Sunday, December 30, 2018

Audio Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.

Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Hardcover, 426 pages 
Published November 13th 2018 
by Crown
Audio:19 hours, 3 minutes
*****

I enjoy listening to memoirs and autobiographies in audiobook format, it’s like they are talking directly to me. What I loved about Becoming was Michelle Obama read it and it was wonderful. I would have loved the book edition just to see the pictures though.

 I am not into political books, which made me a little apprehensive but it wasn’t an issue with Becoming. Beginning when Michelle is a child living in Chicago she tells about her up bringing, values and so much more. She is down to earth, intellect and has a passion (and the ability) to empower. She has a gift to speak with such eloquence, grace and intelligence that kept me listening to this book.

Her honesty as she told of her struggles in so many aspects of her life was real, from her career to juggling motherhood in the White House along with the demands of being FLOTUS and even on the campaign trail.

 Definitely a book I highly recommend, even if you aren’t American, this Canadian loved it.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Spotlight: Fortress of the Sun by E.M. Thomas

Fortress of the Sun by E.M. Thomas

Publication Date: December 26, 2018
Paperback & eBook; 300 Pages
Rokhish Press
Genre: Historical/Greek & Roman


It’s 243 B.C. and Greece is ready for a revolution.

Eighty years have passed since the death of Alexander the Great, the man who first cowed free Hellas into submission. His successors to the Macedonian throne have only tightened their grip in the interim, the present king no exception. Spartan rebellions, opportunistic usurpers, foreign invaders – for nearly five decades, King Antigonus has seen them all and crushed them all. He now stands alone astride Greece; he fears no one.

Aratus of Sicyon plans to change that. With a passion for freedom and hatred for the King that stem from the same childhood tragedy, he takes aim at Macedon when no one else would dare; takes aim at its crown jewel in the south, the linchpin of its control, the very symbol of its domination – Corinth. Hopelessly outfunded, outmanned, and outarmed, he embarks on one of the most audacious and stunning attacks in ancient history, one that would change Greece forever.

Available on Amazon

E.M. Thomas is an author of two novels - an epic fantasy (The Bulls of War) and a historical fiction set in Ancient Greece (Fortress of the Sun). E.M. was born and raised on the East Coast of the United States but is a world traveler at heart. He caught the writing bug early on and has a passion for all good fiction, but especially that of the fantasy and historical variety. One of his favorite moments thus far in his young career was writing a chapter of his latest book about the great battle of Corinth - while sitting amidst the ruins of ancient Corinth.

For all news and updates related to E.M. Thomas, visit www.emthomas.com.

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


Giveaway

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

  Fortress of the Sun

Friday, December 28, 2018

Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

A standalone romantic thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover, releasing December 18th.

Kindle Edition, 250 pages
Published December 7th 2018
by Hoover Ink, Inc.
****

Every once in a while a good mystery, suspenseful type thriller is in order. A few friends on Instagram posted about Verity and I dove right in. I managed to skim over the blurb and settled in.

This is my first time reading Colleen Hoover, I was drawn in right away with a scenario and prose that I liked. Slowly as both Lowen and Jeremy’s stories are revealed I couldn’t stop reading. They are sad, heartbreaking to say the least and one can’t help but feel compassion.

It’s a relatively quick read not just because of the size (approx 250 pages) but the adrenaline of trying to figure things out myself and getting to the end. Yea the end, it was a good one.

Colleen Hoover is known for her romance novels and that aspect comes through here with some explicit scenes (actually more than some), it’s not my thing and not always necessary in such great detail.  But all in all a story that kept me on my toes flipping through the pages.

I purchased the kindle ebook from Amazon, it’s free if you have kindle unlimited.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

 In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 27th, 2018
by Bonnier Publishing Australia
***

I’ve seen this book everywhere, both on and offline, and finally caved one day at Costco treating myself. I was expecting an emotional, heart-wrenching story. Just by having Auschwitz in the title implies that, right!?

The story of Lale, how he came to be a tattooist is told along with the trials and tribulations he faced. Based on a true story the author interviewed him herself and tells his story. That’s the thing I picked up on right away, the story was told with little showing. Now don’t get me wrong, I still felt some of the emotion - it’s Auschwitz after all. But I would have loved more showing. To feel the emotional connection between Lale and Gita and as a reader, I didn’t feel their bond.

To me, this could have been a great story but I found it read more like non-fiction. I was expecting a story with the depth of both character and setting.  Maybe all the hype surrounding The Tattooist elevated my expectation level.  But it's still 3 stars from me for the educational lesson.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review & Giveaway: What Girls Are Good For by David Blixt

Nellie Bly has the story of a lifetime. But will she survive to tell it?

 Enraged by an article entitled ‘What Girls Are Good For’, Elizabeth Cochrane pens an angry letter to the Pittsburgh Dispatch, never imagining a Victorian newspaper would hire a woman reporter. Taking the name Nellie Bly, she struggles against the male-dominated industry, reporting stories no one else will – the stories of downtrodden women.

 Chased out of Mexico for revealing government corruption, her romantic advances rejected by a married colleague, Bly earns the chance to break into the New York’s Newspaper Row if she can nab a major scoop – life inside a madhouse. Feigning madness, she dupes the court into committing her to the Insane Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. 

But matters are far worse than she ever dreamed. Stripped, drugged, beaten, she must endure a week of terror, reliving the darkest days of her childhood, in order to escape and tell the world her story. Only, at the end of the week, no rescue comes, and she fears she may be trapped forever... 

Based on the real-life events of Nellie Bly’s life and reporting, What Girls Are Good For is a tale of rage, determination, and triumph - all in the frame of a tiny Pennsylvania spitfire who refused to let the world tell her how to live her life, and changed the world instead.

Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Creativia
Paperback & eBook; 535 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
*****

There were two factors that made me want to read this book. First, the author. I’ve seen his books around in the circle of historical fiction authors, in fact, I met him once back in Denver when he did a masterclass on sword fighting, with the real thing (how did he get those through airport security?). His novels in Ancient Rome are patiently waiting while I wind my way out of the 19th/20th century interests of late. Which brings me to my 2nd reason, Nellie Bly is a woman I’ve heard of but know nothing about. This is my kind of reading - entertaining and educational at the same time. I love reading about women in history, I was going to say strong women but they don't always start that way, it's a process, it’s through their experiences that make them stronger - like Nellie Bly.

I knew right from the beginning I’d love this book. Elizabeth or rather Nellie is spunky, spontaneous and rather a hoot. You never knew what she’d do next, whether it be interviewing factory workers, heading off to Mexico or an Insane Asylum I was totally captivated. Through these experiences, Nellie has to change and that’s what makes reading about her so interesting.

I love books that go deep, where not just the characters are developed nicely but the plot as well. I’ve found with some books this size that they could do with fewer pages but in this case, I loved the length and detail. The characters are authentic, I was immersed in the era, the author's research definitely shined through here.

What Girls Are Good For is a story of perseverance, standing up for what you believe in and an example of never giving up.

Available on Amazon


David Blixt‘s work is consistently described as “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.”

A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history.

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, he describes himself as “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.”

 For more information, please visit David Blixt's website.

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


Giveaway


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 4 paperback copies of What Girls Are Good For! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 28th. 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.

What Girls Are Good For

Audio Review: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

"The Dollhouse. . . . That's what we boys like to call it. . . . The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you."

 Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.

 When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

 Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

Audiobook, eAudiobook
 Published August 23rd 2016
 by Penguin Audio
9 hours, 54 minutes
*** 1/2

The Dollhouse is Fiona Davis’s debut, I read her subsequent books, The Address, and The Masterpiece, both of which I enjoyed The Address more.

This was an audio read for me, with the reader being Tavia Gilbert,  she is a favorite of mine.

It’s 1952 at The Barbizon Hotel for Women, known as the Dollhouse. The time period was vividly described here, from the culture, finishing schools to the seedy jazz clubs.  There were lots of changes going on in New York - good and bad and this book showed it.

Present day (2016) at the same hotel, now turned into condos, Darby’s life is turned upside down. I found this part a little predictable and cringed at some of her decisions, she wouldn’t listen when I hollered 'don’t do it', but she did it anyway, forcing me to listen all the faster.

The Dollhouse was an entertaining book, like I said a little predictable but mysterious at the same time. It's a story of loneliness, friendship, and determination.

Audiobook via Scribd







Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Audio Review: The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

 For over a century, the town of Gossamer Grove has thrived on its charm and midwestern values, but Annalise Forsythe knows painful secrets, including her own, hover just beneath the pleasant faade. When a man is found dead in his run-down trailer home, Annalise inherits the trailer, along with the pictures, vintage obituaries, and old revival posters covering its walls. As she sorts through the collection, she's wholly unprepared for the ramifications of the dark and deadly secrets she'll uncover.

A century earlier, Gossamer Grove has been stirred into chaos by the arrival of controversial and charismatic twin revivalists. The chaos takes a murderous turn when Libby Sheffield, working at her father's newspaper, receives an obituary for a reputable church deacon hours before his death. As she works with the deacon's son to unravel the mystery behind the crime, it becomes undeniably clear that a reckoning has come to town--but it isn't until another obituary arrives that they realize the true depths of the danger they've waded into.

Two women, separated by a hundred years, must uncover the secrets within the borders of their own town before it's too late and they lose their future--or their very souls.

Paperback, 352 pages 
Published July 3rd 2018 
by Bethany House Publishers
****

I really enjoyed Jaime Jo Wright’s previous book, The House on Foster Hill and eagerly awaited the release of this one. This was an audio read for me, I listened over the summer and can’t believe I never posted this review. Coming in at 12 hours 13 minutes and read by Erin Bennett, who did a great job bringing this book to life.

Mysterious and suspenseful is the perfect way to describe this book. The unique plot works well too! Imagine receiving an obit notice before someone dies or even your own. A century later more mystery abounds when Annalise inherits a rundown trailer from a complete stranger. Why? And what’s the connection to what happened 100 years ago?

Jaime Jo Weight has become one of my favorite writers, even though this is her second book, I know a good thing. I love her writing style, the way she drew me in, kept me guessing and struggling to unwrap the mystery myself. The uniqueness of the plot and how it is revealed layer by layer.

Definitely a book and author I highly recommend.  Next month her third book will be released The Curse of Misty Wayfair (click on the cover to take you to the Goodreads page). As will the cover of The House on Foster Hill take you to my review. 

What do you think of the covers?  I love them all - they shout read me read me!

Review: Review: The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

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
****

The Gown is Jennifer Robson's new book which releases the end of this month. A dual time period that is current day and one taking place a few years after the 2nd world war ended. I loved that setting, it’s not a setting I see much of and reading about the struggles after the war was interesting.

The 70th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip was perfect timing for the release of this book.  With the media hype, tv specials and more enhancing my reading experience.  I loved the past storyline, it’s 1947 with England still recovering from the war, yes life goes on, it isn’t easy for most and harder still for others - Miriam and Ann are new friends with the Norman Hartnell binding them together. I enjoyed reading about the process of their work there, the secrecy of the making and how it’s done.

As usual, it’s the past story that really captivates me, not that I didn’t like the present day one here, I just think it’s the history nerd in me that draws me to learning new things from the past. Present day Heather is set in uncovering secrets her grandmother had. With her travels around London, it has reinforced my desire to travel and see the area for myself.

Definitely a book I recommend not just for the unique storylines but a writing style that kept me entertained.  Thanks to Harper Collins Canada for an ARC provided at a recent English Tea with the author.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Review and Giveaway (signed copy): The Huntress by Kate Quinn

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, The Alice Network, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

 In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…

Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.

British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first, delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear.

Paperback, 560 pages
Expected publication: February 26th 2019
by William Morrow Paperbacks
*****

I love going into a book blind, from experience I know that a Kate Quinn book is always a treat but will admit being blown away with my experience with The Huntress.

I really didn’t know anything other than that the Night Witches were part of the story. As the different time periods, characters and plots unfolded I found myself mesmerized with the exquisite writing. I was transported and put right in the scenes, felt the emotional situations and really appreciated the author's knowledge of the time periods and it’s history. The characters were deep, complex, and authentic. I smiled with the wit that was mixed in at just the right time, breaking up some of the tension.

This is one of those books where I savored the time I was able to sit and read, to enjoy the ride as only Kate Quinn can deliver on. Not only did The Huntress make my best of 2018 but also one of my all time favorites, definitely can see myself rereading.

I received an ARC from Harper Collins Canada at a Tea they hosted back in September and had the privilege of meeting Kate Quinn (again) along with Jennifer Robson.  Harper Collins graciously gave me a copy to give to one of my lucky readers - and it's signed.  Keep on scrolling down to enter.


This giveaway is open international, with the understanding that I am mailing from Canada.  If the winner lives in Canada then you already know about the possible delays with Canada Post.  Otherwise, it might be a week or so before I can mail when I pop over to the US to mail.  Good luck!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Spotlight & Giveaway: A Murdered Peace by Candace Robb

A Murdered Peace by Candace Robb

Publication Date: December 11, 2018
Pegasus Books
Paperback & eBook; 304 Pages
Series: Kate Clifford, Book 3
Genre: Historical Mystery


It is deep winter in York, 1400, the ground frozen, the short days dimmed with the smoke from countless fires, the sun, when it shines, low in the sky. It is rumored that the Epiphany Uprising, meant to relieve the realm of the Henry the usurper and return King Richard to the throne has, instead, spelled his doom. As long as Richard lives, he is a threat to Henry. So, too, the nobles behind the plot. The ringleaders have been caught, some slaughtered as they fled west by folk loyal to Henry, and the king’s men now search the towns for survivors. A perilous time, made worse for Kate Clifford by the disappearance of Berend, her cook and confidante, shortly after Christmas. Her niece saw his departure in a dream—he said he was honor bound to leave. Honor bound—to a former lord? One of the nobles who led the uprising? Is he alive? She is hardly consoled when Berend reappears, wounded, secretive, denying any connection to the uprising, but refusing to explain himself. When he is accused of brutally murdering a spice seller in the city, Kate discovers a chest of jewels in his possession. Some of the jewels belong to her old friend Lady Margery, wanted by the king for her husband’s part in the uprising. For the sake of their long friendship, and the love she and her wards bear for him, Kate wants to believe his innocence. So, too, does Sir Elric. And he has the powerful backing of the Earl of Westmoreland. All she need do is confide in him. If only she trusted her heart.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo


Praise for A Murdered Peace

“Those who meddle in the affairs of kings live to regret it. A...tale of love and murder set in a turbulent period when death and betrayal lurk around every corner.” -Kirkus Reviews “Superior. Robb effortlessly integrates the era’s intrigues into a whodunit framework and peoples the plot with a wide array of characters readers will come to care about.” -Publishers Weekly (starred) “A fine flowing narrative and a genuine sense of mystery and peril.” -Writers & Readers

 Candace Robb is the bestselling author of sixteen crime novels set in fourteenth century England, Wales, and Scotland, including the acclaimed Owen Archer series and the Margaret Kerr trilogy. Candace lives in Seattle, Washington.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed set of Candace Robb's Kate Clifford series! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 21st. 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.

A Murdered Peace

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.


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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