Friday, September 12, 2014

Unexpected Gifts Blog Tour and Review

02_Unexpected Gifts

Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Mockingbird Lane Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher/author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review

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Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives’ behaviors help mold our own? In "Unexpected Gifts," that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors' hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.

My Take:
Unexpected Gifts sounded like it had potential, so I agreed to read it for review. I honestly didn't know how well the premise would work out, but it did intrigue me. I have to state right off that I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I am into family history and have researched my own genealogy and if someone had given me treasures like Sonia's mother showed her, I would have been in heaven.

Sonia is obviously troubled and at the start of the book, is incapable of seeing her choices for how bad they actually were. As a psych major, you would think she would have a better grip on her own issues, but for much of the book she is in denial.  However, one particularly bad night for her parents starts her on a path to discover her family's history - starting with her own parents.

I really loved how Sonia is able to see her parents lives differently once she gets the chance to read their letters and/or diaries. I found myself so caught up in their lives that when the book switches back to Sonia, I was a little upset because I wanted to read more. Actually, with each generation, I was equally captivated by their stories - the good, the bad, the triumphs, the struggles, and especially the history.

 Fortunately, Sonia is able to find out the real problems and issues her ancestors dealt with and could see some of their traits in herself. Reading about the mistakes her ancestors made and the consequences of them seems to work as a wake-up call for Sonia and she is able to break some of the cycles of bad decisions.

I enjoyed Unexpected Gifts so much - for a variety of reasons. I loved the look at each historical period and the depictions of the families within each period. Sonia was so obviously in need of some type of intervention, and the look through her family history seems to have been just the thing. I will be suggesting this book to all my friends and can recommend it to anyone interested in U.S. history in particular, genealogy or historical fiction.

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Praise for Unexpected Gifts

“S.R. Mallery has caught the defining moments in the lives of one working class, upward striving family, as each one of them benefits from and contributes to the growth and setbacks of America itself…A rich and involving book, the author has written a gem. –Dorothy Salisbury Davis, A Gentle Murderer, Lullaby of Murder, The Pale Betrayer, etc.

“S.R. Mallery, with her strong sense of history and deft narrative skills, shows us one American family’s fascinating journey through flashpoints of American history, as a modern day young woman discovers the spirited narratives of her forbears, and is inspired to take charge of her own life…. an impressive, wonderfully thought out and well-told first novel.” –Carla Davidson, former Senior Editor at American Heritage Magazine

Buy the Book

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About the Author

S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life.

03_S.R. MalleryFirst, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

"Unexpected Gifts", her debut novel, is currently available on Amazon. "Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads", her collection of short stories, Jan. 2014, both books by Mockingbird Lane Press.

For more information please visit S.R. Mallery's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Unexpected Gifts Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 1
Review at Bookish
Review at Unshefish

Wednesday, September 3
Review at Reading Room Book Reviews
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, September 4
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Friday, September 5
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, September 8
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Beth's Book Reviews
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, September 11
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, September 12
Review at A Book Geek
Spotlight at From the TBR Pile
Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Edwin: High King of Britain Blog Tour and Review

02_Edwin High King of Britain

Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Lion Fiction
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Northumbrian Thrones (Book 1)
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review

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Debut historical fiction series vividly recreating the rise of the Christian kings of Northumbria, England.

In 604 AD, Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin's usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure--the missionary Paulinus-- who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point.

Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life.

This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade--and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.

The dramatic story of Northumbria's Christian kings helped give birth to England as a nation, English as a language, and the adoption of Christianity as the faith of the English.

My Take:

From the start, Edwin faces threats to his life, exile, and betrayal. In the first chapter Edwin has hit a low point and is awaiting an assassin, when he meets a mysterious stranger that gives him hope for the future. This is the point that I was completely hooked.

The historical period covered in Edwin: High King of Britain isn't written about very much, or at least, I haven't encountered it much in my reading so far. I have to wonder why, since I was captivated with the period as described by Albert in Edwin. Albert does a wonderful job of bringing the political and religious tensions to life and making sure the reader is able to keep up with all the unfamiliar names and places.

Besides all the wonderful political tension between the kings and nobles, I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the unsettled, violent, precarious time when two different religions are clashing and one is gradually being phased out. I found the pagan priest, Coifi, to be fascinating and annoying and humorous. And really, I felt kind of sorry for him. There are several other important characters that were also very well developed.

I appreciated that Edwin is presented as a complex character - as any king should be. I found the depiction of his personal conflicts with other kings and nobles and ultimately his conflict about which religion is right for him to be key to understanding and sympathizing with him. I was eager to find out more about the mysterious figure from the first chapter and that episode was worth the wait.

I look forward to reading more of The Northumbrian Thrones series and can happily recommend Edwin: High King of Britain to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Praise for Edwin: High King of Britain

“In the first installment of the Northumbrian Thrones, a new historical fiction series, Albert launches readers into the tumultuous world of 7th century Northumbria. Edwin, the deposed king of the region, forges political alliances, is betrayed, and fights critical battles that form the arc of his rise and fall as High King of Britain. As he ages, he fears for the future of his kingdom, and war has simply become a necessary evil. His shifting worldview leads to conversion to the Christian faith—a slow process given special attention by Albert. But it is not a clear path, and sometimes Edwin and his subordinates doubt the validity and the power of the Christian God, as opposed to the pagan deities they have left behind. Albert’s focus on the religious element does not detract from the political and dramatic aspects of the history he is portraying. Rather, it lends an extra dimension of psychological turmoil, because characters must deal with the problem of not only individual identity but also the beginnings of a national identity related to religion. Albert’s offering is a highly entertaining and refreshing work of historical fiction thanks to his emphasis on the precarious intersection of religion and identity.” –Publishers Weekly

“A splendid novel that leaves the reader wanting more.” –Bernard Cornwell, New York Times bestselling author

“A fast-paced and gripping tale of the great Northumbrian King Edwin, reclaiming one of our great national figures from the shadows of history.” –Justin Hill, author of Shieldwall

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

About the Author

03_Edoardo AlbertEdoardo Albert is a writer of Sri Lankan and Italian extraction based in London. The best response to his writing was when he reduced a friend to helpless, hysterical, rolling-on-the-floor-holding-his-stomach laughter. Unfortunately, the writing in question was a lonely hearts ad. He hopes to produce similar results in readers, without inadvertently acquiring another wife.

For more information, please visit Edoardo Albert's website. You can also connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Edwin: High King of Britain Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 25
Review at Princess of Eboli
Review at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

Tuesday, August 26
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, August 27
Review at Dab of Darkness

Thursday, August 28
Interview & Giveaway at Dab of Darkness

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 3
Review at The Writing Desk
Review at The Mad Reviewer

Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 8
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, September 10
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day - Stephanie's Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Thoughts in Progress

Friday, September 12
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Layered Pages

Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at Beth's Book Reviews

Friday, September 19
Review at Book Drunkard

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Shadow on the Highway Book Blast and Giveaway

Please join Deborah Swift as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for Shadow on the Highway (The Highway Trilogy, Book One), from August 25-September 15, and enter to win your own copy!

01_Shadow on the Highway
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Endeavor Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 200P

Series: The Highway Trilogy
Genre: Historical Fiction/YA (14+)

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May 1651. England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years. The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell?s New Model Army.

Abigail Chaplin, a young mute girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause. But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household - the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.

Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate. The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night.

Why are her husband?s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn?t been home for weeks? How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded? And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Shadow on the Highway?

?Shadow On The Highway? is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ?The Wicked Lady?. It is the first book in ?The Highway Trilogy?.

Praise for Deborah Swift

"There is no greater compliment than 'Give me more!'" - Author Susanna Gregory

"realistic dialogue, an author?s obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages" - Romance Reviews Today

"genuinely engrossing? with characters you can get interested in" - The Mum Website

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the AuthorDeborah Swift

Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady?s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah?s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Shadow on the Highway Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 25
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, August 26
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli

Wednesday, August 27
Guest Post at Reading the Past
Book Blast at Broken Teepee

Thursday, August 28
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Book Blast at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, August 29
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Book Blast at What Is That Book About

Monday, September 1
Review at The Maiden's Court
Book Blast at Reading Lark

Tuesday, September 2
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, September 3
Review at A Bookish Affair

Friday, September 5
Book Blast at Curling Up By the Fire

Saturday, September 6
Book Blast at A Book Geek

Monday, September 8
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Brooke Blogs
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, September 10
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, September 11
Review & Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Book Blast at Luxury Reading

Friday, September 12
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review at Historical Tapestry
Book Blast at A Bibliophile's Reverie


To win a Paperback or eBook of Shadow on the Highway please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Five copies of each are up for grabs. Giveaway is open internationally.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on September 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on September 16th and notified via email.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Maxwell Street Blues Blog Tour and Review

Maxwell Street Blues by Marc Krulewitch
Publication date: August 5, 2014 by Alibi
Source: digital edition from Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

Readers of Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole mysteries will love Jules Landau, a college man turned private eye on the Windy City’s mean streets—a virtual school of hard knocks where graduation means just staying alive.

Chicago runs in Jules Landau’s veins. So does the blood of crooks. Now Jules is going legit as a private eye, stalking bail jumpers and cheating spouses—until he gets his first big case. Unfortunately, the client is his ex-con father, and the job is finding the killer of a man whom Jules loved like family. Why did someone put two bullets in the head of gentle bookkeeper Charles Snook? Jules is determined to find out, even if the search takes him to perilous places he never wanted to go.

Snooky, as he was affectionately known, had a knack for turning dirty dollars clean, with clients ranging from humble shop owners to sharp-dressed mobsters. As Jules retraces Snooky’s last days, he crosses paths with a way-too-eager detective, a gorgeous and perplexing tattoo artist, a silver-haired university administrator with a kinky side, and a crusading journalist. Exposing one dirty secret after another, the PI is on a dangerous learning curve. And, at the top of that curve, a killer readies to strike again.

My Take:
Maxwell Street Blues definitely falls into the "fun read" category. The main character, Jules Landau, is a sarcastic, smart-mouthed, loyal, and stubborn private investigator who happens to descend from some rather notorious businessmen -  or "gangsters", according to some in his hometown of Chicago.

Jules takes some serious knocks over the course of the book - it seemed like every chapter included him getting beat up yet again. Poor guy.  He just doesn't give up. Jules wasn't about to let Snooky's murderer get away, so all the warnings were for naught. Along the way, he runs into some interesting people, including a beautiful tattoo artist who isn't quite what she seems, a crooked college president, shady businessmen, crooked cops, just to name a few.

I really enjoyed following Jules as he gathered the evidence needed to figure out why Snooky was killed and who did it. I have to admit that I was totally wrong about the killer -- but I was sort of right about a couple of characters. I really like it when I don't guess who the murderer is right away.

I loved that it takes place in Chicago with all the landmarks and history -- including many of the exact things in the book -- corruption, gangsters, etc.  This is one of those books that I am happy to recommend and will be suggesting to friends. The story is fast-paced and drew me in from the very first page.  It is definitely worth the read.

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About Marc Krulewitch

Marc Krulewitch’s Jules Landau mysteries take place in Chicago, where he was born and where his family has lived for generations. He now resides in Colorado.

Marc Krulewitch’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, July 28th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 29th: Mystery Playground
Wednesday, July 30th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, August 4th: Omnimystery News - author guest post
Thursday, August 7th:  Rhodes Review
Thursday, August 14th: Book Dilettante
Tuesday, August 19th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, August 19th:  Words by Webb
Monday, August 25th:  Just One More Chapter
Monday, August 25th:  By the Book Reviews
Tuesday, August 26th: Fiction Zeal
Thursday, August 28th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Wednesday, September 3rd:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Friday, September 5th: A Book Geek

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar Blog Tour and Review

The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar by Kim Rendfeld
Publication date: August 28, 2014 by Fireship Press
Source: Digital galley from Publisher for an honest review
Can love triumph over war?
772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family sell them into slavery instead.
In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master, and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family. Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion — but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.
Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

My Take:

The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar takes place during a really interesting period in time - that transition period when a country is being conquered and religions are switching. Stories like this fascinate me - I am not sure why, but I am always interested in novels that take place during huge transitions. 

Another interesting thing about The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar is that the entire novel focuses on regular people - not knights or kings or wealthy women. They all make appearances in the novel, but the focus is on Leova and her children. They are normal every day people - farmers, really. Leova's husband is killed in battle defending their village and homes. This is tragedy enough, but then in a horrible twist, Leova's sister-in-law betrays them and sells them as slaves. At this point I was so upset, that I had to put the book down for awhile. Such horrible people! Fortunately, Leova, Sunwynn and Deorlaf are wonderful people and manage to survive and keep together for a time.

Leova and her children face so many difficulties. It really doesn't seem fair. Leova will do anything for her children. She makes some tough decisions, but she is always doing her best for her children. Both Sunwynn and Deorlaf try to help too, but Leova is older and wiser and tries to make sure they keep cool heads about them. Deorlaf, is of course, the wild card - now the man of the family and wanting to prove himself. I enjoyed reading about Deorlaf's adventures and was relieved to see evidence of his growing maturity. He does well for himself and is able to finally help his mother and sister. 

This was an enjoyable read, but the family was pitted against so many foes, it could be a bit depressing at times. It does give a really descriptive depiction of the plight of the slaves from war and the strangeness of adjusting to a new country, new language, and new religion. I found it refreshing that the book focused on regular people and upsetting that what happened to Leova and her children probably wasn't that uncommon. 

The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar is a book I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes a good historical novel - especially one that deals with transitions in power and religion. This book offers a unique and detailed look at a people who were witnessing the end of their way of life and a family that remains faithful to each other to the end.

About the Author:

Kim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon.

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren't for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association. Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and three granddaughters.

Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar
“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  - Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” — Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles

The Tapestry Cover Reveal

Publication Date: March 24, 2015 Touchstone Publishing Formats: eBook, Hardcover Pages: 390
Genre: Historical Mystery Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three

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In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction. Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny. After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention. Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall. Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim. Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Pre-Order the Book

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About the Author

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. THE TAPESTRY will be released in March 2015. Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information please visit Nancy Bilyeau's website.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Flings Blog Tour

Flings by Justin Taylor
Publication date: August 19, 2014 by Harper
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

In a new suite of powerful and incisive stories, Justin Taylor captures the lives of men and women unmoored from their pasts and uncertain of their futures.
A man writes his girlfriend a Dear John letter, gets in his car, and just drives. A widowed insomniac is roused from malaise when an alligator appears in her backyard. A group of college friends tries to stay close after graduation, but are drawn away from—and back toward—each other by the choices they make. A boy’s friendship with a pair of identical twins undergoes a strange and tragic evolution over the course of adolescence. A promising academic and her fiancé attempt to finish their dissertations, but struggle with writer’s block, a nasty secret, and their own knowledge of Freud.

From an East Village rooftop to a cabin in Tennessee, from the Florida suburbs to Hong Kong, Taylor covers a vast emotional and geographic landscape while ushering us into an abiding intimacy with his restless, unforgettable characters. Flings is a commanding work of fiction that captures the contemporary search for identity, connection, and a place to call home.

My Take:

I never know quite how to approach a review of a short story collection. Flings is no different, except that I have to stop myself from going into too much detail about individual stories. As always, I enjoyed some stories more than others, but many of these stories stayed in my thoughts long after I had finished reading them. That is what really struck me about this collection - while not necessarily happy or pleasant, the people and situations felt very real and difficult so they kind of cling to the edge of memory and haunt and taunt. These stories are really intriguing in the way some of the same characters reappear through the collection giving a different perspective on previous stories. 

While many stories have nothing to do with the others, there is a continuous feeling of the characters being adrift in some way throughout the book. It is interesting that while many of the characters are in mid to late twenties, there are also some younger and older characters who are also experiencing the drifting and loss, albeit for different reasons. 

Flings didn't leave me feeling upbeat or happy, but I did feel contemplative after finishing it. I think that "Sungold" may be my favorite in the collection. This story didn't go where I thought it would and I was glad. This is the story that starts out with the guy in the restaurant mascot costume. Totally worth reading. I was also particularly struck by "Carol, Alone". This was a quirky and sad, but I really liked Carol.  

If you like short stories, Flings is definitely worthwhile. I found it to be a bit haunting and very memorable.

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Justin TaylorAbout Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy. He lives in New York City.

Connect with Justin through his website and on Twitter @my19thcentury.

Justin’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 19th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Thursday, August 21st: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, August 22nd: A Bookish Affair
Monday, August 25th: guiltless reading
Tuesday, August 26th: Chronicles of a Country Girl
Wednesday, August 27th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, August 28th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, September 1st: A Book Geek
Tuesday, September 2nd: BoundbyBooks
Wednesday, September 3rd: Consuming Culture
Thursday, September 4th: The Whynott Blog
Tuesday, September 9th: …the bookworm…
Wednesday, September 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, September 11th: Spiced Latte Reads
Friday, September 12th: Book Hooked Blog
Wednesday, September 17th: Reading in Black & White

Thursday, September 18th: The Scarlet Letter

Monday, August 25, 2014

Catcher's Keeper Book Spotlight

Catcher's Keeper by JD SperoPublication date: March 1, 2014 by Createspace

What if Holden Caulfield was around when John Lennon was shot? In 1980 John Lennon was killed by Mark David Chapman, who believed he was Holden Caulfield, narrator of the classic “The Catcher in the Rye.” After the shooting, Chapman remained on the scene calmly reading the book, which he later offered to police as his statement. “Catcher’s Keeper” asks the question, “What if Holden could have met Chapman, learned of his plan, and tried to prevent the assassination?”

About the author:

Johannah Davies Spero was born near a pristine lake in the Adirondacks and has lived in various cities such as St. Petersburg (Russia), Indianapolis, Dallas, and Boston. She has pursued her love of narrative through degrees in English, Russian, and teaching—and has worked as an actress, a yoga instructor, a web design entrepreneur, freelance writer, and a high school English teacher. She lives in the Northeast with her husband and three young sons.
Photo by JC Lines Photography
A more personal note about me and my writing:
When asked how long I’ve been writing, I usually give my standard answer: “Just over a decade.” But truth be told, I have been writing ever since I can remember, filling childhood journals with poems and existential, prepubescent musings. My mother, a high school English teacher, would try to encourage me to read, read, read…but I always felt drawn to put pen to paper and create my own words. If I had known then that reading would make me a better writer, I would’ve taken her advice. But alas, what tween wants to admit Mom is right?

I’ve written five novels to date, and I’m excited to launch Catcher’s Keeper and to share my story with the world!

Follow the Tour!

August 21
Review at Deal Sharing Aunt
August 22
Review at Therian
August 25
Spotlight Feature at A Book Geek
August 26
Interview at Infinite House of Books
August 27
Interview at Pen & Muse
September 1
Interview at Literary Lunes

Also on the Tour
Author Q&A Feature at The Page Turners Book Club

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Yankee Club Blog Tour and giveaway

The Yankee Club by Michael Murphy
Publication date: August 12, 2014 by Alibi
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

In Michael Murphy’s action-packed Prohibition-era novel of suspense, a mystery writer returns to the bright lights and dark alleys of New York City—uncovering a criminal conspiracy of terrifying proportions.

In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great Depression with a New Deal. In these uncertain times, former-Pinkerton-detective-turned-bestselling-author Jake Donovan is beckoned home to Manhattan. He has made good money as the creator of dashing gumshoe Blackie Doyle, but the price of success was Laura Wilson, the woman he left behind. Now a Broadway star, Laura is engaged to a millionaire banker—and waltzing into a dangerous trap.

Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.

My Take:
I wasn't sure what to expect when I agreed to participate in the tour for The Yankee Club. I needn't have worried at all. This was just a straight-up fun read from start to finish. Jake Donovan is such a great lead character - he is funny and sarcastic and a decent guy. Jake returns to New York from Florida to deal with some last minute publication issues on his forthcoming detective novel. See how this will be fun? Jake is a former-detective writing detective novels and the star of a detective novel. 

The reader gets to hang out with a host of great characters besides Jake. Naturally, there is Laura, the love of Jake's life who is currently engaged to a millionaire banker of the outwardly-suave-and-handsome-but-also-probably-evil variety. But I think my favorite characters besides Jake, were Gino,the guy from his old neighborhood who owns a speakeasy and Frankie, Jake's driver who drinks way too much to be a driver.

I enjoyed that the mystery that Jake starts out investigating - finding the killer of his friend - turns into something else entirely. The scope of the story changes dramatically and there are many dubious characters that Jake must contend with. The reader gets to follow Jake as he figures out who is trustworthy and who is not -- but not always as quickly or as easily as he might wish. Things are not always as they seem. I appreciated how Murphy brought real people into the story and managed to make it work really well. 

I really liked The Yankee Club and will happily recommend it to anyone - especially those who like historical/period fiction and mysteries. This was one of those books that was just fun to read. I enjoyed the mystery and the danger, but I was also confident that Jake could handle whatever was thrown at him - with a little help from his friends, of course.

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 About Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is a full time author and part time urban chicken rancher in Arizona. He lives in Arizona with his wife of forty-one years and the four children they adopted this past year. In August, Random House Alibi will publish his ninth novel, a historical mystery set in the prohibition era, The Yankee Club.

Michael Murphy’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, August 4th:  Reading Reality
Tuesday, August 5th:  5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, August 6th:  Bibliotica
Friday, August 8th: ImaginativeMinds*
Monday, August 11th:  The Book Binder’s Daughter
Tuesday, August 12th: Read a Latte
Wednesday, August 13th: “I Think I’m Obsessed!” Book Reviews
Thursday, August 14th:  The Reader’s Hollow
Friday, August 15th:  Mystery Playground  – Author Guest Post “Drinks with Reads”
Monday, August 18th:  Joyfully Retired
Tuesday, August 19th:  Life by Kristen
Tuesday, August 19th: Dwell in Possibility
Wednesday, August 20th:  Nightly Reading 
Thursday, August 21st: A Book Geek
Friday, August 22nd:  From the TBR Pile
Monday, August 25th:  Laura’s Booklist
Friday, August 29th:  Harlie’s Books

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lighthouse Island Blog Tour

Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles
Publication date: July 29, 2014 by William Morrow
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
A beautiful and captivating dystopian tale resonant with love and hope from the acclaimed poet and New York Times bestselling author of The Color of LightningStormy Weather, and Enemy Women
See the rain forests . . . northern beauty, misted nights. Come to Lighthouse Island . . .
In the coming centuries, Earth’s population has exploded and covered the planet with endless cities. It is an unwelcoming world for Nadia Stepan, abandoned at age four and left with only a drawing of the Big Dipper and her mother’s parting words: “Look to the North Star, and we will always be there.” Nadia grows up dreaming of the vacation spot called Lighthouse Island, in a place called the Pacific Northwest where she believes her long-lost parents must be.
In the meantime, this bright and witty orphan finds refuge in neglected books, and the voice of Big Radio that emanates from an abandoned satellite, patiently reading the great classical books of the world.

When an opportunity for escape appears, Nadia strikes out in search of a dream. She faces every contingency with inventiveness and meets a man who changes the course of her life. Together, they head north toward a place of wild beauty that lies far beyond the megalopolis: Lighthouse Island.

My Take:
Lighthouse Island is one of those books that just seemed like something I would like. It is dystopian, it is literary, it is adult. So, yes, I liked it.

The reader is introduced to Raisa as just a girl whose parents left her on the street. She becomes one of many orphans who are growing up in a strange, dry, anonymous part of what was once the U.S.  She likes to be alone, but everyone wants her to to be with the group; she can't watch television because it hurts her eyes, but that is the main source of entertainment for everyone. She doesn't fit into their mold. Her name is changed to Nadia for some strange, unexplained reason having to do with her medical care. 

Things feel weird and vague. Sometimes it seems like Nadia is walking through a vague, foggy dream - or nightmare - might be more accurate. There is no sense of time or place or even person-hood. The world building is done gradually since the reader experiences everything through the eyes of either Nadia or James, a wealthy man who was paralyzed in a fall and ends up helping Nadia. The world Nadia and James inhabit it a strange and uncertain one where people pretend not to see anything that might make them a target, and for the most part, just seem to accept that this is how things are. There is little reflection on things or questioning the system. The few who do end up in prison or on the newest show that broadcasts live executions. 

One of my favorite things about Nadia is how she is able to instinctively capitalize on the inefficient bureaucracy of her world. People are at the mercy of whatever agency or department is currently rounding people up or hunting people down, or searching for evidence of some vague crime or intent. It is all very disconcerting and menacing. There are lots of rules that make little sense and many limitations on freedoms. Nadia, of course, sees the fact that no one knows what any one else is doing or who they are working for, so she takes on a persona and makes up titles and occupations as needed to talk her way out of situations. She is usually pretty successful.

I kept wondering while I was reading the book about who was actually in charge of the country. Was there anyone actually in charge? It seemed like the so-called leaders that were shown on the screen were just figureheads, someone from central casting even. Or was everything run by competing departments? I think the book brings a lot of current issues to the reader's attention by taking these issues to extremes and showing the victims and results.

I will admit that Light Island may not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. Even the lack of quotation marks didn't bother me. In fact, I thought it worked well with the story. It seemed to reflect the uncertainty in which the people lived.

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Paulette JilesAbout Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles is a poet and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the bestselling novels Enemy Women and Stormy Weather. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Paulette’s Tour Stops

Wednesday, July 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, August 5th: BookNAround
Thursday, August 7th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, August 13th: The Steadfast Reader
Monday, August 18th: Love at First Book
Wednesday, August 20th: A Book Geek
Friday, August 22nd: Read. Write. Repeat
Monday, August 25th: she treads softly
Wednesday, August 27th: Fuelled by Fiction
Thursday, August 28th: Giraffe Days

TBD: Book Snob