Thursday, August 22, 2013

Equilibrium Blog Tour and Review

Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson
Publication date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Kensington Books
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Synopsis:
In the year since her husband died, Laura Klein’s world has shifted on its axis. It’s not just that she’s raising two children alone—fact is, Laura always did the parenting for both of them. But now her fifteen-year-old daughter, Darcy, is dating a boy with a fast car and faster hands, and thirteen-year-old Troy’s attitude has plummeted along with his voice. Just when she’s resigning herself to a life of worry and selfless support, her charismatic new tenant offers what Laura least expects: a second chance.

Darcy isn’t surprised her mom doesn’t understand her, though she never imagined her suddenly acting like a love-struck teen herself. With Troy starting to show signs of their father’s bipolar disorder, and her best friend increasingly secretive, Darcy turns to her new boyfriend, Nick, for support. Yet Nick has a troubled side of his own, forcing Darcy toward life-altering choices.

Exploring the effects of grief on both mother and daughter, Equilibrium is a thoughtful, resolutely uplifting novel about finding the balance between holding on and letting go, between knowing when to mourn and when to hope, and between the love we seek and the love we choose to give.


My Take:
I found Lorrie Thomson's debut novel, Equilibrium, to be quite compelling and a little bit anxiety inducing to read, as a mother of teenagers. I was immediately drawn into Laura's stressful life. Despite the fact that her husband has been dead for nearly a year, she is still immersed in the stress of being his caretaker while continuing to raise their children on her own, just as she did before Jack's suicide. It is as if Laura had spent so many years being the strong, capable, responsible parent and wife, that she didn't know how to take anything from life for herself.

Laura's relationship with her husband, Jack, is revealed slowly throughout the book as flashbacks or reflections on the past. There is so much about Jack and their relationship that just really bothered me. Laura was a student when she met him and despite the fact that she went after him, he was in a position of power and authority and should not have pursued the relationship. This particular beginning to their relationship sort of seemed to set the tone for the rest of their lives together. Jack taking advantage and Laura holding everything together. When one considers the circumstances and Jack's disorder, it becomes clear that Laura did everything humanly possible to take care of her family. Just reading about it stressed me out a little bit.

Despite the hurt she experiences, I was glad that Laura finally began to see her marriage as it really was and to admit that Jack had some culpability in things. Laura definitely performed quite the balancing act. It was nice to see her finally able to live for herself a bit.

I thought teenage Darcy to be a pretty well developed character. She is a grieving, rebellious teenager with a boyfriend with his own problems. Her best friend is going through her own problems and Darcy feels alone and misunderstood. Pretty typical teenager. I felt so bad for her because of her father's suicide, but mostly because of the mind games he played with her and to a lesser extent with her brother, Troy. I have to assume that some of Jack's manipulations are part of his bipolar disorder. At least I hope so.

I enjoyed reading Equilibrium even though it presents Laura's life with all it's many stresses and worries. I found her to be a likable character and I felt empathy for the difficult situation she is in. Equilibrium was a pretty quick read and the characters are sympathetic. While the book deals with the issue of bipolar disorder and its aftermath in the family, there are a few different character story lines to follow and there is even some romance.


About Lorrie Thomson

Lorrie Thomson lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their children. When she’s not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, her family lets her tag along for camping adventures, daylong paddles, and hikes up 4,000 footers.
Though Equilibrium is fiction, Lorrie had the very real experience of coping with mental illness in her own family when her oldest son was diagnosed with schizophrenia while she was writing the book. For support and education regarding mental illness, she recommends that readers visit NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Visit Lorrie at her website. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


Lorrie’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 13th: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, August 14th: BookNAround
Thursday, August 15th: A Patchwork of Books
Tuesday, August 20th: The House of the Seven Tails
Wednesday, August 21st: Time 2 Read
Thursday, August 22nd: A Book Geek
Tuesday, September 3rd: Becca’s Byline
Wednesday, September 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, September 5th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, September 9th: Sweet Southern Home
Tuesday, September 10th: BoundByWords
Wednesday, September 11th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, September 12th: My Bookshelf
Monday, September 16th: Melissa Firmin

Tuesday, September 17th: Dreaming in Books


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guest Post by C.W. Gortner, the author of The Tudor Conspiracy



Mary Tudor: A Catholic Tudor Queen
An Original Essay by C.W. Gortner
Mary I of England is without doubt one of history’s most reviled and misunderstood figures—a queen who overcame tremendous odds to win her throne in 1553 yet who managed by her death in 1558 to have deeply divided her realm, responsible for a savage persecution that terrorized her realm. She ruled only five years but so terrible is the memory of her deeds that she has earned the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”, a name for which she is still known today.

Mary was the sole surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. Catherine was sent to England to marry the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur, but his sudden demise left her a widow. Catherine claimed the marriage had never been consummated, and her impoverished isolation in the years that followed stoked the ardor of the new heir, Henry, who, upon his coronation, wed Catherine despite a six-year difference in their ages. Catherine and Henry were married for twenty-four years; stalwart and devout, indubitably in love with her husband, Catherine endured numerous miscarriages and the death of an infant son before finally giving birth to Mary in February of 1516.
As Henry’s sole heir (for despite his later obsessive quest for a son, a daughter could inherit his crown) Mary was adored by her parents. Historical sources recount numerous occasions when the handsome king displayed his fair-haired daughter to his court, showing off her skill with music and graceful charm. But Henry’s disillusion with his aging, now-barren wife catapulted him into a tumultuous affair with one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, the ambitious Anne Boleyn, who would settle for nothing less than marriage. Thus, at the age of fifteen, Mary’s entire world was turned upside down, her status yanked out from under her as she watched her mother, clinging to her title and rights, exiled to a remote manor, where Catherine died in appalling conditions and in fear for the safety of the daughter she’d been forbidden to see. Anne Boleyn also vented her spleen, forcing Mary to serve Anne’s infant daughter by Henry, Princess Elizabeth, and even, sources claim, plotting to have Mary killed. The cataclysm unleashed by Henry’s passion for Anne changed England forever, resulting in a nascent reformation that would in time make Protestantism the official faith, even as Anne waged desperate battle to protect herself and her child. In 1536, Anne lost her battle and was executed on trumped-up charges; within weeks Elizabeth joined her half-sister Mary as a bastard daughter of the king.

Mary’s struggles continued while Henry married four more times. Steadfast in her Catholicism, the faith in which she’d been reared and which her mother had exhorted her to uphold, she finally gave into her father’s demands to acknowledge him as Head of the Church—an act that haunted her for the rest of her life, as she felt she’d betrayed her mother’s trust and her own belief that the only true church was the Catholic one. In those years, she developed an often uneasy relationship with her half-siblings, Elizabeth and their brother Edward, born of Henry’s third wife, both of whom had imbued the radical spirit of the Reformation.

Various suitors for Mary’s hand came and went; at the age of thirty-seven, when many women were considered unmarriageable, she found herself in the hunter’s snare once more when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, usurped her claim to the throne upon Edward VI’s death and set his daughter-in-law, Jane Grey, in her place. Often neglected and ignored, prematurely aged by self-imposed seclusion, Mary displayed her innate Tudor ferocity, eluding her pursuers to amass an army and march on London. She may have been a Catholic spinster but the people cheered her as the rightful queen and rallied to her cause. She was crowned in the summer of 1553, sending Jane Grey, Northumberland and his sons to the Tower. Many of the new queen’s advisors, including the wily Imperial ambassador, Renard, urged Mary to execute her prisoners but she consented only to Northumberland’s death, promising release in time for Jane and the Dudley sons. Even in questions of religion she expressed caution, citing her people’s hearts could only be won back in stages. Nevertheless, one of her first acts was to overturn the annulment of her mother’s marriage to Henry VIII, casting further doubt on Elizabeth’s legitimacy.

The advent of her marriage to Philip of Spain, son of the Hapsburg emperor and Mary’s cousin, Charles V, who had long been a scion of support, if not actual assistance, changed everything. Suddenly, Mary saw the possibility of happiness bloom before her: the chance to be love and be loved, to become a wife and mother. As Renard pressured her to deal with all remaining threats to her faith and crown, including Elizabeth, whom he believed was the active figurehead of Protestant opposition, the deep-seated wounds inflicted on Mary since adolescence flared anew. She remembered her hatred of Anne Boleyn, her helpless horror over her father’s zeal to amass the Church’s wealth and abolish its power, her heartrending sorrow at the separation from, and death of, her mother, and the long years of humiliation. The past could be absolved, she believed. Everything that had gone wrong could be put to right, if only she roused the strength that Catherine of Aragon had shown; the unstinting fervor that her maternal grandmother, Queen Isabella, had employed to unite Spain. She saw herself as a savior, who must do whatever was required to bring about her people’s return to the Catholic fold.

Caught in a maelstrom of her own convictions, Mary precipitated her tragedy. 
It is too simple to condemn her as a monster, though she behaved in a monstrous way. Her execution of Jane Grey and subsequent burning of over two hundred Protestants, among who were Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishops Ridley and Latimer, blackened her name and left her country in chaos, the smoke of the pyres only clearing once she took to her deathbed after a false pregnancy that may have been uterine cancer. She left behind a realm ravaged by political and religious dissension, widespread famine and penury. The loss of England’s last possession in France, the city of Calais, was a blow Mary declared would be found engraved on her heart. Even in her final hours, she was beset by those who implored her to condemn Elizabeth—an act she refused. In doing so, Mary unwittingly accomplished in death what she had failed to do in life: She gave England back its hope, in the form of a virgin queen, whose unparalleled grandeur and longevity would define an era.


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Tudor Conspiracy Blog Tour and Review

The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner
Publication date:: July 16, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review
Synopsis:

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy.

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.


My Take:
The Tudor Conspiracy is only the second of Gortner's book that I have read, but I have to say, I like his style. The first of his books I read was not the first book in this series, but I didn't feel that was a hindrance. I think things are set up pretty well and reading the previous book isn't necessary for enjoyment.

I was excited to read The Tudor Conspiracy because I enjoy reading about the Tudors and I especially appreciate the fact that Elizabeth I had such a large network of spies during her reign. This book gives a fascinating, if fictional, look at how spies could have been a factor even before she took the throne.

I found Gortner's take on the suspicion, uncertainty, fear and scheming at court to be quite good and probably pretty accurate. It is clear that there is no love lost between Queen Mary and her half-sister, Princess Elizabeth. The many and various players in the court intrigues are fascinating to read about and try to unravel. Even though I know the history involved, there are enough minor and fictional characters that add to the story and keep things interesting and the reader uncertain as to exactly who is on what side and who will betray and who will remain loyal.  It was all great fun.

I am actually hoping that Gortner will add another book to the Spymaster series that will have Brendan working for Queen Elizabeth I and include the theater, Shakespeare and Marlowe, naturally - as well as all the political stuff, the various plots, etc. I've pretty much decided to just add all his books to my to be read list, since I have enjoyed both that I have read so far.

I can quite easily recommend The Tudor Conspiracy to anyone who likes historical fiction in general, enjoys Tudor history, English history or just enjoys a good tale.











About the Author

C.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Queen’s Vow and The Tudor Secret. He holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 16
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Book Blog
Wednesday, July 17
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Review at Diary of a Book Addict
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, July 18
Review at Amused by Books
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, July 19
Review at The Broke and the Bookish
Review & Giveaway at Enchanted by Josephine
Interview at The Tudor Book Blog
Monday, July 22
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Jenny Loves to Read
Review at A Muse in the Fog Book Reviews
Tuesday, July 23
Review at Bippity Boppity Book
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, July 24
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Review at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse
Thursday, July 25
Guest Post at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Feature & Giveaway at Ramblings From This Chick
Friday, July 26
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Interview at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse
Monday, July 29
Review at Books in the Burbs
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Writing the Renaissance
Tuesday, July 30
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, July 31
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, August 1
Review at JulzReads
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads
Friday, August 2
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Interview at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Monday, August 5
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, August 6
Review at From L.A. to LA
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, August 7
Review at Review From Here
Thursday, August 8
Review at My Renaissance Movement
Friday, August 9
Review at Always with a Book
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Monday, August 12
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Review at Historical Tapestry & Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Tuesday, August 13
Review at The Bookworm
Guest Post at A Book Geek
Wednesday, August 14
Review at My Reading Room
Guest Post at Book Nerds
Thursday, August 15
Review at Book Journey
Interview at My Reading Room
Friday, August 16
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, August 19
Review at The True Book Addict
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, August 20
Review at Lost in Books
Guest Post at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, August 21
Review at Broken Teepee
Thursday, August 22
Review at The Eclectic Reader
Guest Post at Broken Teepee
Monday, August 26
Review at Layered Pages
Review at A Bookish Libraria

Tuesday, August 27
Review at Book Addict Katie
Interview at Layered Pages






Thursday, August 8, 2013

Forty Years in a Day Blog Tour and Review

Forty Years in a Day by Mona Rodriguez and Dianne Vigorito
Publication date: February 19, 2013
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Source: authors/publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review
Synopsis:
Confession is good for the soul even after the soul has been claimed…
The story begins in Italy, 1900. After years of torment and neglect, Victoria and her four small children immigrate to Hell’s Kitchen, New York, to escape her alcoholic, abusive husband. On the day they leave, he tragically dies, but she does not learn of his death for several years—a secret that puts many lives on hold.
Quickly, they realize America’s streets are not paved with gold, and the limits of human faith and stamina are tested time and time again. Poverty, illness, death, kidnapping, and the reign of organized crime are just some of the crosses they bear.
Victoria’s eldest son, Vincenzo, is the sole surviving member of the family and shares a gut-wrenching account of their lives with his daughter during a visit to Ellis Island on his ninetieth birthday. He explains how the lives of he and his siblings have been secretly intertwined with an infamous Irish mob boss and ends his unsettling disclosure with a monumental request that leaves Clare speechless.

Forty Years in a Day is layered with the struggles and successes of each family member and defines the character of an era. Follow the Montanaro family through several decades, and stand in the shoes of a past generation.


My Take:

Forty Years in a Day really sounded like it would be a book that I'd enjoy reading. It is the story of a family. The Prologue sets up the premise: the father tells his family's story to his daughter on his ninetieth birthday after they have toured Ellis Island. This story is typical of many families, love, scandal, loyalty, betrayal, disillusionment, hope, -- you know - life. I loved the set up and I really loved the premise of the book.

While reading Forty Years in a Day, I felt like I really was reading about a family history. It felt genuine and despite the rather large scope of time covered, I felt sympathetic towards all the characters that made up this family. The time period makes for interesting reading by itself, but include a struggling immigrant family trying to make it in America, and you have all you need for a great story.

My one issue with the book is unusual for me because I am a big proponent of thesaurus use. However, in this case, I feel that there was a bit too liberal use of the thesaurus without taking context into account, sometimes causing awkward sentences that jarred me so much that I had to stop and reread a sentence over and over because it either didn't make sense or didn't flow well. A good editor could find and address these instances easily.

Aside from my small issue, I loved the story. I loved the tone and the way it sounded just like someone telling their family story to their children. It is a lovely book. I especially enjoyed how the Epilogue tied up loose ends and even revealed a few family secrets. Actually, I would have liked to read more of the details of things revealed in the Epilogue, but I guess we can't have everything we want.



About the Authors

Mona Rodriguez coauthored Forty Years in a Day with her cousin Dianne Vigorito. Throughout their lives, they had heard many stories from family members that were fascinating, sometimes even unbelievable, and decided to piece together the puzzle of tales. Through research and interviews, their goal was to create a fictional story that follows a family through several decades, providing the reader an opportunity to stand in the shoes of a past generation and walk in search of their hopes and dreams. What they realize in the process is that human emotions have been the same throughout generations – the difference is how people are molded and maneuvered by the times and their situations.
Mona Rodriguez has her MS in environmental Management from Montclair State University. She is presently a trustee on the board of directors of a nonprofit foundation created to benefit a local public library and community. She lives with their husband in New Jersey, and they have two grown sons.
For more information, please visit the official website.
Mona & Dianne
Mona Rodriguez & Dianne Vigorito

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, August 5
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, August 6
Review at Impressions in Ink
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, August 7
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, August 8
Review at A Book Geek

Friday, August 9
Review & Guest Post at The True Book Addict
Interview at Layered Pages




Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Butterfly Sister

The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen
Publication date: August 6, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: publisher provided a copy for a honest review
Description from Goodreads:
"My past was never more than one thought, one breath, one heartbeat away. And then, on that particular October evening, it literally arrived at my doorstep."

Eight months after dropping out of Tarble, an all-women's college, twenty-two-year-old Ruby Rousseau is still haunted by the memories of her senior year-a year marred by an affair with her English professor and a deep depression that not only caused her to question her own sanity but prompted a failed suicide attempt.

And then a mysterious paisley print suitcase arrives, bearing Ruby's name and address on the tag. When Ruby tries to return the luggage to its rightful owner, Beth Richards, her dorm mate at Tarble, she learns that Beth disappeared two days earlier, and the suitcase is the only tangible evidence as to her whereabouts.

Consumed by the mystery of the missing girl and the contents of the luggage-a tattered copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, the book on which Ruby based her senior thesis, and which she believes instigated her madness-she sets out to uncover the truth, not only about Beth Richards's past but also her own. In doing so, Ruby is forced to reexamine the people from her past: the professor who whisked her away to New Orleans and then shattered her heart and the ghosts of dead women writers who beckoned her to join their illustrious group. And when Ruby's storyline converges with Beth's in a way she never imagined, she returns to the one place she swore she never would: her alma mater.


My Take:
I picked The Butterfly Sister out of the stack of books to be read as a quick break from the succession of historical fiction that I have been reading lately. I am so happy that I did. This book was such a pleasant surprise. I expected to be entertained and diverted, but I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was.

I loved all the references to women writers, particularly Virginia Woolf, and the connections to Ruby and her own fragile mental state. The story line regarding depression, madness and suicide attempts was interesting, thoughtful and very important to the story. Even while Ruby is rushing headlong to try to solve the mystery of her missing friend, the novel also addresses some of the issues regarding women writers, creativity, links with depression, scholarly life  - and then brings it all back around and together in a clever and surprising way.

I love fiction that references other fiction and writers and readers. This book has all that, plus it has a mystery, suspense, some romance, some revenge, some crazy, and some really great twists. This was fun from start to finish. I don't want to give anything away, because this one needs to be discovered by the reader.