Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Guest Post by Steve Lindahl, Author of Hopatcong Vision Quest

 
 

Hopatcong Vision Quest, my latest novel, is set at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey's largest lake and the place where I spent the summers of my youth. (The old picture is me with my grandfather, searching for fishing worms.)

So, how does writing about the place where I grew up, help me as a writer?

First of all, it allows me to write about what I know. This does not mean my plot has to be driven by events I have experienced. Hopatcong Vision Quest starts with two murders and I have no background in that area. (Thank you, God.) But I know lakes, so when I write - The wind was soft and the water quiet, except for small waves lapping along the narrow shoreline in front of the trees. - I can see, hear, smell, and feel the setting. And when Maya, a ten year old character in my story, sets out to locate a muskrat den, I can remember similar experiences as a young boy and combine my memories with a little research to produce a complete scene – The water was high, but Maya could see marks on the rocks at the water's edge indicating it had once been higher. That morning the muskrats were using an underwater entrance to go in and out of their home, but the book had said they needed at least one entrance above the waterline. The entrance Lucas had shown her was high enough, as long as there wasn't a flood.

There is, however, another benefit to writing a novel set where I grew up. I know a bit about its modern history, which allows me to write accurate statements such as - The New Jersey soil and abundant water from the lake provided a perfect place to plant - and - “The boathouse set back in that cove and the other two along the shore have existed for as long as I can remember. Change happens at a slower pace here than the rest of the world, but things do change.”

My history with the lake and the people who live by it, has given me a great love for the area, which touches on a subject raised by Suzy Henderson in another quest blog on this site. My love for the setting helps when my novel turns from the present to the past. In Hopatcong Vision Quest a hypnotist helps my characters recall memories of a past life they shared in a Lenape Native American village that existed in the same location where the lake is today. I enjoyed the research necessary to produce a believable, accurate picture of life back then. As a child, I was excited by the fact that Native Americans had once lived where we lived. As a writer, I had a reason to look back and satisfy my curiosity. For me, the research was almost as much fun as the writing.

Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again about a writer who writes too closely about his home town and the people in it, who aren't pleased when their flaws are exposed. With Hopatcong Vision Quest, I've written about fictional people in a real setting. The details of the past and the present are as real as I can make them. The emotions are also real, but not tied directly to specific people. So I say you can go home again, if you treat your home with respect and love.
 
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
 
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Pub. Date: October 6th, 2016
Pages: 250
 
 
With the help of a hypnotist, Diane, Ryan, and Martha look into their hidden memories, hoping to use past life experiences to solve the murders of two people they loved. The trail to the justice they seek runs through a life they shared hundreds of years earlier, in a Native American village.
 
Oota Dabun, Diane's counterpart in her past life, always dreamed of having a vision quest, a rite normally reserved for the young men of her village. This Lenape woman reaches for her dream in an unusual and compassionate fashion which teaches Diane a great deal about the capacity of the soul they share.
 
 

Praise for Hopatcong Vision Quest



“An enticing, engaging novel I highly recommend” DM Denton

“...deftly plotted and extremely well written.” Matthew Peters

“A fascinating view of ancient tribal beliefs bleeding into the present day.” Sheila Englehart


Check out the Book Trailer



 
 

Buy the Book

 
 

About the Author

 
 
Steve Lindahl's first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, were published in 2009 and 2014 by All Things That Matter Press. His short fiction has appeared in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis, and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. He is currently the managing/fiction editor for Flying South, a literary magazine sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers and is also a board member of that organization.

His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Hopatcong Vision Quest is Steve Lindahl's third novel, his first with Solstice Publishing.

You can learn more about Steve on his website and blog.





Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Release Day Spotlight on The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne + Giveaway!!

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: March 28th, 2017
Pages: 400

Genres: Mystery/Psychological Thriller/Suspense


THE PERFECT HUSBAND. THE PERFECT STEPSON. THE PERFECT LIE?


When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.

But then Jamie's behavior changes, and Rachel's perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the specter of his late mother - David's previous wife. Is this Jamie's way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?

As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie's outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife's untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie's words:

"You will be dead by Christmas."

 
"Tremayne...does a terrific job of building suspense until events reach their climax in the midst of a violent storm." - Library Journal       
 
 

Buy the Book          

       
 
 

About the Author   

 
 
S. K. Tremayne is a bestselling novelist and award-winning travel writer, and a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines around the world. Tremayne has two daughters, and lives in London.
 
 

It's Giveaway Time!! 

 
 
Thanks to Tiffany Sanchez at Grand Central Publishing I have two (2!) copies of The Fire Child to giveaway today (US/CAN only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

 
I'll use a random number generator to pick two winners on April 4th, 2017 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winners. The winners will then have 48 hours to respond to my email with their full mailing address. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.

Good Luck!!
 
 
 
 
 
 


Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd

Publisher: Howard Books
Pub. Date: March 21st, 2017
Pages: 384

Book Series: Daughters of Hampshire #3
Genre: Historical Fiction



Synopsis



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


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

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

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


What Did I Think About the Story?



I have read and enjoyed each of Sandra Byrd's historical novels and A Lady in Disguise is no exception. I'm always amazed with how well Ms. Byrd draws the reader into the time periods, customs, and cultures her characters inhabit and how transported I always feel by her stories. A Lady in Disguise is the third novel in her Daughters of Hampshire series but, as with the other books in both this and her Ladies in Waiting series, this is a standalone novel with a wholly original storyline and characters and situations unlike any of the others.

The main plot of this story centers around Gillian Young's search for the truth about whether or not her father's death was really an accident, whether he might have been involved in illegal dealings as a police officer, and whether either man vying for her attentions are true to their words. With so much uncertainty, the reader is forced to question everyone's intentions and to wonder who is behind the more nefarious actions going on. While I can't say that the main "bad guy" came as a surprise to me (I figured out pretty quickly who that was going to be) I was surprised by some of the revelations regarding some of the secondary characters, not only in regards to things they were doing behind the scenes but the reasons behind those actions. With all the reading I do, any time an author can slip in some surprises for me, especially when dealing with historical fiction, I am always pleasantly surprised. 

The writing style and dialogue felt very authentic to the Victorian era that the story took place in and it was very interesting to see how a woman making her own money by her own hands fit into this very traditional and uniformed world she inhabited. Her position in that world is also unusual as she comes from money and status on her maternal side but working class stock on her paternal side....something that did not happen very regularly during this time period. This sort of middle world she inhabits, one that cannot quite be pigeonholed in this time period, makes her grasp on her situation that much more tenuous and has her somewhat isolated from either side she might be able to seek help from.

With all this being said, my absolute favorite part of the novel was the detail given to developing the backstage world of the theatre and the unfortunate children who worked for it, as well as the beauty and detail that went into the art of costuming.  While the theatre was quite exciting and somewhat provocative for the times, the abandonment of the child actors once they were no longer useful was abhorrent. The reader gets to see how people took advantage of these misplaced young girls and the kind of adult world they would find themselves in without the help of the various charities set up to help them, such as the Cause so prominent in A Lady in Disguise. Learning of the training and assistance given to these children by these charities, in the hopes of giving them the chance for a good future, was really interesting and something I'm sad to say I never even thought of before. The details given to Gillian's costume designing and learning of the skills and time it takes to create the beautiful pieces not only shown on the stage but in the ballrooms of the elite was also fascinating. While I'm not personally that into fashion, learning the intricate details makes me realize just what an art form costuming really is.

A Lady in Disguise is wonderful historical fiction. There is quite a bit of talk of Christianity and scripture, however given the overall characteristics of the story and players, it never felt preachy or overdone to me. In the same vein, while romance is never something I gravitate towards, the romantic situation Gillian finds herself in isn't overly done and is therefore something that can be enjoyed by those that do enjoy romance but not something that will be a turnoff for those that don't. There's even an excellent author's note at the end of the story that cements the facts from the fictions within the story, something I always look for with historical fiction. I definitely recommend this novel, along with all of Ms. Byrd's historical fiction novels, to anyone looking for an escape into another time and place they might otherwise never get to experience.   


What Did I Think About the Cover?



I think the cover is perfect for the story! First off, the cover designer gave the woman on the cover the same color of hair as our main character was described as having (I can't stand when a character is described in detail and then does not match up with the picture on the cover!). The empty, hazy streets and elongated shadows are also perfectly matched to the story and give that sense of isolation and eeriness that is so key to the narrative. Finally, I love the muted colors, not only for the pleasant appearance but because the book will fit in nicely next to the other books in the series on my shelves.


My Rating: 4.0/5.0 


Thank you so much to author Sandra Byrd for sending me a copy of A Lady in Disguise in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Continue below for more information about this lovely book and it's author.


Praise for A Lady in Disguise 



"Capturing a distinctively gothic feel, the third standalone novel in Daughters of Hampshire series beautifully pairs mystery with romance. Byrd's research into the traditions, culture and dark under belly of England in the 1800s resonates on each page to help readers become immersed in the era. Descriptions of lavishly sewn gowns and the fascinating world of the theater are brought to life by Byrd's superb writing." - RT Reviews


"This Victorian inspirational romance features everything fans of the genre expect: a plucky, relatable heroine with a visible Christian faith, a dashing but kind love interest, and a mystery element to foster tension until the dénouement and 'happy ever after' epilogue." - Book list


"With impeccable research and elegant writing, Sandra Byrd brings Victorian England to life in her latest novel, A Lady in Disguise. Readers of historical fiction will be delighted with the romance, mystery, and inspiration in this page-turning story, and they will be kept guessing until the end to see how the heroine will uncover the truth behind her father's death. Well done and highly recommended!" - Carrie Turansky, the author of A Refuge at Highland Hall and Shine Like the Daw
"Sandra Byrd's talent for keeping readers on the edges of their seats once again shines throughout this well-written tale. Brimming with mysteries from the very first page, lovers of historical fiction and historical suspense will adore discovering the startling truths alongside the heroine in A Lady in Disguise." - Dawn Crandall, award winning author of The Everstone Chronicle


My Reviews of Sandra Byrd's Other Historical Novels





Buy the Book




About the Author



After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick, as was The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.

A life-long lover of Victorian Gothic romances, Sandra’s new series, Daughters of Hampshire,
weaves elements of that mystical, traditional genre with inspirational and literary threads. Mist of Midnight, the series’ first book, was honored with a coveted Editor’s Choice designation from the Historical Novel Society. The second book in the series, Bride of a Distant Isle, launched in March, 2016 and the third, A Lady in Disguise, will publish in 2017.

A devotionalist as well as a novelist, Sandra’s best-selling devotional for tweens, One Year Be-Tween You and God will be followed up with her first devotional for adults, The One Year Home and Garden Devotions. Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens.

Fine out more about Sandra on her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Spotlight on The Galery Series by Aithal

Beyond the Milk Way (Book One)



Publisher: Season Ball
Pub. Date: November 25th, 2015
Pages: 362


Are we alone?


Three astronauts go to space in search of a planet that probably has water—one of the basic elements for humanity to survive. Do they find it? What else do they find? They encounter something—something strange—beyond their wildest imaginations, and their mission-to-explore becomes a mission-to-survive.

They experience something that makes them question their beliefs. All the things they had taken for granted, everything they had seen and learned, don’t seem to apply any longer.

Something happens along the way that makes them yearn to come back to Earth. After all, home is where the heart is.

This is not just another science fiction. Rather, it will make you question your own beliefs—may they be scientific, religious, political, or something else.


In the first installment of The Galaxy Series, find out about the strange world they discover.


Buy the Book

 
 
 
 

Book Trailer

 
 
 
 
 

Return to Earth (Book Two)

 
 
Publisher: Season Ball
Pub. Date: January 20th, 2017
Pages: 172
 
 

After their shuttle met with an accident and landed on a strange planet, the three astronauts return to Earth with the help of the aliens. However, they end up returning in the wrong time—in the future.

What they experience truly shocks them. They return to a time when separation, division, and hatred, rule the day. Indeed, they return to Earth. But is it really home? What has happened to their beloved planet? And what has happened to their country, the most powerful nation on Earth? Is it still the most powerful country on Earth? Whose doing is it?

In a place where how a human sees and treats a fellow human defines his existence. In a time when survival is the most important thing, the human spirit of endurance and sharing shows how life can be when things become dire.


In this second book of The Galaxy Series, join the adventures of the three astronauts and an alien on Earth. Take an emotional rollercoaster ride as they travel through America, see what they see and ask yourself—‘is this what I want to leave for my next generation?’


Buy the Book

 
 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
Aithal resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. Find out more about Aithal's books on the Galaxy Series website, and connect on Facebook and Twitter.





Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cover Crush: The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

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.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....




This is such an interesting cover! I LOVE how the central picture of a boy coming out of a dark cave into water overlooking some sort of castle seems to be happening within the mind of someone (possibly the same boy?). Centering the title within the head just draws the eye right to it as well. I don't believe I've ever seen a cover quite like this before. It's just really stunning!

So what in the world is the story really about? Let's see:


Nine-year-old Louis Drax is a problem child: bright, precocious, deceitful – and dangerously, disturbingly, disaster-prone. When he falls off a cliff into a ravine, the accident seems almost predestined. Louis miraculously survives – but the family has been shattered.

Louis’ father has vanished, his mother is paralysed by shock, and Louis lies in a deep coma from which he may never emerge. In a clinic in Provence, Dr Pascal Dannachet tries to coax Louis back to consciousness. But the boy defies medical logic, startling Dannachet out of his safe preconceptions, and drawing him inexorably into the dark heart of Louis’ buried world. 

Only Louis holds the key to the mystery surrounding his fall – and he can’t communicate. Or can he?


Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:


Heather at The Maiden's Court
Stephanie at Layered Pages


Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TLC Book Tours: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Publisher: Crown
Pub Date: February 14th, 2017
Pages: 384


Synopsis



“Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!”


As England enters World War II’s dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to shutter the church’s choir in the absence of men and instead “carry on singing.” Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir,” the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit– a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn’t understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past– we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life. In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.


What Did I Think About the Story?



The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is, for me, perfect historical fiction. Told through the letters and journal entries of various women living in the small village of Chilbury in England, the reader gets to view WWII from a very unique perspective and to see, through the eyes of these women, how the war effected those on the home front in a myriad of ways. Through participation in this women's choir and through the support and strength of each other, the women of Chilbury are able to grow as individuals and as a community, immerging stronger as a result of the sadness, horror, and loss they each go through.

Making this story an epistolary novel is absolutely brilliant. Being presented as letters and journals we are able to see right into the hearts and heads of these women to not only learn what happens to them and those they love but to see the emotions and anxieties that drive them. I felt completely drawn to these women (most of them at least...I was not a fan of Edwina  Paltry, the midwife at the center of a particularly seedy conspiracy at the heart of the story) and became quite invested in what they were experiencing. Having these varying perspectives also allows the reader to get such a wide scope of the war and to really see how it affected so many different people. In this one novel we are given a conspiracy (with Ms. Paltry's letters to her sister), a coming of age story (through young Kitty Winthrop's journal), a fraught romance (in Venetia Winthrop's letters to her best friend), a mother's struggle to not live completely for her son and learn to find some strength and joy for herself (through the journal of Mrs. Tilling), as well as the heartache and uncertainty of a Jewish evacuee (through the sporadic journal entries of Sylvie, the young Czech girl living with the Winthrops). So many emotions and conflicts existing in one novel, yet fully developed given the nature of the way the stories are presented. Just brilliant!

Beyond learning about each of these women individually (and, through their eyes, other women and men in their village), having them all be a part of this choir was so fun to read. It was great seeing how they created this close knit family-like community and how the simple act of singing not only brought joy to each of them but also created a safe space to mourn and gave them a cathartic way to express their warring emotions. It also served to give strength to some of them when they needed it most, and a soft place to rest when others couldn't keep going on their own. There is so much loss within this story, but there is also hope and love and bravery and I felt wholly satisfied when I turned that final page.

Needless to say, I absolutely adored The Chilbury Ladies's Choir. Given the wide scope of the various perspectives within the story and the immense emotion showcased, I would recommend this novel to anyone wanting to really connect to a story and not only learn a little more about the "war at home" during WWII but to discover some amazingly brave and beautiful characters. I cannot wait to see what this author does next!


What Did I Think About the Cover?



This cover is GORGEOUS! It perfectly reflects the charming English village brought to life within the pages and highlights our women who are central to the story. The planes flying above are also important to the story and could also represent the looming danger and fear brought on by the war. I have very much enjoyed staring at this cover as I've read the book!


My Rating: 5.0/5.0


Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Be sure to continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the tour!
 
 

Praise for The Chilbury Ladies' Choir



“There’s so much happening in Chilbury: intrigue, romance and an unforgettable cast of characters who aren’t always as they appear. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a charming slice of English wartime life that warms the soul like a hot toddy.” — Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls

“Lyrical, poetic, emotional, funny, endearing, surprising – it is a masterpiece.” — Veronica Henry, author of An Eligible Bachelor

“The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir sinks you deep inside the rich, intricate atmosphere of an English village in the middle of war, when quiet lives are upended and secrets unravel. With her unforgettable characters and vivid narrative, Jennifer Ryan creates the kind of wartime novel that plays out over the intimate territory of the human heart—full of soul, full of hope. You’ll be thinking about this book long after the last page turns.” — Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant

“World War II in an English village seen through the eyes of the most delicious cast of characters you’ll ever meet—The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a masterpiece of secrets, misdirection, village gossip, and gleeful disregard for anything but the main chance, as the Home Front learns to carry on. Seldom do you find a writer with such a deft touch—Jennifer Ryan sweeps the reader along to the very last page in a remarkable debut. “ — Charles Todd, New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge series


Buy the Book


 
 
 
 

About the Author

Jennifer Ryan Photo © Nina Subin
 

 
 
Jennifer Ryan lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and their two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a nonfiction book editor.
 
Find out more about Jennifer on her website and connect with her on Facebook.
 
 
 
 
 
 

See the Author Discussing Research and Writing with Distractions

 
 
 



TLC Blog Tour Schedule

 
 

Monday, February 13th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, February 14th: Building Bookshelves
Thursday, February 16th: Reading Reality
Monday, February 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, February 21st: Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, February 23rd: BookNAround
Friday, February 24th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Monday, February 27th: A Chick Who Readsr
Thursday, March 2nd: Savvy Verse and Wit
Monday, March 6th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads
Thursday, March 9th: Joyfully Retired
Friday, March 10th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, March 13th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, March 14th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Wednesday, March 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, March 16th: Just One More Chapter
Friday, March 17th: Art @ Home
Monday, March 20th: Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, March 22nd: A Literary Vacation



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cover Crush: Bring Her Home by David Bell

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.


So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....




Me thinks something bad has happened to whoever is at the other end of that wispy blond hair! I love the fact that the cover gives nothing away, only seeming to show us someone amongst swirling leaves and a dark forest. I love when covers are mysterious and alluring, and this one definitely fits that bill!

Let's see what the story's about:


In the breathtaking new thriller from David Bell, bestselling author of Since She Went Awayand Somebody I Used to Know, the fate of two missing teenage girls becomes a father’s worst nightmare.... 

Just a year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill Price’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer, and her best friend, Haley, disappear. Days later, the girls are found in a city park. Haley is dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition and clinging to life.

As Bill holds vigil over Summer’s bandaged body, the only sound the unconscious girl can make is one cryptic and chilling word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. Or if the injured girl in the hospital bed is really his daughter at all.

When troubling new questions about Summer’s life surface, Bill is not prepared for the aftershocks. He’ll soon discover that both the living and the dead have secrets. And that searching for the truth will tear open old wounds that pierce straight to the heart of his family...


Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:


Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Stephanie at Layered Pages


Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spotlight on THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO by Margaret George

Publisher: Berkley
Pub. Date: March 7th, 2017
Pages: 528


The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.


Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman—or child.

As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become—an Emperor who became legendary.


With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival.


Praise for The Confessions of Young Nero 



“If only history lessons had been like this.”—Cosmopolitan


 “Extensively researched with the highest integrity, and deeply engaging, it sets a new benchmark for the genre.”—New York Times bestselling author Alison Weir


“George leaves us with the most coveted prize of fiction: a world. . . we wished existed, and that thoroughly does between the covers.” —Chicago Tribune


Buy the Book

 
 

About the Author

 

Margaret George is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels of biographical historical fiction, including Elizabeth I, Helen of Troy, Mary, Called Magdalene, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles. She also has written a children’s book, Lucille Lost.
 
Connect with Margaret on Facebook.
 
 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Release Day Spotlight: A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

Publisher: Berkley
Pub. Date: March 14th, 2017
Pages: 384

Genre: Historical Fiction


Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women—past and present—in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.


February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.


Praise for A Bridge Across the Ocean



“I was utterly spellbound, beguiled, swept up in this ghostly mystery.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“A beguiling tapestry of storytelling and a unique look at one of history’s most enigmatic ships.”—Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author

 



Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background
in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. 

You can learn more about Susan on her website and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.
 


Release Day Spotlight on A DEATH BY ANY OTHER NAME by Tessa Arlen

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Pub. Date: March 14th, 2017
Pages: 336

Series: Lady Montfort Mysteries #3


Building on the success of her last two mysteries in the same series, Tessa Arlen returns us to the same universe full of secrets, intrigue, and, this time, roses in A Death By Any Other Name.


The elegant Lady Montfort and her redoubtable housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, investigate a murder among a group of amateur rose-breeders while the idyllic English summer days count down to the start of WW1.

When Mrs. Jackson receives a visit from a cook who believes she was an indirect witness to murder from a poisoned dish of breakfast kedgeree Lady Montfort promises to do what she can to clear the cook's name, and contrives an invitation to Hyde Castle, the home of a self-made millionaire, to investigate a murder of concealed passions and secret desires. With the help of the invaluable Jackson Lady Montfort sets about solving the puzzle surrounding the death of the rose society's most popular member and discovers a villain of audacious cunning among a group of mild-mannered, amateur rose-breeders.

While they investigate, the headlines bring news of the continuing conflict in Prussia following the assassination of the heir to the Austrian empire. As each day brings more threatening news and the very real fear that Britain will be drawn into war Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson must race the clock to solve the mystery before Britain declares on Germany.

Brimming with intrigue, Tessa Arlen's latest does not disappoint.


Praise for A Death By Any Other Name


 
"Arlen follows up on her two previous Downtown Abbey-era tales with the requisite stately mansion and quirky dramatis personae." —Kirkus Reviews 

"Arlen recreates a richly detailed pre-WWI England, seamlessly weaving historical events and people into her well-written third Lady Montford mystery... Lovers of traditional English country house mysteries will enjoy this story very much." —Publishers Weekly


Praise for The Lady Montfort Mystery Series



"Tessa Arlen returns with another intriguing mystery to be solved by the Countess of Montfort and her housekeeper Edith Jackson, a reluctant Watson to Lady Clementine's enthusiastic Sherlock…Arlen skillfully captures the uneasy moods and mores of the time." —Margaret Maron, award-winning author of the Deborah Knott series on A Death By Any Other Name 

"A neatly crafted whodunit that drips with diamonds, titles, and scandals." —Kirkus Reviews on Death Sits Down to Dinner 

"With a deliciously gruesome murder and an unlikely pair of sleuths, this is a treat for fans of Downton Abbey who will want to devour it with a nice steaming pot of Earl Grey." —New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn on Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman 

"This pitch perfect classic whodunit beautifully captures that brief moment when the world waited to hear whether war may be averted. Tessa Arlen’s observations of her characters and the intricacies of the English class system are conveyed with sparkling insight and wry humour." — Frances Brody, author of the Kate Shackleton mysteries on A Death By Any Other Name


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author



TESSA ARLEN is the author of Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. She is the daughter of a British
diplomat, and had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.


Learn more about Tessa Arlen on her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.







Monday, March 13, 2017

Book vs. Film: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

One of my goals this year is to do more Book vs. Film reviews. I'm not sure about you, but anytime I see a new movie coming out that says it's based on a novel I buy the book right away and then plan on reading the book before seeing the movie. Sometimes that means I refuse to see the movie for a very long time since, you know, it takes me FOREVER to get through all the books I plan to read. So one of my 2017 reading resolutions...get to those books sooner so I can finally see the movies!
 
I read and reviewed The Girl on the Train back in November 2016 and just saw the movie that came out to rent recently. See what I thought about both below....
 
 
 

The Book (originally posted November 2016) 

 
 
Publisher: Riverhead BooksPub. Date: January 13th, 2015
Pages: 336


 
I went into reading The Girl on the Train with some trepidation. So many people have read this book and lauded it as the "next Gone Girl", a book I really enjoyed, so I was prepared to be disappointed. I also read a number of reviews stating the characters were just horrible and not worth caring about, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'm so glad I set my concerns aside and picked up the book because I absolutely loved following along with Rachel as she tried to decipher her memories and figure out what really happened to the "Jess" girl she had been watching from the train.

The set up of the novel was great, with each chapter going back and forth in time and being told from the point of view of one of three characters: Rachel, a sad alcoholic with a tendency to not only make up fantasies within her own head but black out and lose whole stretches of time; Megan, the girl Rachel sees from the train that goes missing one day; and  Anna, the new wife of Rachel's ex-husband and neighbor of Megan. Each character's point of view gives us bits and pieces of what has happened not only currently (with Megan's disappearance) but in each of their pasts. This sort of tentative release of information built a delicious anticipation, and this combined with seeing Rachel's lost memories of the night Megan goes missing slowly resurface, made for a wonderful whodunit.

While I will agree that there are no "innocent" characters in this story, whether that be these three women or the men in their lives, I never felt like I didn't care what happened to them. This is especially true with Rachel, who I couldn't help but root for and hope she would get the help she  needed to stop drinking and move on from the dreams of her past "happy life". I've never been one to discount a whole story based solely on unsympathetic characters and I loved how complicated and real (if highly dysfunctional) the characters in The Girl on the Train were.

Now, the big mystery regarding Megan's disappearance. I'll admit I somehow guessed what really happened and who was involved pretty early on. With so many characters having a myriad of issues and dislikeable characteristics I channeled my inner Scooby Doo and went with the character I thought seemed the least likely and, lo and behold, I was right! Even with guessing the inevitable outcome I still very much enjoyed watching how the story would unfold and how the various clues would eventually fall into place. And there were still some elements I didn't even think about that make the ending that much more interesting.

I found The Girl on the Train to be a quick and enjoyably twisty tale. I can definitely see why this has been compared so often to Gone Girl as our main character and her memories are about as unreliable as they come. After finishing this one I've definitely been put in the mood for more mysteries like this, and I'm now on high alert for the next book by the author.
 
 
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
 
 
 

The Movie

 
 
Release Date: October 7th, 2016
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Length: 112 minutes
 
 
 
I love Emily Blunt so was excited/wary to see her play the sad sack that is Rachel. She's so pretty and vibrant in most of her movies, so I wasn't really sure how she'd pull off someone so dejected and pitiful. Now, having watched it, I think she did an okay job as Rachel, although I'm not sure if she was "just right" for the part and, truth be told, I feel that way about most of the actors within the movie. They all did a good job playing their parts and advancing the story, however none of them blew me away even though they have in other parts. I'm not sure if this is just due to the nature of the story and the way it's presented or not, but either way I would say the acting was good but not great.

As to the story, I think what worked so well in the book - the alternating perspectives and going back and forth in time - made for some confusion in the movie. I watched the movie with my husband, who didn't read the book and doesn't understand why I would want to read/watch something with characters that aren't very good people, and he kept having to ask me who was who (the actresses who play Megan and Anna look a lot alike), when the particular scene was taking place during the overall storyline, etc. As the realization of who the killer was started unfolding I kept asking him who he thought did it and he had no clue. Frankly he didn't really care! I already knew who it was, obviously, but I can see how the unfolding of the story might prove difficult for someone who hasn't read the book to follow.

The Girl on the Train was a good whodunit sort of movie but definitely doesn't stand up to the book.  The time constraints inherent in a movie made for less development of the characters' backstories and personalities and, therefore, made them less sympathetic than even in the book (I found this particularly true for Anna). I enjoyed it for the entertainment that it was, however I would definitely recommend the book over the movie!


My Rating: 3.0/5.0   
 
 
 
So what do you say? Have you read the book and/or seen the movie? Which did you prefer?
 
 
 

 

Friday, March 10, 2017

New Release Spotlight on Down City by Leah Carroll

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: March 7th, 2017
Pages: 240


 
Like James Ellroy's, My Dark Places, DOWN CITY is a gripping narrative built of memory and reportage, and Leah Carroll's portrait of Rhode Island is sure to take a place next Mary Karr's portrayal of her childhood in East Texas and David Simon's gritty Baltimore.


Leah Carroll's mother, a gifted amateur photographer, was murdered by two drug dealers with Mafia connections when Leah was four years old. Her father, a charming alcoholic who hurtled between depression and mania, was dead by the time she was eighteen. Why did her mother have to die? Why did the man who killed her receive such a light sentence? What darkness did Leah inherit from her parents? Leah was left to put together her own future and, now in her memoir, she explores the mystery of her parents' lives, through interviews, photos, and police records.

 DOWN CITY is a raw, wrenching memoir of a broken family and an indelible portrait of Rhode Island- a tiny state where the ghosts of mafia kingpins live alongside the feisty, stubborn people working hard just to get by. Heartbreaking, and mesmerizing, it's the story of a resilient young woman's determination to discover the truth about a mother she never knew and the deeply troubled father who raised her-a man who was, Leah writes, "both my greatest champion and biggest obstacle."


Early Praise for Down City



"Leah Carroll's DOWN CITY drops us into a family story heavy with secrets and crackling with regret. Hers is a portrait of two parents straining desperately to find their better angels, and a daughter whose resilience is tested again and again. The fact that she proves herself both survivor and frank and generous curator of their story is a great gift, both to their memory and to readers alike.” —Megan Abbott, bestselling author of The Fever and You Will Know Me


"Leah Carroll's writing is vivid and honest, and DOWN CITY is a clear-eyed act of regaining a father by artfully cataloging his loss.” —Charles Graeber, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder


"Quick and clear as glass, evocative and engaging, DOWN CITY is a story of a daughter's moving search for the truth about the parents whose dark complexities have left a mystery at the center of her existence.” — George Hodgman, author of Bettyville


"Leah Carroll's Rhode Island is seedy, charismatic, broke-down, and irresistible: so much like the characters in her gripping heartbreak of a memoir. Only a writer as brave in her heart as she is on the page could make us love the ghosts she chases through police reports, memory, and the desolate landmarks of her own tragedy. Leah Carroll is that writer, proving that no matter who haunts you or for how long, only forgiveness can set you free.” —Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me


"Driven by a ferocious demand for justice, Leah Carroll takes us with her as she extricates herself from layer after layer of lies, determined not only to find but to understand the truth about her parents' tragic lives. DOWN CITY is a riveting and heartbreaking inquiry, born of inner necessity, and written in a deceptively simple and deeply affecting prose that elevates its storytelling to art.” —Richard Hoffman, author of Half the House and Love & Fury


"Carroll's understated prose complements this daunting material, and her struggles as an unhappy, rebellious teen seem almost idyllic in contrast to the dysfunction and tragedy that shadow her... Carroll's determined grappling with the burden of her past is honestly and skillfully done.” —Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)


Carroll's quietly powerful story offers a courageous, cleareyed vision of a broken family while exploring the meaning of forgiveness. An honest and probing memoir of coming to terms with family. —Kirkus


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
Leah Carroll lives in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Emerson College, and received an MFA in fiction from the University of Florida. She is the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony.
 
Discover more about Leah on her website and connect with her on Twitter.
 
 
 



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cover Crush: The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling

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.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....






I love the bright colors on this cover that, for me, evoke thoughts of peaceful and empty lands untouched by man. The bold red barbed wire slashing through the title  makes me think that this land has been trapped and taken over in some capacity, and that something or someone has been imprisoned. It makes me need to know more!

Let's see what the story is really about:


From a forgotten moment in history comes an inspiring novel about finding strength and courage in the most unimaginable places. 

In turn-of-the-century South Africa, fourteen-year-old Lettie, her younger brother, and her mother are Dutch Afrikaner settlers who have been taken from their farm by British soldiers and are being held in a concentration camp. It is early in the Boer War, and Lettie’s father, grandfather, and brother are off fighting the British as thousands of Afrikaner women and children are detained. The camps are cramped and disease ridden; the threat of illness and starvation are ever present. Determined to dictate their own fate, Lettie and her family give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive amid increasingly dire conditions.

Brave and defiant, Lettie finds comfort in memories of stargazing with her grandfather, in her plan to be a writer, and in surprising new friendships that will both nourish and challenge her. A beautiful testament to love, family, and sheer force of will, The Lost History of Stars was inspired by Dave Boling’s grandfather’s own experience as a soldier during the Boer War. Lettie is a figure of abiding grace, and her story is richly drawn and impossible to forget.


Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:


Erin at Flashlight Commentary


Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede