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Jul 19, 2015

Sunday Salon: Summer Reading Plans

Sunday, July 19, 2015
I haven't done a Sunday Salon in forever, plus there is a gap between reviews so here goes!

Now that the summer break is half over, it is time to take stock of what is left on my pile that I wanted to get to.

Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt/Philippa Carr Goodreads Group! Our ninth read along!
Each summer I host a Goodreads Read Along which has mostly been between myself and MaryKate, and I'm fine with that. However, if you would like to participate, you are more than welcome to crash the party over on the discussion threads that are posted. We expect to start reading in August.

The summer read will be featuring The Passionate Enemies :

This is the third and final book in The Norman Trilogy and tells the story of the last days of the reign of Henry I. His son and wife are dead, and Henry hastily remarries a woman more than thirty years his junior in the hope of producing a male heir and securing the succession. If he fails, the throne will pass to Matilda, and Henry fears that his nobles will not willingly serve a woman. But after his death this feckless daughter becomes the focus of a line of would-be kings and soon the country is plunged into a bitter civil war that only a child can undo. 

More information can be found on Goodreads here regarding the read along.

I have a few review reads for the summer as well, these two reviews will be postponed till the fall due to a later publication date.

I just finished The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz, and it was my first novel of hers that I'd read, though I've collected a few of her recent works. Very good inspirational historical fiction that the fans of the genre will just lap up, it's great stuff...especially since it deals with the American Revolution which seems to be poorly represented out there.

The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general's past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?
Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal--readers find it all in the rich pages of this newest historical novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz. Her careful historical details immerse the reader in the story world, and her emotional writing and finely tuned characters never cease to enchant fans both old and new.

I am halfway through The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick, which is a book based on a true story of a pioneering missionary family who undergo tragedy and turmoil at the hands of Indians and the general hardship of their crude way of life. I loved Kirkpatrick's Where Lilacs Still Bloom so much that it was a favorite of 2012.

Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now the young mother of two children, Eliza faces a different kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants them to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her departed mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. Eliza longs to know how her mother, an early missionary to the Nez Perce Indians, dealt with the challenges of life with a sometimes difficult husband and with her daughter's captivity.
When Eliza is finally given her mother's diary, she is stunned to find that her own memories are not necessarily the whole story of what happened. Can she lay the dark past to rest and move on? Or will her childhood memories always hold her hostage?

Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick's latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman's heart. Readers will find themselves swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.

And at some point after that I want to read Elizabeth Fremantle's Sisters of Treason which just released in paperback (my celebratory interview can be found here)

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. Elizabeth Fremantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness -- and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante. But when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

This summer's NetGalley book is Susanna Kearsley's reissue coming from Sourcebooks, Named of The Dragon. I really enjoy Kearsley's writing, which is saying a lot since half of the plots run along a contemporary story line. I am trying to limit the NetGalley eversions as I am just tired of the poor formatting which distracts from my reading pleasure. Hopefully this one is not horrendous, though I do recall the publisher having some wonky formatting issues before. Fingers crossed this isn't horrendous formatting.

The invitation to spend Christmas in Angle, on the Pembrokeshire coast, is one that Lyn Ravenshaw is only too happy to accept. To escape London and the pressures of her literary agency is temptation enough, but the prospect of meeting Booker Prize nominee James Swift - conveniently in search of an agent - is the deciding factor. On holiday she encounters the disturbing Elen Vaughan, recently widowed and with an eight-month-old son whose paternity is a subject for local gossip. Elen's baby arouses painful memories of Lyn's own dead child/ and strange, haunting dreams, in which a young woman in blue repeatedly tries to hand over her child to Lyn for safekeeping.
Who is the father of Elen's baby? What is the eerie, monstrous creature of Elen's dreams that tries to ensnare her son, and what makes her so sure that Lyn has been sent to protect him? As she begins to untangle the truth behind the stories, the secret she discovers leads Lyn to an encounter with the past that will change her life forever.
You can find my other Susanna Kearsley's posts here.

And last but not least, on the review pile will be another "auto buy" if not offered for review, Kimberley Freeman's upcoming release of Evergreen Falls. Yet another dual time period author that I love.

A long-forgotten secret, a scandalous attraction and a place where two women's lives are changed forever - Evergreen Falls is the captivating new novel from Kimberley Freeman.
1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.
2014: After years of putting her sick brother's needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel's renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair - and a shocking secret.
If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?

You can find my other reviews of Kimberley's books here.

I had wanted to get to Conn Iggulden's newest since I have had that since Christmas, and I also wanted to try Deborah Harkness's trilogy, but I fear I won't have enough time to get to those. School starts for the kiddos in late August, which means shopping and shopping and more drama with a thirteen year old and an eight year old. And then of course the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts events start up again, and then the Church School where I love teaching the 2nd and 3rd graders..but the free time thing will be a distant memory.

Let's hope that I get to most of the books I pictured here before the madness begins again!
Look how big they've gotten!!

Jul 7, 2015

Review & Giveaway of David Bell's Somebody I Used To Know

Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Giveaway (closed) Celebrating the Release Day of
An awesome page-turner

Somebody I Used To Know by David Bell
New American Library Trade Paperback Original; July 7, 2015; $15.00
448 pages kindle Edition
eGalley provided by the publisher
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

About the book:
You never forget your first love. And in David Bell’s SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW, Nick Hansen has never really gotten over the death of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, some twenty years earlier. He managed to move on, but Marissa’s death in a house fire right before college graduation still haunts him.

One day at the grocery store, Nick receives the shock of his life: he comes face-to-face with a young woman who is the spitting image of Marissa. But when Nick tries to speak to the woman, she drops her basket of groceries and runs out of the store. Unfortunately, the next morning, the police come knocking on Nick’s door. The young woman from the grocery store was found murdered in a hotel and the only clue they have is a slip of paper with Nick’s name and address, which Nick knows nothing about.

Convinced that there's a connection between this young woman's murder and Marissa's death years ago, Nick enlists the help of his college friend, Laurel Davidson, to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa's death. Nick needs to clear his name and uncover what really happened to the love of his life. Two decades of deceit, heartbreak, and longing will be swept away, and the truth will be more shocking than he ever could have imagined.
When I was offered this one for review, I took a peek at some of the early reviews -- and I was sold on this one! Many readers said they couldn't go to sleep before finishing this one, it was such a pager-turner. I figured it was a perfect read for a get-away from my normal reads and try something a little different.

I am so glad I did! I did read this in one day-- 448 pages all day on a Sunday, despite the spacing issues the eGalley version showed.  Somebody I Used To Know was definitely a thrilling suspense story that kept me guessing. It centers around Nick and the girlfriend he lost twenty years ago due to a house fire. I won't go into the summary of the story as the synopsis does it nicely enough - plus with suspense and mysteries I don't want to give too much away! There were a lot of characters where that started to get a little much but once everything was set in place there was no turning back.

There were a few themes at work in the novel, from small romantic tones to vengeful evil lurking in every corner where you least expect it. I didn't stop too long to think about solving the mystery on my own due to the many moving parts; I just kept turning the pages and let the story play itself out. Nick was a great character, seemingly a a goody-two shoes with all sorts of bad things that just keep happening to him especially with deceitful characters who kept intersecting his path. There were a few female lead characters to spice things up and throw suspicion about, and of course the crime stopping police detective mucking things up when Nick was just getting some answers.

The writing style was perfectly fluid, never giving me a good chance for a stopping point which is why I never did. Very well done, and I will read more from David Bell when I need a swift thrill to get me out of a reading funk. I definitely would love to see this as a movie.

The publisher is kindly offering one of my blog followers their very own copy of David Bell's Somebody I Used To Know

Just leave a comment on this post with an email address so that I many contact you if you win.

Email Subscribers, please forward the email of the post to reviewer(at) and you will receive 2 extra entries.

Open to USA addressees only.

Last day to enter is July 11th 2015

Winner has 48 hours to respond to my email or a new winner will be chosen

Jul 2, 2015

Giveaway celebrating the paperback release of SISTERS OF TREASON by Elizabeth Fremantle

Thursday, July 02, 2015
Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle
Simon & Schuster paperback release (USA) June 30, 2015

From the author People called “a must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a “terrifically entertaining” (The Sunday Times, London) novel about two sisters who must survive life in the Tudor court after the execution of their sister Lady Jane Grey who was queen for just nine days.
Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal death of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Fremantle brings these young women and their perilous times to vivid life.
Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous career at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth Tudor, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

Knowing that I have become a fan of Elizabeth Fremantle, the publisher has kindly offered my blog readers a chance to win a copy of Sisters of Treason which has just released in paperback via Simon & Schuster. I wanted to share with you also these quick questions that I asked Elizabeth regarding the second book of her Tudor trilogy.

While researching 'Sisters of Treason', was there anything truly intriguing that was not public or popular knowledge of the era?
For me the most fascinating thing is the story of the girls themselves, so close to the throne and yet few people except true Tudor enthusiasts have heard of them. Indeed even the facts of Lady Jane Grey’s short life remain widely unexplored and most don’t fully understand why she had a claim on the throne, let alone her forgotten younger sisters. It was for this reason I wanted to explore their lives in Sisters of Treason.
Catherine Grey’s deliberate self- starvation is a little known detail and deeply shocking and Mary Grey’s disability has often been glossed over but I discovered, through a conversation with a historian who specializes in the period, that it is possible that her scoliosis was inherited from her ancestor Richard III, who we now know definitely had the condition. It is possible too that her cousin Edward VI was also a sufferer.

Considering the sisters' potential claim to the throne, how do you feel Katherine and Mary felt about their relation to the throne?
Given they had seen their sister go to the block aged only seventeen because of her royal blood it is likely that they felt a great deal of apprehension about their proximity to the throne. This is how I have depicted it in the novel. They are both so young when they find themselves at court (nine and fourteen) it is hard to imagine them as anything other than fearful. Certainly when you know how their lives panned out, their royal blood was more a curse than a blessing.

Why did you choose to tell the story from three different point of views, and what benefit did you find by using a lesser-known figure to help tell the story?
I wanted the two girls to tell their own stories and show how they developed as individuals growing up in such difficult circumstances. Each has a different perspective on the same events and I wanted to demonstrate that through their distinct voices. I felt it was important to have a reliable older voice to hold the narrative together and so I brought in Levina Teerlinc. As a female court painter she intrigued me and I felt her links to the Grey sisters made her the perfect person to tell their story. Her role of painter suggested to me that she would observe the world in a particular way, noticing things others don’t and I used this to help the reader see with her eyes.

In your portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, how close to the truth do you feel the portrayal is of her character?
For me it’s the truth, but of course Elizabeth in my novels is an entirely fictional character. I armed myself with as much knowledge as I could and from that extrapolated the person she was to become in my trilogy, which follows her from girlhood to her death. Everyone’s idea of a figure as well known as Elizabeth is subjective and it is impossible to arrive at a definitive truth about people, even those we feel we know well, from so long ago. So I suppose all we can hope for is a version of the truth.

Tell us more about your current works in progress and who of the Stuart era you plan to focus on.
Watch the Lady has just been published, so the trilogy is complete and I am now working on a novel about Arbella Stuart, another girl with Tudor blood that compromises her entire life. She was raised to be Elizabeth’s heir only to see the throne go to her male cousin. She is a fascinating figure and was a prolific letter writer so I have been able to really get beneath her skin for my narrative. The story has many links to that of the Grey sisters which make the two books work together as a piece. Following that I will move forward in time, keeping my focus on interesting women whilst telling the history of a period of great turmoil, from the Gunpowder Plot through the Civil War and the execution of Charles I, to the great fire and plague and the bawdiness of the Restoration.

Other links at Burton Book Review:
Interview with Fremantle for Watch The Lady release
Review of Watch The Lady, book 3 of the Tudor Trilogy
Review of Queen's Gambit, book 1 of the Tudor Trilogy

One lucky follower will win a copy of the new paperback release of Sisters of Treason!

Please leave a comment on this blog post regarding what intrigues you about the story of Sisters of Treason.
Have you read other books with the Grey sisters? Have you read any other works of Elizabeth Fremantle's?

Please leave an email address so that I can contact the winner; you will have 48 hours to respond to my request for your mailing address.

If you are an Email Subscriber, please forward that email post to reviewer{@} and you will receive an extra two entries, please also comment here to tell me that you emailed me.

Good luck! Giveaway open to USA and ends July 6th, 2015.