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Jul 24, 2014

Giveaway! Introducing Susanna Kearsley's SEASON OF STORMS

Thursday, July 24, 2014
There are a few authors that have me swooning at all of their new releases, and Susanna Kearsley is one of them. Very excited to be a part of a pre-publication tour for her newest novel Season of Storms! Even more excited that when I received the ARC in the mail I saw a blurb/quote from Burton Book Review on the back cover. These kinds of things make me a happy blogger.

And so with happiness, I give you the following synopsis and excerpt from the new novel, which you will have a chance to win your own advance readers' copy at the end of the blog post.
Available from Sourcebooks Landmark, September 2 2014
A mystery trapped in time..In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed. 

Now, two generations later, Alessandro D’Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands—at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D’Ascanio’s magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake’s disappearance—and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro. But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia’s fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back…

From Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

It was noon when he reached the Piazza San Marco.
The midday sun had bleached the square and cast a haze across the piazzetta, so that even the statues of San Teodoro and San Marco’s winged lion, they who had for these eight centuries stood vigi lant, their eyes fixed ever eastward over the serene lagoon, appeared today to slumber on their columns while below them at the edge of the canal the water barely swelled beneath the waiting row of gondolas.
He turned his back upon the gleaming pinnacles and domes of the basilica and searched among the faces in the strolling crowd for hers. No easy task, that. All of Venice seemed to be here, standing idly sharing gossip in the shadow of the bell-tower, or lunching at café tables by the Moorish colonnades. Music rose and met from either side of the piazza where the orchestras competed for attention from beneath their café awnings, a cultivated duel of rival melodies and rhythm that yet managed to produce a pleasing harmony.
Maître!” a delighted voice behind him cried and, turning, he recognized the oldest of the waiters from the café on his right, a sun-creased man from Corsica whose thick French accent clung to every word. “Maître, what a joy to see you here again. You must sit here, where all who pass can see you and pay tribute to your talent.”
He hesitated…he had not meant to stop here, but rather, like one of his own hounds, to keep to the chase, to find the scent and pursue it, relentless…but the waiter’s words, the blatant adoration, moved him suddenly. He sat. What did it matter, he thought, if he paused for a meal? Did not his own hounds hunt the better when they were refreshed?
He ate and drank deliberately, in honor of the watching eyes. A scraping of chairs at the table behind him announced the arrival of a new party, young, gay with laughter. A man in English said: “Oh no, but it really was too bad of you, John, not to stop the boat and let her have a go. She might have done it.”
Nonsense. From what I’ve heard, nobody gets in to see him. That man of his guards him like a Gurkha.”
And then a woman, in amusement, said: “I fancy Celia’s a match for any man’s man. Aren’t you, darling?”
Still with his back to their table he froze, his glass half-lifted to his lips, as something wonderful and warm began to tingle all along his spine. Fighting the impulse to leap to his feet at that moment and face her, he felt in his pockets for pencil and paper. Their meeting, this first meeting, mustn’t be ordinary. It must be creative, it must have appropriate drama. He wrote quickly, and signaled the waiter.
Yes, maître?”
Keeping his voice hushed he urged the man closer, conspiring.
Behind me—the blonde at the table behind me…”
A glance flickered over his head and then back again. “Yes, maître?”
There is only one blonde?”
There is, maître.”
Excellent. When I am gone, you will give her this note,” he said, folding the paper and pressing it into the waiter’s hand.
You will give it to her privately, pretending it is something she has dropped, perhaps. Do this for me, and I will be forever in your debt.”
The waiter bowed his head and left.

Once more the laughter of the English party rang out close behind him, and he raised his glass and drank the sweetness of the wine and smiled.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers’ Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

Links to my reviews of a few of Susanna Kearsley's recent novels:
The Splendour Falls
The Firebird
The Shadowy Horses

GIVEAWAY of one ARC copy of Season of Storms!
(Open to USA only)

Jul 18, 2014

Mutiny of the Heart by Jennifer Bray-Weber

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mutiny of the Heart (Romancing the Pirate) by Jennifer Bray-Weber
Carina Press, June 23, 2014
ebook/75,000 words/216 pages/9781426898525
Review Copy provided via publisher for review in Library Journal Xpress
Navigating the high seas as the female captain of a pirate ship means always being on your guard—especially when one takes a temptingly handsome slave on board.

Captain Joelle Quint believes the slave claiming to be a cartographer can help her decipher the map her father left her when she was a child. She's spent years trying to unlock its truths, hoping that it holds the answers to a dark family secret.
Sloan Ricker has no intention of remaining captive. When the fiery, red-headed captain offers him his freedom in exchange for solving her map, what begins as an opportunity to escape becomes a struggle to make the beautiful, intriguing Joelle his mistress in more ways than one.

Amidst a battle with the Royal Navy and a first mate's jealousy, Joelle also fights her growing lust. And as much as he'd like to deny it, Ricker's desire for Joelle has overcome his initial disdain. To get the answers, independence and love that they both long f
or, Joelle and Ricker must relinquish control to each other…or die trying.

This suspenseful romance brings us to the Caribbean waters full of pirates, battles and lusty encounters. Where other novels would have a helpless woman aboard a ship as a passenger, the twist offered with Mutiny of the Heart is the fact that the very capable captain of the Rissa is a very capable female who also has a sexual relationship with a crew member. Joelle is the strong-willed female who has earned herself honors along the privateers due to her skill and charm but she has one mission in life: to find the answers hidden in the map her father left behind. The waters get muddy when she hires a handsome map reader to help her and wild abandon threatens to take over..mutiny style. While the love triangle is the major thrust (pun intended) there is a subplot of intrigue and mystery that speeds us along as the characters are enjoyable and well defined.

Erotically told but not quite over the top, the novel offers themes of independence, willpower and choosing love over pride. The writing style succeeded in keeping my interest, where some may blush at the detailed sexual encounters it seems to fit together perfectly to form the perfect beach read.

Jul 14, 2014

Somerset by Leila Meacham

Monday, July 14, 2014
epic soap opery saga kleenex material

Somerset by Leila Meacham
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Disclosure: I requested this title on NetGalley but it took several weeks for them to get around to responding to the request, so I finally decided to just read the hardcopy when it was provided by a friend; I then waited till I was ready to get around to it myself. And voila, here is the review.

One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.

Read my review of Roses
Read my review of Tumbleweeds

Several years back I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Leila Meacham during her book tour for Roses and I waxed not so eloquently about it here on the blog. It was then that she said she didn't want to be at the beck and call of a publisher's schedule, so I cried inside as I knew I would want more of her stories from her graceful pen.

Luckily her husband gave her the idea to tell the story of the how Roses came to be, which brings us to Somerset, the story of the ancestors of the characters in Roses, which I enjoyed immensely. 'Generations' would be an apt subtitle for Somerset, as it completes much of the family history of several generations of the Warwicks, Tolivers and DuMonts. And if you haven't read Roses yet, that's okay. You'll want to when you finish Somerset.

Somerset begins before the Civil War between the States, and it carries us all the way through to the 1900's where inventions and progress have come to the founding families of Howbukter, Texas. Although a fictional story, the author does a very good job at imparting historical tidbits about the life and times of our American pioneers as they leave South Carolina and head straight for Texas where war is brewing between early settlers, Mexico and Indians. The Tolivers focus on cotton, Warwicks on lumber, and the DuMonts have a very special department store.  These families are made of something special, and each with a special characteristic to make them unique to the story. Slaves and their treatment are a bit part of the novel, and
I can appreciate the special attention to the abolitionist cause as well as the view from a Southerner's point of view.  Readers of Roses will remember the curse the Tolivers had to deal with, and the origin comes to play in Somerset, which means no one is safe from death's cruel hand. Have your tissues handy for there is love found and lost, grief and happiness all flowing from page to page of Somerset.

Roses was compared to Gone With the Wind due to it's same style of drama and similar era, and that is same with Somerset. Nothing can compare to that classic blockbuster, but Meacham gives us good storytelling told with heart, and the main characters of Silas and Jessica Toliver really stand out. Their friends and their family all form the patchwork that is the story of Somerset, and I'm itching to re-read Roses now. A really good sink your teeth into type of novel, Somerset is a fantastic chunkster that really makes it worthwhile if you are in the mood for a soap-opera style generational novel.

I will say that those readers looking for the "wars of the roses" link will be disappointed that it is just a small thread. Don't expect a miraculous connection to British royalty in the novel as it is simply a symbolic gesture to remembering heritage. Those readers who are interested in what it may have been like living in America during its earlier years will feel more in tune with America's early progress after reading Meacham's expansive novel.

Jul 3, 2014

Stormbird: Wars of the Roses book one by Conn Iggulden

Thursday, July 03, 2014
Fantastic storytelling

Stormbird: Wars of the Roses book one by Conn Iggulden
US edition July 8, 2014 from Putnam Adult
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

The first book in #1 New York Times bestselling author Conn Iggulden’s brilliant new historical series about two families who plunged England into a devastating, decades-long civil war.

In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named "The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it not only opportunity in the monarch, but also their patriotic duty in ousting an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?

This was a fantastic novel on one of my favorite historical eras. I was really expecting something less exciting, -more profane perhaps- as I am prejudiced against male authors after coming across a few novels in my earlier years that turned me away from male authors. So I have to really be intrigued by the subject matter in order to want to read a male author and yet again I have proven myself wrong in my prejudice (this time!).

The fact that I zipped through this novel doesn't make it any less worthy, it just made it a page turner. Instead of focusing on just one particular facet during the reign of the feeble Henry VI, the novel takes on a panoramic and expansive view as it jumps effortlessly from one character to the other. We get the bad guys, and the good guys, the political heavy-weights, the nobles, some peasants, and some of the Royal family. It really gets going quickly as the pacing of the story made it hard to put down. After reading quite a few Wars of the Roses novels I was thoroughly impressed with how I felt I learned something new, and in an enjoyable way. As usual, my only complaint is that I'll have to wait forever to read the next book in the series, (hoping I can snag it from a UK seller this fall) and I despise reading works so far apart from each other. (2018 update: NOPE I still have not read any others in the series, but I did buy them! Now I am just super confused what is what because they changed the titles from UK to USA just to be idiotic).

The author's note at the end explains some of the fictionalized events of the novel and yet I didn't feel as I was reading it that things were out of place. I enjoyed some of the characters that were entirely fictitious as well as the way the author portrayed the well-known figures of the era. Richard of York was so easy to despise with his arrogant ways! And Margaret of Anjou was so easy to like with her quick intelligence! Poor Henry VI, you can't really change his character too much, as yet again he was a bit of a zombie during the novel. (Oh, no please don't do a zombie mashup novel!)

There was a lot of suspense as the rebellions grew and with the fate of Master Brewer, the fictional character, which put a nice spin on to the tale. I am pleased to report that there were not any male chauvinistic tendencies nor were there very much crude language if at all. Stormbird is an excellent slice of the big pie of the Wars of the Roses epic saga, and I cannot wait to dig into more from the author.

Jul 1, 2014

Petals On The Wind by V.C. Andrews (and the next two in the series)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Pocket Books May 2014 reissue
Petals On the Wind was sent to me free for a review, thank you. While I hesitate to call this a review as it stands, I wanted to give you that disclosure. If you are sensing deja-vu, I did a quick spotlight post here.

On the heels of the successful Lifetime TV version of Flowers in the Attic comes the TV movie tie-in edition of Petals On the Wind, the second book in the captivating Dollanganger saga.
Forbidden love comes into full bloom. For three years they were kept hidden in the eaves of Foxworth Hall, their existence all but denied by a mother who schemed to inherit a fortune. For three years their fate was in the hands of their righteous, merciless grandmother. They had to stay strong…but in their hopeless world, Cathy and her brother Christopher discovered blossoming desires that tumbled into a powerful obsession. Now, with their frail sister, Carrie, they have broken free and scraped enough together for three bus tickets and a chance at a new life. The horrors of the attic are behind them…but they will carry its legacy of dark secrets forever.

Yeah I know you are like "I caught you!" since here I am reading V.C. Andrews - again - twenty something years later. Am I twisted, or what?

Yes, I DID read this new edition of Petals On The Wind, the second installment of the super freaky and creepy Dollanganger series. And YES I did love the guilty pleasure SO MUCH that I sprinted for the first time in about five years to get through the library doors a minute before they closed so that I could borrow the next two books in the series.

Lifetime Movie Network had shown a Flowers In The Attic made for TV movie, and that was a hit so they also aired Petals On The Wind in late May. I watched them both on live TV, no DVR'ing for this girl. This is great stuff. My husband attempted to watch Petals with me and he was like "He's her brother!!!" and thus I was ashamed ;) and he promptly left the room.

Yes, it's crazy material that no one can really describe.. but for some reason I still loved the whole sick thing decades later. Spine tingling tension, characters that creep you out but you're totally sorry for their predicament. One thing I was concerned with was after watching the TV movie, would that make the book crappy or redundant for me a few weeks later? Nope. The movie was a tad different, and the book, you guessed it: WAS BETTER!

Cathy Cathy Cathy Cathy... Damn her vindictive little mind. Carrie Carrie Carrie.. take some vitamins! Chris Chris Chris.. Keep your raging hormones to yourself! UGH! And then Cathy meets Dr. Paul Sheffield and things should be peachy keen, but nope Dr. Paul adds a whole new layer of something creepy/ominous. And then boom! Cathy decides to be a sex kitten/ballerina. I would never be able to explain the plot without giving away spoilers and sounding like a bit of a nut job myself so suffice it to say the Dollangangers make excellent summer reading. Even the second time around. Even if I wanted to knock some sense into Cathy.

So there I went and careened into the library to pick up this hot chunk of a book:
"Out of the ashes of evil Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for their splendid children..."
This snazzy edition published in 2010 has both book three and book four. Book three being If There Be Thorns (first published 1981) and book four being Seeds of Yesterday.

I would have preferred reading the original editions with the cool cut-out covers, but this is all my library had, and it was water damaged at that. I can imagine many a teen-aged girl poring over these 816 pages for quite some time, so this book has gotten a thorough workout. I will say that there were several typos in this edition, which is totally uncool. Had they really fired all the editors at Simon Schuster?

In book three, we are introduced to the next generation as we watch the sins of the parents affect the young ones. As secrets start to come out, the family is facing many a psychological and crucially disgusting fact about Cathy and Chris. This is how the kids deal with revelations and scandal while they create a bit of their own. I read this book in about five days, and it did actually drag a bit in the Seeds of Yesterday. But then it picked up the pace and I couldn't put it down.

So as you can see, life is a like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. One day I'll be reading the bible, and then crazy stuff like V.C. Andrews. Or of course, my standard historical piece.
If you need a bit of a pick-yourself-up-away-from-the-hell-that-is-your-life, well, check out this series. It all began with Flowers In The Attic....

Dollanganger #5 is Garden of Shadows. I will keep my eyes open for that one as it is really a prequel. I hate prequels. But I'll still keep me eyes open for it just in case I need that pick-me-up. Not everything requires a tense literary thought provoking masterpiece, sometimes you just gotta let your hair down and read some entertaining stuff. So this is like the second or third time I've read Young Adult in five years, and I can't say it's that bad.