Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: Pleasing Mr. Pepys by Deborah Swift + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Publisher: Accent Press
Pub. Date: September 28th, 2017
Pages: 407

Genre: Historical Fiction


Synopsis



London 1667.

Set in a London rising from the ruins of the Great Fire, Pleasing Mr Pepys is a vivid re-imagining of the events in Samuel Pepys’s Diary.



Desperate to escape her domineering aunt, Deb Willet thinks the post of companion to well-respected Elisabeth Pepys is the answer to her prayers. But Samuel Pepys’s house is not as safe as it seems. An intelligent girl in Deb’s position has access to his government papers, and soon she becomes a target of flamboyant actress Abigail Williams, a spy for England’s enemies, the Dutch.

Abigail is getting old and needs a younger accomplice. She blackmails Deb into stealing Pepys’s documents. Soon, the respectable life Deb longs for slides out of her grasp. Mr Pepys’s obsessive lust for his new maid increases precisely as Abigail and her sinister Dutch spymaster become more demanding. When Deb falls for handsome Jem Wells, a curate-in-training, she thinks things cannot possibly get worse.

Until – not content with a few stolen papers – the Dutch want Mr Pepys’s Diary.


What Did I Think About the Story?



Something I love most about historical fiction is the fact that there are just so many stories to be told, from such a variety of perspectives. As many stories as I've read centered around some point of English history, I can't think of another novel I've read that's set against the rebuilding of London after the great fire. How I've missed this I don't know, but Deborah Swift does an excellent job of setting our characters within this topsy turvy world of upheaval and growth and showing just how dangerous this world can be if you take a wrong step.

Right off the bat the novel pulls the reader in with a whip-quick murder, one that had me wondering just what other thrills the novel would have in store for me. The story soon moves to Deb Willet as we see her leaving her domineering and cruel aunt's home for a post with the Pepys's and I began to wonder...how will this sweet and intelligent girl end up embroiled in the violent action that the story opened with? I've read a number of novels that deal with historical spy rings and the dangers and benefits that can come from being pulled into this exciting yet vicious world, however I was particularly drawn to this aspect within Pleasing Mr. Pepys mainly due to the fact that Deb Willet seemed so unlike the typical person ensnared into this sort of environment. She comes from a well-to-do family, is well-educated, and seems so innocent at first, wanting simply to do well in her new circumstances and to make a better world for her and her sister. If she's able to find her mother, who abandoned her and her siblings and who, she believes, ran off to London, more's the better. Watching Abigail, so adept at intrigue and deception, pull Deb into this sinful hidden domain, against everything Deb wanted for her life, was gripping and entertaining.

Something else I very much enjoyed was seeing London from two distinct perspectives. We get to see the opulent theatres and homes of people like the Pepys, but we also get to see the dank, dirty, and dangerous back alleys of the city, where people turn to sin to feed their families and plot intrigue against a King that refuses to pay them for work done to protect his throne. It's this aspect that really excited me as the double dealing and intrigue was absolutely fascinating. Seeing people brought as low as nearly possible and then watching some of them try to right the wrongs they've committed made this a redemption story as well, and I always enjoy stories where characters scrabble back onto the right path.

Pleasing Mr. Pepys is scintillating and exciting historical fiction, all the more so since many of the character were actual people living and breathing this story. Like with all my favorite historical fiction, Swift includes historical notes at the end to flesh out fact from fiction. Having turned the last page on Deb, Abigail, the Pepys', and all the rest I now want to read more about their lives and the world they lived within. This is always a sign for me that the author did a great job of bringing their history back to life and I think historical fiction lovers will find much to enjoy in this story.


What Did I Think About the Cover?



I think it's GORGEOUS!! It's the perfect cover for historical fiction! I know a lot of people don't like when a woman's head is cut off on a cover, however having the eye's above the edge of this cover makes the woman seem mysterious, which fits in well with this story of spies. The buildings at the bottom capture the location, and the gilt edging makes it feel old yet important. I really love it!


My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 
Thank you to the lovely Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for sending me a free copy of Pleasing Mr. Pepys in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. Continue on below for more information about the book, it's authors, and the rest of the blog tour!
 
 

Praise for Pleasing Mr. Pepys



“Swift brought Deborah Willet, the Pepyses, and the London of the 1660s to life in an exciting and sometimes touching way…I didn’t want to put it down, and found myself thinking about the story when I went about my day.” – Andrea Zuvich, Author of His Last Mistress

“Deb Willet, Elizabeth Pepys’s maid and the object of Samuel Pepys’s attentions, is finally given centre-stage after 350 years, and her tale was worth waiting for. This is exceptional story-telling.” – L. C. Tyler

“Laced with emotional intensity and drama, Pleasing Mr Pepys… (has) an intricate plot that features red herrings, unexpected twists, and surprises that will take readers on a very delightful ride.” – Arya Fomonyuy, Readers’ Favorite
 
 

Buy the Book

 
 
  

About the Author

 
 
Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

For more information, please visit Deborah Swift’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


It's Giveaway Time!!!

 

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of Pleasing Mr. Pepys to one lucky winner! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th. 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.
 
Good Luck!!
 
 

Pleasing Mr. Pepys HFVBT Schedule

 


Thursday, September 28

Review at The Maiden’s Court
Guest Post at Books of All Kinds

Friday, September 29
 
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, October 2
 
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, October 3
 
 
Wednesday, October 4
 
Feature at A Holland Reads

Thursday, October 5
 
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, October 6
 
Feature at Passages to the Past

Monday, October 9
 
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, October 10
 
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Wednesday, October 11
 
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, October 13
 
Review at Poppy Coburn

Monday, October 16
 
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Tuesday, October 17
 
Review at Laura’s Interests
Interview at Suzy Approved Books

Wednesday, October 18
 
Review at Jo’s Book Blog

Thursday, October 19
 
Feature at T’s Stuff

Friday, October 20
 
Review at A Literary Vacation
Guest Post at The Writing Desk
 
 
 
 
 
 


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cover Crush (October Edition): Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

Since it's October and the perfect time of year to indulge my love of all things dark and scary I've decided to showcase creepy covers all month long!  

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 
 
 
 
For me this cover is more unsettling then necessarily scary, however it sort of gives me a claustrophobic feeling so I would definitely categorize it as "creepy". Why is this person clawing the ground like that? Are they falling into some hole? Or are they trying to get out? And what's with the spattering of blood? I also love that the word "calm" is crossed out...who could remain calm next to this image?! The blurriness gives a nice sense of mystery as well. All around a really chill-inducing cover!
 
Here's what the synopsis tells us about the story within.....
 
 
In this gripping sequel to THIS IS NOT A TEST, Rhys and Sloane are headed for a safe haven when they get separated along the way. Rhys is determined to reunite with Sloane until he discovers people who might need him more--people who offer him the closest he'll get to everything he's lost, if they can just hold on long enough.

Rhys thinks he has what it takes to survive and find the girl he lost, but in a world overrun by the dead, there are no guarantees and the next leg of his journey will test him in unimaginable ways ...
 

Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):


Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired



Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Quest for the Crown of Thorns by Cynthia Ripley Miller + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Pub. Date: June 12, 2017
Knox Robinson Publishing
Pages: 308

Series: The Long – Hair Saga, Book 2
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery



AD 454. Three years after the Roman victory over Attila the Hun at Catalaunum, Arria Felix and Garic the Frank are married and enjoying life on Garic’s farm in northern Gaul (France). Their happy life is interrupted, when a cryptic message arrives from Rome, calling Arria home to her father, the esteemed Senator Felix. At Arria’s insistence, but against Garic’s better judgment, they leave at once.


Upon their arrival at Villa Solis, they are confronted with a brutal murder and the dangerous mission that awaits them. The fate of a profound and sacred object–Christ’s Crown of Thorns–rests in their hands. They must carry the holy relic to the safety of Constantinople, away from a corrupt emperor and old enemies determined to steal it for their own gain.

But an even greater force arises to derail their quest–a secret cult willing to commit any atrocity to capture the Crown of Thorns. And all the while, the gruesome murder and the conspiracy behind it haunt Arria’s thoughts.

Arria and Garic’s marital bonds are tested but forged as they partner together to fulfill one of history’s most challenging missions, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns.


Praise for The Quest for the Crown of Thorns



“Ripley Miller astutely brings to life a Rome teetering precariously on the brink of collapse …the combination of political and romantic drama–spiritual as well–is rousing. The reader should be glad to have read this volume and eager for a third. Intelligent and artfully crafted historical fiction…” -Kirkus Reviews

“From cover to cover a gripping read – in all senses of the word! Grips your interest and imagination, your held breath and your pounding heart! A thumping good novel!” -Helen Hollick USA Today bestselling author of the Sea Witch Voyages

“Forbidden love, a turbulent time period, and world-changing events combine to produce a real page-turner.” -India Edghill, author of Queenmaker, Wisdom’s Daughter, and Delilah.

“A passionate and intriguing take on the often overlooked clash of three brutal and powerful empires: the Romans, Franks, and Huns. A Compelling read!” -Stephanie Thornton, author of The Secret History and The Tiger Queens

“Readers will be absorbed by a setting of barbarian Gaul and the constancy of Arria’s and Garic’s destined love amid the strife of a dying Roman Empire.” -Albert Noyer, author of The Getorius and Arcadia Mysteries

“The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, is an elegant masterpiece of historical fiction. This book totally ensnared me in its clasps, and it did not release me until I had read it all. The attention to detail was exquisite The characterisation was sublime, and the romance was breathtakingly beautiful. I adored the world that Miller has created, as well as the characters in it. This is a sit-down and finish book and is one I would Highly Recommend.” -Mary Anne Yarde author of the Du Lac Chronicles


Buy the Book

 
 

About the Author

 
 
Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages and books. She has lived, worked, and travelled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean. As a girl, she often wondered what it would be like to journey through time (she still does), yet knew, it could only be through the imagination and words of writers and their stories. Today, she writes to bring the past to life.

She holds two degrees and has taught history and teaches English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com and The Scriptor. A Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist for her novel, On the Edge of Sunrise, she has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus.

Cynthia has four children and lives with her husband, twin cats, Romulus and Remus, and Jessie, a German Shepherd, in a suburb of Chicago.

On the Edge of Sunrise is the first in the Long-Hair Saga; a series set in late ancient Rome and France and published by Knox Robinson Publishing. The second book in the series, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, was released in June 2017.

For more information please visit Cynthia Ripley Miller’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

It's Giveaway Time!!!



During the Blog Tour we are giving away 1 paperback copy & 2 eBooks of The Quest for the Crown of Thorns to one lucky winner! To enter, please see the Gleam form HERE. Paperback copy open to US residents & eBooks open Internationally.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 16th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– 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.
 
Good Luck!!
 
 

The Quest for the Crown of Thorns HFVBT Schedule



Monday, October 9

Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Feature at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 10

Excerpt at T’s Stuff

Wednesday, October 11

Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Thursday, October 12

Review at What Cathy Read Next

Friday, October 13

Review at Laura’s Interests

Monday, October 16
 
 
 
 
 
 


Friday, October 13, 2017

Audiobook Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Length: 9 hours, 9 minutes

Genre: Fiction / Humor


Synopsis



Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon - the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him 'the bitter neighbor from hell.' But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

 

What Did I Think About the Story?




From the very first minute I started listening to the audiobook version of A Man Called Ove I knew that I was going to enjoy it. When the story begins we see Ove trying to purchase an iPad at an Apple store and getting incredibly frustrated in the process. This experience not only had me laughing but instantly made me think of my own grandfather and how much of a loveable curmudgeon he was when he was alive. From this moment on I had a soft spot for Ove, even when he was not always the nicest guy, and delighted at his increasingly frustrated interactions with his hodge podge of neighbors. What I didn't expect, and absolutely adored, was the heartfelt and even heartbreaking backstory that unfolded.

I don't want to say too much and give anything away, but Ove's life has not been a consistently happy one. He's had many hard knocks over the years and, even when his life is sprinkled with happiness, it always seems to be tinged with heartache. He's come to the point where he's made a decision in his life and he is determined to follow through with it. After all, it's his life and he doesn't answer to anyone, does he? Well, as it turns out he does seem to have people to answer to, and those people refuse to let him get away with any shenanigans. Those people, much to Ove's dismay, are a collection of loud, opinionated, and sometimes slovenly neighbors (and a cat!) and they will change his life in some unexpected ways.

The best part of this story is the vivid and often hilarious extended cast of characters. Seriously, his neighbors had me cracking up as he tried to push them away and they kept coming back for more. Whether that was his pregnant neighbor who sweetly demanded he help her when she needed it, or the jovial overweight neighbor who refused to let Ove's jabs break his smile, or even the cat who didn't take any crap from Ove and, therefore, earned his respect, they all began to break down Ove's icy walls and made him realize that he isn't alone in the world. That, while the world isn't perfect, it can be wonderful in it's imperfections.

The narrator, George Newbern, was great and somehow perfectly expressed Ove's continued frustration, whether it was real or, as became true towards the end, somewhat faked to keep his image as a no-nonsense fellow intact. He gave unique voices to all of the characters, which I always find amazing, and seemed able to express heart and humor in turn as was necessary. I've never listened to an audiobook narratored by Mr. Newbern before but I'm going to make a point of looking for more.

A Man Called Ove was so much more than I expected. To be honest I don't think I had a lot of expectation regarding the story to begin with, but once read I now want to read more by this author. He has a way of capturing a unique sort of humanity, both uplifting and heartbreaking. Highly recommended!


What Did I Think About the Cover?



It's okay. I found it somewhat odd at first - Ove being turned away from our view  - but I've since discovered that the covers of all books by this author have the characters turned away. I'm not sure why, other than to allow us to visualize them as we see fit, but regardless it doesn't really draw me to the cover. Other than that it's somewhat plain. I do like the cat though.


My Rating: 4.0/5.0



I borrowed a copy of A Man Called Ove from my library's Overdrive account. All opinions are my own. For more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, go to Goodreads HERE.
 
 
 


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cover Crush (October Edition): The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

Since it's October and the perfect time of year to indulge my love of all things dark and scary I've decided to showcase creepy covers all month long!  

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 
 
 
 
I'll admit that this cover gave me what I like to call the "heeby jeebies" as soon as I saw it. That's basically a way of saying that it creeped me out hardcore, and continues to do so as I stare at it. The sepia tones makes it feel old and the fact that the white-faced woman seems just a darker version of the background gives her the feeling of ghostliness. And her image within the spinning stairwell leaves me wondering...if she floating, or is she falling? Whatever is going on here it's quite unnerving!
 
Let's find out what the story is about...
 

Viola Hatherley was a writer of ghost stories in the 1890s whose work lies forgotten until her great-grandson, as a young boy in Mawson, Australia, learns how to open the secret drawer in his mother's room. There he finds a manuscript, and from the moment his mother catches him in the act, Gerard Freeman's life is irrevocably changed. What is the invisible, ever-present threat from which his mother strives so obsessively to protect him? And why should stories written a century ago entwine themselves ever more closely around events in his own life? Gerard's quest to unveil the mystery that shrouds his family, and his life, will lead him from Mawson to London, to a long-abandoned house and the terror of a ghost story come alive.  
 

Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):




Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede 
 
 
 

 
 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: September 5th, 2017
Pages: 432

Genre: Historical Fiction


Synopsis



Named one of POPSUGAR’s 25 Books to Read This Fall!

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.


We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.”


What Did I Think About the Story?



There are few books that I've read more than once. In fact, I could probably count them on one hand - there's just too many books that I want to read for the first time, let alone more than once! One of those books happens to be Little Women, my all time favorite book (which, as any bookworm will attest, is a high honor indeed). I've lost count of the number of times I've read this stunning classic, so of course I was excited to see how Elise Hooper would showcase the women behind the story, especially the one to inspire Amy (to be completely honest, my least favorite March sister). Amazingly enough, what Hooper does in The Other Alcott is bring May Alcott front and center, allowing her to shine as the unique and talented individual that she was, making her become my favorite Alcott sister!

The story begins shortly after Little Women was published - to great success - with the illustrations done by May being panned by critics. Thus begins the representation of the love/hate relationship between these two opinionated artistic women, a relationship much like I imagine often happens with sisters. There's jealousies and competitiveness and grievances both big and small and this want to prove that she was as talented as her sister seemed to really drive May's ambitions, at least early on. At the same time May yearned for her sister's approval and doubted her own abilities even as she strove to become the best artist she could, one that could actually make a living off of her work as her sister did.  However, unlike Louisa, she also wished to have a life away from her art, one hopefully filled with love and friendship and enjoyment. She's quite the complicated character and came off very real and genuine.

The other characters all felt very realistic and complicated as well, especially Louisa. I was a little shocked by her depiction at first as she is so far from the "Jo March" character I remember and I ended up feeling quite sorry for her. At first she seems so bitter and unhappy, making it seem like everyone just wants money from her but willingly handing it out to her family - with strings in May's case - however, as the story progresses, we realize that she is under great pressure to keep her family taken care of and doesn't really have a life outside of her writing. I think that would  make most people unhappy and I ended up admiring her quite a bit, even if I never really warmed to her as a person.

Characterizations aside, the time and effort given to developing the artistic scene in Boston as well as Europe was fascinating. The reader gets to step into the salons, studios, and ateliers to witness the hard work and dedication that goes in to the vivid and beautiful pieces that adorn the walls. We also get to witness (although secondhand) the birth of the Impressionists, rubbing elbows with such artists as Mary Cassat and more. You can almost feel the excitement and drive to be a part of it all as May strives to develop her talent and fine her unique voice amongst so many talented people.

The Other Alcott was a delight to read. It presents this amazing woman who wants nothing more than to come out from behind the heavy shadow of her famous sister and family, advancing her own talent and making a name for herself, while always struggling with her commitments and responsibilities to that very same family. I won't say too  much about the ending other than to say that it fairly broke my heart, but I will say that, as a whole, I don't think I can ever look at Little Women the same way again. May Alcott was a fascinating person in her own right and I won't soon forget her.


What Did I Think About the Cover?



It's very pretty. I'm not sure that it's exactly how I would picture May, but I do like that it gives the sense of travel and adventure.


My Rating: 5.0/5.0


 
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with a free copy of The Other Alcott in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the blog tour!
 
 

Praise for The Other Alcott

 

“Elise Hooper’s thoroughly modern debut gives a fresh take on one of literature’s most beloved families. To read this book is to understand why the women behind Little Women continue to cast a long shadow on our imaginations and dreams. Hooper is a writer to watch!”—Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens
 
 

Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
Photo by Chris Landry
Photography
Though a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise Hooper lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature.

Find out more about Elise at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


TLC Book Tours Schedule



Thursday, September 7th: History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, September 8th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, September 13th: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, September 14th: History from a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, September 18th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Thursday, September 21st: bookchickdi
Friday, September 22nd: A Bookish Affair
Monday, September 25th: Literary Lindsey
Tuesday, September 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, September 27th: She’s All Booked
Thursday, September 28th: Openly Bookish
Friday, September 29th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, October 3rd: View From the Birdhouse
Wednesday, October 4th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, October 11th: A Literary Vacation
TBD: Unabridged Chick
TBD: Into the Hall of Books
TBD: Bibliotica



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spotlight on The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 320

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense


In a suspense thriller to rival Paula Hawkins and Tana French, a detective with secrets of her own hunts the killer of a woman who was the glamorous star of their high school.


Rosalind’s secrets didn’t die with her.

The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind’s student years and then again when she returned to teach drama.

As much as Rosalind’s life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town’s richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her?

Rosalind’s enigmas frustrate and obsess Gemma, who has her own dangerous secrets — an affair with her colleague and past tragedies that may not stay in the past.


Brilliantly rendered, THE DARK LAKE has characters as compelling and mysteries as layered as the best thrillers from Gillian Flynn and Sophie Hannah.


Praise for The Dark Lake



“THE DARK LAKE hooked me from page one! Sarah Bailey combines the very best elements in this stunning debut thriller — a troubled detective still trying to find her way as a female investigator, a small town haunted by secrets both past and present, and a beautiful victim whose unsettling allure appears to be her biggest asset and largest downfall. With clever twists and all-too-human characters, this book will keep you racing toward the end.”--- Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Right Behind You and Find Her


“THE DARK LAKE is a stunning debut that gripped me from page one and never eased up. Dark, dark, dark — but infused with insight, pathos, a great sense of place, and razor-sharp writing. It’s going to be big and Sarah Bailey needs to clear a shelf for awards.”--- C.J. Box, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Vicious Circle and Open Season


“Police work comes easily to Det. Sgt. Gemma Woodstock, the narrator of Australian author Bailey’s stellar first novel… Bailey interweaves her sympathetic protagonist’s past and present with uncommon assurance… a page-turner that’s both tense and thought provoking.”--- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)


“The Dark Lake is a mesmerizing thriller full of long buried secrets that sucked me right in and kept me up late turning pages. Gemma Woodstock is a richly flawed and completely authentic character — I loved going on this journey with her and the way the truth of her past was revealed in bits and pieces as we went along. Sarah bailey has crafted an exquisite debut — I can’t wait to see what she does next!”--- Jennifer McMahon, New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People


“I read THE DARK LAKE in one sitting, it’s that good. A crime thriller that seizes you from the first page and slowly draws you into a web of deception and long buried secrets. Beautifully written, compulsively readable, and highly recommended.”--- Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God and co-author of the bestselling Pendergast series


“A compelling debut.”--- Booklist


“I raced through this deliciously complicated, mesmerizing debut at warp speed. Sarah Bailey’s THE DARK LAKE is sure to keep readers awake far too late into the night.”--- Karen Dionne, author The Marsh King’s Daughter


Buy the book

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 

Sarah Bailey was born in Melbourne, Australia, where she has lived all her life and currently resides
with her two young sons. She has a degree in journalism and has a career in advertising. She is currently a creative partner at creative agency, Mr Smith. THE DARK LAKE is her first novel.
 
Discover more about Sarah and her writing on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
 
 


Monday, October 9, 2017

Spotlight on HUG EVERYONE YOU KNOW: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer by Antoinette Truglio Martin

Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub. Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 320
 
Genres: Memoir / Contemporary Nonfiction


Antoinette Martin believed herself to be a healthy and sturdy woman―that is, until she received a Stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis. Cancer is scary enough for the brave, but for a wimp like Martin, it was downright terrifying. Martin had to swallow waves of nausea at the thought of her body being poisoned, and frequently fainted during blood draws and infusions. To add to her terror, cancer suddenly seemed to be all around her. In the months following her diagnosis, a colleague succumbed to cancer, and five of her friends were also diagnosed.

Though tempted, Martin knew she could not hide in bed for ten months. She had a devoted husband, daughters, and a tribe of friends and relations. Along with work responsibilities, there were graduations, anniversaries, and roller derby bouts to attend, not to mention a house to sell and a summer of beach-bumming to enjoy. In order to harness support without scaring herself or anyone else, she journaled her experiences and began to e-mail the people who loved her―the people she called My Everyone. She kept them informed and reminded all to 'hug everyone you know' at every opportunity. Reading the responses became her calming strategy. Ultimately, with the help of her community, Martin found the courage within herself to face cancer with perseverance and humor.


Praise for Hug Everyone You Know



“… a compelling memoir about the importance of community while navigating a life crisis such as cancer. As an oncology nurse and a cancer survivor myself, I found Martin's writing to be a refreshingly real depiction of life as a cancer patient. Her writing is a testimony to the endurance of the human spirit, the importance of love and community, and the need for hope every day of the journey.”—Lee Ambrose, StoryCircle Book Reviews

“Martin used journaling and emails to “My Everyone,” her group of close family and friends, to get through her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from early-stage breast cancer….The account reveals the value of keeping a journal as a means of coping with one’s fears and acknowledges the support Martin received through sharing her experience rather than trying to shield others from her illness.”—Library Journal

“Filled with fresh air, light, and life, Hug Everyone You Know is an intimate conversation with an intelligent, funny survivor. The voice rings true, and the insights resonate well beyond the cancer moment. Highly recommended.”—Joni Rodgers, NYT bestselling author of Bald in the Land of Big Hair

“…a well-written, concise telling of what it’s like to be hit with a cancer diagnosis and the human thoughts that accompany it, like ‘how do I tell the family?’ and ‘what do I tell them?.... In five words: she writes a good story…. Martin’s persona is optimistic; you just want to hang around her and it’s that attitude that got her through. Not surprisingly, gratefulness is part of her mantra. So are hugs.”—The Suffolk County News

“ . . . really great. She has a way of writing that really captured my attention and brought me into her “story”. I felt like her best friend at the end . . . .”—Kathryn Gates-Ferris, MS, MPA, CHt, Avon Project Director

‘Everyone’s’ to find their strength and demonstrate their love.”—Karen Schmitt, MA, BSN, Director, Cancer Services Program of Manhattan New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia Executive Director, CARE Shared Resource Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center

“…Being in the medical field, it’s a shot of reality seeing it from the patients’ point of view, with the day-in and day-out struggles of life compounded with the diagnosis. This book brought a face to breast cancer and I feel privileged and honored that she shared it with me. I will hug everyone I know, now and forever.”—Barbara M. O’Brien RN, Director of Cancer Services Program of Staten Island, Staten Island University Hospital

“This is a great story: inventive, informative, and irresistibly readable. Quite an accomplishment when the subject is cancer. Brava.”―Odette Heideman, Editor, Epiphany Magazine


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
Photo Credit: Titus Kana
 Antoinette Truglio Martin is a speech therapist and special education teacher by training but is a writer at heart. She is the author of Famous Seaweed Soup, and was a visiting author in schools for several years. She was formerly a regular columnist for Parent Connection (In A Family Way) and Fire Island Tide (Beach Bumming). Personal experience essays and excerpts of her memoir have been published in Bridges (2014), Visible Ink (2015), and The Southampton Review (2016). Martin proudly received her MFA in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook Southampton University (2016). As a stage four breast cancer patient, she does not allow cancer to dictate her life. She lives in her hometown of Sayville with her husband, Matt, and is never far from My Everyone and the beaches she loves.

 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Audiobook Review: Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Pub. Date: July 14, 2015
Length: 10 hours and 11 minutes

Genre: Psychological Suspense / Fiction


Synopsis



What if everything you think is true and real about your life is a lie?


Ava's life in the coastal South appears nearly perfect after her recent marriage to the powerful and handsome Mitchell Carson. She loves her husband and the family they have created. Even Mitchell's young son from a previous marriage, Jack, with his superhero ambitions, can't imagine life without Ava. Outwardly, Mitchell appears to be a caring husband and doting father, but as Ava soon discovers, there is a dark side to Mitchell Carson that she never imagined.

When Graham Thomas, a lawyer with a secret past, stumbles into Ava's life, everything changes. Mitchell's jealous streak emerges after an innocent encounter between Graham and Ava, and Mitchell soon convinces himself that Ava is unfaithful. When Mitchell starts divorce proceedings and a custody war, Jack is caught in the middle, which soon makes him question Ava's pure intentions. As Ava searches for a way to save her family, she begins to uncover her husband's secret past and capacity for unhinged jealousy and rage.


What Did I Think About the Story?



Center of Gravity ended up being so different from what I expected when I started listening to it. I expected it to be a behind-the-scenes look at a "perfect family" that isn't as  perfect as we first expect, however it was so much more! The reader (or listener in my case) gets to see inside the heads of these characters which, in the case of Mitchell, is quite disturbing.

The story is told through the point-of-view of numerous characters, namely Ava, Mitchell, Sam, Graham, and a court-appointed psychologist. I loved this as it gives such a rounded view of this disintegrating marriage and family and allows us to see the various characters grapple with the sometimes insane-seeming situation before them as well as view how they try to justify what is happening. In the case of Mitchell this is quite chilling as we discover, quite early on, that he's rapidly coming unhinged. I found it fascinating to see how far he would go - lying, scheming, planting false evidence, and so much more - in his quest to get what he wants and ruin Ava after he's convinced she's been unfaithful to him. Watching Ava try to rationalize what is happening around her (surely this couldn't be happening to her happy little household, could it?) as well as come to terms with the increasingly horrific facts she finds out about her husband was also so interesting.

With such a host of appealing (or disturbing) characters, my favorite would definitely be Jack. His point-of-view is so endearing and it broke my heart to watch him wrestle with loving his mentally abusive father, take care of his baby brother Sam, and try to figure out how to make his family whole again. He wants so badly to be like the superheroes he loves so much, which is a lot of pressure for an 8-year-old. He's such a sweet, smart, and brave little character and I just ached watching him go through so much at the hands of his own father.

The pace of the narrative was great as well. In the beginning the pacing was somewhat slow as this world slowly begins to unravel, but then it picks up and continues to build intensity, reaching near breakneck speed at the end. I found myself unable to stop listening until I could see how it would end and discover if all of our characters would make it out alive.

Being an audiobook I should comment on the narrator as well. Lisa Larsen was an excellent narrator and did a fantastic job of changing up the voices of the characters, which is especially impressive given the large cast. She also did a great job of altering the tension and pacing to keep the listener invested in the story and making it hard to turn it off.

Center of Gravity is a great peek into the home of a psycho husband who convinced so many - including his wife! - that he was the perfect family man. You won't be able to look away as the plot unfolds and the illusion of perfection tumbles down. I highly recommend it for those that enjoy a suspenseful listening experience!


What Did I Think About the Cover?



While I didn't initially think much of it, now that I've read the story I think it fits it very well. The build up of all that Mitchell has kept hidden - and the discovery of the lengths he will go to to get what he wants -  makes the narrative feel tighter and tighter until - snap! - it quickly unravels the many lies and lays bare the terrifying facts. I definitely appreciate it more after reading it!


My Rating: 4.0/5.0


 
I purchased a copy of Center of Gravity from Audible for my own library. All opinions are my own. Find more about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, on Goodreads HERE.
 
 
 


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cover Crush (October Editions): Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

Since it's October and the perfect time of year to indulge my love of all things dark and scary I've decided to showcase creepy covers all month long!  

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 
 
 
 
How gorgeous is this cover?! I have to admit that I've not watched the movie (gasp!) and haven't read the story yet either (double gasp!), however I'm fascinated by this image. There's so much to marvel at, from the slightly off-kilter aspect of the ground to the button-shaped moon to the incredibly sinister tree. And the color extremes, from bright white to dark blue, have  my eyes roving all over the place and into each corner. Not having a great grasp on what the story is about, the cover alone has me intrigued!
 
Now to find out what awaits within the pages....
 

When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own... except that it's different. It's a marvelous adventure until Coraline discovers that there's also another mother and another father in the house. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to keep her forever!

Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home.

 

Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):


Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired



Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede
 
 
 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

HFVBT Review: Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor + Tour-Wide Giveaway!

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: October 3, 2017
Pages: 384

Genre: Historical Fiction



Synopsis



New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.


August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…


What Did I Think About the Story?



Since reading and loving The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a number of years ago, I've kept my eyes peeled for other epistolary novels, especially those that highlight some interesting part of history. I find that viewing a story through letters allows for more intimacy with the characters and provides a rawness and honesty that is harder to find in a strict narrative. Last Christmas in Paris is one such novel, allowing the reader an inside glimpse into what it was like living through WWI, both on the battlefield and on the homefront, through the written communications of some lovely characters.

The bulk of the story takes place during WWI and is told through letters exchanged between a small group of characters, with the vast majority being between Evie Elliot, a young woman living in London, and Thomas Harding, a childhood friend and best friend to Evie's brother, Will. Through their letters (along with letters to and from a few others, such as Evie's brother, her best friend Alice, and Thomas's father and his father's solicitor) the reader is able to really see and feel what it would have been like to be left at home, worrying and mourning for the men fighting in France while being left impotent to do anything about it, as well as what it was really like to fight in the battles, much worse than anything they were prepared for. The story that unfolds gives you a great sense of sadness, renewal, and determination as England's people did what they could to survive with the hope of betters days possibly ahead.

Interspersed occasionally throughout the letters is Thomas's musings at Christmas time in Paris of 1968, where he's traveled, along with all his wartime letters, for what seems to be his last Christmas in Paris. These were very short but served to drive home the feeling of the great amount of time that has elapsed since he fought in the war and the depth of how those years changed him and of how his life progressed after. There's a sense of sadness as we learn from the beginning that the love of his life has recently passed away and has left him a final letter, which he's to read on Christmas Eve. I have to admit I wished for more of these little snippets as they felt very poignant and emotional.  

What came as somewhat of a surprise for me was learning about the press regulations and newspaper restrictions that, surprisingly enough, have never really been discussed in any of the novels I've read from this time period. While I know there was quite a bit of propaganda and bolstering being done for a  number of reasons (including making it sound more appealing to encourage boys to sign up to serve and to cushion those at home from the true atrocities happening to their loved ones fighting) but I honestly had no idea that at least some of this was due to regulations being put into place by the War Office. I found the discussions surrounding Thomas's father's newspaper quite fascinating and am excited that this aspect was included.

I also didn't expect to enjoy the romance aspect as much as I did. I've never been one to seek out novels heavy in romance, which is probably why I enjoyed it in this novel as much as I did because the love and affections taking place through the majority of the story felt like a slow burn, more of a friendship that turns into a great love than a hot and heavy spark of passion. This made it feel more realistic overall and made it very touching and sweet. I didn't expect to become as invested in Thomas and Evie's love affair as I did, but by the time the story was over I was really sad to see it end. It left me with a feeling of deliciously simple sweetness and I loved it all the more for that feeling. 

I am pretty amazed that this story is a collaborative effort between two novelists I have read and enjoyed before - Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor. At no point could I discern a difference that would separate the two authors' contributions and it flowed quite nicely. I'm always amazed when multiple authors write one cohesive story and I need to try and figure out which parts were written by which author, purely for my own amusement and knowledge.

Last Christmas in Paris is a delightful WWI novel that encapsulates so many remarkable feelings and situations: loss, love, tragedy, recovery, redemption, sadness, and so much more. Read it whether you love history, epistolary novels, or just a remarkably touching story. Highly recommended!


What Did I Think About the Cover?



It's gorgeous! I absolutely love the pop of red color on the ribbon and the woman's jacket, and having the setting as the Eiffel Tower and the packet of letters above it perfectly captures the story. Not much else to say other than it's perfect!


My Rating: 4.5/5.0


Thank you to the lovely Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and William Morrow Paperbacks for sending me a free copy of Last Christmas in Paris in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. Continue on below for more information about the book, it's authors, and the rest of the blog tour!
 
 

Praise for Last Christmas in Paris

 
 
"Beautifully told…the authors fully capture the characters’ voices as each person is dramatically shaped by the war to end all wars.”—Booklist

“For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society comes another terrific epistolary historical novel that is simply unputdownable […] this remarkable novel will undoubtedly go on my keeper shelf.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of The Night the Lights Went Out

“Humor, love, tragedy, and hope make for a moving, uplifting read. A winner!” —Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

“An extraordinary epistolary novel that explores the history and aftermath of the Great War in a sensitive, memorable and profoundly moving fashion. A book to savor, to share and discuss with friends, and above all to cherish.” —Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Goodnight from London

“There is a special talent to writing the epistolary novel and Gaynor and Webb have mastered it. Letter by letter, the complex lives of Evie and Thomas unfold as WWI wages on, bringing with it the heartbreaking news of physical and emotional casualties. And yet, in the midst of such sacrifices, an ever-deepening love surfaces, finding a unique way to live on in this devastatingly beautiful work of historical fiction.”—Renee Rosen, author of Windy City Blues


Buy the Book

 
 

About the Authors

 
 
HEATHER WEBB is the author of historical novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover, and the anthology Fall of Poppies, which have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. RODIN’S LOVER was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. Up and coming, Last Christmas in Paris, an epistolary love story set during WWI will release October 3, 2017, and The Phantom’s Apprentice, a re-imagining of the Gothic classic Phantom of the Opera from Christine Daae’s point of view releases February 6, 2018. To date, her novels have sold in ten countries. Heather is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend.
 
 
HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris will be published in 2017.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.
 
 

It's Giveaway Time!!!

 

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 copies of Last Christmas in Paris! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada 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.
 
Good Luck!!
 
 

Last Christmas in Paris HFVBT Schedule

 

Monday, September 25

 
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Books of All Kinds

Tuesday, September 26
 
Review at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, September 27
 
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, September 28
 
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, October 2
 
Review at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, October 3
 
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, October 4
 
Review at A Literary Vacation

Friday, October 6
 
Review at Library Educated

Monday, October 9
 
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Suzy Approved Books

Tuesday, October 10
 
Interview at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, October 12
 
Review at Creating Herstory

Friday, October 13
 
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, October 16 
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Tuesday, October 17
 
Review at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, October 18
 
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Interview at Faery Tales Are Real

Thursday, October 19
 
Review at A Holland Reads

Friday, October 20