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May 31, 2015

Secret Brother (The Diaries #3) A Concept by V.C. Andrews

Sunday, May 31, 2015

another twist to the iconic story

Secret Brother (The Diaries #3) A Concept by V.C. Andrews
Simon and Schuster Pocket Books May 26, 2015
400 pages Paperback $7.99
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

The most unexpected Dollanganger story of them all, new from the author of Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind; both now major Lifetime movie events.

A young boy suffers amnesia from a trauma he suffered in what feels like must have been another life. He’s adopted into a wealthy family—but what will happen when he learns the truth about his past?

Dollanganger Series:
Flowers in The Attic (1979)
Petals on the Wind (1980)
If There Be Thorns (1981)
Seeds of Yesterday (1984)
Garden of Shadows (prequel) (1986) Finished by the ghostwriter

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth (October 2014; ghostwritten)
Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger (January 2015; ghostwritten)
Secret Brother (May 2015; ghostwritten)
Bittersweet Dreams (October 2015; ghostwritten)

Most readers my age remember reading the family saga that began with Flowers in the Attic which dealt with four young siblings undergoing unimaginable turmoil as they were locked up by their own mother in her rich parent's vast attic. If you haven't read it, you are missing out on something creepy. Something about the wildness and forbidden love kept young readers such as myself going back for more. The books outlined above are all favorite stories of mine. Once we get to the ghostwritten book releases of this decade there is certainly a different feel and taste to the stories. The gothic feel is gone, and more contemporary vibes are evident as the new characters are introduced into the original saga.

Unlike the previous two Diaries releases, Secret Brother does actually attempt to recreate the past by bringing back an original family member from Flowers in The Attic. And since the review is going to be very hard to write without spoiling it for everyone, I will stick to just how I felt about the book as opposed to a summary of the story.

Firstly, I will say that I am glad I read the book. Secondly, it is not for the impatient. I really wanted something more to be going on, something a little more spine tingling, something that would keep me up at night in the way that Flowers in the Attic had done. Instead, the main character Clara Sue (a name that didn't seem suited to the character) is really bratty and selfish - being told in first person narrative doesn't help with this negativity. The plot consists of how Clara Sue engages with her peers as she deals with the loss of her brother, and then how her relationship with the hottest guy on campus develops. In this respect, I would think that perhaps a true young adult reader would appreciate the novel. The other plot point is the tie-in to the original novel, which turned out to be dramatically anti-climatic. There is an excerpt of the next novel, Bittersweet Dreams, where once again we are whisked off to a whole new set of characters which means there doesn't seem to be a conclusion to Secret Brother. Or is there?

For the die-hard V.C. Andrews fan, this is not a form of gold. I have not read book two (Echoes of Dollanganger) as I was not sent it for review, and review books always have to take priority. I was sent book one, however, so I reviewed that here. I did buy book two, and Secret Brother is being called book three. Secret Brother can be read alone (provided you've read Flowers in the Attic) but I get the sense that the first two Diaries novels should be read together as the second installment continues book one.

At $7.99 a pop, you get what you pay for. An intriguing story, a flashback to your youthful past with the original V.C. Andrews novels, and something to look forward to with the other stories. Nothing will ever be written quite like the originals, but there is a reason why the estate continues to allow the ghostwritten stories: they sell. And the Lifetime movies were pretty good, also.

May 22, 2015

Giveaway! Autographed Goodies including Anne Mateer's A HOME FOR MY HEART

Friday, May 22, 2015

I survived the Romantic Times Booklovers Giant Book Fair.

beautific selfie with autographed goodness!
As I posted on Twitter and on Facebook, I went to the Romantic Time Booklovers Convention during their Giant Book Fair which was open to the public on Saturday May 16 2015.

If you are my FB Friend, you would have seen a few pictures of me dorking out with my favorite inspirational authors, such as Elizabeth Ludwig and Regina Jennings. I got to meet several other authors too like Heather Manning, Melanie Dickerson, Susanna Kearsley, Cindy Nord and Francine Rivers. It was really a booklover's dream.

Cindy Nord - a very sweet lady! 
Of course it was complete and utter mayhem and towards the beginning of the event I had wondered what in the world was I thinking as hundreds of us were herded like cattle all around the hotel.. but in the end I must say they did pretty good except for the part where we were all huddled into an empty room (with no cellphone coverage) in which I am sure we far exceeded the occupancy level. I was trying to ignore the claustrophobic feelings when after fifteen minutes of second guessing my wisdom of attending such an event as my dear mother wondered aloud, "This is a Nazi experiment and they are going to gas us."

Luckily, we survived.

One of my local authors also survived the event, Anne Mateer. And I had been meaning to give away one of the books I bought from her from a signing from (oopsy) 2013 that I had attended. And I never got around to it, just as I had never gotten around to reading the copy that I had purchased for myself. Time ran away and all that.

So at this point, in honor of surviving local author events I figured I better get some of these goodies out of my library before I die...

The intriguing backdrop of an early-1900s orphanage makes this a unique, engaging read.
Sadie Sillsby works as the assistant to the matron at the Raystown Home for Orphan and Friendless Children and dreams of the day she'll marry her beau, Blaine. But when the matron surprises everyone by announcing her own engagement, Sadie is suddenly next in line for the job. For a young woman who was once an orphan herself, a shot at such an esteemed position is a wish come true. But the matron of the Home cannot be married. Is Sadie willing to give up her dreams of a life with Blaine and a family of her own? Is she prepared to forgo daily involvement with the children as she instead manages the financial, legal, and logistical aspects of the orphanage? And when it's revealed that the Home is spending a lot more money than it's taking in, can Sadie turn things around before the place is forced to close forever?

This giveaway is for the awesome fan shown above which many inspirational authors autographed, plus a new copy of Anne Mateer's 2013 release A Home For My Heart (also autographed!) and then some extra little goodies like bookmarks/marketing materials which I picked up at the Book Fair on May 16 2015.

Since I am mailing this out myself I have to request that entries are limited to USA addresses only. Apologies to Canadians, please don't skewer me.

Thanks for being a follower of Burton Book Review... you are much appreciated.

To enter I would like for you to be amazing and share this post, and comment below with a way I can contact you. If I am your Facebook friend, no need to leave your email addy.

For extra fun, try telling me who you recognize in the autographed fan I am holding or who I am smiling with in the photos below:

If you are receiving this post via email and would like to enter, please forward this email to reviewer(at)Burtonbookreview(dot)com and you will receive five extra entries. You still need to comment here though.

Giveaway ends May 28th at midnight CST and winner must respond to my request for mailing information by May 30th 8:00 AM.

May 19, 2015

Giveaway Celebrating Deborah Harkness's paperback release of THE BOOK OF LIFE

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

THE BOOK OF LIFE is the long-awaited final chapter in the smart, sexy All Souls Trilogy, about historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont (Penguin Books; on sale May 26, 2015; $17.00).

In this finale, Diana and Matthew continue their hunt for the magical alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, and reunite with beloved characters from the first two All Souls books to save their world from the powerful enemies who want to destroy it.

THE BOOK OF LIFE synopsis: 
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

It is my pleasure to host this giveaway at Burton Book Review, courtesy of the publisher:

A paperback copy of THE BOOK OF LIFE for giveaway, set of buttons and a small BOOK OF LIFE mirror with the ouroboros design for giveaway!
On sale May 26, 2015

A Q&A with the author was offered as part of a giveaway post for the celebration of book three of the trilogy, and I wanted to share just a few of those questions here.

Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family: unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.

Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.

Also available for the paperback release party are clips from the trilogy audiobooks, read by Jennifer Ikeda which you can listen to by clicking these links:

I haven't read any of these books, but I plan on making them all part of my Summer Reading Fun! Have you read these? How did you like them? 

If you would like to enter the giveaway for the paperback, set of six buttons and mirror, please leave me a comment below with your email address so that I may contact the winner. 

I wanted to make it as easy as possible to enter the giveaway, but it would be very nice of you if you would share this giveaway post as well!

Giveaway open to USA residents and ends May 24th, there will be one grand prize winner. Good luck!

May 6, 2015

(Giveaway!) A review of The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Captivating storytelling of a passionate love between the Hawthornes

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
NAL Hardcover May 5 2015
eGalley provided via NetGalley in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:

Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman's traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia's vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children's needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia's energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.

Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature...

A vivid re-imagining of nineteenth century transcendentalists and feminism, The House of Hawthorne introduces us to famous figures of the era while boldly portraying Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne as none have attempted before.

Growing up in Massachusetts when emancipation issues begin to affect society, young Sophia and her sister Mary travel to Cuba in hopes of a healthier existence. While there, they are exposed to slavery and its cruelty firsthand, tormenting her fragile sensibilities further. Her soul is a creative one and it finds an outlet through painting, but this also leads to excruciating headaches. She eventually paints for a rising literary star Nathaniel Hawthorne and after a long courtship they are finally married - each in their thirties.

Author Erika Robuck slowly builds up this romance story, weaving us under the Hawthorne spell. We feel the artistic tension while the couple tries to cope with the daily toil of chores (as opposed to simply doing "what we were born to do") which are too mundane and oppressive for the likes of them. Despite the charities of fellow literary greats such as the Browning and Emerson families, financial struggles plague the couple forcing Nathaniel to take a real job in government through his previous classmate Franklin Pierce.

The novel portrays a palpable passion between Nathaniel and Sophia throughout their marriage, where Sophia is his "dove" and she is willing to give up seemingly everything for his happiness. Their family grows as the years go on, with grief and sorrow permeating the pages even as we feel the intense connection between the two.

Robuck's newest novel brings to life the courage and values of the Hawthornes, displaying both the gloomy and intense sides of creativity as well as the blissful euphoric moments. This exquisite blend of history and emotion is gift wrapped with the prose of Robuck's hypnotic writing style making The House of Hawthorne an easily recommended historical novel.

I will say that that eGalley formatting of this novel was very distracting. Major distractions were the missing quotations where appropriate and the page breaks (where I would assume there was one) were very non-existent. I wrote the review with the hopes that the finished copy corrects these issues.

Erika Robuck is a favorite novelist of mine, and you can find all my reviews of her published work here at the Burton Book Review.

The publisher is offering one of my followers a chance to win a copy of The House of Hawthorne!
To enter, please enter a comment below and I will randomly select a winner from the comments. I wanted to make the contest entry as easy as possible, but I would appreciate it if you would share this giveaway post! 

Please leave an email address so that I may contact the winner unless I am a friend on Facebook and I can contact you that way.

(Not responsible for lost mail, giveaway open to US Residents only, ends May 9th.)