Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Leaving Everything Most Loved Blog Tour and Review

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
Publication date: Reprint edition April 8, 2014 by Harper Perennial
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
London, 1933. Two months after Usha Pramal’s body is discovered in the waters of a city canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs for help. Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, but evidence indicates they failed to conduct a full investigation. Usha had been staying at an ayah’s hostel, a refuge for Indian women. As Maisie learns, Usha was different from the hostel’s other residents. But with this discovery comes new danger, as a fellow lodger who was close to Usha is found murdered.
As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case, and by a growing desire to see more of the world. At the same time, her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore. Bringing a crucial chapter in the life and times of Maisie Dobbs to a close, Leaving Everything Most Loved signals a vital turning point in this remarkable series.

My Take:

As usual, I was happy for the opportunity to read and review a new Maisie Dobbs book. I really enjoy reading about the character - an intelligent, well-educated female detective who places importance on taking the time for deep thought and bettering herself throughout her life.

A young woman from India named Usha Pramal is murdered and the investigation into her death becomes stagnant and almost forgotten until her brother arrives and asks Maisie Dobbs to look into it. Maisie is up for the challenge even though she is also dealing with other issues. Billy Beale, Maisie's assistant, hasn't fully recovered from an injury received on a different case. He is displaying erratic temper and a worrisome lack of concentration. On top of this, Maisie is feeling pressure from James Compton to make a decision about his marriage proposal, but Maisie has a desire to travel and explore more of the world.

It is in the midst of this turmoil that Maisie must pursue the evidence to find the person who killed Usha. The investigation not only eventually reveals the murderer, but it also deals with prejudice, people who profess to be doing God's work but are actually profiting from the misfortunes of displaced Indian women, broken families and a certain mystical aspect to Usha herself.

Leaving Everything Most Loved seems to be a sort of wrap up of a certain period in Maisie's life and there are transitions for her and for Billy. I felt the relationship between Maisie and Billy had changed over time and their lives are about to change in major ways.

I did wonder how common or accurate the depiction of the relationship between Maisie and James was. Would their cohabitation be frowned upon or would their high social and economic status quiet any possible scandal? I don't know, but I found it interesting. And  I was glad to see Maisie contemplating big changes in her life and following her own path. It feels like the time is right for her to attempt a new venture. I am curious to see where their relationship goes in the future.

I look forward to reading about Maisie's new adventures and I feel certain that there will be many interesting and possibly exotic locales for her to explore.

About Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Leaving Everything Most LovedElegy for EddieA Lesson in SecretsThe Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other Maisie Dobbs novels. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.
Find out more about Jacqueline at her website,, and find her on Facebook.

Jacqueline’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 8th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, April 9th: Col Reads
Thursday, April 10th: Book Addict Katie
Monday, April 14th: My Bookshelf
Wednesday, April 16th: A Book Geek
Thursday, April 17th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, April 21st: Book Dilettante
Tuesday, April 22nd: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, April 23rd: The Reader’s Hollow

Thursday, April 24th: Mel’s Shelves

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Idea of Him excerpt post and Q&A

The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson
Publication date: April 1, 2014 by William Morrow



He had no doubt betrayed “us” again in some form or fashion because things were going on around me that he was lying about. He would do that in the future. I would either smile through or ignore the signs in the future. I would feel angry and lost and alone in the future. I would tear up photos again in the future that represented romantic ideals.
“It doesn’t mean what, Wade?”
He didn’t answer my last question; I just heard his rattled breathing on the other end of the line. I looked around at the mess in front of me. How the hell was I supposed to finish my work with this bizarre, awkward, unfinished, hurtful conversation looping in my head?
“Wade,” I said. “I can’t do this now.”
I hung up and suddenly I was back in that mangled plane, in the snow, desperate for a protector.  Was Wade just giving more of the same unsafe feeling I’d wanted to get away from? And it hit me that I hadn't so much forged a new life in marrying Wade; I'd simply come full circle.  Strange how we often seek what we hope to escape.


about the author:

Holly Peterson is the author of the New York Times and international best seller, The Manny. She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek and editor-at-large for Tina Brown’s Talk magazine. She was also an Emmy Award–winning producer for ABC News for more than a decade, where she cov­ered global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Talk, the Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other publications.
Twitter: @HollyPetersonNY

Question & answer with Holly Peterson:

Why did you write this book?

I wanted to write about the phenomenon of falling in love with the “idea” of someone versus the reality of the actual person across the dinner table from us. I think it’s something we all have done. Once we are in a relationship, sometimes we delude ourselves into being happy, yet something doesn’t feel quite right. When reality hits, we must confront our fears of being on our own, and that can be frightening. Our fears of being on our own often propel us into staying with the wrong person.

I know I’ve personally fallen for the “idea” of someone numerous times because I have an idea in my head of what I want that person to be and how I’ll feel with him: the cool guy with the long hair will make me cool, the stable, appropriate guy will make me feel safe…I even fell for a Frenchman over how his cashmere blazer felt on my cheek! All that stuff doesn’t count in the end: the only thing that matters in my mind when it comes to love is an accompanying true friendship and deep intimacy.

Your first book, THE MANNY, was a New York Times bestseller and was also set in present day Manhattan. How much of what you see around you is also in this book?

I have written a fair amount of journalistic pieces on big money in New York. Money is deeply psychological in that it drives people to act insane and say the craziest things. Every time they do, I put the quote in a little book I carry around and use in my fiction. I have now written two romantic books that primarily focus on relationships but that have modern day Manhattan as a lively, current backdrop. The characters in my books are composites of people I know and the events are based on real things I’ve definitely seen with my own eyes. 

You’re a journalist who’s worked at ABC News and written for magazines like Newsweek. How does that come into play when you’re writing fiction?

I am trained journalist by trade first and foremost. When I write a fictional scene, everything must be real and believable and accurate or it doesn’t feel right. That’s the joy of writing social satire in fiction. It’s all real, but it’s all so funny.

A friend of mine told me that fiction gets you closer to the truth because you don’t have the constraints of journalism when writing it. As a reporter, you often don’t have access to dinner parties or events or your interview subject doesn’t say the quote clearly and you are constrained by your access and sound bites.  In fiction, you can write the living room cocktail party, go into the bedroom, relay the conversation in a totally realistic way that is technically very truthful and that is very liberating for me.

What was your greatest career mistake as a journalist?

While at ABC News, I once did a big piece for Peter Jennings declaring that the Internet would amount to nothing.  You can find it on my website under the writings tab and ABC News icon.  Brilliant prediction.

The main character in THE IDEA OF HIM is a hard-driving businesswoman with two young children, and she struggles to balance her home life with her career. Is that a struggle that came from a real place? 

What woman doesn’t struggle with work, home, and family? Even women who don’t have a “paying” job work hard in a zillion ways that aren’t financially recognized: they maintain the value of the family’s home investment, help local charitable and religious institutions, and keep their neighborhoods and schools safe and the best they can be.  So, yes, I write at 4am to avoid a barrage of email interruptions, yell at the Verizon repair man, cry when my boss yells at me, and worry non-stop about the emotional health of my children, their progress in school, and long term happiness and stability that I’m supposedly grounding for them.  Who wouldn’t be nuts trying to do all this? We all are. I tried to depict a lot of this in THE IDEA OF HIM with Allie’s struggles so that people who read it can relate, cry, nod, and laugh.

In this book, the protagonist female character is not leading towards happiness with a man as her goal.  Tell us about that.

I believe a lot of women’s fiction and tons of romantic comedies in Hollywood don’t get published or produced because executives feel women have to “get the guy” to be fulfilled and for the audience to leave happy and “relieved.” I did not want to add to that “fiction” and I wanted to write about the opposite: a woman finding strength on her own. How does she find what makes her most happy at work, at home, and in her personal life?  The proverbial knight in shining armor or kissing Colin Firth in the rain is a nice, neat way to end a story for sure, but I wanted to write about the power within to make ourselves feel okay, safe, and, yes, happy.  Lots of time in life to find the right guy who isn’t an “idea”, but first let’s focus on ourselves and what we want for a moment and prioritize that before we leap for the next or most convenient man to hopefully do it for us.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Never Be At Peace Blog Tour and Review

Never Be At Peace by M.J. Neary
Publication date: March 17, 2014 by Fireship Press
Source: Publisher for an honest review
A pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom - and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices. In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

My Take:

Never Be At Peace by M.J. Neary is an interesting look at a turbulent and fascinating period in Ireland's history. The book begins and ends with Helena Molony, who is an actress and a revolutionary, as well as a feminist and labor activist. Quite a combination in a young woman - especially for the time.

With Helena as a focal point, the reader is then introduced to other rebels, political and labor activists as well as Yeats and Maude Gonne at Abbey Theater. The story weaves Helena's life and activities with the other members of the various Irish nationalist groups, feminist groups and the politics of the time.

I found the use of Helena as a focal point to tell the larger story of Irish rebels while also dealing with the issues that were important for women to be quite riveting. Helena was involved in numerous groups and sadly seems to have been mostly forgotten today. Never Be At Peace does a good job of  bringing these people out of the history books and making them seem like real people again, not just names and dates. Their lives were complicated and the political and religious issues were complex. I found Helena's personal story to be absorbing and quite sad, really. I think the personal look at the lives of these activists, the repercussions of their actions and their determination in the face of hardships to be worthwhile and quite interesting.

 For those unfamiliar with Irish history, a little more explanation regarding the motivations for rebellion might have been nice, but I have studied Irish history a bit and  found the book quite compelling. For anyone interested in Irish history and/or politics, Never Be At Peace would be a great choice.


Monday, March 17Guest Post and Giveaway at English Historical Fiction Authors
Tuesday, March 18Interview at Una Donna Che Scrive
Wednesday, March 19Interview and Giveaway at The Maiden's Court
Thursday, March 20Review at Flashlight Commentary 

Friday, March 21Guest Post at To Read, or Not To ReadReview at Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, March 24Interview and Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, March 25Review at A Book Geek

Wednesday, March 26Review at Let Them Read BooksReview at Unabridged Chick
Thursday, March 27Review at Something Worth ReadingInterview at Unabridged Chick
Monday, March 31Interview at Karen Randau
Wednesday, April 2Review and Guest Post at Oh For the Hook of A Book
Friday, April 4
Interview at Layered Pages 


A Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her Neary-Head-Shot literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explore human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.  Her debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks.  Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Enchanted Blog Tour and Review

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
Publication date: March 4, 2014 by Harper
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.
“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.” The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs with the devastating violence of prison life.
Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honesty and corruption—ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.
Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.

The Enchanted wrapped its beautiful and terrible fingers around me from the first page and refused to let go after the last. A wondrous book that finds transcendence in the most unlikely of places, enshrouding horrible things in a gossamer veil of fantasy with a truly unforgettable narrator. So dark yet so exquisite.” — Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

My Take:

When offered the chance to read and review The Enchanted, I jumped at it. I have read so many things about it that I just had to see for myself. Let's just say that I was not disappointed. Let's say that the book had a profound affect on me. Let's say that The Enchanted is one of the best books I have read in a long time, and probably the best book I have read in a year.

Now, why would I feel this way about The Enchanted? The writing is just amazingly beautiful. I can't even begin to describe how it blends fantasy with the horrors of prison life and brings the events so vividly to life.

The narrator is a death row inmate who goes unnamed through the entire book until the last few pages. He has committed crimes that aren't explicitly described, but are so horrific that no one will utter the words. The reader must fill in the blanks. But the narrator, the unnamed death row inmate that tells this tale, was also once a boy, a boy who was damaged and turned into something else. This inmate takes solace  in the library of the prison when he is first placed in the general population. The library is his sanctuary from prison life. I think most readers can related to the way he describes the library:
The library became my sanctuary. I loved the ways the precious stories took shape but always had room to be read again. I became fascinated with how writers did that. How did they make a story feel so complete and yet so open-ended? It was like painting a picture that changed each time you looked at it. (p. 16)

 The warden is one of the few bright lights in the darkness of the prison. He exhibits the humanness that seems to be missing from many of the other people who work there. Despite the horrible crime the inmate committed, the warden shows compassion for him and seems to understand how much he needs the books.

There are others working within the prison who seem more criminal than some of the actual criminals. The guard called Conroy is particularly sinister and causes unimaginable harm to prisoners with his wheeling and dealing inside the prison. Others turn a blind eye and some unwitting innocents pay the ultimate price for trying to do the right thing. This prison world is a dark and unforgiving place. It is truly a dungeon as the inmate repeatedly calls it.

The Lady, and the fallen priest are the other main characters that concern the inmate. He claims to hear their conversations and to know their feelings. The lady is a death penalty investigator and it is her job to investigate the inmates' lives for any reason that could keep them from the death penalty. She is investigating the inmate York and finds a heartbreaking story of a life ruined by those who were supposed to take care of him. The story is just so sad on so many levels. There are so many levels of abuse, miscarriage of justice, discrimination, ignorance, malice, irresponsibility that it just boggles the mind.

This book brings all the worst in humanity and puts it on display so that the reader can't ignore it. It must be confronted. I found the book to be like a punch to the stomach in many places. I was sick; I was heartbroken; I was angry; and I was enchanted. Despite all of the darkness and ugliness, there was always a ray of hope. That spark that promises a new day and a chance to deal with all the ugly.

The characters and the stories told within the larger narrative haunt my thoughts and even my dreams now. After I finished reading the book, I just wanted to talk with someone else who had read it. I still want to. The thing that keeps pestering me is the question of did any of it happen or are the stories of York, the lady, the fallen priest, all an attempt by the inmate at the mystery of writing. Did he make up these stories to entertain himself, to see if he could, to try to keep what sanity remained to him or does he have some other knowledge of these lives away from the prison? And despite the horrors of his life, he tells this tale with so much hope for others. It is quite amazing.

The Enchanted is a book that will not be forgotten. It will be mulled and reread. I am anxious to discuss it with friends. This is most definitely a highly recommended book for those who can handle the subject matter.

About Rene Denfeld

Rene Denfeld is an internationally bestselling author, journalist, Mitigation Specialist, and fact Investigator in death penalty cases. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Oregonian, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a published author of four books including the international bestseller The New Victorians: A Young Woman’s Challenge to the Old Feminist OrderKill The Body, The Head Will Fall, and All God’s Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families.
Find out more about Rene at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Rene’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, March 04, 2014: Books Without Any Pictures
Wednesday, March 05, 2014: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, March 06, 2014: Conceptual Reception
Monday, March 10, 2014: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, March 11, 2014: It’s All About Books
Wednesday, March 12, 2014: Book Addict Katie
Thursday, March 13, 2014: Walking With Nora
Monday, March 17, 2014: Bibliophiliac
Tuesday, March 18, 2014: Bibliotica
Wednesday, March 19, 2014: BoundbyWords
Thursday, March 20, 2014: A Book Geek
Monday, March 24, 2014: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, March 25, 2014: Bibliophilia, Please
Wednesday, March 26, 2014: River City Reading
Thursday, March 27, 2014: Drey’s Library
Monday, March 31, 2014: Little Lovely Books
Tuesday, April 01, 2014: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, April 02, 2013: Offbeat Vegabond

Thursday, April 03, 2014: Read Lately

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Chalice Book Blast and Giveaway

The new novel The Chalice, by Nancy Bilyeau, sends readers on a page-turning historical quest. Set in Henry VIII's England, the story is driven by plot twists, deceptions, spiritual searching and romantic tension. Readers fall in love with protagonist Joanna Stafford, a Catholic novice forced to leave her priory and find her answers. "She is strong and determined and very likable," says one blogger. "Exhilarating," says Good Housekeeping, and "The novel is riveting and provides fascinating insight into into the lives of displaced nuns and priests, with fully realized characters," says RT Book Reviews. Launching in paperback on March 18 and available in ebook too.

The ChaliceThe Chalice
by Nancy Bilyeau

Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Touchstone Publishing
Paperback; 496p
ISBN-10: 1476708665

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two
Genre: Historical Mystery


Between the crown and the cross stands one woman...

IN 1538, ENGLAND is in the midst of bloody power struggles that threaten to tear the country apart. Aristocrat-turned-novice Joanna Stafford knows what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment when she is caught up in an international plot targeting the king. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII, as well as the future of Christendom, are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies...

Praise for The Chalice

"A brilliant and gripping page-turner…A fascinating blend of politics, religion, mysticism and personal turmoil. Well-researched and filled with sumptuous detail, it follows Joanna’s early life from Bilyeau’s début novel, The Crown, but this book easily stands on its own. Bilyeau fills in the blanks from her earlier work while leaving the reader both wanting to read the first book and eagerly awaiting the next. This is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction." – Free Lance-Star

"English history buffs and mystery fans alike will revel in Nancy Bilyeau's richly detailed sequel to The Crown." – Parade

"The novel is riveting, and provides fascinating insight into the lives of displaced nuns and priests during the tumultuous Tudor period. Bilyeau creates fully realized characters, with complex actions and emotions, driving the machinations of these historic personages." – RT Book Reviews, (Top Pick)

"The human and political battles of Henry VIII's reformation are brought to exhilarating life in The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau." – Good Housekeeping UK, April 2014

"Bilyeau sends her plucky former novice back into the intrigue-laden court of Henry VIII." – Entertainment Weekly

"Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page . . . history and supernatural mysticism combine in this compelling thriller." – Historical Novel Society

"Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse." – S.J. Parris, author of 'Heresy,' 'Prophecy' and 'Sacrilege'

"[A] layered book of historical suspense." – Kirkus Reviews

"The Chalice is an engrossing mix of the complicated politics of the Reformation with the magical elements of the Dominican order, and Joanna--fiery, passionate, determined to honor what she thinks God wants her to do--is a fascinating character. Fans of historical mysteries, Tudor politics and supernatural fiction will all be pleased by the broad scope, quick-moving plot and historical integrity of Bilyeau's second novel." – Shelf Awareness

Watch the Book Trailer


Buy the Book

Barnes & Noble
Simon & Schuster

About the Author
Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay "Zenobia" placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and "Loving Marys" reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.

Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy's ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough's founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Author Links


Sign up for Nancy Bilyeau's Newsletter.

Nancy Bilyeau Gives an Inside Peek Behind THE CHALICE

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, March 18
A Book Geek
Kinx's Book Nook
Passages to the Past
Book Lovers Paradise
To Read or Not to Read
Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Historical Fiction Obsession

Wednesday, March 19
Closed the Cover
A Chick Who Reads
The True Book Addict
A Dream within a Dream

Friday, March 21
A Bookish Affair
The Maiden's Court
Let Them Read Books
Historical Fiction Connection

 photo 904c6cb0-05eb-4f67-919a-4bd6105034ca.png


To enter to win one of 10 copies of The Chalice please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only.

Giveaway will run from March 17-21. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on March 22 and notifiied via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alice Will Blog Tour and Review

Alice Will by Ashley Chappell
Publication date: November 5, 2012 by Center One Books
Source: Author via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Fourteen year-old Trotter was still just trying to get the hang of the demi-godding business when the apocalypse began. In a world where the gods have withdrawn from humanity, leaving mortals bitter toward magic, she finds herself torn between the human and the goddess in her. As the world begins to fade away and she becomes the prime suspect, her search to determine the cause and prove her innocence ends up revolving around a mysterious little girl named Alice. Then Trotter discovers that not all of the gods had been as distant as they seemed…
Now, with everyone against her and the gods fighting amongst themselves, Trotter is on her own to save her world and stop a spiteful god from using Alice to destroy everything.

My Take:

After reading a brief description of Alice Will be Ashley Chappell, I thought it sounded interesting and I really like the premise of the book. What I found pleasantly surprising about the book was that while the description is accurate, it doesn't really begin to explain all that the book is about. It is about Trotter as she tries to prove she isn't the cause of the world fading but it is also about the nature of gods and reality and creation and destruction and imagination and love.

I really enjoyed the world building and the humorous explanations for how the gods behave and the repercussions of their actions - if they bothered to notice. I loved the explanations for how their world got to be the way it is and how the gods think about their creations and themselves. The politics were interesting and fitting for the story.

Trotter is funny and her companion, Prowler, a talking cat who used to be a human is even funnier. I found the back stories of the characters we meet to be just as interesting as the main story line. I thought the  goddess, Ursula, was great -- I loved her story line about how a god or goddess might change or adapt to what her followers expected or wanted. I thought the explanation was amusing and a bit sad, but a great demonstration of how a deity might change.  Aside from Trotter, my favorite characters  have to be the Baron and his captain Carmony. The Baron's story line is touching and heartbreaking, but I loved him and his devotion to Alice. Carmony proves himself worthy of the Baron's trust and really stands out in the crisis that comes as the world is fading away.

Alice Will is a book that I can easily recommend - in fact, I am handing to book off to my daughter to read next.  The story is fast paced and the world is amazing and the descriptions of that world are fun and vibrant. The story is fun but also thoughtful and full of emotion and ideas. I quite enjoyed it.

About Ashley Chappell

Ms. Chappell currently resides in Huntsville, AL with the love of her life. During her writing time her cats sometimes share her lap with her computer, should they choose to allow the usurpation at all. When not writing, reviewing, or burying her nose in one of her well-worn Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman novels, she can be found sailing with her fiancé on their boat ‘Dupracity’ (Fans of Kurt Vonnegut will want to ask her what that means!).

Find out more about Ashley at her website, connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and see what she’s pinning on Pinterest.

Ashley’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, March 04, 2014: Offbeat VegabondAlice Will
Wednesday, March 05, 2014: Book Marks the SpotAlice Will and Tilt
Thursday, March 06, 2014: A Book GeekAlice Will
Monday, March 10, 2014: Bibliophilia, PleaseAlice Will
Thursday, March 13, 2014: Pingwing’s BookshelfAlice Will
Monday, March 17, 2014: Peeking Between the PagesAlice Will
Tuesday, March 18, 2014: The Reader’s Hollow - Alice Will
Tuesday, March 18, 2014: Diary of a Stay at Home MomAlice Will and Tilt
Wednesday, March 19, 2014: Books Without Any PicturesAlice Will
Thursday, March 20, 2014: The Reader’s HollowTilt
Monday, March 24, 2014: Peeking Between the PagesTilt
Tuesday, March 25, 2014: A Dream Within a DreamAlice Will and Tilt
Wednesday, March 26, 2014: Allodoxophobia: The Fear of OpinionsAlice Will and Tilt
Tuesday, April 01, 2014: Books, Books Everywhere! - Alice Will
Wednesday, April 02, 2014: Books, Books Everywhere! - Tilt
Wednesday, April 02, 2014: Hopelessly Devoted BibliophileAlice Will

Thursday, April 03, 2014: The Written WorldAlice Will and Tilt

Monday, February 24, 2014

Nothing Personal Blog Tour and Review

Nothing Personal by Mike Offit
Publication date: February 11, 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books
Source: Publisher via Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:

Warren Hament is a bright young man who wanders into a career in finance in the early 1980s. Nothing Personal is the extraordinary story of his rapid ascent toward success, painted against a landscape of temptation and personal discovery. Introduced to the seductive, elite bastions of wealth and privilege, and joined by his gorgeous and ambitious girlfriend, he gets a career boost when his mentor is found dead.

Warren soon finds himself at the center of two murder investigations as a crime spree seemingly focused on powerful finance wizards plagues Wall Street. The blood-soaked trail leads to vast wealth and limitless risk as Warren uncovers unexpected opportunity and unknown dangers at every turn and must face moral dilemmas for which he is wholly unprepared.

Nothing Personal is a stellar debut novel, which follows an increasingly jaded protagonist as he comes of age in a rarified, deeply corrupt world. Offit, a former senior insider, unflinchingly divulges Wall Street’s culture of abuse and portrays the insidious, creeping forces of greed, sex, and power---and the terrible price paid in their thrall.

My Take:

When I was presented with the opportunity to read and review Nothing Personal by Mike Offit, I was happy to do so. The premise sounded intriguing and who doesn't like a good Wall Street story? I know I do. I had such a good time reading Nothing Personal.

The reader gets to follow Warren as he seemingly effortlessly makes his way through business school and starts working at a top Wall Street firm. He is smart, learns quickly and is good with people. Things just seem to fall into place for him. We meet all types of business people, from Old Money to the very new money, the crooked, the dangerous, the oblivious, you name it. And Warren makes his merry way towards the top with uncanny ease. Of course, things are seldom exactly what the seem.

Warren finds himself uncomfortably close to a couple of murder victims and finds himself not only a possible suspect in the murders, but could he also be a target? The murder mystery adds a nice thriller aspect to the story and keeps the reader guessing. There are so many possible motives for the murders and so much to gain, so the possible suspects are many. I did  guess some of the players in the events, but I had so much fun reading as it all unfolded that I didn't mind.

 I really appreciated the title of the book - it was a refrain expressed often in the book - It's nothing personal, it's just business. This pretty much sums up the excuse for so much greed and what is essentially unethical behavior.

I enjoyed the book from start to finish. I loved reading about all the scandals, both big and small. There is so much to work with here. I enjoyed how Warren maneuvers his way through this landscape of excess and greed and tries to remain true to himself and his own moral compass. He is presented with insane opportunities  for wealth and advancement, but tries to maintain a sense of right and wrong. It was nice to see someone in this environment who still had a sense of morality. Of course, Nothing Personal is a work of fiction, so people like Warren might not exist in the Wall Street world. I don't know, but I hope they do.

About the author:

Mike Offit began a Wall Street real estate trading career after graduating from Brown University and obtained significant success on the Street. After his departure, he turned back to his original passion: writing. He lives in New York City.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Sense of Touch Blog Tour and Review

The Sense of Touch by Ron Parsons
Publication date: May 1, 2013 by Aqueous Books
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Old friends uncomfortably reunited and lovers who cling to their distance from one another; disappearing fathers, fiercely loving grandfathers, and strangers who pass through and radically change lives…These are among the characters who populate the rugged Midwestern landscapes of the mesmerizing fiction world of Ron Parsons. In his debut collection, The Sense of Touch, Parsons captures people of various ages in the act of searching for meaning and connection and themselves. Firmly set in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan, the lush but often brutally cold heartland of America, the eight stories explore universal themes–loneliness, betrayal, transformation, hope–in fresh, sometimes fanciful, sometimes comical, sometimes jarring, and always moving and memorable ways.

In The Sense of Touch, readers will meet:

* Naseem Sayem, the brilliant, troubled, and mystifying young man at the center of “Hezekiah Number Three.” A native of Bangladesh abruptly transplanted to the stark white suburbs of Rapid City at age nine, Naseem never fit in and eventually moved on to study physics at MIT–where, shortly before graduation and after shocking news of his father’s infidelity and abandonment, he apparently unraveled and vanished. Three months later, he reappeared out of the blue on his stepmom’s doorstep, holding a three-legged cat. Naseem’s long search for belonging reaches its apex in a hot air balloon floating over the Crazy Horse Monument.

* Waylon Baker, wheat farmer from birth, and Evie Lund, his wife of twenty-four years and counting, even though she had chosen to live far away–in the alien world of the Twin Cities–for eight years. The odd couple at the heart of “Beginning with Minneapolis,” Waylon and Evie can’t bear to live together or to divorce because they still love each other with a passion, reignited when they find themselves deep in the dirt, in a hole Waylon dug in his wheat field to serve as Evie’s grave.

* The nameless narrator of “The Sense of Touch,” a serious, young freshman at the University of Minnesota, fleeing yet still attached to his youth in Texas, haunted both by its predatory demons and its romantic dreams. His liberation comes through an alluring muse: his fiction-writing teacher. A ravishing, wild-haired, Memphis-born African-American graduate student, Vonda speaks directly to him when she makes her dramatic pronouncements. Like, “Our masks are not worn, people. They’re grown, day by day.” And “Never trust anything, not until you can touch it. With touch, you know you know.”

The old friends in “The Black Hills,” long separated by distance and tragedy, who unexpectedly compete for the affections of a lovely, vulnerable, and married Lakota woman…the young woman who, in the midst of a Halloween blizzard, stumbles into saving an elderly piano teacher’s life and faces hard facts about her own snow-bound relationships and emotions in “As Her Heart Is Navigated”…the exceptional grandfather in “Big Blue” and the playboy reformed by someone else’s grandson in “Moonlight Bowling”…and the professor of dead languages facing the mysteries of mortality in “Be Not Afraid of the Universe”… Through Ron Parsons, they all come to life, vividly and with emotional resonance, and work their way into the minds and hearts of readers.

My Take:

I don't read short stories very often - I tend to read novels. That said, I do enjoy good short stories when the mood strikes. I was fortunate enough to receive The Sense of Touch for review, and found it to be very intriguing. Naturally, I enjoyed some stories more than others, but I found the collection as a whole to be quite an interesting read. I enjoyed the locations where the stories take place: Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota. I live in Wisconsin and I could really relate to the descriptions of the landscapes and weather and the people in general.

I absolutely loved the detailed descriptions in the stories. I was constantly intrigued about the choices of detail. I found it most enjoyable to read a story and then just let it simmer. I found many of the characters would pop into my mind throughout the day. It was interesting because many of the stories had details of what seemed to be random events in a random life, but these events would continue in my thoughts long after finishing the story.

I find it difficult to discuss a book of short stories whose only link to each other, that I can find, is the concept of relationship. All the stories deal with different types of relationships and different aspects of relationship. The only way I can describe these stories is - you know how life goes along and you get into a routine, and then some small event, a person, something, nudges you just enough that you have to pause and for an instant or for a moment or for a day, you have a slightly different perception of your life and the people and things around you? That is how these stories affected me.

I found the first story, "Hezekiah Number Three", and the last story "Be Not Afraid of the Universe" to be two of my favorites and particularly fitting in their placement. I think the first one sets the tone for the collection and the last story brings it to a fitting if somewhat sad end.  "As Her Heart is Navigated" is also one I particularly enjoyed, though it is hard to say why exactly. I found the descriptions in this one to be very thought provoking in their detailing of the seemingly mundane aspects of the day. Simple, stark, almost.  I just really like it.

The Sense of Touch is one of those books that I would just tell my friends to read it so we can discuss it. I hesitate to describe too much of the stories for fear of influencing the opinion of the reader. They need to be read and savored and contemplated.

About Ron Parsons

Ron Parsons is a writer living in Sioux Falls. Born in Michigan and raised in South Dakota, he was inspired to begin writing fiction in Minneapolis while attending the University of Minnesota. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines and venues such as The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Flyway, Storyville, and The Onion.
The Sense of Touch, his debut collection of stories, was released by Aqueous Books in 2013.
Find out more about Ron at his website and connect with him on Facebook.

Ron’s Tour Stops

Monday, February 3rd: Lavish Bookshelf
Tuesday, February 4th: Books on the Table
Thursday, February 6th: Booksie’s Blog
Friday, February 7th: Every Free Chance Book Reviews
Monday, February 10th: Chronicles of a Country Girl
Tuesday, February 11th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, February 17th: A Book Geek
Monday, February 24th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, February 25th: Great Imaginations
Wednesday, February 26th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, February 27th: Books and Things
Monday, March 3rd: The Mookse and the Gripes
Tuesday, March 4th: Priscilla and Her Books
Wednesday, March 5th: The Road to Here

Thursday, March 6th: Melody & Words

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gibbin House Blog Tour - Excerpt Post and Giveaway

Gibbin House by Carola Perla
Source: Author via Closed the Cover for an honest review
Format: eBook and Paperback
Publication Date: September 21, 2011
Publisher: Self-Published
ISBN: 1461074487
ISBN13: 9781461074489

Excerpt from Gibbon House by Carola Perla:

At long last, London. By this point in the late afternoon, coffee, cigarettes, and apprehension had burned an acid pit into my stomach. The stale air of the station, a massive but dimly-lit depot with iron ribs bracing its vast ceiling, streamed through the open window and gave me an additional chill. What a madhouse, I thought, peering out through the spotty glass at the throng of bobbing hats. My compartment in contrast was so soothingly empty - everyone in it had joined the other passengers in jamming the aisles ages ago. People on arriving trains couldn’t help themselves. For me, the novelty had worn off around Innsbruck on day two.

Remember, this is the last time.

I smoothed over the stray wisps of my chignon and rose reluctantly. But before going through the trouble of pulling my burgundy suitcase out from the overhead bin, I stared outside again to assure myself of the station’s name on the large information boards.

In reality, I knew where I was. The porter’s announcement that we were approaching Victoria Station had rung periodically in the aisle for the last twenty minutes. I’d thought of little else as we’d sluggishly advanced past this city’s sooty row houses, burned-out factories, and minutely partitioned backyards. But a week of traveling on trains has the curious effect of keeping one from taking reality at face value. Everything one hears collapses into echoes, and words become deceitfully amorphous shapes. One feels perpetually on the fringe of discovering that one is not oneself, and my disorientation was such that I felt at any moment sure to fall straight through the ground.

Oh, get yourself together, I implored. I grabbed my suitcase and crocheted handbag, and stumbled out onto the mob.

Now, I don’t know what I expected when I finally alighted the platform at my destination. Fanfare? A driver in uniform holding up a banner with my name on it? Did I really believe I would be the conquering heroine, an Ingrid Bergman being fetched in a fancy car? Needless to say, no fanfare greeted me, only the tumult of indifference. I hauled my things to the front of the train platform and planted myself as much as I could in plain sight. And then I waited.

Seek out a handsome light-haired gentleman in his seventies.

That was about the extent of my mother’s instructions before I left Vienna; the ‘handsome’ part was pure conjecture, of course. She hadn’t seen Professor Deisler in twenty years. She’d only figured he must be still good-looking, because he’d been a dedicated dandy in their youth: blond, impeccably manicured, with the most correct posture she claims to have ever seen on anyone. In other words, a real life “aesthete”, straight out of Schnitzler.

But that was twenty years ago. Would he look the same now, this professor? The Belle Epoch of my mother’s Vienna was a bygone era, and the feminine sort of vanity Austrian men had taken pride in, well, for obvious reasons it had gone quite out of fashion. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how well to rely on his recognizing me. All he had, as far as I understood, was a confirmation card with a photograph of a pale and gauzy, insignificant girl, a starved wood nymph in looped braids. Physically I near looked the same, apart from my hair now upswept and a shade darker. But the girl in the photograph looked happy. He could not possibly connect the present person to that image. Thus I accepted that I had to do the recognizing.

But what an onerous task - soliciting the attentions of a stranger. The idea of having to examine every elderly man walking by and looking expectant and “available” made my skin crawl. I felt small and pathetic, and I resented my mother for forcing the whole thing on me.

What made it worse was that so many men responded to my stupid, doe-eyed look.

Was I Ms. Weatherton?
Ms. Havishaw?
Renata’s girl?
Ms. Prigg?
The Misses from the agency?
Dreadfully sorry…


Author Bio
Carola Perla was born in 1977 in Timisoara, Romania, to parents of Peruvian and
German-Romanian heritage. She spent her early childhood in Lima and Munich,
before moving with her family to the United States.
She holds degrees in German Literature and Art History from Florida State
University. Since 2001 she has been a resident of Miami Beach, where she
co-founded an international public relations firm and worked as a freelance
journalist. Her recent projects include the launch of the Atelier 1022 Art Gallery in
Wynwood. Gibbin House is her first novel.

The giveaway for Gibbin House by Carola Perla is incredible! There will be a total of
three winners; one grand prize winner and two additional winners.
The Grand Prize Winner will receive:
1. A signed copy of Gibbin House
2. 'Vienna Romance' stationary by ATELIER 1022 Company
3. Limited edition reproduction Stereocard of Trafalgar Square, London - this
Edwardian Era 3-D photograph, dated 1901, served as the novel's cover art
4. Viewing lorgnette
5. Collector's edition prologue 'letter'
Two additional winners will receive:
A signed copy of Gibbin House

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Different Sun Blog Tour and Review

A Different Sun by Elaine Neil Orr
Publication date: April 2, 2013 by Berkley Books
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

In 1853, newly married Emma Bowman arrives in Afrida and steps into a world of unsurpassed beauty — and peril.
A page-turning adventure with life and death stakes for the body and the soul…
Born into a life of privilege in rural Georgia, Emma yearns for important work.  An ardent passion burns in her soul, spurring her beyond the narrow confines of her family’s slave-holding plantation.  She meets and weds Henry Bowman, a tremendously attractive former Texas Ranger twice her age, who has turned from the rifle to the cross.  Together with their dreams of serving God they take ship for West Africa.  Emma leaves every known thing behind, save a writing box Henry has made for her. In it she carries a red journal and an odd carving made by an old African owned by her father.

The couple’s intimate life has hardly begun when they are beset by illness, treacherous travel, an early pregnancy, a death.  Emma opens her heart to Africa, yet at every turn her faith is challenged.  In deep night, she turns to the odd carving for comfort and in snatches of calm makes record in her diary.  She redoubles her energies, even as she begins to doubt her husband’s sanity.  Yet she loves him.

When they hire Jacob, a native assistant to guide their caravan, Emma is confronted with her greatest challenge.  Henry’s health begins to fail, and she is drawn deeper into the African world.

Something is revealing itself to her.  But is it a haunting mystery from her past or a new revelation coming toward her out of this mysterious continent?

A compelling story of temptation, courage, faith, and the redemptive quality of love, both human and divine, A Different Sun will transport you to a world where tragedy and triumph lie a heartbeat away.

My Take:

A Different Sun by Elaine Orr is a special treat to read. It is not like many of the books I have read lately. The author has a very different, contemplative narrative style that really made me slow down and absorb the novel instead of rushing headlong to finish it. I have a difficult time describing what I mean, but there is something about the way the book is told mostly from Emma's perspective and includes her associative thought patterns that made the story very real for me. I don't know if it is the narrative style or something else about it, but it reminded be of Things Fall Apart by Achebe. That may seem like a cheap and easy comparison, but that is really what I was thinking as I read the book.

Comparisons aside, I was drawn in to Emma's life as a young girl as she tried to figure out what it was about Uncle Eli's situation as a slave that bothered her so much. Emma's thoughts seemed to contemplate what she sees in front of her and then skirt away from the distressing reality. It was almost  like she couldn't bring herself to acknowledge her family's way of life was so wrong and contradicted her own ethical beliefs. This was the point that I was hooked.

Emma meets the handsome missionary at church and almost immediately decides that he is the man for her - partly for his good looks, but mostly for his missionary work. This idea of sharing her spiritual beliefs with the people of Africa has been growing in her and then everything falls into place.

The story then follows their preparations for marriage and their mission trip. The young married couple must face the challenges of adapting to their married life while they are travelling across the world to set up a new mission. It is quite a daunting prospect. Of course there will be many challenges - both large and small.

There is so much that I loved about this book, but I have a hard time actually describing exactly what I felt. I loved the way Emma chooses her word so carefully when she records her thought in her journal. Partially it is because she fears that Henry will read them and be angered or misinterpret them. Also, she is aware of the power of words and wants to give enough that she will know what happened, but no so much that just anyone could really understand.

I also very much enjoyed reading about Emma's personal growth. She begins her time in Africa weak and pretty helpless. But as time goes on she is forced to become strong and to speak for herself and then to even take charge. This was a wonderful progression. I also loved that Emma had to face her family's slave owner status and what that truly meant. There is a painful but beautiful scene between Emma and Jacob, the native assistant to Henry, that brings the issue front and center. I felt that Emma was able to grow so much with the help of Jacob, Sade, and several of the other people who lived in the area. I absolutely loved the dignity, beauty and wisdom that is evident in the people of the village.

The narrative style and pacing are different from a lot of the literary fiction that I have encountered lately, however,  A Different Sun is a book that deserves to be read with a bit of attention and intent. It made me stop and reread a sentence or a paragraph here and there just because of a certain turn of phrase or to really soak in the atmosphere of the story. This is one of those books that I will recommend to my friends who are thoughtful readers, who really appreciate that book that stands out and makes them stop and dwell on an idea, a sentence or paragraph.

About Elaine Orr

Elaine Neil Orr is a trans-Atlantic writer of fiction, memoir, and poetry.  Themes of home, country, and spiritual longing run through her writing.  A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa, her newest book (Berkley/Penguin, 2013), has been called by Lee Smith “as lyrical and passionate a novel as has ever been written.  [It] shines in the mind like a rare gem.”  Philip Deaver describes it as“[a] beautiful novel, exquisitely written, perfectly complex, true to the past, relevant today, unforgettable.”

Her memoir, Gods of Noonday (Virginia, 2003), was a Top-20 Book Sense selection and a nominee for the Old North State Award as well as a SIBA Book Award.  She is associate editor of a collection of essays on international childhoods, Writing Out of Limbo, and the author of two scholarly books.

Orr has published extensively in literary magazines including The Missouri Review, Blackbird, Shenandoah, and Image Journal.   Her short stories and short memoirs have won several Pushcart Prize nominations and competition prizes.  She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

She was born in Nigeria to medical missionary parents and spent her growing-up years in the savannahs and rain forests of that country.  Her family remained in Nigeria during its civil war.  Orr left West Africa at age sixteen and attended college in Kentucky.  She studied creative writing and literature at the University of Louisville before taking her Ph.D. in Literature and Theology at Emory University.  She is an award-winning Professor of English at North Carolina State University and serves on the faculty of the brief-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University.  She reads and lectures widely at universities and conferences from Atlanta to Austin to San Francisco to Vancouver to New York to Washington D.C., and in Nigeria.

Orr lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, Anderson Orr.

Visit Elaine at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Elaine’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 14th: Respiring Thoughts
Thursday, January 16th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, January 20th: Little Lovely Books
Tuesday, January 21st:  What She Read
Wednesday, January 22nd: Book Dilettante
Thursday, January 23rd: A Book Geek
Monday, January 27th: Books and Movies
Tuesday, January 28th: Bookie Wookie
Wednesday, January 29th: Ageless Pages Reviews (Q&A)
Monday, February 3rd: Lit and Life
Wednesday, February 5th:  Cold Read

Friday, February 7th: The Most Happy Reader