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
Synopsis:
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.


VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE 

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 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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
Synopsis:
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

READ AN EXCERPT.

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


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Buy the Book


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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


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Blog
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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


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Giveaway

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
Synopsis:
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