Friday, December 7, 2018

Review: Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

An irresistible debut set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist— a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.

 London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

 Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.

 Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are gutsy and spirited, even in the face of a terrible blow. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.

 Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 3rd, 2018
 by Scribner
****

Here is another peer pressure book, I’ve heard so many good things about Dear Mrs. Bird especially when compared to a favorite of mine - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society. Yes, expectation level was elevated here. My biggest fear was that this was too much of a light-hearted book about the War and would it offer the respect due? But on the other hand, I was also looking for something lighter to offset some emotional and traumatic previous reads. It was a horrible time and to trivialize it would be so wrong. I am happy to report any fears were totally unfounded.

I enjoyed reading this one, Emmeline tells of her longing to help in the war effort but somehow lands a job as a typist for an advice columnist - you gotta read the book to see how that happens. Revolving around her friendships, family and the need to do something tangible Emme is taken on a journey, taking risks, going out of her comfort zone and forced to be still. She isn’t immune to the war and the heartache attached.

I liked the authors writing style, the dialogue was engaging and at times witty but will admit that after a while, the phrases in caps were a bit much.

Hats off to AJ Pearce on a solid debut, looking forward to reading more.

I purchased this book from the Simon and Schuster booth at Word on the Street Toronto 2018.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Audio Review: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s coming-of-age story is, according to Booklist, “a novel that, if it doesn’t cross entirely over into John Irving territory, certainly nestles in close to the border.” 

 Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

Listening Length: 11 hours and 41 minutes
Scribd Audio, Unabridged,
 Published April 24th, 2018
 by Brillance Audio
*****

I love the fact that I can sample both the Kindle and audiobooks when trying to decide which route to take. The audio won out here for a couple of reasons.  Books told in 1st person are a favorite of mine in that format, it’s like the character is telling their story directly to me. Also, the author himself read this one which I think is cool.

Sam Hill was born a little different. It doesn’t affect his intelligence nor his physical abilities, but one look at his ‘devil eyes’ set people off. Children can be the cruelest (even adults too) and that plays a big part in young Sam’s life.

I could go on and say this and that happened, but I won’t. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hill is an extraordinary book, from start to finish I was captivated. From the bullying, ‘God’s Will’ attitude of his mother along with best friends Ernie and Mickie made this a well rounded emotional and at times witty read, well listen.

Effortlessly the author weaved back and forth in time telling Sam's story. Coming in at almost 12 hours with chapters that aren’t too long it was very easy to follow my mantra, just one more chapter.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Review: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau


‘Nancy Bilyeau's passion for history infuses her books’ – Alison Weir

 'Historical fans will be well satisfied.' - Publishers Weekly

 In eighteenth-century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?

 ‘...transports the reader into the heart of the 18th century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death.’ - E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series.

 'Bilyeau is an impressive talent who brings to life a heart-stopping story of adventure, art, and espionage during the Seven Years War.' - Stephanie Dray, bestselling author of My Dear Hamilton

 'With rich writing, surprising twists, and a riveting sense of 'you are there,' The Blue is spine-tingling entertainment.' – Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins

Kindle Edition, 430 pages 
Published December 3rd, 2018
by Endeavour Quill
*****



Nancy Bilyeau is one of those authors that is a 'must read' for me.  I absolutely loved her Joanna Stafford series and was thrilled when I heard she had a new release this fall (Dec 3rd).

Sometimes I feel that I repeat myself when talking about books that I really enjoyed.  But for me having the author make me feel like I am right in the middle of the action is a big plus.  It shows not just her (or his) passion for the era but also the amount of research that went into the story.  Which is exactly what happened here. I was planted right there beside Genevieve, I could feel her emotional state as her life was turned upside down.  Who she should trust and whom not to?  The desire for something different in life, but what and how was that to be achieved?  The other characters depicting the many layers of society, I learned more about what a Huguenot endured and women's roles in that time were reinforced for their lack of control of their own lives

As for the plot, I loved it.  Mysterious, suspenseful and kept me glued to the pages. The obsession over 'blue' was interesting and unique with a very satisfying ending.  Definitely a book I recommend to those that love a good historical mystery off the beaten track.  Nancy Bilyeau has delivered yet again.  My only hope is that we don't have to wait too long for another book.

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

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, DuJour, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently a regular contributor to Town & Country, Purist, and The Strand. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Review & Giveaway: The King James Men by Samantha Grosser

Connected by love, divided by faith. A novel of faith, friendship, and betrayal set against the religious turbulence of 17th Century London. 


England 1604 

Two men, once friends have long since gone their separate ways. But when the new King James commands a fresh translation of the Bible, their paths are fated to cross again. For biblical scholar Richard Clarke, the chance to work on the new translation seems like a gift from God, away back in from the cold where his friendship with Separatist Ben Kemp has kept him for many years. 

But Richard soon discovers there is a price to pay for his new-found favour, and that price is betrayal. Caught between love for his friend and his faith in his Church, Richard must make a decision that could cost him his soul. 

Set against the background of the writing of the King James Bible, and inspired by true accounts of the community who became the Mayflower Pilgrims, The King James Men is a vivid portrayal of the religious struggles of the age, and the price of being true to your faith.


Publication Date: November 20, 2018
Sam Grosser Books
eBook & Paperback; 393 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction
****

It was a refreshing change to read a book about a friendship between two men. Richard Clark was working on the translation of the Bible for King James (it’s true, I googled it) and Ben Kemp was Puritan. Not a good mix.

This is my first time reading this era and this book has really got me thinking and itching to read more.  With attention to detail, from the family dynamics to life in a gaol to religious persecution and so much more, the author vividly described the times these men lived in.  It was a dark time with the struggle to survive prominent unless you had money, social status and your religious views were the same are the King.

The blurb above does a great job describing what this book is about and shows the many layers here.  It's about a friendship between men, faith, and family and so much more.

This is one book where I would have loved some author notes, just for more insight into the motivation for writing it and what was fact versus fiction.  But the lack of those will not stop me from reading more by this author.

My thanks to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour.



Historical fiction author Samantha Grosser originally hails from England, but now lives on the sunny Northern Beaches of Sydney with her husband, son and a very small dog called Livvy. Combining a lifelong love of history with a compulsion to write that dates from childhood, Samantha is now bringing her passion for telling compelling stories to the world. Samantha has an Honours Degree in English Literature and taught English for many years in Asia and Australia. She is the author of wartime dramas Another Time and Place, and The Officer’s Affair. The King James Men, set during the turbulent years of the early years of 17th Century, is her third novel.


Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away one eBook & one paperback copy of The King James Men! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 4th. 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.

  The King James Men





Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
 Expected publication: January 22nd, 2019
by St. Martin's Press
*****


I love it when I book takes over my day, it’s been a while since I’ve read anything as fast as this one. To say the author has a knack for character development would be an understatement. While I found the story interesting, compelling and full of secrets it was the characters that stood out. It wasn't that they were just real, believable and struggling but I got to know them so well. I knew what made them tic, their fears and struggles, they became friends I wanted to help.

Sisters Ruth and Millie have never been close, their's is a complicated relationship and as time goes by they grow farther and farther apart. With the added voices of Arietta and Lillian, this book was well rounded.

The Wartime Sisters is a book of secrets, lies, and family - not necessarily blood-related either. My take away is that this is a story of not judging or assuming but rather having compassion, we don’t know what others are going through, so think before speaking and show some love instead. A powerful story that will stay with me and a new author I highly recommend.

My thanks to St. Martin's (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Review: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

From the author of the award-winning international bestseller Half-Blood Blues comes a dazzling new novel, about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born. When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist. He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe. From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again--and asks the question, what is true freedom?

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 28th 2018
by Patrick Crean Editions
***

Washington Black is the winner of the 2018 Giller Award and a few others, I am not one that is attracted by awards in fact past experience usually has me steering clear of them.  What attracted me to Washington Black was the blurb, Barbados is one of my favorite places and I love to read of places I've visited.  Maybe if I had read more of the blurb I might have taken a second look but I was smitten right away.  I will confess to not always reading entire blurbs, sometimes I feel they give too much of the story away and take away the element of surprise. 

was drawn into Washington's story right away, I loved the Barbados setting and reading about the island, the lifestyle and running of a sugar plantation.  The writing was exquisite, I could visualize the land and got to know the characters.  Even as the story progressed to different locations it was well written, but there were a number of different locations and after a while, I found my interest waning.  

So why only 3 stars?  A number of reasons, I found it too long and started to lose interest just past the halfway mark. There are a number of locations with its own set of characters after a while it just got a bit much for me.  Some of the coincidences seemed a little unbelievable as well. The author touches on real historical situations here (ie the Underground Railroad, outposts in the Arctic and even Aquariums in London) I would have loved some author notes to expound on those topics.

Told from Washington's POV I wondered if going the audio route might have worked better for me.

'... if I acquired any wisdom from Kit, it is to live always with your eyes cast forward, to see what will be, for the path behind can never be retaken.'


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Spotlight: The Darkest Corners by Sydney Jamesson

The Darkest Corners by Sydney Jamesson

Publication Date: November 20, 2018 SJ Publishing eBook; 332 Pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense


This standalone novel is not a romance. It is psychological suspense with a complex love story woven through it. Expect lots of angst, emotional scenes and edge of your seat suspense as a single father and a troubled young woman confront their deepest, darkest fears together.

After surviving a life changing event, celebrated artist Maxwell Grant has not touched a paintbrush or a woman in four years. During that time, he has tormented himself over an unspeakable act he dare not admit to, even to himself.
His one chance at redemption comes through a journal left behind by Harriet Harper, a mysterious woman in his night school class.
Shocked by what he reads about her tortured existence, he becomes obsessed by her and falls headfirst into a dangerous game of he said, she said, not knowing who to believe—who to trust.
When a dangerous character from Harriet’s past appears, events take a turn for the worse and he must say and do whatever necessary to save his sanity and, more importantly, his four year old daughter, Poppy.
Some secrets never get to see the light of day; others are just waiting to be uncovered … with shocking consequences.

Nook | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JT_9G9JK4s]

Excerpt

Max I PLACED THE JOURNAL on the pillow to my right, deep in thought, disbelieving that unassuming young woman I had met just over twenty-four hours ago could have lived such a life. It occurred to me that her life experiences had shaped her into an uncompromising, plain-spoken woman. No wonder she took it upon herself to speak up; to say what needed to be said to an arrogant, insensitive sod like me.
In my mind’s eye, I pictured her sitting nervously on that ten thirty-six train to Brighton, venturing into the unknown, starting over—alone—having experienced … who knows what?
At least I had a home to come back to; one Hope and I had designed together with an architect, shaping our ideas into something tangible and practical, reflecting both our personalities: my need for privacy and light, Hope’s need for satin cushions, storage and space for us to grow as a family. We had created our own piece of heaven, blissfully unaware that fate would see to it that she did not get to experience it for more than a couple of months.
And there was Harriet, courageously moving on, which is more than I had done.
As bad as it appeared—stealing a look into Harriet’s world, her private thoughts, her fears and aspirations—I could not help myself. Sure, her world was alien to me; the landscape was foreign, unrecognisable, but her emotions and sense of displacement were not. We had both loved passionately, and been forced to inhabit an unfamiliar world, forever altered.
I trotted back into the lounge, topped up my drink and threw in a couple of ice cubes, allowing them to chill the golden liquid before tasting it. Glass in hand I headed to bed, stopping to check in on Poppy first.
She was sleeping; gentle wisps of air escaped her lips as she dreamed of more precious trinkets, shopping trips, and colouring books awash with fluorescent shades that reflected a world filled with laughter and love—exactly where she belonged.
I could not sleep
Two brief encounters, and there I was allowing a young woman I barely knew to invade my psyche. Without even trying, Harriet had caused a chain reaction: what started out as annoyance and mild curiosity had morphed into something inexplicably provocative.
My skin was warm and prickly, as if it had been scrubbed clean. After my four-year hiatus, my entire body was throbbing. I turned on the bedside lamp, knocking my glasses to the floor, still trembling from what I assumed was a panic attack, or was it arousal? It had been so long since I’d felt something so visceral and unexpected, it was hard to tell. Whatever it was, there was no way I was going back to sleep.
I put Harriet’s journal to one side, deciding to ration out the entries. The last thing I needed was to become obsessed by it—by her. In hindsight, if I’d known how reading about her life was going to affect me and my life, I might have thought twice about opening what was turning into Pandora’s Box.
Then again, I wonder what would have become of me if I had not opened it and turned the pages, devouring her words like a starving man.
At least I was lucid enough to notice that the glass of Scotch I had poured myself was still there by the lamp, its contents luminescent in the light cast from beneath the shade. If nothing else, my liver was grateful for her disclosures.
Mildly anesthetized by the alcohol in my veins, I longed for sleep but it came in waves, angry tidal waves that stirred my soul and stole my breath. Like so many nights before, I began to feel ensnared, sandwiched between those browbeating buddies, Loneliness and Guilt. They were at their most potent in the hours between dusk and dawn, terrorising me with images from my past that I was still in no shape to confront. From the bottom of a glass they stared back at me, insistent and unforgiving.
My nightmare was always the same; it involved a bloodied hand reaching out to me. No matter how I fought I could not escape it. I could not see whose hand it was, but I knew the name of the phantom who haunted all my dreams. I just could not bring myself to say it out loud.
I woke, disorientated, drowning in perspiration.
Biting back frustration, I swallowed what was left of the elixir, inviting it to numb my senses, needing the deadening effect that it alone could produce in my body, in my mind.
I did not want to think.
I did not want to feel.
I wanted to forget. Not only my past but Harriet‘s too, for a couple of hours, at least.
All I had wanted to do was to step out of my shoes and into those of a free-spirited human being for a day or two, without dragging my heels or stumbling over obstacles only I could see.
In my desperation, I assumed Harriet was that person. I had her all mapped out.
She was at least six years younger than me. Her life was filled with parties, dates with twenty-something bartenders with a penchant for homemade wine and staying up all night watching boxed sets of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.
With every new entry I was being drawn in deeper. I bent down to pick up her journal, snatching my glasses from beneath the bed where they had landed. I decided I should do no more than flick through the pages to the very last entry, like a teenage boy about to fail a maths assignment; going straight to the answers without even trying to solve the problem.
But … that would be cheating.
Harriet was clearly a woman of many parts, an enigma with hidden depths and a past that I could either descend into, at my peril, or walk away from. She had fallen in love, experienced the joy of devotion, and yet, she’d ended up alone—like me.
So, taking a deep breath, I dived in…


About the Author


Sydney Jamesson is an English teacher by day and a USA Today bestselling author of romance, suspense by night. She is nocturnal by nature and loves nothing more than staying up late, listening to music and being inspired to write. She has always scribbled things down; in her home is one enormous wastepaper basket full of discarded phrases, opening lines and pieces of dialogue that have hit her like lightning in the middle of the night or whilst parked up at a set of traffic lights. 

Her bestselling trilogy, The Story of Us is available worldwide, and she has been thrilled to continue Ayden Stone and Beth Parker's epic love story in The Story of Us Series: Into the Blue, comprising: Blue Genes, Blue Hearts, Blue Moon. More recently, Sydney has focused on psychological suspense.

THE DARKEST CORNERS is a complex love story filled with lots of angst, emotional scenes and edge of your seat suspense as a single father and a troubled young woman confront their deepest, darkest fears together.


Connect With Sydney Jamesson

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Review and Giveaway (signed copy): The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

Philomena meets The Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 17th, 2018
by Harper Paperbacks
****

I read this book back in June and somehow neglected to not just post a review but also host a giveaway. Harper Collins Canada very graciously provided me with an extra copy of this book during an author event they hosted. This copy is also signed by the author - scroll down for a giveaway.

It isn’t a secret that I love historical fiction, and I love reading books set in Canada. Those that help me learn more about this great country. Not only is Joanna Goodman a new author to me but so is this home for unwanted girls and the events surrounding it.  I knew nothing about what happened back in the 1950's when orphanages were changed to psychiatric hospitals merely because of financial gain.  With no thought to the residents, my heart broke for those lost in the system, those through no fault of their own did not receive the future they deserved.

This book is told by Maggie and Elodie, both gave vivid (and heartbreaking) detail of their lives.  For Maggie it wasn't just falling for a boy from 'the other side' but it was family situations that set the course for her life.

The Home for Unwanted Girls is an emotional read, it's a book about relationships whether, between father & daughter or mother & daughter, it will pull at your heartstrings as the author set me right there.  It didn't take long to read this one, my connection to little Elodie was immediate, watching her grow up and witnessing her treatment kept me going. I rooted for her wanting to grab her, give her a hug and take her home with me.

Author notes are a favorite of mine at the end of historical fiction books, there wasn't any here and in this instance, I don't think they were necessary, Joanna Goodman laid everything out in the telling of this story.  Definitely a book I recommend.

My copy provided by Harper Collins Canada (thank you).

For an extra vote tell me about a new author you discovered this year.  Rafflecopter is acting up and won't let me add that without doing some weird things to this post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Spotlight & Giveaway: A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Amberjack Publishing
Hardcover; 320 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Biographical

In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place. Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to become the first woman admitted to the prestigious Haarlem artist’s guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic. Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandt and an uncompromising religion.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Carrie Callaghan is a writer living in Maryland with her spouse, two young children, and two ridiculous cats. Her short fiction has appeared in Weave Magazine, The MacGuffin, Silk Road, Floodwall, and elsewhere. Carrie is also an editor and contributor with the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has a Master’s of Arts in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 For more information, please visit Carrie Callaghan's website and blog.

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

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed hardcovers of A Light of Her Own! To enter, please see the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US residents only.  – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

 Light of Her Own


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Review: Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen

A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Paperback, 290 pages
Published October 27th, 2015
 by Ballantine Books 
****

Tess Gerritsen was a go-to for me back before historical fiction took over my reading life. It’s been many years since I’ve read her books with Rizzoli and Isles. It was last month when she was a keynote speaker at the 2018 Surrey International Writers Conference that had me purchasing Playing with Fire. She was talking about her inspiration for writing this book, from a trip to Venice, visiting an old Jewish ghetto and a dream that got the ball rolling.

Told in 2 time periods, one current day as well as World War 2 in Venice. Coming in at approx 250 pages one would think there isn't a lot of time for depth and character development but this book packs a lot of punch, both on the mystery and emotional level. The view during the war had Venice playing center stage - a location not often visited in this time period.  It was told in an emotional manner that kept me guessing at the connection to the current story. The mystery was intriguing and kept me on my toes.

There are wonderful pages at the end with an author interview digging deeper into the history of the time as well as a link to The Incendio Waltz. Check out her page here.

I’m glad that I read this, think I’ll pick up more of her books again.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: The Black Donnellys by Thomas P. Kelley

"When that Donnelly glares at you, you hear the sound of shovels digging your grave." -- Donnellys first victim 

How could one family -- mom, dad, and seven sons -- terrorize an entire Canadian community for 33 years?

The Black Donnellys is the classic account of how James, Johannah and their sons used brute force to brawl, steal, burn, and murder their way into the dark side of Canadian history. A popular bestseller since 1954, this gripping book covers the family's horrific crimes in unflinching detail through to their decimation at the hands of a murderous vigilante mob.


Mass Market Paperback, 158 pages
Published August 1982
by Pagurian Press Limited
(first published August 1st, 1955)
***

The Hatfield and McCoy’s have nothing on the Donnelly family of Southern Ontario. Their reign of terror from 1850-1880 in the little town of Lucan, Ontario (just north of London) was vividly portrayed in this little book. I picked it up at a used bookstore out of curiosity, I’ve heard the name but didn’t know the story. Now that I know it I struggle with how this family got away with some much during that time. To put it very mildly they were a brash, arrogant and violent family - seemly lead by their mother, and it all started within days of setting foot on Canadian soil.

Arriving from Ireland in 1850 this family of consisted of parents, 7 sons and a daughter. They did as they pleased, took what they wanted and appeared to take pleasure in the suffering of others. This little book didn’t hold back but told the story from an outside point of view. I would really have loved to hear what the Donnelly’s had to say, what motivated them to me so nasty - and that’s putting it very mildly.  Because really there are always two sides to every story.

This book read very much like a textbook, matter of fact in tone.  Jumping back and forth in time was a little distracting at times.

There is another book on my shelf, Vengeance of the Black Donnelly’s, a fictional account of those that got away with murder. Sounds like it could be interesting reading.

I read this as part of my own Reading My Shelf Challenge

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Giveaway Winner: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

Thank you to all who entered to win a signed copy of The Gown by Jennifer Robson


Big congrats to:  

Colleen T.


Stayed tuned later on this month when I will be hosting giveaways for signed copies of:

The Huntress by Kate Quinn (ARC)

The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Spotlight: A Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage

A Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: August 31, 2018
Timelight Press
eBook & Paperback 514 Pages
Series: The Wanderer, Book One
Genre: Romance/Erotica/Paranormal

In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died. Since then, they have all tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all here, in the same place, the same time and what began so long ago must finally come to an end. Ask Helle Madsen what she thinks about reincarnation and she’ll laugh in your face. Besides, Helle has other stuff to handle, what with her new, exciting job in London and her drop-dead but seriously sinister boss, Sam Woolf. And then one day Jason Morris walks into her life and despite never having clapped eyes on him before, she recognises him immediately. Very weird. Even more weird is the fact that Sam and Jason clearly hate each other’s guts. Helle’s life is about to become extremely complicated and far too exciting.

Available on Amazon

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. (Medieval knight was also high on Anna’s list of potential professions. Yet another disappointment…) With Jason and Helle, Anna has stepped out of her historical comfort zone and has loved doing so.

Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, www.annabelfrage.com,

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

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away one eBook and one paperback copy of A Torch in His Heart! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 16th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to residents 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.

  A Torch in His Heart


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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review: Girls on the Line: by Aimie K. Runyan

From the celebrated author of Daughters of the Night Sky comes a stirring novel inspired by the courage, dedication, and love of the unsung heroines of the Great War.

 December 1917. As World War I rages in Europe, twenty-four-year-old Ruby Wagner, the jewel in a prominent Philadelphia family, prepares for her upcoming wedding to a society scion. Like her life so far, it’s all been carefully arranged. But when her beloved older brother is killed in combat, Ruby follows her heart and answers the Army Signal Corps’ call for women operators to help overseas.

As one of the trailblazing “Hello Girls” deployed to war-torn France, Ruby must find her place in the military strata, fight for authority and respect among the Allied soldiers, and forge a victory for the cause. But balancing service to country becomes even more complicated by a burgeoning relationship with army medic Andrew Carrigan.

What begins as a friendship forged on the front lines soon blossoms into something more, forcing Ruby to choose between the conventions of a well-ordered life back home, and the risk of an unknown future.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages 
Expected publication: November 6th 2018 
by Lake Union Publishing
****

Aimie K. Runyan has become one of my go-to authors when it comes to historical fiction off the beaten track.  Those women of history that left marks we rarely heard about in history class.  She researches and writes compelling stories that educate me at the same time as keeping me captivated, plus you can feel her passion for the story in her telling.

Girls on the Line takes place in World War 1 and told from the POV of Ruby a young woman wanting to do her part (reasons I won't divulge) and not states side but in France.  Her journey across the ocean is more than just a change of location but an inner journey of self-discovery, of self-worth and discovering who she is.  There is much she must overcome and it isn't an easy trek. 

Girls on the Line is a story of friendship, duty, trust, and family, with some love mixed in. The telling had me right in the action feeling the heartache and struggles taking place.

'...success is usually pretending you're capable of doing something until you are.'

I received an e-arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


 click on the cover to take you my review



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Spotlight and Giveaway: A Different Kind of Fire by Suanne Schafer

A Different Kind of Fire by Suanne Schafer

Publication Date: November 1, 2018
Waldorf Publishing
Paperback & AudioBook
Genre: Historical Fiction

Ruby Schmidt has the talent, the drive, even the guts to enroll in art school, leaving behind her childhood home and the beau she always expected to marry. Her life at the Academy seems heavenly at first, but she soon learns that societal norms in the East are as restrictive as those back home in West Texas. Rebelling against the insipid imagery woman are expected to produce, Ruby embraces bohemian life. Her burgeoning sexuality drives her into a life-long love affair with another woman and into the arms of an Italian baron. With the Panic of 1893, the nation spirals into a depression, and Ruby’s career takes a similar downward trajectory. After thinking she could have it all, Ruby, now pregnant and broke, returns to Texas rather than join the queues at the neighborhood soup kitchen. She discovers her life back home is as challenging as that in Philadelphia. A Different Kind of Fire depicts one woman’s battle to balance husband, family, career, and ambition. Torn between her childhood sweetheart, her forbidden passion for another woman, the nobleman she had to marry, and becoming a renowned painter, Ruby’s choices mold her in ways she could never have foreseen.

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | BookBub | Waldorf Publishing




Suanne Schafer, born in West Texas at the height of the Cold War, finds it ironic that grade school drills for tornadoes and nuclear war were the same: hide beneath your desk and kiss your rear-end goodbye. Now a retired family-practice physician whose only child has fledged the nest, her pioneer ancestors and world travels fuel her imagination. She originally planned to write romances, but either as a consequence of a series of failed relationships or a genetic distrust of happily ever-after, her heroines are strong women who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them.

Suanne completed the Stanford University Creative Writing Certificate program. Her short works have been featured in print and on-line magazines and anthologies. Her debut women’s fiction novel, A Different Kind of Fire, explores the life of Ruby Schmidt, a nineteenth century artist who escapes—and returns—to West Texas. Suanne’s next book explores the heartbreak and healing of an American physician caught up in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away A Fiery Bookish Prize Pack, including a literary scarf, beaded velvet bookmark, a copy of A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE & $10 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to readers in the US 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Price of Compassion by A.B. Michaels

The Price of Compassion by A.B. Michaels

Publication Date: August 27, 2018
Red Trumpet Press
eBook; 296 Pages
Series: Golden City, Book #4
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

April 18, 1906. San Francisco has just been shattered by a massive earthquake and is in the throes of an even more deadly fire. During the chaos, gifted surgeon Tom Justice makes a life-changing decision that wreaks havoc on his body, mind, and spirit. Leaving the woman he loves, he embarks on a quest to regain his sanity and self-worth. Yet just when he finds some answers, he’s arrested for murder—a crime he may very well be guilty of. The facts of the case are troubling; they’ll have you asking the question: “Is he guilty?” Or even worse…”What would I have done?”

"[The Price of Compassion] is chock-full of details about California in the earliest part of the 20th century, and it showcases the rampant prejudice against Chinese immigrants that pervaded the West Coast during the period. In accessible and absorbing prose, the author also describes the arcane medical practices of the era [with] a sufficient number of high stakes moments to keep the tale suspenseful and engaging throughout. [It's] a well-thought-out legal drama, full of intrigue and duplicity." -Kirkus Reviews

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo


A native of northern California, A.B. Michaels earned masters' degrees in history and broadcasting, and worked for many years in public relations and marketing. Now that she's an empty nester, she has time to write the kinds of stories she loves to read. Her historical series, "The Golden City," follows characters who make their way in turn of the twentieth century San Francisco. "I love creating flawed characters I can relate to, who have to make difficult choices, and who long for happiness like the rest of us. So much was happening in the early 1900's that help shape my novels. Once I tear myself away from the underlying research, they are fascinating stories to write."

Currently, Ms. Michaels lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and two furry creatures who are unclear on the concept that they are just dogs. In addition to writing, she loves to read and travel. A dabbler in fabric art, she also plays bocce in a summer league. Her latest stand-alone novel, "The Price of Compassion," is Book Four of the "Golden City" series. It's scheduled for release this summer and will be followed by Book Five, "Josephine's Daughter."

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


click on banner for more stops on this tour


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 12th. 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.

The Price of Compassion

Monday, October 29, 2018

Cover Reveal: At the Mountain's Edge by Genevieve Graham

I am so excited to be part of this cover reveal.  Canadian Historical Fiction is my thing and Genevieve Graham has a passion for the history of this great country and it shines through in her writing.  

Coming Spring of 2019

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
At The Mountain's Edge

From bestselling author, Genevieve Graham comes a sweeping new historical novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

 In 1897, the discovery of gold in the desolate reaches of the Yukon has the world abuzz with excitement, and thousands of prospectors swarm to the north seeking riches the likes of which have never been seen before.

 For Liza Peterson and her family, the gold rush is a chance for them to make a fortune by moving their general store business from Vancouver to Dawson City, the only established town in the Yukon. For Constable Ben Turner, a recent recruit of the North-West Mounted Police, upholding the law in a place overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes, and thieves is an opportunity to escape a dark past and become the man of integrity he has always wanted to be. But the long, difficult journey over icy mountain passes and whitewater rapids is much more treacherous than Liza or Ben imagined, and neither is completely prepared for the forbidding north.

As Liza’s family nears the mountain’s peak, a catastrophe strikes with fatal consequences, and not even the NWMP can help. Alone and desperate, Liza finally reaches Dawson City, only to find herself in a different kind of peril. Meanwhile, Ben, wracked with guilt over the accident on the trail, sees the chance to make things right. But just as love begins to grow, new dangers arise, threatening to separate the couple forever.

Inspired by history as rich as the Klondike’s gold, At the Mountain’s Edge is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together, but also to survive.




Preordering is now available






Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review: Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness.

 Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh. In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

 Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.

Kindle, 320 pages
Published October 23rd 2018
by William Morrow
****

What was Green Gables like before Anne showed up? How did it get the name Green Gables? Sarah McCoy answers these questions and more.  This is my second book by McCoy, The Mapmaker’s Children being my first.

It’s a gutsy move if you ask me to dive into the well-loved world of Green Gables. People adore Anne, Prince Edward Island is a favorited holiday destination for many fans and the following is enormous. But what about Matthew and Marilla, wouldn’t it be great to know their story? That’s exactly what the author did here.

The story of Marilla, Green Gables, and Matthew, told in a voice true to the feel of Anne's stories and I really enjoyed reading it.  I was transported to Avonlea with its charm, traditions and enticing scenery.  Told from Marilla's point of view, and beginning when she is only 13 years old, I was able to connect and watch her grow.  Life wasn't easy during that time period as political strife affected this little island also.  What I loved also was St. Catharines being the home for Aunt Izzy, that's where I live (well really close) and the historical elements here have me looking into the local history.

I loved the author's note at the end, what prompted her to write this book, the research and respect she paid to the community and legacy of Anne are evident.

Definitely a book I recommend to fans of Anne of Green Gables and even those that aren't (I'll confess I've only read the first book in series).  Thanks to the publisher for an advanced copy (via Edelweiss) in exchange for honest review.

click on cover for my review

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Giveaway: Signed ARC of The Gown by Jennifer Robson

Last month I had the awesome opportunity to share High Tea in Toronto with the talented Jennifer Robson where I received an ARC of her new book The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding.

Courtesy of Harper Collins Canada I have an ARC to give to one of my lucky readers.  I am saving my copy for a holiday in 2 weeks time.  If you haven't read any Jennifer Robson books, you are missing out.

Scroll down to bottom of this post for entry details. 



From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding.

 London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

 Paperback, 400 pages 
Expected publication: December 31st 2018 
by William Morrow Paperbacks

Open to those in Canada/USA/Europe. Must respond within 48 hours of receiving my email (remember I am going on vacation).


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Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: Escape From the Tower (The Royal Rabbits of London #2) by Santa Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore

‘Packed with fun, fantasy and the sort of adventure guaranteed to have sticky little fingers hungrily turning the pages’ The Mail on Sunday

 Life is an adventure. Anything in the world is possible – by will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose and a slice of mad courage!

 Little Shylo Tawny-Tail is proud to call himself one of the Royal Rabbits of London, a secret order who live under Buckingham Palace and fight evil across the world. But high up in London’s famous skyscraper, the Shard, the horrible Ratzis are plotting to cause chaos during a visit from the President of the United States. And when the Grand Burrow is attacked and Shylo is kidnapped, it looks as though they might just manage it! Can Shylo escape in time to save the day?

The Hobbit meets Fantastic Mr Fox meets Watership Down in this bestselling series from Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore, which proves even the smallest rabbit can be the biggest hero. Featuring illustrations throughout by award-winning illustrator Kate Hindley.

PRAISE FOR THE ROYAL RABBITS OF LONDON: ‘The Royal Rabbits of London is sweet, funny and beautifully illustrated' The Times ‘Enchanting….Kate Hindley’s illustrations are a treat’ The Lady

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published September 21st 2017
by Simon Schuster Children's UK
****
"Life is an adventure and anything in the world is possible - by will and by luck, a moist carrot, a wet nose and a slice of mad courage."
It was through searching for more Santa Mortefiore books that I discovered this series for middle grade and younger (even older). 

Call this a short and sweet review.  Perfect for the targeted audience with adventure and suspense.  The illustrations were great connecting the reader and characters.  You are stronger than you think, courageous when you don't feel like it.  Yea not just a good story but good morals for little ones.


click on cover for my 'short and sweet' review