Wednesday, April 25, 2018

HFVBT Review: Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pub. Date: April 10, 2018
Pages: 400

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary



Synopsis



In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era.

Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time center stage.

Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?

Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.


What Did I Think About the Story?



Ecstasy is my first experience with Mary Sharratt's novels, although I have a few others on my shelves, and I was blown away by the beauty and depth of the writing. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I wasn't familiar with Alma Mahler before picking up this book so had no preconceptions of how her story would unfold. What I found within the pages was a brilliant and passionate woman who, for years, put her own happiness on hold for a selfish husband until she was finally able to burst free to become the accomplished woman she was always meant to be.

My favorite aspect of the story would have to be the beauty with which it was written. It flows like music and Sharratt brings Alma's world to life with vivid color and dimension, painting this unique and colorful world with detailed strokes. This can be both good and bad as I really came to appreciate Alma's talents and became somewhat frustrated with what she put up with at the hands of her husband, Gustav Mahler, and the lack of support she received from her mother and stepfather.

It's been a while since I've read a work of historical fiction and yearned for the history to be different so a real life character would have a different life, but here we are. Sharratt  made me care for Alma in a way that made me feel like I wanted her, and other characters, to make different choices. For example, her parents raised her within this progressive artistic community but then forbade her from finding her own foothold within it, and then supported the notion of her giving up her own ambitions for a man who thought his own genius was more important than his wife's happiness and fulfillment. And Gustav...I apologize to any fans of his talent but, as a man, I found him to be just awful. The way he treated Alma was simply uncaring and cruel and, by the time he seemed to realize that he needed to support her, I personally thought it was too little too late. It made it worse for me that Alma even felt he was being selfish and hurtful but still supported it as a "dutiful wife" because his brilliance was so great. It was just so aggravating to me!

All this being said I was very happy to see that, with all the pain and loss she endured during her marriage to Mahler, she was able to eventually share her own talents with the world. The author includes a wonderful author's note at the end that fills the reader in on Alma's life after this story ends and I have to admit that I would love to read a novel about that part of her life (maybe a sequel? Hmm???). Either way I'll be on the hunt for more about Alma Mahler as Ecstasy has stirred me to need to learn more and I'm very excited to read more by Mary Sharratt!    


What Did I Think About the Cover?



This just so  happens to be one of my all-time favorite covers (I even picked it for a Cover Crush post)! Everything about it is simply stunning, take your pick!


My Rating: 4.5/5.0


Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a free copy of Ecstasy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. Continue below for more information about the book and the HFVBT!
 
 

Praise for Ecstasy

 
 
“In ECSTASY, Mary Sharratt plunges the reader into the tumultuous and glamorous fin de siècle era, bringing to life its brilliant and beguiling leading lady. Finally, Alma Mahler takes center stage, surging to life as so much more than simply the female companion to the brilliant and famous men who loved her. Sharratt’s portrait is poignant and nuanced, her novel brimming with rich historic detail and lush, evocative language.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress

“A tender, intimate exploration of a complicated woman, Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY renders in exquisitely researched detail and fiercely imagined scenes the life of Alma Mahler — daughter, wife, mother, lover, and composer — and the early 20th Century Vienna and New York in which she came of age. I loved this inspiring story of an early feminist standing up for her art.” – Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Race for Paris

“Evocative and passionate, ECSTASY illuminates through its tempestuous and talented heroine a conundrum that resonates across the centuries: how a woman can fulfill her destiny by being both a lover and an artist.” – Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

“Mary Sharratt makes a triumphant return to the page with this masterful portrait of Alma Mahler, the wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. Set in a time and place when a woman could only hope to be the power behind the throne, Sharratt brings a meticulously researched and richly illuminated account of a young woman who was a brilliant composer in her own right. Alma may have had to suppress her own talents to support Mahler; however, ECSTASY reveals that she was a woman who “contained multitudes.” ECSTASY is an important work of historical fiction, as well as a timely and topical addition to the canon of knowledge that needs to better represent important women and their contributions.” – Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books

“Alma Mahler’s unexpected, often heartbreaking journey from muse to independence comes to vivid, dramatic life in Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY. Sharratt skillfully evokes turn-of-the-century Vienna and the musical genius of the era, returning Alma to her rightful place in history as both the inspiration to the men in her life and a gifted artist in her own right.” – C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel

“Mary Sharratt has more than done justice to one of the most interesting, shocking, and passionate women of the 20th century. Overflowing with life and lust, ECSTASY explores this flawed but fascinating woman who was not only muse but a genius in her own right.” – New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose

“A deeply affecting portrait of the woman rumored to be the most notorious femme fatale of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY is as heartbreaking and seductive as Alma Mahler herself.” —Kris Waldherr, author of Doomed Queens and Bad Princess


Buy the Book

 
 
 
 

Buy the Audiobook

 
 

About the Author



MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

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

 

It's Giveaway Time!!



During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Ecstasy! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
 
Good Luck!!
 
 

HFVBT Schedule

 

Tuesday, April 10

Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, April 11

Feature at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 12

Review at Bookfever
Review at Unabridged Chick

Friday, April 13

Interview at Unabridged Chick
Review at View From the Birdhouse

Saturday, April 14

Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Monday, April 16

Review at Cup of Sensibility

Tuesday, April 17

Review at Based on a True Story

Wednesday, April 18

Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, April 19

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, April 20

Review at Linda’s Book Obsession

Sunday, April 22

Review at Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings

Monday, April 23

Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, April 24

Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 25

Review at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 26

Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Friday, April 27

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, April 30

Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, May 1

Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, May 3

Interview at The Writing Desk

Monday, May 7

Review at What Cathy Read Next

Wednesday, May 9

Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, May 10

Review at Writing the Renaissance

Friday, May 11

Interview at Writing the Renaissance

Monday, May 14

Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 16

Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, May 17

Review at Nicole Evelina

Friday, May 18

Interview at Nicole Evelina



 
 
 

Friday, April 20, 2018

New Release Review: The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

Pub. Date: April 10th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 349

Genres: Thriller / Suspense / Mystery / Contemporary Fiction


Synopsis



What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?


Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.


And now the police are watching them...


What Did I Think About the Story?



I actually finished reading The New Neighbors a few weeks ago but have been struggling somewhat with writing this review. I've been reading so many mystery/thrillers lately that I think I'm starting to develop a pretty high expectation for new ones I pick up. With the synopsis above I thought this was going to be a heart-stopping, fast-paced sort of thriller but I didn't find that to be the case. That isn't to say it wasn't enjoyable, it was. It just wasn't quite what I was expecting. Let me explain...

The beginning starts with the police outside Jack and Syd's new house and goes back in time to have them both, separately, tell the reader what happened from their own viewpoint. It's written almost as a confessional or diary, being somewhat informal and even funny at times. I loved this way of letting things unfold! However, as I neared the 50% mark and both characters were still being incredibly vague about absolutely everything, I began to get a little fed up and just wanted pieces to begin falling into place. And when those pieces did in fact fall I found the revelations to be somewhat anti-climatic and not that surprising. I just didn't find it all that "thrilling".

Something else I did enjoy, and which I wasn't expecting, was the more domestic drama aspect of the story. Both of these characters had incredibly hard childhoods, especially Syd, and seeing how those childhood traumas reached their ugly fingers into the characters' adult lives, influencing the kind of people they became and the actions they would take, was interesting. I think I might have enjoyed the story more if I went into the reading thinking this was more family drama then psychological thriller.

The New Neighbors, while definitely not what I would consider a "page turner", was still a quick and enjoyable read. There are still a few twists to satisfy a mystery reader, although I can't say they were all that hard to see coming. I love the way the author first presented the story, with the back and forth confessional style between Jack and Syd, and I would very much like to read other stories in this format as I think it could prove an excellent way to throw shocks and twists into a reading experience. While not a homerun for me I am still interested to see what else the author might have coming out next.


What Did I Think About the Cover?



This is a GREAT cover for a suspense/mystery novel! It's dark and hazy and you don't really know if the person in the window is trying to get out of that house or is possibly spying on someone on the outside. Are they friend or foe...who knows! I also enjoy the large title that let's you know what the story will be about (and gives you a hint about the person in the window). Really like this cover!


My Rating:3.0/5.0



I received a digital ARC copy of The New Neighbors from Netgalley and Berkley, Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. For more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, see Goodreads HERE.
 
 
 


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Cover Crush: A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber

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. You'll find my Cover Crush selection below and I'll link to everyone else's at the end of the post.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 
 
 
 
I love the feeling of movement in this cover, with the jacket and skirt whipping around in the wind. I also love the shadows - which make me think of danger and mystery - mixed with the brightness of the upcoming sun - which makes me think of safety and/or peace just on the horizon. All of the colors flow well together and I especially like how the letters seem to glow against the background. A really pleasing, beautiful cover!
 
What might this glorious cover be telling us about the story inside? Let's see....
 
 
Sebastian Gage returns home to battle the ghosts of his past and prevent them from destroying his future with Kiera in the latest exciting installment in this national bestselling series.

July 1831. It's been fifteen years since Sebastian Gage has set foot in Langstone Manor. Though he has shared little with his wife, Lady Kiera Darby, about his past, she knows that he planned never to return to the place of so many unhappy childhood memories. But when an urgent letter from his grandfather reaches them in Dublin, Ireland, and begs Gage to visit, Kiera convinces him to go.

All is not well at Langstone Manor. Gage's grandfather, the Viscount Tavistock, is gravely ill, and Gage's cousin Alfred has suddenly vanished. He wandered out into the moors and never returned. The Viscount is convinced someone or something other than the natural hazards of the moors is to blame for Alfred's disappearance. And when Alfred's brother Rory goes missing, Kiera and Gage must concede he may be right. Now, they must face the ghosts of Gage's past, discover the truth behind the local superstitions, and see beyond the tricks being played by their very own eyes to expose what has happened to Gage's family before the moors claim yet another victim...
 

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
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, April 18, 2018

Novel Expressions Blog Tours: What My Stories Mean To Me ~ Guest Post by Alfred Woollacott III, Author of The Immigrant


After retirement, I dabbled in my genealogy and family history. Soon, researching the vital dates and locations needed for my family tree branches grew tedious; whereas snippets of ancestors’ lives were intriguing, compelling me to romanticized further to put leaves on my branches. Babbling became an obsession.

John Law, the protagonist in “The Immigrant”, is my seven-greats grandfather. He was captured at the Battle of Dunbar, endured a ‘death march’ to Durham Cathedral, and survived a horrific, life-altering, trans-Atlantic crossing to arrive at Boston. Still in his teens, he began life anew as a Scottish POW in a Puritan Theocracy. I wondered about such a life. The Immigrant in many respects symbolizes the lives of a few hundred Scottish POWs in Puritan times.

Naamah Carter, the protagonist in “The Believers in the Crucible Nauvoo”, is my two-greats grand aunt. Like many, she was inspired by Joseph Smith’s testimonies and traveled to Nauvoo to join the faithful. With the western exodus imminent, she married Brigham Young. I was aware of these two historic figures, researched them further, and was awestruck by events in Nauvoo and their effect on the believers. To many, plural marriage is an anathema; to others, an enigma. But Naamah’s story is unique, more than what my initial reaction provided.
 
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
 
Publisher: Myfourleggedstoolpublishers
Pub. Date: January 1st, 2015
Pages: 416
 
 
A historical saga that covers a winter of 1650/1651 journey of John Law, a young Scotsman captured by the English Lord Cromwell’s forces in seventeenth century Scotland during “The Battle of Dunbar”. He survives a death march to Durham, England and is eventually sent to Massachusetts Bay Colony as an indentured servant, arriving aboard the ship “Unity” that was carrying around 150 prisoners of war from different Scottish clans. Now an outcast, and in the sanctuary of the new colony, John starts over as an immigrant in a Puritan theocracy. He is first indentured to the Saugus Iron Works and then to Concord as a public shepherd in West Concord (now Acton). The young man faces obstacles often beyond his control, and his only ally is his faith. After his indenture is served he struggles a near lifetime to obtain title to his promised land. From start to finish “The Immigrant” is an intoxicating journey that follows the travails of John, his faith in God, his good wife and growing family.
 
 

Buy the Book 

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
 

Alfred Woollacott, III retired from KPMG after a career spanning 34 years, choosing to reside full time at his summer residence on Martha’s Vineyard. Being “45 minutes from America” and with a 50 – 60 hour per week void to fill, he began dabbling into his family history. His dabbling grew into an obsession, and he published several genealogical summaries of his ancestors. But certain ones absorbed him such that he could not leave them. So he researched their lives and times further while evolving his writing skills from “just the facts ma’am” to a fascinating narrative style. Thus with imagination, anchored in fact and tempered with plausibility, a remote ancestor can achieve a robust life as envisioned by a writer with a few drops of his ancestor’s blood in his veins.

When not writing, Al serves on several Boards, and keeps physically active with golf, tennis, and hockey. He and his wife of 44 years, Jill, have four children and ten grandchildren.
 
Learn more about Al on his website and connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
 
 

Novel Expressions Blog Tours Schedule



April 16th

Book Review – Locks, Hooks and Book

April 17th

Book Review- before the second sleep
Book Excerpt – A Bookaholic Swede

April 18th 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

HFVBT Feature ~ Courage Between Love and Death by Joseph Pillitteri + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Pub. Date: March 29, 2018
Publisher: Fireship Press
Pages: 302

Genre: Historical / Romance / Medical / Political



Elspeth has recently landed a nursing position at the 1901 Pan American Exposition Hospital in Buffalo, New York. This is a big boon for her, but things are not going as expected. She has to navigate mischievous patients, egotistical doctors, rival nurses and prejudices. For an Irish girl with a temper, this is no easy feat. Now President McKinley is coming to visit the Expo and everyone is in an uproar. On the home front, her life is no less hectic as she struggles to put food on the table and look out for her younger siblings.

When the unthinkable happens, it is a turning point, not only for the medical industry and our country’s security, but also for Elspeth personally. With her career and reputation on the line, will she have the courage to overcome the challenges she faces to clear her name and continue to be there for the ones she loves?


Praise for Courage Between Love and Death



“…Pilliterri deftly weaves together the state of medicine, the social class spectrum and a light love story…the chaos of the surgery on the President and the anxious days till his death provide palpable tension…” —Dr. Jean Richardson, Associate Professor, Emeritus, SUNY Buffalo State College

“…Joseph Pillitteri’s writing is flawless and delightful. The tension builds up very fast and doesn’t slow down until the satisfying conclusion. Courage Between Love and Death is focused, deft, and balanced, and the reader will follow the protagonist through her emotional and psychological turmoil until the very last page. A gripping story with great historical references, it’s an edge of the seat read. Courage Between Love and Death by Joseph Pillitteri is a historical novel that is well-researched and written to great satisfaction.” —Christian Sia, Readers’ Favorite

“Courage Between Love and Death is a well-researched and masterfully crafted historical novel with strong characters and a mesmerizing plot. Apart from developing a very strong conflict, Joseph Pillitteri does a brilliant job in weaving powerful dialogues and intrigue into the story. The reader is transported into an atmospheric world with medical personnel, strong personalities, and a historic event that will remain engraved in the minds of many. There is so much to enjoy in this novel — the drama, the emotional and psychological intensity of the story, the excellent prose and the compelling characters. I was sucked into the narrative from the very first page.” —Romuald Dzemo, Readers’ Favorite
 
 

Buy the Book

 
 

About the Author

 

While working at Roswell Park Memorial Hospital in Buffalo, NY, Joseph Pillitteri became intrigued by the role Dr. Park played in the surgery of President McKinley at the 1901 Pan American Exposition. It was a pleasure to shape facts and fiction together to tell the story.

Previous works by Pillitteri include When the Giraffe Runs Down (Dial Press), Two Hours on Sunday (Dial Press), The Abortion (Penguin Books), and Life Pulse (Penguin Books).


It's Giveaway Time!!

 
 


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
 
Good Luck!!

 

HFVBT Schedule

 

Thursday, March 29

Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, March 30

Feature at A Bookaholic Swede

Saturday, March 31

Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, April 2

Review at Back Porchervations
Feature at Clarissa Reads it All

Tuesday, April 3

Feature at T’s Stuff

Wednesday, April 4

Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Friday, April 6

Review at Cup of Sensibility

Sunday, April 8

Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Tuesday, April 10

Feature at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, April 12

Feature at Donna’s Book Blog
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, April 18

Tour Recap at Passages to the Past


 
 
 




Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cover Crush: The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan

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. You'll find my Cover Crush selection below and I'll link to everyone else's at the end of the post.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 
 
 
 
Oh for the love of mermaids this is a gorgeous cover! I love the cyclical pattern of the two mermaids and how their hair seems to flow like waves in the water. There is such a swirling movement that makes me think of deep ocean and hidden magical secrets. Beautiful!!
 
Let's read what the story is all about....
 
 
Mara’s island is one of stories and magic. She knows she’ll eventually end her days atop the cliff, turned to stone and gazing out at the horizon like all the villagers that went before her, drawn by the otherworldly call of the sea. Her whole family will be there too, even her brother Bee and her sister Islay.

But the island and the sea do what they want, and when they claim a price from her family, Mara’s world changes forever.

As years pass and Mara grows into herself and her scars, a chance meeting with the magnetic Pearl brings magic to life once more in ways that Mara never thought possible, in a story that she never would have dreamed for herself before.

The enchanting spiritual prequel to The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan’s The Gloaming is a present-day fable that brims over with dazzling imagination and captivating language.
 

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
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, April 11, 2018

Spotlight on Lady Helena Investigates

Publisher: Aspidistra Press
Pub. Date: March 14th, 2018
Pages: 359


Series: Scott-De Quincy Mysteries , Book One
Genre: Historical Mystery



A reluctant lady sleuth finds she’s investigating her own family.

Step into Lady Helena Whitcombe’s world with the first novel in a series that will blend family saga and mystery-driven action with a slow-burn romance in seven unputdownable investigations.

1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfill any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.

The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.

Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?


Praise for The House of Closed Doors Series



"I cannot praise Jane Steen enough for her ability to build a world that captures every essence of an era. She was able to take the singularly focused plot of an unwed teen and wrap her journey with the social, political and cultural values of the day. Within this framework the reader is given an eyewitness experience into the daily realities of homemaking, transportation, fashion, society’s value of women and those less fortunate as well historical events such as commerce, war and the Chicago fire.”

“I loved this book. It was well written and well edited. The story captured me on the first few pages and held my interest to the last page. I forced myself to close the book at midnight! Moves nicely along from scene to scene. Some of the heroine’s choices were not what I expected and when I thought I had unraveled the whole mystery, I hadn’t. Just an overall satisfying reading experience! Loved it.”

“Engrossing historical fiction that really stays with the characters (who are well-crafted) and doesn’t go for the obvious cliches. I loved Nell, the protagonist, and so many others…Martin and Tess especially. I admit I kind of wanted it to end a certain way, but the ending the author chose was a braver one for Nell, and more true to who she’d been throughout the novel. The historical backdrop was interesting, but it was the character work that really drew me in, and the mystery.”

“Extremely well written story! I couldn’t put it down, and pulled an all-nighter reading it. I was mesmerized by this story, and captivated by the depth of characterization.”

 

Buy the Book



AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

About the Author

 
 
Jane Steen was born in England and, despite having spent more years out of the British Isles than in, still has a British accent according to just about every American she meets.

Her long and undistinguished career has included a three-year stint as the English version of a Belgian aerospace magazine, an interesting interlude as an editor in a very large law firm, and several hectic years in real estate marketing at the height of the property boom. This tendency to switch directions every few years did nothing for her resume but gave her ample opportunity to sharpen her writing skills and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.

Around the edges of her professional occupations and raising children, she stuck her nose in a book at every available opportunity and at one time seemed on course to become the proverbial eternal student. Common sense prevailed, though, and eventually she had the bright idea of putting her passion for books together with her love of business and writing to become a self-published author.

Jane has lived in three countries and is currently to be found in the Chicago suburbs with her long-suffering husband and two adult daughters.

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

It's Giveaway Time!!

 

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of Lady Helena Investigates by Jane Steen! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
 
Good Luck!!
 
 

HFVBT Schedule

 
 
Monday, March 12


Feature at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 13


Feature at To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, March 14


Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, March 15


Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Friday, March 16


Interview at Let Them Read Books
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 20


Feature at Donna’s Book Blog

Wednesday, March 21


Review at Rachael’s Ramblings
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, March 27


Review at View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, March 28


Feature at Susan Heim on Writing

Friday, March 30


Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, April 3


Review at Based on a True Story

Wednesday, April 4


Review at SilverWood Sketches

Thursday, April 5


Feature at A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, April 11


Review at What Cathy Read Next
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 12


Feature at Teaser Addicts Book Blog

Friday, April 13


Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past




 
 
 


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Release Day Spotlight: Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine

Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub. Date: April 10th, 2018
Pages: 256


When Anna, now living in California, is contacted by the Italian lover she knew decades before, she recalls their affair and the child she gave up for adoption. As the episode returns to haunt her―threatening the life she’s built, including her marriage―the story moves back in time to her youth in Europe.

Rome, 1979. Anna, twenty-two and living abroad, is involved with a man already engaged to be married. When she meets and befriends his fiancée, she is forced to confront the moral consequences of her actions. But an unexpected pregnancy, an anonymous letter, and threatening relatives complicate the picture. A novel in which an unconventional heroine, far from home, is forced to reckon with the judgment of others.


Praise for Nothing Forgotten



"Fans of Emma Straub, Anne Tyler, and Liane Moriarty will adore Levine’s treatment of domestic drama and how she brings light to the dusty corners of marriage and motherhood....an intricately layered, deeply heartfelt, and bittersweet novel."—Booklist, starred review


“…women’s fiction at its best….enjoyable, memorable, and thought-provoking all at once.”—Foreword Reviews


"This is a richly detailed story of passion and failure, deception and honesty, with anticipation and nostalgia. It is about making hard choices and living with those decisions, and the twisted ties that hold a family together."—Ann McCauley, StoryCircle Book Reviews


“If you’ve ever dreamed of having an Italian romance, Jessica Levine’s Nothing Forgotten is the next best thing . . . and maybe better . . .”—LAURA FRASER, author of An Italian Affair


Buy the Book

 
 

 

About the Author

  

JESSICA LEVINE is the author of the novels Nothing Forgotten (She Writes Press, 2018), which
Photo Credit: Chris Loomis
earned a starred review from Booklist and Foreword Reviews called “women’s fiction at its finest,” and The Geometry of Love (She Writes Press, 2014), chosen as a Top 10 Women’s Fiction Title for 2015 by Booklist, which called it an “outstanding first novel” in their starred review. Her literary history, Delicate Pursuit: Discretion in Henry James and Edith Wharton, was published in Routledge’s Outstanding Dissertation Series. Her essays, shorts stories, and poetry have appeared in many publications including The Southern Review and The Huffington Post. She has also translated several books from French and Italian into English. Jessica holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California at Berkeley, where she was a Mellon Fellow. She was born in New York City and now lives in the Bay Area.

Learn more about Jessica on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.






Friday, April 6, 2018

Audiobook Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Publisher: Random House Audio
Pub. Date: August 5th, 2008
Length: 19 hours , 15 minutes

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Contemporary Fiction / Romance / Dual Timeline


Synopsis



An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time


The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide—for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.


Already an international literary sensation, the Gargoyle is an Inferno for our time. It will have you believing in the impossible.


What Did I Think About the Story? 



I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have picked this book up to read/listen to if it wasn't for my boss talking it up and loaning me her audiobook copy. I hadn't heard of the book before and, honestly, it seemed from the synopsis like it would have a heavier fantasy element than I typically read. But, CDs in hand, I started listening to it on my commute and found myself completely immersed in this remarkably unique and encompassing listening experience.

Per the synopsis, much of the beginning of the story is spent within the mind of an incredibly narcissistic narrator. He fully admits to being a snarky, self-centered drug-abuser who loves purposefully morphing into different people in order to trick as many women as he can into sleeping with him. He's just the worst sort of human and it's hard to find anything to like about him. Then he has this horrific accident that results in months of recovery in a hospital. This might sound strange, but I found the vivid details given to his injuries and the (often tortuous) remedies employed to help him absolutely fascinating. I never really thought about what it takes to try and heal a burn victim nor how painful that process is for the patient. It's a terrible and grueling thing to have to go through and, with the intricate details given my the author,  you get an incredible sense of just how bad it would be for the person going through it.

During this arduous process we meet Marianne Engel, a possibly crazy artist who changes our narrator from the moment she walks into his hospital room. Marianne is such a fascinating character and through her the reader is sent through time to see various tragic love stories throughout history, including, supposedly, a long ago love story between the narrator and Marianne herself. She weaves such a magical spell over all that the narrator doesn't even know that she is effectively bringing him back to life and shaping him into a much better person than he ever was before. But his love for Marianne doesn't necessarily save her from believing her fate is determined by God and it was both mesmerizing and heartbreaking to watch him try everything to change her as she had changed him.

The narrator of The Gargoyle, Lincoln Hoppe, was perfect for this story as he easily maneuvered between the jaded, snarky character we first meet and the calmer, more settled and much kinder character we are left with. It helps that the story is so wonderfully vivid throughout and I was amazed at how much detail - from realistic history to the healing process for burn victims to the obsessive madness of someone with mental illness to so much more - the author was able to present. There is one part of the book in particular where, while being weaned off drugs, the narrator goes straight into Dante's inferno and the reader is brought along on a terrifying adventure like no other. This part alone could have been it's own story yet is only one of many incredible components of this novel.

Part of being such a wonderful novelist, however, is making your readers love the characters and the world you've created and it was this point in particular that made me really disappointed in the ending. I felt like I had invested so much in this story and been taken along on such a magical and all-consuming ride that the way the author choose to end it just made me feel sort of cheated. I can see why the author made the choices he did, however I felt like everything had been leading somewhere else and I really, really didn't think it had to end as it did. I don't want to say anything else to spoil the story, but I will leave it with the fact that the ending is the only thing keeping this from being a 5 star book for me.    

The Gargoyle is a fascinating look at pain, growth, love, art, mental illness, and faith unlike anything I've read before. It's worth a read for anyone as it's got so much to appreciate, as long as the reader isn't squeamish about graphic language or details. I definitely recommend it as an audiobook as well as you are sure to spend hours enraptured by the authors words.


What Did I Think About the Cover?



I think it's okay. I like that it represents Marianne Engel as well as the fiery heart that is symbolic of some things that happen in the story, but other than that it's somewhat plain given how complex and intricate the story is. There are just so many possibilities of what the cover could showcase!


My Rating: 4.0/5.0



I borrowed the audiobook CDs of The Gargoyle from a coworker and all opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the stories, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, see Goodreads HERE.



 
 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cover Crush: The New Mrs. Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan

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. You'll find my Cover Crush selection below and I'll link to everyone else's at the end of the post.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 
 
 
 
Isn't this cover simply striking?! First up, the obvious...the hole in the  middle of that beautiful, once symmetrical building is an instant eye catcher. You're drawn into the intimate yet exposed world of the woman in the red coat (the red also drawing the eye) and you have to wonder what exactly  happened there and what she is doing sitting amongst the wreckage. I'm hooked and now I need to know more!
 
What can the synopsis tell us about The New Mrs. Clifton.... 
 

As the Second World War draws to a close, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton surprises his sisters at their London home. But an even greater shock is the woman he brings with him, Krista - the German wife whom he has married secretly in Berlin.

Krista is clearly devastated by her experiences at the hands of the British and their allies - all but broken by horrors she cannot share. But Gus's sisters can only see the enemy their brother has brought under their roof. And their friend Nella, Gus's beautiful, loyal fiancée, cannot understand what made Gus change his mind about their marriage. What hold does Krista have over their honourable and upright Gus? And how can the three women get her out of their home, their future, their England?

Haunted by passion, betrayal, and misunderstanding these damaged souls are propelled towards a spectacular resolution. Krista has lost her country, her people, her identity, and the ties that bind her to Gus hold more tightly than the sisters can ever understand...


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
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


 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Pub. Date: March 13th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 384

Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Contemporary Fiction


Synopsis



The stunning new novel from Clare Mackintosh, the international bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You.

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.



Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents' deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide.

Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother's absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her.

Sometimes it's safer to let things lie....


What Did I Think About the Story?



Let Me Lie completely blew me away! While I've been reading a lot of really great psychological suspense/thriller/mystery books lately this one stood out for a number of reasons, first and foremost that it was more than just a page-turning thriller (which is great all on it's own!). It also had this wonderful look at mental illness and love and sacrifice, themes that I haven't read in many other books of this nature.

The story is mainly told from two perspectives - Anna, a new mother who lost both her parents within the last year and a half and suspects that they did not commit suicide like everyone believes, and Murray, a retired detective who gets pulled into Anna's search for the truth of what happened to her parents. Interspersed with Anna and Murray's alternating chapters are short snippets from Anna's mother's viewpoint as she watches what unfolds from this place between her old life and what comes next, addressing her statements to her husband. I absolutely love this way of unfolding the story as you see how Anna and Murray both come to the various realizations at different points in time as well as see how they react and process these seemingly always shifting pieces of this complicated puzzle. Anna's mother, Caroline, lends a great spin as well, keeping you guessing as to what really happened to her and her husband while only telling portions of the whole story. And as revelation after revelation comes into the light the story shifts to someone else and the reader is left desperate to see what happens next.   

The part I enjoyed most about this story was seeing how mental health and addictions can effect people in different ways and trying to decipher how these aspects fit in with our various characters. When we first meet Anna she is still grieving the death of her parents while also dealing with the myriad of emotions that come from having a new baby. When she gets a card in the mail hinting that her parents might not have committed suicide, a card that everyone else dismisses as a cruel joke, the reader is left to wonder whether Anna's strong reaction is brought on by her grief or postpartum symptoms or something else entirely. We also learn, as she digs into her own past and that of her parents, that her memories of her childhood have been viewed through some pretty extreme rose-tinted glasses and that her parents were hiding some intense secrets, including potential alcoholism. In Murray's storyline we get to see his interactions with his wife, a woman who has suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder and who has been in and out of mental health facilities their entire  marriage. She has tried to commit suicide multiple times as well, so Murray is able to sympathize with Anna's situation and understands her difficulties coming to terms with what happened. Anna's partner happens to also be a psychologist and there are some mental health issues with some other characters as well. This theme weaves all through Let Me Lie and, for me, took it to another level of interest, not only for the thrills it elicited but for the touching and sometimes heartbreaking scenes between Murray and his wife.

Something else I very much enjoyed was seeing the behind the scenes work that goes into being a detective. There are so many hoops and steps that need (or should) be followed and it's fascinating to see how detectives follow clues and use their instincts to solve crimes. I believe I read that Clare Mackintosh was actually a police officer before becoming a writer and you can see that when reading the details in Murray's portions of the story.

There are just so many twists and turns within Let Me Lie that there was no way I was going to be able to predict where this story was headed. When I thought I'd have something figured out there would be another turn and my head would be left spinning. The final reveal, within the final lines of the novel, left  me flipping back through pages to make sure I was understanding what I was reading. If you like suspense and thrills, combined with wonderfully developed and complicated characters, you will find much to love in this novel!


What Did I Think About the Cover?



I really like this cover, especially since it represents such an important part of the story. Beyond that, the contrast between the cold, stark background and the bright red of the title is definitely eye catching.


My Rating: 5.0/5.0



I received a free copy of Let Me Lie as part of a Goodreads giveaway, so thank you Goodreads and Berkley, Penguin Random House! All opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, see Goodreads HERE.
 
 


Friday, March 30, 2018

The Tip of My Wish List: 2018 Debut Novels

If you're anything like me you've got a book wish list so long there is no way you will ever be able to read through it all. And, on top of that, it's never ending because you just can't stop adding more books to it! To try and organize myself I'm sharing 5 books from my wish list that I'm most excited to get to, usually with a common theme, on the last Friday of each month. I know a number of excellent bloggers who will be doing similar posts and I'll be sure to link to their posts as well so you can see all the goodies we're excited about and, hopefully, add a few new books to your own wish list. I'll also link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy of the books if they sound like your style. I really hope you enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these or have others you would add to the list.

For this month's theme I've picked 5 debut novels coming out in 2018. I love discovering new authors and particularly love debuts as you get to see an author at the beginning of their talents. So often they've put in years of blood, sweat, and tears to create that first novel and it comes across in the writing. 


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




In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.

South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?

Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.




Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.



Everything Here is Beautiful


Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister's protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it's Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor's diagnosis.

Determined, impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in — but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?

Told from alternating perspectives, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its core, a heart-wrenching family drama about relationships and tough choices — how much we're willing to sacrifice for the ones we love, and when it's time to let go and save ourselves.




The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.



The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock


This voyage is special. It will change everything…

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

In this spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.


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


Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list(updated as they become available):


Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Magdalena at A Bookish Swede