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Dec 27, 2013

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks reissue Jan 2014 (originally published 1995)
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:Glittery forbidden fruit 4.5 stars

Chinon-chateau of legend, steeped in the history of France and England. It is to Chinon that Emily goes on a long-awaited holiday, to meet her charming but unreliable cousin, Harry. Harry wanted to explore the old town and the castle, where Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, had withstood the siege of Chinon many centuries ago, and where, according to legend, she hid her casket of jewels. But when Emily arrives at her hotel she finds that Harry has disappeared, and as she tries to find him she becomes involved with some of the other guests and learns of a mystery dating from the German occupation during the Second World War. Another Isabelle, a chambermaid at the hotel, fell in love with a German soldier, with tragic results.
Emily becomes increasingly aware of strange tensions, old enmities and new loves; as she explores the city, with its labyrinthine dungeons and tunnels and its ancient secrets, she comes ever closer to the mystery of what happened to both the Isabelles of Chinon's history.

Whenever a title comes up for review by Susanna Kearsley, I jump at the chance. I've also purchased her previous works based on my recent review reads, and The Splendour Falls is indeed a reissue. This novel is a bit of a romance with Kearsley's stellar gothic suspense thing that she has such a fabulous way with, I could probably read Kearsley titles non-stop for months and not be deterred.

The setting is Chinon, where there were legends surrounding the mysteries of two young ladies, centuries apart but both called Isabelle. King John's Isabelle was at Chinon when the castle was under siege, and during the Second World War another Isabelle falls in love with the enemy. Rumors of treasures have our main protagonist Emily chasing after her cousin Harry but she finds more than one mystery to solve before she can be reunited with Harry again. An eclectic group of characters are Emily's fellow travelers whom she meets along the romantic and whimsical adventure in the beautiful setting.

Kearsley didn't disappoint me at all, and this is perfect for those who dream of visiting a castle in France, such as I do. The descriptive writing, the nuances of danger laced with guilty pleasure all come together in a thrilling way as we fall in love with the scenery. I loved the main protagonist and totally wished I could be her during such a delightful adventure.

Dec 23, 2013

Burton Book Review's Best Reads of 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013
Although I read fewer books this year than last, I feel I have read some wonderful reads still. These were given five stars as I tend to write reviews soon after reading, and if I really feel like I loved the book and totally enjoyed the experience, I gave it five stars. There is no order to this list, plus this list will comprise of reads that I physically read in 2013 but not necessarily published in 2013. I got lucky that I had an even round of ten books this year to make the five star distinction.

Click titles to read my reviews:

The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow

The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson  (pictured with the Bible that I also read this year, of course I have to include that title here too)

So there were a lot of inspirational fiction which actually surprised me, but don't let that term deter you from reading most of these that were very very very light on the "biblical" side. These stories are full of romance and hope, and lots of drama. And HISTORICAL! My favorite genre is historical fiction, and over the last few years I have jumped into the inspirational side of history as I was bored of Kings and Queens in Europe. I enjoy reading about the struggles of earlier Americans, and it turns out there is a huge market of these in the inspirational genre. Best of two worlds!

And it is interesting to note that I continue to read more female writers as well (there was a facebook conversation about this).. I tend to lean towards females in general as far as fiction goes. It's just a personal preference.

As far as 2014 goes, I expect to review more romance and hopefully I'll be finding some new authors to enjoy. I have no idea honestly at this point which genres/sub-genres I will actually gravitate towards, it seems that the publishers don't always publish what I'm in the mood for currently, so I might just visit the local library more often especially since my son is getting more and more interested in going there. That's a great thing to this mama!

Dec 21, 2013

Upcoming Group Read Announcement

Saturday, December 21, 2013
I wanted to give others the opportunity to participate in an upcoming Group Read we are having over at Goodreads for a popular author, Jean Plaidy aka Victoria Holt.

On December 26, 2013 we are scheduled to start reading The Courts of Love at the forum and anyone can join in. These are loosely formatted: there is not a formal reading schedule, simply pop in and share thoughts or lurk as you wish.

Published in the 1980's, there have been several issues of The Courts of Love since its original publication. You can take a look at some of the different covers here. The one that I will be reading from is pictured below:
 Synopsis from Goodreads:

When I look back over my long and tempestuous life, I can see that much of what happened to me—my triumphs and most of my misfortunes—was due to my passionate relationships with men. I was a woman who considered herself their equal—and in many ways their superior—but it seemed that I depended on them, while seeking to be the dominant partner—an attitude which could hardly be expected to bring about a harmonious existence.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was revered for her superior intellect, extraordinary courage, and fierce loyalty. She was equally famous for her turbulent relationships, which included marriages to the kings of both France and England.

As a child, Eleanor reveled in her beloved grandfather’s Courts of Love, where troubadours sang of romantic devotion and passion filled the air. In 1137, at the age of fifteen, Eleanor became Duchess of Aquitaine, the richest province in Europe. A union with Louis VII allowed her to ascend the French throne, yet he was a tepid and possessive man and no match for a young woman raised in the Courts of Love. When Eleanor met the magnetic Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of England, their stormy pairing set great change in motion—and produced many sons and daughters, two of whom would one day reign in their own right.

In this majestic and sweeping story, set against a backdrop of medieval politics, intrigue, and strife, Jean Plaidy weaves a tapestry of love, passion, betrayal, and heartbreak—and reveals the life of a most remarkable woman whose iron will and political savvy enabled her to hold her own against the most powerful men of her.

Feel free to join in the discussions over at Goodreads! Hope to see you there!
Here is the direct link to the thread of the group read:

Dec 12, 2013

December and TBR Challenge Failure

Thursday, December 12, 2013
It's almost Christmas so I figured it was time to check in here on the blog and say Merry Christmas! I have been doing some reading behind the scenes, but unfortunately they are all for a February post date.. so the blog will seem bare till then.

I had taken some time off so that I could squeeze in some review reads and so I focused on those instead of personal library reads, and that means I utterly failed at this year's TBR Challenge. I did well at the pace I was on until I took a new job in June and health issues and so I only read seven out of twelve selections. I think I may have done better if I had been able to predict my reading habits after the summer, and what type of books I would then be interested in. I had listed some books that had been sitting on my shelf for years and felt I should get to them out of respect for them, but I just was never in the mood.

Titles that I wonder if I'll EVER get to are Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold and Legacy: The Acclaimed Novel of Elizabeth the Most Passionate Queen and the Three Men Who Loved Her by Susan Kay. I am so bored of the Tudors and Elizabethans at this point (I still have two recent releases that I haven't finished and don't care if I ever will) and I really find myself wishing more for American History at this point. I even find myself not wanting any European history either so who knows what I'll be reading in 2014?! Biblical fiction and non-fiction, and American history/Civil War is my guess, with inspirational romance reads still being a favorite.

The most important thing to remember as bloggers is how we are eager to salivate over upcoming reads and find ourselves requesting/accepting ARCs but we end up bogging ourselves down. I find that is what happened with me in the past: counting on Time being my friend and feeling like a review to be posted at a later date shouldn't be a problem. But then real life gets in the way and there are days you just can't find the time to pick up a book to even read a sentence. I allowed myself the current review pile only because I knew I would be on vacation, and now I have to remind myself that once Christmas is over it'll all be over and it's time to get back to focusing on the career. Thankfully I have only one or two for January and February dates, which means I am able to start another Group Read of a Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt novel.

It's time to sign up for the 2014 TBR Challenge.. but experience shows me I may as well save myself the time. It's enough of a chore to compose the scheduled reviews with the links, photos, etc.. when I'd rather just open up a book instead of staring at the computer screen. Kudos to all those bloggers out there who have the strength to keep up with the blogging pace that some of you have set!

Congrats! You have completed your goal of reading 50 books for the 2013 Reading Challenge!
(23,235 pages as of 12/12/13)
I was able to surpass my reading goal for number of titles for the Goodreads challenge, as well as completing the study bible this year. So even though I haven't completed the TBR Challenge, I still feel like I did well. I didn't totally shut down the blog even though it crossed my mind!

I do have two brand new books on my shelf that I wanted to conduct a giveaway for.. but it'll have to wait till I feel the urge. One of them is a new and signed book by local author, Anne Mateer.. and I wanted to be able to read my own copy so that I could GUSH about it during the giveaway.. so stay tuned for that at some future point!

I'll create another post to update upcoming reads and also I'll need to do a Best of 2013 post as well! Till then, enjoy the Christmas season!