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Sep 30, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, September 30, 2012
What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and can be found here for October.
In the Mail:

A Gift for My Sister by Ann Pearlman (thank you, bookish mama!!)
Ann Pearlman's The Christmas Cookie Club enthralled readers everywhere with a heartwarming and touching story about the power of female friendship. Now, in A Gift for My Sister, she once again explores the depth of the human heart, and this time it’s through the eyes of two sisters. Tara and Sky share a mother, but aside from that they seem to differ in almost every way. When a series of tragedies strikes, they must somehow come together in the face of heartbreak, dashed hopes, and demons of the past. The journey they embark on forces each woman to take a walk in the other’s shoes and examine what sisterhood really means to them. It’s a long road to understanding, and everyone who knows them hopes these two sisters can find a way back to each other.

A Love Surrendered (Winds of Change #3) by Julie Lessman (a brand new release from Paperbackswap! What luck!)
Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy moves to Boston to stay with her spinster aunt. She longs for romance to fill the void left by her parents' death. But when she falls hard for Steven O'Connor, the man who broke an engagement to her sister, Annie is worried. Will he break her heart too when he discovers who she really is?

And received for a future review:
No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig
The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan
From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. Her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But while Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And nothing can guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of loss she falls prey to an ambitious earl and brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal and secret alliances, Margaret has one aim—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost...

What I've Read:

A Lady in The Making by Susan Page Davis.. another fun historical romance and very quick read at 320 pages.. review posts in a few days. I love this Prairie Dreams series, and I recommend reading in order. This one is my favorite out of the bunch you see below.

To Love and Cherish, book two in the Bridal Veil Series by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller. Review posted here. Can easily be read as a stand alone.

Skip Rock Shallows by Jan Watson... another series book that I jumped into with this one, and probably should have read the others first to enhance my appreciation of this one. This was a very character driven story.

Queen of the Waves by Janice Thompson
Blog tour starts tomorrow, I am the kickoff reviewer unfortunately, because I could have kicked this book all over the place. Blech. Nuff said. (Here is the review.)
I am not having good luck finding an awesome Titanic themed read. Maybe I should find that old Danielle Steel novel that I read when I was young lady..

Sep 29, 2012

Goals | Bloggiesta Style Maintenance

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's bloggiesta time, and I haven't done one since 2009. I am lucky that I have had time to keep up with general maintenance type things for my blog while at the office, so things that I had to do as spring cleaning for the blog was Email clean up, make sure all my reviews are linked on the Master list, and research the possible demise of Feedburner.

I wanted to do the bloggiesta posts and follow along but when you have a 10 year old and a 5 year old to entertain, that comes first in my life. (We saw Hotel Transylvania!).. played Wii this rainy Saturday, etc. I normally do not get anything done computer-wise on the computer during the weekends because of the crazy kiddos anyway.

In the spirit of bloggiesta, I wanted to take the chance to post some of my reading 'stats', and see where I am as far as my goals for 2012. I also wanted to make sure EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS get my announcement below.

Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge:
I have read 64 of my goal of 65 books as of September 29!!
Last year I had only read 51 books, so I am happy to have already surpassed that. Ah, but how many of those were children's books or young adult etc.. Well, I can tell you the page count to really gauge what I've done:
2012: 24,431 pages (*so far!)
2011: 19,748 pages

You can check out my master reviews list to find all the books reviewed per year. And if you are my friend on goodreads you can click the challenge link and check it out directly on Goodreads.

Reviews Posted:
(Of the year 2009 published Qty. #64)
(Of the year
2010, published Qty. #62)
(Of the year 2011, published to date: Qty. #43)
(Of the year 2012, published to date: Qty #66)

What am I looking to accomplish for the rest of 2012?
No more teachers, no more books!!!! (Alice Cooper style)

Really really need to stop accepting books. Totally need to finish up two books that are read halfway and be able to finish them in 2012 so that I can add those to my count and move on. (I'm looking at you, Wolf Hall). I am not sure I can ever read another book about Anne Boleyn's downfall ever again. How many times can we rehash those events, people? For the love of GOD stop writing about Henry VIII and his wives. (Had to get that off my chest, sorry).

I am desperate to start 2013 with a clean review slate, in order to do that I need to ignore every book that is coming out in the fourth quarter. I must get caught up with the ARC's and the other books that I really really want to read that I've had on my shelves for eons. Such a book that has been a dust collector is Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman and the read along was born at HF-Connection, starting soon.

2013 Goal:
Now that I have a fabulous iPad it is so easy to score books off NetGalley. I need to stop visiting that candy store however. 2013 needs less review/ARC books, and more enriching relationships with bloggers as opposed to relationships with authors. Use 'blog for book' type programs to obtain only really coveted titles, but to not have a direct relationship with that author. I have always felt that being buddy buddy with many authors gets tricky when you are reviewing their work, especially if you would normally write a three star review of that work but feel obligated to ignore short comings because of whatever online relationship you have. I have been moving away from this relationship throughout 2012, and I want 2013 to focus more on authors who are not socially active online. I want to read some of the books that I've been collecting for the last 4 years that have taken over the house.

2013 To Read Pile: (*to name a few) 
Katherine by Anya Seton
Legacy by Susan Kay
Glastonbury by Donna Fletcher Crow
The older Elizabeth Chadwick titles
Gilbert Morris, Julie Lessman and Julie Klassen titles
Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy and Jane Austen

I may as well stop here, since the end of the world is coming in December 2012, so this whole exercise was for naught anyway.

I also recently learned that Google Feedburner is ending October 20, 2012. Everyone who gets an email notice of a new post from me will soon no longer get that email. Feedburner was a free automatic service, and there are alternatives that seem to be mostly paid services. As much as I love to have you as a subscriber, I already pay for the use of a custom domain, and that is pretty much all I am willing to spend. Currently I have over 80 email subscribers, and with that rate it would cost me an additional $60+ a year if I chose FeedBlitz. Sounds small, but I just don't feel I can justify the expense to my husband, especially when I wonder how many of the subscribers are just irritated at some point by the emails =). MailChimp is a free option, but it's pretty much free up to a point and it's just not worth the hassle.

So when you stop getting my emails in a month, I sure hope you will return to my blog and see what you've missed. If feedburner magically stays after the October 20 closing date, then you will still get the emails. I will not deactivate the service until it deactivates by itself.

This sort of scares the crap out of me, cuz soon enough what if Google decides to do away with blogspot?! Perhaps I ought to prepare myself for that scary thought... of losing my hundreds of reviews. Egads.

To help ensure you don't miss me altogether, please make sure you Follow Burton Book Review on google connect, and follow on facebook. That will help you keep in touch, otherwise I suggest creating a weekly reminder on your calendar of choice to come check out the blog!

Sep 28, 2012

Skip Rock Shallows by Jan Watson

Friday, September 28, 2012
A character-rich tale of life in a mining town
Skip Rock Shallows by Jan Watson
Tyndale, June 1, 2012
Paperback 384 pages 9780764209901
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine, August 2012
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Lilly Gray Corbett has just graduated from medical school and decided to accept an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Her beau, Paul, is doing his residency in Boston and can't understand why Lilly would choose to work in a backwater town. But having grown up in the mountains, Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock--a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. Lilly soon learns she has a lot to overcome, but after saving the life of a young miner, she begins to earn the residents' trust.As Lilly becomes torn between joining Paul in Boston and her love for the people of Skip Rock, she crosses paths with a handsome miner--one who seems oddly familiar. Her attraction for him grows, even as she wrestles with her feelings and wonders what he's hiding.
Dr. Lilly Corbett is sent to a coal-mining town of Kentucky where folks have an issue with women being anything more than hard working wives. Lilly struggles to get the residents to accept her and only illness can force the issue. As successive tragedies strike the mining town, both Lilly's medical abilities and tender nature endear her to the residents of Skip Rock. In turn, Lilly finds herself becoming attached to the folks in Skip Rock which disrupts her plans to marry the worthy Dr. Paul back in Boston. Meanwhile, a drifter at the mine turns out to have more in common with Lilly than she expected, and a relationship blossoms despite undercurrents of treachery and foul play. 

The plot is fairly simple, yet this is a well-written character driven novel.  Characters such as a young lady Armina who doesn't hesitate to tell you what's what, and Cousin Ned who works so hard you would never knew he had a peg leg; these are all characters who will stay with you after the end of the book. As the plot drifts towards the mine's endeavors and shady dealings, each of the romance and inspirational themes provide a subtle touch to complement Lilly's own relationships and character development. Readers will get a dose of medical procedures with this telling, as well as welcome details of the way of life of the families of the miners in early 1900’s. Although part of a series, the novel stands alone, as only a small thread ties it to Jan Watson’s previous works.

Sep 25, 2012

To Love and Cherish (Bridal Veil #2) by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Patience is a forgotten virtue..

To Love and Cherish (Bridal Veil Island #2) by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller
Bethany House, August 2012
Paperback 368 pages
Review copy provided for free from Bethany House, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

When Melinda Colson's employer announces they'll be leaving Bridal Veil Island to return to their home in Cleveland, Melinda hopes her beau, Evan, will propose. But Evan isn't prepared to make an offer of marriage until he knows he can support a wife and family. Evan works as the assistant gamekeeper on Bridal Veil but hopes to be promoted soon. 

Letters strengthen their love, but Melinda remains frustrated at being apart from the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Then she learns of a devastating hurricane in Bridal Veil and knows she must give up her position as a lady's maid and make her way back to Evan.
The destruction on Bridal Veil is extensive, meaning every available person is needed to help with cleanup and repairs. Melinda finds a new job on the island, but Evan seems even busier than before, meaning she still never gets to see him. Has she given her heart to the wrong man?
And when Melinda overhears a vicious plot against President McKinley, who is scheduled to visit the island, is Evan the one she should turn to? Will Melinda and Evan ever get the chance to stand at the front of a church and promise "to love and cherish"?

After having read and enjoyed the first book in the Bridal Veil series (review), I was looking forward to book two to revisit this resort style town and its endearing characters. The biggest disappointment is that the characters from the first book were not in this one, as these were all new characters. This is good for readers looking for stand alone reads, and if they started with this one they would not be missing out on any key points except for the struggles of Bridal Veil that the Cunninghams faced in book one.

We are introduced to a maintenance worker/gamekeeper Evan who is hoping for a promotion, and a lady's maid Melinda who wants nothing more than to marry Evan. Melinda sees things one way, and that is her way. Despite being offered sage advice from her elders, and ignoring Evan's clues that he is not ready to settle down with anyone, Melinda throws caution to the wind and leaves her position behind to stay on full time at the resort to be near Evan. She is lucky that she is offered a job there, but she is upset that Evan does not have a lot of free time now that she is close by. The two manage to grow further apart once Melinda moves to Bridal Veil, and Melinda doesn't like giving second chances when she sees Evan with another young lady.

I could empathize with Melinda to a point, remembering myself at her age believing that all we needed was love to survive. Evan had a smarter view of things, and wanted to be able to provide for a wife before obtaining one. Melinda grows impatient as each impediment to her plans causes a greater chasm. The story follows along this trajectory as we see how Bridal Veil runs itself, and some of the shady characters who visit along the way. It takes a climatic ending to get Melinda and Evan to work together while protecting President McKinley and Melinda and Evan finally reach an understanding. The supporting cast was an interesting one, and while I enjoyed the atmosphere and the plot twists, I felt like it had lost some of the zest and emotions that were present in book one. The major theme of  Melinda getting what she wants was just not that appealing after awhile. The Christian theme seemed a bit small to be marketed as such, but still To Love and To Cherish was a quick historical romance escapist read recommended for fans of these authors.

Sep 23, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, September 23, 2012
What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted in September at  Book N Around.

In the mail this week I received:
The Secret Keeper
October 9, 2012

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
1959 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

Queen of The Waves
October 1, 2012
Queen of the Waves by Janice Thompson

When pampered Jacqueline Abington secretly elopes with the family gardener, she asks another woman to take her place on the much anticipated maiden voyage of the Titanic. Tessa Yarborough hails from a poor corner of London but has been granted the opportunity of a lifetime--a ticket to sail to America aboard a famed vessel. But there's a catch: she must assume Jacqueline's identity. For the first time in her life, Tessa stays in luxurious quarters, dresses in elegant gowns, and dines with prestigious people. Then a wealthy American man takes an interest in her, and Tessa struggles to keep up the ruse as she begins falling for him. When tragedy strikes, the game is up, and two women's lives are forever changed.

And then, from Paperbackswap, cuz some blogger recommended it, I have no idea who, but it has gotten some great reviews:

Wiley Cash
April 17, 2012

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town.
For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can't help sneaking a look at something he's not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess's. It's a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he's not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.
Told by three resonant and evocative characters—Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past—A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.

What I've Read:
This past week on the blog I posted a few reviews:
Unending Devotion
Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund
Review here and giveaway here. This was a really great read with lovable characters in an intriguing setting and I recommend it, as well as a bunch of other readers!

With Every Letter
September 2012

Another read from the same genre is With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin. This author is fantastic with her historical detail on the World War II era, I have read one of her other titles and will definitely continue to read the rest of her titles. She blends history and romance quite well, and adds a small dash of inspiration as well. Please stop by and read my new review of With Every Letter, here.

To Love and Cherish
August 2012
I also read To Love and Cherish by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller, and my review will post in a few days. I enjoyed book one in the series, but it looks like these are stand alone novels, so the tone I had liked from the first novel didn't carry over into this second installment in the Briday Veil series.

And earlier I had also posted a giveaway (ended) and review for The Kingmaker's Daughter by Phillipa Gregory, and posted the review here. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this one, so those on the fence about another Gregory read might want to go ahead and give this one a try. I love the Wars of the Roses era, probably because there are so many facets and people involved, it still hasn't gotten old like the Tudors has for me.

The Shadowy Horses
October 2012

I am currently reading The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley. This is my first novel by her, and Sourcebooks is reissuing this one for us in October. I am impressed with the writing style, and happy that I am enjoying it even though it is a modern setting. I never thought a modern setting of an archaeological dig would be so intriguing but the Scots accent had me from "Aye."

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, there is an interesting conversation going on at Unabridged Chick, which you may want to weigh in with your thoughts regarding pseudonym etiquette and an author telling us to revise a review. What would you do?

What's on my reading agenda:
Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman is one of her earlier works and was voted on as our choice to read for the next read along. If you would like to join us, order your copy soon because we plan to begin reading around 10/13/2012. You don't need to do a sign up post or anything, just join in our weekly discussions. See the details here. I'd love to have you get all Medieval with us!

Sep 22, 2012

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

Saturday, September 22, 2012
With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale #1)
A richly told account of two souls surviving all odds

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin
Revell, September 2012
Paperback 432 pages
Review copy provided by LitFuse promotions
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Read my review of an earlier work by Sarah Sundin: Blue Skies Tomorrow

As part of a World War II morale-building program, flight nurse Lt. Mellie Blake begins an anonymous correspondence with Lt. Tom MacGilliver in North Africa. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, they develop a deep friendship. But when they're both transferred to Algeria, will their future be held hostage by the past---or will they reveal their identities?

With Every Letter provides two point of views: Tom MacGilliver, and Mellie Blake. The story shifts narration between the two characters as they each struggle with the emotional and stressful events of World War II even as they are each both trying to grow up. They both have issues that stem from their childhood, and they find friendship and camaraderie, but most elusive of all - understanding, through the letters they write to each other.

The one catch is that they both must maintain anonymity in their letters in the best interest of being able to bear one's soul. Of course, Mellie finds out who she is writing to eventually, and they even meet. Tom doesn't figure out his pen-pal is Mellie, and Mellie is absolutely certain that Tom would be devastated if he found out that horse-faced Mellie was the same as his precious pen-pal Annie.

The two characters are battling issues of fitting in with their respective troops while stationed in various places during the War, and they find comfort sharing their fears through their letters. Mellie is a woman who would be happy to be left alone, and has never cultivated a social etiquette; she always says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Tom has problems fitting in because of his infamous last name: his father was a renowned murderer.

The storyline was a unique one, and it was packed with historical tidbits in relation to the War. Places were mostly new to me, since the fight of the Allies was based in many camps overseas. Both of Mellie's and Tom's characters were well done and very fleshed out, flaws and all. Even though they would do things in a gauche way, we could definitely empathize with them as opposed to wanting to scream at them to grow up and face the music. The ending was my favorite, and warmed my heart. The author does not take her craft lightly, she diligently researches her material and presents it into a fabulous story that I won't forget. I am looking forward to book two, with the way book one was I can imagine we will next follow the story of Mellie's friends Georgie or Rose.

Buy With Every Letter
Thank you to LitFuse for this free product in exchange for a review.

Sep 20, 2012

Jody Hedlund writes Secret #12: My secret for writing around my kids!

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Please welcome author Jody Hedlund, and keep reading for info on how to enter her book giveaway! Read my Review of Unending Devotion, I HIGHLY recommend it!
Secret #12: My secret for writing around my kids.
Jody Hedlund

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Most days I have to write with my five kids running around me. They're busy with all of their normal kid-activities: practicing piano, jumping on the trampoline, doing homework, and playing with friends.
I plop down at the kitchen table where I can keep my eye on everyone and everything.
But with all the noise, activity, and general chaos, you might be wondering how in the world I can possibly concentrate and get anything done?
My secret?
I put in my headphones and turn on Pandora (or Grooveshark). And I drown out the noise.
When I have inspirational music playing, for some reason it helps transport me into my story world. I'm able to focus on the words and my characters and write. I usually develop a new "station" for each book with music that makes me think of the story I'm developing.
Even with my headphones and music, I can still see all that's going on around me with that motherly-instinct that knows where her peeps are and what they're up to.
But the music helps me from getting distracted by the loudness of the world passing by me. And having earphones in is a signal to my kids that I'm busy. I've realized they're less apt to stop and talk to me or interrupt me when I'm wearing my headphones.
The other secret is that I've learned to keep the story flowing in spite of interruptions. For example, if I have to get up and get snacks for my younger children, when I sit back down, I don't have to spend a lot of time trying to get my train of thought back. I can usually just jump right back in where I left off.
I couldn't always write that way. But after continual practice day after day, I've worked my creative muscles to a new level of strength that wasn't possible when I was first writing.
My daily writing situation is far from ideal. But it just shows that we don't need the perfect conditions to do the things we love. We just have to love what we do enough, and we'll find a way to make it work.
What about you? Are you doing what you love right now, no matter how crazy your life is around you? Or have you been waiting for the perfect conditions?
To celebrate the release of Unending Devotion, Jody is giving away a signed copy to followers of Burton Book Review!
Leave a comment (along with your email address) to enter the drawing.
Extra entries for those who also comment on the review post, and for those who tweet or facebook this post!

Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends 9/27/2012.

Unending Devotion (September 1, 2012 Bethany House)

Publisher's Weekly calls Unending Devotion "A meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end."

Purchase Unending Devotion on Amazon!

High-Stakes Drama Meets High-Tension Romance

In 1883 Michigan, Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her to Harrison and into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father.
Posing during the day as a photographer's assistant, Lily can't understand why any God-fearing citizen would allow evil to persist and why men like Connell McCormick turn a blind eye to the crime rampant in the town. But Connell is boss-man of three of his father's lumber camps in the area, and like most of the other men, he's interested in clearing the pine and earning a profit. He figures as long as he's living an upright life, that's what matters.
Lily challenges everything he thought he knew, and together they work not only to save her sister but to put an end to the corruption that's dominated Harrison for so long.

For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she'll be next in her "Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund" blog tour.

Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:

Sep 19, 2012

Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Unending Devotion
Fantastic storytelling with this action packed inspirational romance! 

Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund
Bethany House, September 1, 2012
Paperback 384 pages
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

High-Stakes Drama Meets High-Tension Romance
 In 1883 Michigan, Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her to Harrison and into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father.
Posing during the day as a photographer's assistant, Lily can't understand why any God-fearing citizen would allow evil to persist and why men like Connell McCormick turn a blind eye to the crime rampant in the town. But Connell is boss-man of three of his father's lumber camps in the area, and like most of the other men, he's interested in clearing the pine and earning a profit. He figures as long as he's living an upright life, that's what matters.
Lily challenges everything he thought he knew, and together they work not only to save her sister but to put an end to the corruption that's dominated Harrison for so long.

This was such a fantastic story full of the sweet beginnings of romance with lots of danger involved, too! Lily is deadset on finding her younger sister who has strayed off of God's path and straight into a brothel run by the town's meanest and most evil businessman, James Carr. Eighteen year old Lily and her darling gruff guardian Oren travel to the Northern Hotel in Michigan and meet Connell, the handsome man who is leading the laborers at a lumber camp.

Connell knows the evil that James Carr creates, but is satisfied to look the other way in order to keep the peace. James Carr has his finger on everyone in the town, and he employs gangster techniques to maintain his powerful hold on the community. When Lily gallops in, she has no idea of the murderous lengths that James Carr goes through in order to terrorize the community, and she ends up getting Connell involved in her schemes to rescue the women enslaved into prostitution. Along the way, there are many characters to keep the story moving along with one mishap after the other that kept me turning the pages. There are several themes and storylines running concurrently, so there is a lot going on at once which was refreshing for an inspirational fiction piece, and I loved how I was entertained throughout the entire novel.

Especially refreshing was the outcome of Unending Devotion, and how not everything was a happily ever after ending. Lily was a young woman to be reckoned with, and even though she was not completely fearless she was willing to fight for her beliefs. It was very realistically told, and these characters were so alive and vivid that I missed them once I finished the book. A fabulous tale of romance, loyalty and adventure that I recommend to any historical romance fan.

I have Jody Hedlund's previous novels that are autographed which I won in a charity auction, and I am so eager to read those now that I see the stellar writing talent of the author! And I am so pleased to be able to offer you a giveaway via the guest post that Jody will provide for us tomorrow, so be sure to come back and visit tomorrow's post!

Sep 17, 2012

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

Monday, September 17, 2012

(UK cover)

A blend of treachery, sorcery and devotion.

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory (Cousins' War #4)
Simon & Schuster UK/Touchstone August 14, 2012
Hardcover 432 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Spies, poison, and curses surround her… Is there anyone she can trust?
In The Kingmaker’s Daughter, #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory presents a novel of conspiracy and a fight to the death for love and power at the court of Edward IV of England.
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.
At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.

Read my reviews of the earlier titles in the series:

The Kingmaker's Daughter brings us another installment in the Cousins' War series, this one focusing on the point of view from Anne Neville. Fans like myself of the history of the Wars of the Roses would recognize the Neville name as being closely connected to the Yorkist kings, as Richard Neville was the Kingmaker who helped put Edward IV on the throne of England.

This was a period of time where many factions were created and put down, and turn coats and traitors were just as easily made. There was never a pure period of peace, there always seemed to be a rivalry for the throne of England. Before this novel opens, Anne's father had successfully ousted the Lancastrian Henry VI and his wife Margaret of Anjou to put the Yorkist family on the throne. Anne had grown up fearing this "bad queen" and feeling sorry for the "sleeping king", but never once doubting the righteousness of the Yorkist claim. When the new King Edward chooses Elizabeth Woodville, the new Queen Elizabeth rises her huge family to greatness with lands and wealth which old lords and honorable nobles felt entitled to.

Philippa Gregory loves her Witchy Woodville girls, and they are back causing evil and torment to all those who stand in her path. The Woodvilles are of the upstart House of Rivers, and King Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville, essentially a commoner, and sired many children with her. Alliances are made for these children, and unrest grows. King Edward seems to lead the country at the wishes of his witchy Queen, and it causes Anne's father to become a turncoat himself as he becomes an ally to The Bad Queen (Margaret of Anjou). Anne is betrothed to her Lancastrian heir, Edward, and everything that she has been taught as a child has become overturned.

She is to be a Lancastrian with her marriage to Prince Edward. As most lovers of the story know, this new uprising fails, and long story in the end Anne finally does end up with Edward's brother, Richard. Anne and her sister Isabel are now both married to King Edward's royal brothers, and things should end happily ever after, if not for the Woodville clan.

Elizabeth Woodville was portrayed throughout Gregory's novels as a witch, seductress, temptress.. and the same themes hold true in the new installment. Anne suffers greatly once she marries Richard, and each loss she attributes to the witchy Queen. As I neared the end of the novel, I had hoped for more for Anne, but it seemed that Elizabeth Woodville, even from her far sanctuary, had won the last battle.

There are many story lines weaved throughout, which fans of Gregory would remember such as the legend of Melusine, or the rumors that historians like to hate and refute, but Gregory always manages to turn facts and rumors into an entertaining story. I love the Wars of the Roses era and the Plantagenets far more than I do the Tudor era for all of the many side stories that would be a novel by themselves.  Even though I disliked both the juvenile style of the beginning of this book and the depressing way the book ended, I enjoyed this story a bit more than some of the others.

This time, I really felt the plight of the Neville sisters of Anne and Isabel, and I actually was sympathetic to Richard, whom some feel may have murdered those princes in the Tower (raises hand). There is so much history that we will never truly know, and historians will decipher letters and evidence as they see fit, and I love how Philippa Gregory brings to life an otherwise forgotten time period as she has with her Cousins' War series. Since Gregory doesn't bog down this story with many historical facts or details, the drama speaks for itself with its blend of treachery, sorcery and devotion and I can recommend this novel to any historical fiction fan wishing for an entertaining read, as well as it being suited for a young adult audience.

Discuss your opinions of the Wars of The Roses. Where would you have put yourself in the wars: Lancastrian or Yorkist? Or if you have read the other books in the Cousins' War, which one was your favorite so far?
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Sep 16, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday! What are You Reading?!

Sunday, September 16, 2012
What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted in September at  Book N Around.

Posting a bit early so I can make room for two new giveaway posts this week! It's going to be a busy week here!

In my mailbox, I received this interesting one which was a surprise:

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman
And Lucifer said: “Let us rise against Him now in all our numbers, and pull the walls of heaven down…”

The year is 1348. Thomas, a disgraced knight, has found a young girl alone in a dead Norman village. An orphan of the Black Death, and an almost unnerving picture of innocence, she tells Thomas that plague is only part of a larger cataclysm—that the fallen angels under Lucifer are rising in a second war on heaven, and that the world of men has fallen behind the lines of conflict.

Is it delirium or is it faith? She believes she has seen the angels of God. She believes the righteous dead speak to her in dreams. And now she has convinced the faithless Thomas to shepherd her across a depraved landscape to Avignon. There, she tells Thomas, she will fulfill her mission: to confront the evil that has devastated the earth, and to restore to this betrayed, murderous knight the nobility and hope of salvation he long abandoned.

As hell unleashes its wrath, and as the true nature of the girl is revealed, Thomas will find himself on a macabre battleground of angels and demons, saints, and the risen dead, and in the midst of a desperate struggle for nothing less than the soul of man.

What I've been reading:

Jennifer Delamere

This week I finished reading An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere, and it was one of those that I was pleasantly surprised about! I had assumed it would be a bit of a fluffy piece but there were lots of different things going on, and I especially loved how it is marketed as a "Romance" in the Hachette Books Forever publication line, and it was a nice, clean, sweet romance. It's to be published in October so keep an eye out for it. My review will post closer to the publication date in a month or so.

Iris Anthony/Siri Mitchell
October 2012
The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray...or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear..
Next up on the list to read was Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony. When I looked at Iris Anthony's homepage, there was a photo of her, and turns out she writes as another author I have read, but that didn't have anything do with my expectactions of the book. I wanted this book to be awesome because the subject matter had so much potential. It has seven points of view, and it is a fairly short novel, perhaps it would make a great play? (And I must say I really hate the pseudonym business, I love Amanda Cabot's work but I can't figure out what other names she writes as!! GRRRR!!!)
Here is my review of Ruins of Lace.

by Philippa Gregory

So after that one, my guilty pleasure of Philippa Gregory was next. The Kingmaker's Daughter is another of the Cousins' War series, and it will be the eleventh Philippa Gregory that I have read. Some of her work I didn't like too much, but overall I have enjoyed them - otherwise I wouldn't keep reading them! I really shouldn't have picked this one up to read, as I am super behind on review books that I am supposed to review at a certain date, but with the digging for Richard III I could not keep away any longer. Gotta let my mood take over every now and then! I am excited that Richard's bones may have been found and that there is evidence of scoliosis, a condition I share with him! Mine is not as severe (yet) but I do have an 'S' curve so time will only tell if I will soon be known as a hunchback as well.

The book begins as Anne Neville is almost nine years old, so it reads a bit like a young adult read, and judging from other reviewers the entire book holds this tone. I never really have high hopes for a smashing book from Gregory, but I hope it is not too eye rolling.

Edit to add: I just finished this one!! Once I got past the initial set-up of how this story was leading, I blazed through it. Review and giveaway to go up Monday AM! And be quick, this one is going to be a quick flash giveaway!

Sep 14, 2012

Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

Friday, September 14, 2012

Iris Anthony
An intriguing look at how lace represents evil
Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony (a pseudonym for Siri Mitchell)
October 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Paperback 336 pages
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,
pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything––or anyone.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray...or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.

The synopsis gave me high hopes for this novel and I wanted to learn more about the history of lace. I was so intrigued and saddened that in Flanders the lace makers were pretty much slaves to the trade, even while being sheltered in houses of God. The women toiled day and night making lace, becoming blinded and hunched before old age would have naturally occurred. And once that happened, they were kicked out of that house of God and put on the streets. The lace was forbidden in France for these reasons in the seventeenth century, and so people had used lace as a token of bribery and then a web of deceit followed lace from France to Flanders and back again.

One of the "main" characters (using the term loosely as there were several) was a lace maker going blind and desperately needing rescue by her sister. Her sister needs to do some dastardly deeds to raise money to purchase her sister back from the nuns. Another character is a young girl Lissette who damages some lace that belonged to a count, which set into motion years of debt to the count, effectively destroying her family. Her saving grace would be procuring more lace for the count; the count wants it in order to bribe a cardinal, because his stepmother is pregnant and his inheritance is at stake.. as you see, there are several things going on and it was this interweaving storyline that made the read worthwhile.

This is a quick read that was very intriguing once it got going. My initial response was, OH my, what have I gotten myself into? There were seven different points of view going on, from the lace maker in Flanders to down on their luck nobles and then a dog. Yes, a dog. That dog narrative was extremely annoying and I really wish that part was not included; we could have done without it. It took about the first hundred pages for me to start feeling invested in the story, and then the many different points of view started becoming connected to each other and began to finally feel like a story rather than a start and stop kind of thing. Each chapter was narrated by a different person, and it took a while to get used to the flow. But once it started flowing, I could not stop reading, and it was a strong climatic finish. I could easily say that the finish was overdone, too convenient, and too contrived, but I was entertained and it still seemed to fit well with how the author was writing it. Speaking of the author, Iris Anthony is a pseudonym though she asked me to not disclose her other writing name. I had enjoyed one of her other works thus far but being asked to keep her pen name a secret is pretty stupid and so I won't read any other of her stuff. That said, I would recommend Ruins of Lace to those looking for an entertaining and quick read, but would be hesitant to say you would enjoy it as it had quirks that you would need to be tolerant of.

Sep 13, 2012

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Bees in the Butterfly Garden
Redemption versus revenge.. which will persevere?
Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang
Tyndale House Publishers, July 2012, $12.99
Paperback 370p 9781414364469
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine, August 2012
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

The title Bees in the Butterfly Garden gives a fresh, inviting, outdoorsy feel, especially with the girl on the cover lovingly smelling the flowers. However, there are not many satisfied characters in this book, including the two main protagonists Meg and Ian. When Meg learns her deceased father was an expert thief, Meg’s upper-crust world at Madame Marisse’s boarding school falls apart. Once Meg meets her father’s protégé, they develop an attraction for each other which they would never admit. When Ian has to prove his status as the next boss of his crime ring, Meg offers a golden opportunity to help Ian achieve his goals. With guilt plaguing their actions, Meg and Ian set out to emulate her father’s ways as they plot to steal the infamous Pemberton gold bricks from Meg’s friends on Fifth Avenue. With a few interesting characters and New York City setting, the entire story surrounds this deed of theft which Meg feels she absolutely must do, against her father’s friends’ wishes.
Ignoring the values and the etiquette that Meg’s father had provided for her, Meg is intent on a life of crime. Without a commendable reason to choose this path her actions do not make her a likable character. We can allow the same transgressions for Ian’s character as this was always his way of life during the Gilded Age of New York City, but Meg does not give any valid reason to even leave her school or her teaching position behind. The subject matter of ignoring the law and wholeheartedly scheming to defraud your friends leaves a sour taste, especially since the plot surrounding this event tends to drag. But if the reader could get past Meg’s unhealthy desire for vindication through crime, then the outcome may just be worth it.