I was drawn in with rich descriptions and a story both captivating and a wonderful introduction to the Bronte's.

The synopsis above gives a wonderful description of this book and for fear of giving away any part of this charming story I won't say too much.  Angria is a creation of the Bronte's and they face a terrible dilemma now.  The author's writing style was engaging and a pleasure to read.

The Mourning Ring is a solid debut by Sarah Parke, it is a great mix of historical fiction, adventure and fantasy. Targeted for a young adult audience, I quite enjoyed it.

Thank you to HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour, I love discovering new authors that I might have missed otherwise.

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Sarah Parke writes fantasy and historical fiction (sometimes at the same time) for young adult readers and those young at heart. She has a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA program. Her work has been published internationally, most recently in the July 2015 issue of The Writer magazine.

For more information, please visit Sarah Parke's website.

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


Friday, May 5, 2017

Review: The Fisherman's Bride by Catherine Magia

She has no name. She is not even a footnote. Her tale is hidden behind the well-told fable of her husband, the man who would become Simon Peter, the first Apostle.

 Cast off by her family after shunning a wealthy suitor to marry a humble fisherman, her life is fraught with hardship. She endures her husband’s growing restlessness, fish shortages from the Sea of Galilee, and the oppression of an all-powerful Roman Empire over her people. Then her life is forever changed when her dying mother is saved by a miracle performed by a young carpenter—a man who speaks with understanding and acts with compassion. A man who can inspire the extraordinary.

 Simon Peter lives on in history as the undaunted martyr of the carpenter. This is the untold story of his young bride. Her journey traverses villages and deserts, love and tradition, and a brewing revolution, to an awakening of faith that challenges everything she has ever known.

Publication Date: November 2, 2016
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC, CreateSpace
Kindle & Paperback; 240 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biblical Fiction/Christian Literature

****

The Fisherman's Bride is a relatively quick read, coming in at 240 pages but there is a lot packed into this little gem.  I was excited to be part of this tour as I love reading fiction with Biblical settings.  There is also that little bit of apprehension wondering if the author can make the book authentic and believable in a small amount of pages.  I am happy to say that Catherine Magia did a great job with this story.  Not only breathing life into a young woman that isn't mentioned in the Bible but also the early years of Simon Peter's life.

One of the things I really enjoyed reading was the detailed lifestyle of the times, the struggles between social classes and vivid descriptions of the land.  Written from the POV of Peter's wife (she is never named) it wasn't hard to connect and feel the struggles she encounters when she goes against her father's wishes in whom to marry.  Life is hard enough in this land and then to feel the repercussion when married to a follower of Christ takes its toll on this young woman.

 There were times I would have loved a little more depth in various situations and felt the book could have been longer, but all in all a solid debut with a sequel in the works.

Thank you to HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and an ebook copy.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


Catherine Magia was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to New Jersey as a teenager. Although her formal education was in the hard sciences, Catherine has always maintained a passion for the written word, publishing her poetry in several literary journals including the Michigan Quarterly Review. She discovered the voice of Simon Peter's wife on a soul-searching journey, a trek through the biblical lands of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. She spent seven years researching and writing her debut novel, traveling as far as Ephesus, Turkey.

 She is working on her second book - the conclusion to The Fisherman's Bride. By day, she works as an associate director of marketing research in the development of new cancer medications. She is currently based in Boston.

 For more information please visit Catherine Magia's website and blog.



Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken...

 Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

 But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

 An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

 Paperback, 368 pages
 Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 
by Berkley Books
*****

I know this is not the way to start a book review, but I have one pet peeve in regards to getting ARC copies and that is when it comes as a PDF, usually I am able read on my Kindle but a PDF means I would have to read on my iPad and I don't like doing that. My iPad is a regular sized one so it is larger than my Kindle and I just love my Kindle. Why am I saying this? Basically once I started reading All the Best People I didn't even realize where I was reading it, I was so absorbed in the story that my dislike for this reading app totally vanished. Any author that can do that totally deserves five stars.

This book centers around the lives of two women and a young girl but also jumps back in time to give the reader the background story of their mother/grandmother.

I loved the author's writing style right from the beginning and knew I was in for a real treat.  She created characters with depth, I was able to get to know them, feel their frustration, anxiety, fears and what makes them tick. Through reading with the various POV's and dealing with a subject matter of mental illness the author wrote with empathy, realism and did not hold back on the emotional level. She made me feel the frustration, defeat and determination of the various characters. We are talking both in the depression era as well as 1972 when dealing with mental illness was so different from today, showing the amount of research the author did to get it right.

All the Best People is a story of survival, heartache, love and support, it's one that will stay with me. This is my first book by Sonya Yoerg and I am a new fan on the search for more of her books. Definitely a book I highly recommend.

I was provided with a ARC through Penguin's First to Read program. Opinions are my own.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spotlight: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

 A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

 Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

 Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Publication Date: May 16, 2017 
Nan A. Talese Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages 
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary
   

    READ AN EXCERPT

Available for Pre-Order at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell's


Praise for Lilli de Jong


 “A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

 “Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

 “A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

 “Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

 “[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

 “A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist “I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It's not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it's also important . . . Lilli's life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

 “Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

 “A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions


Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton's website for more information and updates.

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

 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Hardcover, 352 pages 
Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by Atria Books
****

Lisa Jewell is a new author to me, I've heard nothing but good things about her books - full of suspense and intrigue.  I jumped at the chance when netgalley promoted I Found You.  Right from the beginning I was captivated with 2 different storylines and a jump back to 1993 kept me reading.

The synopsis outlines the story nicely, the characters were interesting, flawed and somewhat believable.  That being said I would have loved to know more about Alice, while I was given snippets of her background I had more questions about why she seemed so desperate for love. Same thing with Lily, while I could understand her situation she seemed to change into a different person once she meets Alice and Frank and I didn't really feel the progression taking place.

As the story unfolded I had a hard time putting my kindle down.  The mystery surrounding 'Frank' is what kept me going especially as the back story started to take shape.  While I thought I had solved the mystery it twisted and turned around.  It was after Frank's past was revealed and the mystery solved that it floundered for me.  While the last pages brought closure it wasn't done in a matter that appealed to me.  It almost seemed rush and didn't match the smooth flow this book had.

Why am I giving this book 4 stars if I had a few issues?  Because I did enjoy reading it (only took 2 days) the author created a mysterious setting that had me wanting to find out what was going on.  I would recommend this one and read more by this author.

Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

In present-day Boston, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Russian ballet, has decided to auction her jewellery collection and donate the proceeds to the Boston Ballet Foundation. It is a mysterious gesture that has piqued the interest of two particular individuals: a rising associate director at the auction house, Drew Brooks, who seeks to unravel the provenance of the pieces; and a professor and Russian translator at the nearby university, Grigori Solodin, who believes the jewels might hold the key to his past.

The stakes are raised when an anonymous individual donates a necklace that perfectly matches the bracelet and earrings in Nina’s collection, claiming the pieces belong together. It is this donation that will bring Drew and Grigori together in unexpected ways to uncover the story behind Nina’s fabulous jewels—a bounty said to have been smuggled out of Stalinist Russia when she defected from the country in the early 1950s.

It was there, in Russia, that Nina first learned to dance, fell in love with the handsome poet Viktor Elsin, and struggled with the choice to pursue her craft or begin a family. Nina and her circle of free-thinking artist friends lived in constant fear of Stalin’s disapproval, of arrest and torture by the secret police for unpatriotic behaviour and so-called crimes against the state. Yet when their circle was broken by just such an arrest, a devastating misunderstanding parted the four friends and lovers forever.

Paperback, 560 pages 
Published March 28th 2017 
by HarperCollins Publishers
*****

Daphne Kalotay a new author to me and for reasons unknown I rarely venture into Russian HF.  Not totally sure why that is, maybe because it's such a vast country and I don't really know where to start.

Russian Winter tells the story of Nina a Russian ballerina who defects to America in the 1950's.  The author detailed what life was life, starting as a young girl taking her first dance steps. The era was vivid with a writing style that had me feeling and absorbing the life style as well as her struggles and frustrations.

In present day Nina is aged, wheelchair bound and ready to auction of pieces of her past. Alternating between 3 different characters, Nina, Grigori and Drew the reader is given a broader view of not just the past but the repercussions decades later.

The mystery surrounding the amber necklace was interesting, where I though to have solved it myself, it's always nice when it twists and turns in a different direction.

The author wrote in a lyrical and mesmerizing way that had me captives.  I found myself enjoying my time spend reading this book.  It wasn't one I rushed through but rather savoured the journey.  Definitely a book I highly recommend and an author I will read more of.

Thanks to TLC Tours for The opportunity to review this book.








Thank you to TLC Tours for the opportunity to review this book and a print copy.


Goodreads

 Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon

 Author Links: website and Facebook

Friday, April 7, 2017

Review: The Shadow Sister (The Seven Sisters #3) by Lucinda Riley

Travel through the lush English countryside and explore the magnificent estates of the British aristocracy in this next spellbinding love story in The Seven Sisters series by #1 internationally bestselling author Lucinda Riley.

Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter—when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life...

As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

The Shadow Sister is the third in the sweeping Seven Sisters series, “soaked in glamour and romance” (Daily Mail) and perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and the novels of Kate Morton.

Kindle Edition, 528 pages 
Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by Atria Books
****
This is book three in The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley. It's one of the books I have been anxiously waiting to read, Star and her sister CeCe have such a tight relationship that it has made me very curious about their story and why they are so close. Actually it isn't that they are so close it almost feels like they cannot function without each other.

This is Star's side of the story (so far) and I enjoyed watching her take on the quest to discover her past.  Her search begins in an old bookstore in London which was a great place to start and made the story all the more endearing. Sometimes stepping out of her comfort zone can be scary but when the desire is so strong she does what needs to be done.  I loved where the author took Star. 

The past story deals with Flora and as usual it's always the part I enjoy most. Maybe it's just because I am a sucker for that time period, I love reading about high society and their way of life. Though Beatrix Potter does not have a huge role in this book her inclusion developed  Flora's character and made me want to read her books, I can envision the setting where she wrote them with the wide arrangement of critters about. 

I will be honest when I say I had reservations when this series began wondering how the author could pull off seven unique story's for seven totally different sisters and bring something new and fresh with each one. But she has managed to do quite nicely.  I am reading the series in order keeping my fingers crossed that Cece's story will be the next one, after getting a better look at her character I am really curious about her background and what makes her really tick.

Thank you to Atria Books (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.



Lucinda Riley is the #1 internationally bestselling author of sixteen novels, including The Seven Sisters and The Storm Sister. Her books have sold more than eight million copies in thirty four languages.

Lucinda lives with her husband and four children on the North Norfolk coast in England and West Cork, Ireland.

Visit her online at LucindaRiley.com. 






Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham

An enchanting and poignant story about the unfailing power of love in a world turned upside down by war—from the bestselling author of Tides of Honour.

Summer 1755, Acadia Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.

Paperback, 336 pages 
Published April 4th 2017 by Simon & Schuster
*****

Genevieve Graham is a new author to me and she is Canadian to boot.  Anyone who knows me knows that I get excited while discovering not just new authors from this great country but when the subject matter is Canadian history too.  Canada is a great country with rich history and I'm always on the lookout for historical fiction taking place here and sadly they are hard to find, especially going back to the time period Promises to Keep deals with.

It's 1755 in Acadia (present day Nova Scotia) and even though Amelie and Connor are fictional characters what takes place is right out of the history books.  I had no idea that something like the Acadian Expulsion could and did in fact take place.  Believe me when I say I was googling as soon as I turned the last page. 

The author painted an idyllic picture of what life was like for the Acadian's.  Content in their way of life it wasn't hard to visualize the landscape with the vivid descriptions as well as their way of life. They are content until the British showed up.  The author made me feel for the Acadians.  As life turns I could feel the despair and heartache. While this book doesn't just stay in one place the Canadian wilderness is vast and at times unforgiving.

Both Amelie and Connor are unique, interesting and fully developed characters. Watching the relationship blossom as each struggles with their own personal convictions brought this story to life. 

I won't go into detail about what takes place here, having enjoyed the ride myself I would not want to spoil it for anyone else. This book kept me captivated and it's one I highly recommend to those that love their historical fiction with history off the beaten path.



Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  













Monday, April 3, 2017

Audio Review: A Place Beyond Courage (William Marshal #1) by Elizabeth Chadwick

Sometimes Keeping Your Honor Means Breaking Your Word 

The early twelfth century is a time for ambitious men to prosper. John FitzGilbert is a man of honor and loyalty, sworn to royal service. When the old king dies, his successor rewards the handsome and ambitious John with castles and lands.

But King Stephen has a tenuous hold on both his reign and his barons, and when jealous rivals at court seek to destroy John, he backs a woman's claim to the crown, sacrifices his marriage, and eventually is forced to make a gamble that is perhaps one step too far.





545 pages 
Published September 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark
 (first published October 4th 2007)
audiobook  16 hours and 31 minutes
*****


I was first introduced to John FitzGilbert the Marshall and always wondered who this man was that gave the famous 'anvil and hammer' speech. If you are not familiar with it I won't recite as it would be a spoiler for this book.  Suffice to say his reputation was greatly tarnished because of it.  

The year is 1130 when King Henry I is on the throne, but not for long, England is about to enter a dark period in history since the King dies with no male heir.  As the battle for the crown ensues John FitzGilbert's story comes to life.  He needs a wife and heirs himself while at the same time John must also decide who to support, the usurper Stephen or the King's daughter Matilda. I loved the way John's character was portrayed here, I got to know him, feel his drive, struggles and understand his motivation.  It was a dangerous time and one had to be careful with each move you made, decisions had to be made with little time to think and the consequences could be deadly.

The reading world is dominated with female protagonists and this book is a refreshing change.  It just goes to show that you can still get a great story with all the some elements as with a female lead - action, romance, political intrigue and be thoroughly entertained.  

Elizabeth Chadwick is a favorite of mine, her writing seems to revolve around this time period and it's one I enjoy reading.  She brings history to life with interesting research methods that bring forth books that I find captivating and I can't help but get immersed.  The author notes goes into detail about her motivation for writing this book and other facts in history about John and the times.

This was an audio read for me, Peter Wickham is the reader and he does a great job.

I highly recommend this one to those that love a romp through Medieval England.



I received a physical copy of this book from Sourcebooks but the audio version is from my personal library.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Review & Giveaway: The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

enemies-of-versailles

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy,

Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

March 21, 2017 at 
416 pages 
****

Here we are at the end of another favorite trilogy. And what an ending it is. Because each book deals with different mistresses of the king they can be read as standalone but I highly recommend starting at the beginning with The Sisters of Versailles, which I think is my favorite in the series. The Rivals of Versailles is Book #2, click on titles to take you to my review.

Jeanne Becu is a young child only seven years old when we first meet her. She will spend the next 10 years in a convent, but it is while working in dress shops that her life takes an about face after Comte du Berry walks in. She will become the last Mistress of Louis the XV, life isn't boring, how can it be in the French court?

Plus being hated by the King's own daughters doesn't help. Alternating chapters with Princess Adelaide, never married and obsessed with hating Jeanne she managed to convince others to do so also.  Born into privilege with every advantage she wastes it. Knowing the king always had mistresses, but this one is of such low birth, her religious upbringing and judgmental attitude take over her life. There is so much in life she is missing out on that I actually felt sorry for her.

I love the authors writing style, her words took me to France, I could feel the hostility between these two women as they both just wanted to make the king enjoy his final years of life. I love reading about strong women in history, especially ones I am unfamiliar with, in location and time periods I rarely venture into and this series did not disappoint.

Reading this series has perked my interest in French history, the scandal, liaisons rival those of the English.  Definitely a series I highly recommend.

                                  Website | Goodreads


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  Sisters of Versailles - Sally Christie Sally Christie is the author of The Sisters of Versailles and The Rivals of Versailles. She was born in England and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three different languages. She spent most of her career working in international development and currently lives in Toronto.

Learn more her Versailles trilogy on her website Become a fan to hear about her next novels!

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: A Lady in Disguise (Daughters of Hampshire #3) by Sandra Byrd

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father. 

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Drury Lane Theatre Royal. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

Paperback, 384 pages
 Published March 21st 2017 
by Howard Books
****

Sandra Byrd is not a new author to me I have enjoyed her Lady in Waiting series and have read book one in her Daughters of Hampshire series. All her books are stand alone so no need to read in order.  I have a great respect for authors who can write in different time periods.  With the Ladies in Waiting taking place in the Tudor times and Daughters during the Victorian era, so many changes over the years meaning more research for the author. Victorian England is new to me and it's only been recently that I have been turning some of my reading into that direction.

Gillian Young is a young woman grieving the sudden death of her father, a local and well respected police officer. But as accusations of illegal activity are brought to light Gillian refuses to believe that he was involved in any unsavory actions. As she tries to figure out the truth, events begin to make her question who she can and cannot trust and whether his accident was really an accident at all.  Also could he in fact be guilty as rumored to be.

I love the authors writing style she makes you feel part of the story and drew me in, making me care not just for Gillian but for those she takes under her wing. I love learning about the lifestyle in that era, the theater world and the art of costume making.

A Lady in Disguise is a great historical fiction novel that is full of mystery, suspense and intrigue. While I am not a big fan of romance novels I felt that the love story here was done perfectly and not overbearing, it fit the story in a realistic manner. This is Christian fiction, there is scripture, prayer and it was done in a realistic manner, not over the top.  Plus I loved the ending

Sandra Bryd will continue to be an author in which I anticipate her next book.  Be sure to check out my review for one of her previous works.



I received an ARC from the publisher (via Netgalley) and give my sincerely thanks for the opportunity to review A Lady in Disguise.