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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Title: Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture
Author: Matt Goulding
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper Wave
Publish Date: October 27, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "An innovative new take on the travel guide, Rice, Noodle, Fish decodes Japan's extraordinary food culture through a mix of in-depth narrative and insider advice, along with 195 color photographs. In this 5000-mile journey through the noodle shops, tempura temples, and teahouses of Japan, Matt Goulding, co-creator of the enormously popular Eat This, Not That! book series, navigates the intersection between food, history, and culture, creating one of the most ambitious and complete books ever written about Japanese culinary culture from the Western perspective."

My Two Cents:

"Rice, Noodle, Fish" is a travelogue through the delicious and fascinating food culture of Japan. When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is to explore the new place through their food. This is a gorgeous book that takes us to many different parts of Japan to show us how the Japanese prepare and eat their food. One word of warning: do not read this book while you are hungry. If you do and you don't have quick access to authentic Japanese food, you're probably going to eat the book and that's really frowned upon! So count yourself warned...

This is not only a book about food but a book about the culture around the food. In many different cultures, food brings people together. It's no different in Japan. This book was published under Anthony Bourdain's publishing imprint and that's no surprise: this book feels like a readable version of "Parts Unknown," a show I absolutely love! The author talks not only about the food but about the people who make the food and the people that eat the food. This whole book is a treat for the senses and could only be made better if it actually came with the food that the book talks about.

I have never been to Japan before but it is definitely on my list of places to visit someday. I really, really want to visit now after reading this book!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TLC Book Tours: It's Messy by Amanda de Cadenet

Title: It's Messy
Author: Amanda de Cadenet
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper Wave
Publish Date: September 19, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story."

My Two Cents:

"It's Messy" is a series of essays by Amanda de Cadenet who is now probably most well known for her show "The Conversation" even though she has been on television since she was in her teens! I have seen a few episodes of "The Conversation" and one thing I have been impressed with is how de Cadenet is able to get very powerful women from politics and Hollywood and a myriad of other places to let down their armor and get real. She is a great interviewer that gets right at the meat of what's going on and that's what she does in this book: she gets real. It's refreshing in a world where so many people feel like they have to put up walls around themselves.

This book covers a whole variety of issues from finding yourself, having kids, being married, and being divorced. De Cadenet was born into a very wealthy family but this didn't protect her for having some pretty wild early years and she goes into all of these stories in the book. She was married to a famous musician before she was 20 years old and had a child very early on. Later on, she was divorced and then remarried to another musician before she had twins. Side note: Yup! she's a fellow twin mom so she has me there. Admittedly, her thoughts on how you get fraternal twins doesn't jive with science but she's a fellow twin mom all the same). She's been through a lot and has a lot of wisdom and interesting insights to pass on.

You start feeling like de Cadenet could be someone you know well, maybe a friend letting you in on some secrets. It's easy to see how de Cadenet is able to get the interviews that she gets on how once she's able to land an interview how she gets people to open up to her. I thought this was a good and insightful collection and I'm looking forward to sharing it with some women in my life.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Guest Post: An Excerpt from "It's Not Yet Dark" by Simon Fitzmaurice

I'm happy to share a guest post today from Simon Fitzmaurice, author of "It's Not Yet Dark." Check out my review of the book here!

I’m in the doctor’s office and he tells me I have ALS. Light leaves the room. And air. And sound. And time. I sit on the chair opposite but I am far away. Deep inside. Looking up through the tunnel of myself, as he speaks those words. “Three to four years to live.” I don’t hear him. Is this my life? Is he talking about me? I leave the room, the tunnel all around me, and stand before my wife[, Ruth,] in the waiting room. The color leaves her face. Her father is beside her. They come into the room and he tells them the same thing. I don’t hear him. Ruth starts to cry. Within ten minutes we are out on the street. Not knowing what to do, we do what we planned to do before. We go to lunch. Ruth’s dad will meet us after. We walk through the streets like the survivors of some vast impact. Pale, powdered ghosts. We reach the restaurant. Dunne and Crescenzi on South Frederick Street. Our favorite. I stand into a doorway outside and call my parents. It is the worst phone call of my life. I tell them everything, fast, hearing the panic in my voice. Later, I’ll thank them for coming when they arrive at our house, and they’ll look at me as if I’m insane and I’ll become aware, for the first time, that nothing is the same. We enter the restaurant. Sit down like everyone else. We sit there, not knowing what to do, what to say. The waiter comes over and starts to speak to me. Ruth starts to cry. The place is under water and I can’t hear what he’s saying. Ruth is pregnant with our third child.

We are orphans of the universe. Our species is defined by asking questions, out into the dark, without anyone to guide us except one another.
    Time is a trick. From an outside vantage point we live a certain length of time, one that we measure in minutes, hours and seconds, birthdays and anniversaries. But we don’t live at a vantage point to ourselves: we are immersed. We live in fits and starts and jumps, like dreams. And the lives we inhabit are measured in moments, irrespective of time. How we live is strange and uncertain and not written on any map.
    In a movie, when a doctor tells a patient they have a certain time left to live, it sparks a voyage of discovery, a quest for authenticity and redemption. In Joe Versus the Volcano, one of my favorites, Joe Banks, when told he has a “brain cloud,” goes outside and hugs a large dog, then goes on to do what he’s wanted to be doing for years: he lives his life.
    I think of him often in those first days after. How that moment I had always laughed at had become my life. What now? What do I do? And it comes to me very quickly. I suddenly know what is different between me and Joe Banks, between all the stories and my life. I am happy. I am exactly where I want to be, with exactly who I want to be with. It’s quite a realization to discover beyond doubt that you’re happy. And death had brought me there.
    Death. On my shoulder. In my head. In the garden. At the door of my office. In every glance with my wife. My new companion: the end of my life.
    We are living in North Cottage[, Ireland], with our two little boys, Jack and Raife. We moved here so we could afford to live the life we wanted to live. I was working on my films, Ruth was writing her first novel and the boys had a garden ten times the size of the one at our previous house. We had a plan. And it was working. We were happy.
    But that was before. This is after. Never before had I felt that split, but now a fault line has opened between our past and present, and there is no going back. Death, which before had lived on some distant horizon, is now in our living room. We are lost, within the familiar surroundings of our lives. Ruth and I cry a lot, at night, in bed.

Human time is not measured by clocks and watches. Time slows down, time speeds up and the mystery of how we live is ever present, despite our will for it to be otherwise. Our lives are not the legacy we leave behind, or the value of the work we do. Our lives happened inbetween the deeds and ideas that define us. Each of us feels it, the mystery, the strangeness of life on earth. Of life and death. We feel it when we travel, we feel it when we stay at home. We feel it when a loved one dies or when a loved one is born. I’m sure we all crave more certainty than we have but that is not human life. That is the ticking of the clock.
    When you are told you will die within a certain period, time slows down. Life becomes dominated by the last time. Is this the last time I will read a book to one of my boys? If not the last, how many more? How many? Everything is heightened. I stand outside in the darkness and watch my son playing in the window of the cottage. I stand until the cold is in my bones and wonder, Is this the last time that I’ll stand? I’m in my life and outside it, in the moment and conscious of the significance of every moment.
    It’s lucky. In this heightened state, experience is burned into my memory. I’m running after Raife and I’m thinking, Is this the last time I’ll be running? So I speed up. I’m running with a limp, and so running full tilt becomes a series of long hops and strides. But I’m running, across the grass, after my son, who is laughing uncontrollably, in the half-fright ecstasy of pursuit. And I’m remembering it. Fear of the last time is recording every second. Which is lucky, because it is the last time. And when you lose something central in your life it’s important to have a memory of it, so you don’t feel insane, so the pain you feel has a corresponding shape, something that says definitively, “That is real.” Then, happy or sad about it, I have that for ever.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book to Movie: Big Little Lies

Sometimes turning a book into a movie doesn't work well and sometimes it works really well. "Big Little Lies" is a thriller by Liane Moriarty that I really enjoyed and I was interested to see how it would translate to the screen in the recent HBO miniseries.

The miniseries has a lot of big name stars like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Laura Dern to just name a few. It has a truly star-studded cast. The miniseries is seven jam packed episodes with a lot of twists and turns. Although the book had many layers, it didn't feel quite as twisty as the miniseries did. I loved the book but the miniseries really packed a punch.

There were a lot of differences between the book and the movie. Some of these differences included:

  • The setting being moved from Australia to the California coast.
  • Madeline having a whole sub-plot regarding bringing Avenue Q to their town.
  • Madeline having an affair the way she did.
  • Jane's relationship in the end.
  • The ending was different.
Like the book, the story in the miniseries is told by going back and forth between the past and present. This helped keep me on my toes throughout the whole series. Even though I knew how the book ended and therefore thought I could guess how the miniseries would end, the way that the story was told made me think that there could possibly be another outcome, which I loved!

The miniseries is great! The music is good (I neeeeed to buy the soundtrack)! The cinematography is gorgeous and captures the sort of noir-like feel of the story. The acting is great. I love Nicole Kidman but she played Celeste amazingly. Celeste is soooo complicated like she is in the book. Out of all of the main characters, it is Celeste that looks like she has the most picture perfect life and it is also Celeste that probably has the worst stuff going on in the background. Kidman played all of this so well!

If you haven't read the book or seen the series, read the book first (always, always, always) and then watch the miniseries!

Thanks to HBO and ThinkJam for a copy of the book and the miniseries! What a treat!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Title: Watership Down
Author: Richard Adams
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Avon Books
Publish Date: 1972
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society."

My Two Cents:

"Watership Down" is a classic book that I had been wanting to read for a while. Luckily, I had a 2017 reading challenge that fit the book perfectly. This book is about rabbits who try to find a better life for themselves. Along the way, they come across hostile rabbits, dogs, and cats who threaten their lives. This book feels very much like a military novel.

I wasn't expecting for the book to have such a strong religious undertone. Throughout the book the rabbits speak about another rabbit whose story has become so legendary that this particular rabbit almost becomes a spiritual protector for all other rabbits. I was especially interested in the legend of this rabbit as it gives you a lot of insight into the sort of traits that the rabbits care about and look for in others.

In general, I am also very interested in how authors come up with the stories that they come up with. The particular edition of this book that I read includes an author's note that talks about how he came up with this idea for essentially telling a conquest story through the eyes of rabbits. I also thought that it was really interesting that he wanted to make sure that aside from having intelligent thoughts and conversations, the author really wanted to make sure that his rabbits actually acted like rabbits and so he goes into a little bit of the research that he did in order to do so.

Overall, this is an incredibly inventive story and it's easy to see how books like this one have stood the test of time!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Title: How to Find Love in a Bookshop
Author: Veronica Henry 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Orion
Publish Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish."

My Two Cents:

"How to Find Love in a Bookshop" is a multi-layered story that centers on a bookstore in a small English town. First we have the story of Julian and Rebecca and it is a whirlwind romance that took my breath away. Then there is the story of Julian's daughter, Emilia, who inherits the bookstore when her beloved father passes away and she isn't sure that she will be able to do everything that she needs to do in order to keep the bookstore afloat. This book is the perfect book for when your heart needs a little squeeze.

I love the characters in this book! The romance between Julian and Rebecca is so amazing and so passionate! I loved seeing how Emilia deals with trying to make a new life for herself when so much of who she is and what she does seems to have been tied up with her father who did everything he could for her. Then you have all of the secondary characters like Sarah, who is trying to put things together for herself after a lot of friction.

There is something magical about books set in and around bookstores. Sure, being a reader, I love a good bookstore and Nightingale Books seems just like the kind of place that I would like to while away communing among the books. While much of the action is driven by the characters, the bookstore and the descriptions of what it's like factor heavily into this book. The bookstore almost felt like another character in the book. This book is definitely geared for those that believe in the magic of bookstores!


Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night

Title: The Crowns of Croswald
Author: D.E. Night
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Stories Untold Press
Publish Date: July 21, 2017
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever."

My Two Cents:

"The Crowns of Croswald" is the story of Ivy, a girl who is adrift until she gets the chance to go to a school where she will learn to use the magic that has been there all along. Geared for middle grade readers, this book has a lot of fantasy and magic to excite younger readers.

This book was a slow start for me. We first meet Ivy before she has gone to school when she dreams big dreams. It's not until about halfway through the book that the action really begins to pick up and Ivy begins to interact more with the others at school and begins to uncover the secrets of what her life will eventually be like.

There is some good world building in this book, which I liked and believe will appeal to middle grade readers. From the magic to the names of some of the characters in this book, this book has a very Harry Potter feel to it.

The writing of the book was a little stiff in some places but this was uneven. There would be some passages that had a lot of flow to them and others where every thought and action was told rather than showed.

Overall, I think the fantasy was good but could have flowed more. I am interested to see where Ivy's story goes!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 Reading Challenges - July Check In

Here's where I am with my reading challenges! 
Here is the original post about all of the reading challenges I'm taking on. The date listed after each book is the date I completed the book. 

PopSugar Monthly Challenge

  • January (A book with one of the four seasons in the title ): Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (1/25)
  • February (A book by a person of color): Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang (2/15) 
  • March: A book about an interesting woman: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (3/25) 
  • April (A book with an unreliable narrator): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/6)
  • May (A novel set during wartime ): The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan (5/6)
  • June (A book involving travel): News of the World by Paulette Jiles (6/18)
  • July: A book set in two different time periods : The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor (7/27) 

 PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Basic

  •  A book recommended by a librarian: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (1/19)
  • A book you loved as a child: Matilda by Roald Dahl (1/12)
  • A book with a subtitle: Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge  by Helen Rappaport (2/3)
  • A book that's published in 2017: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (2/5)
  • A book with a red spine: Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan (2/8)
  • A book of letters: 100 Love Notes by Hyong Yi (2/13) 
  • A book about food: A Square Meal by Jane Ziegelman, Andrew Coe (2/27)
  • A book written by someone you admire: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (3/1) 
  • A book by an author from a country you've never visited: Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez (3/5)
  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (3/5) 
  • A novel set during wartime:The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff (3/10) 
  • A book set in two different time periods: A Bridge Across the Ocean bySusan Meissner (3/12)
  • A book with a cat on the cover: A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy (3/14)
  • A book by or about a person who has a disability: The Secret Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach (3/14)
  • A book about an interesting woman: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (3/22)
  • A book with pictures: Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (3/28)
  • A book by a person of color: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (3/31)
  • A book with a title that's a character's name: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith (4/1)
  • A book from a nonhuman perspective: Watership Down by Richard Adams (4/13)
  • A book involving travel: The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis (4/19)
  • A book set in the wilderness: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Advanced 

  • A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquadt (1/23)
  • A book about a difficult topic: Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen (3/2) 
  • A book with an eccentric character: Eggshells by Catriona Lally (3/14)  
  • An audiobook: Identical by Ellen Hopkins (5/1)
  • A book recommended by an author you love: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (6/28) 
  • A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of: Perilous Undertaking by Leanna Renee Hieber (7/12) 

Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge

  • Read a debut novel: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (1/6)
  • Read an all ages comic: Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine (1/14)
  • Read a book you've read before: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1/19)
  • Read a book about war: Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese (1/29)
  • Read a fantasy novel.: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (1/31)
  • Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams 2/9)
  • Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (3/11)
  • Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (3/23) 
  • Read a book about books: A World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan (3/26) 
  • Read a book published by a micropress: Concepcion and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman (4/6)
  • Read a travel memoir: Schadenfreude by Rebecca Schuman (4/18)
  • Read a book published between 1900 and 1950: I Change Worlds by Anna Louise Strong
  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  • Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan (5/5)
  •  Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.: Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda (5/12) 
  • Read a book about sports: Moneyball by Michael Lewis (6/6)

Curious Iguana's Read Broader
  • Peek into the Past: Putin Country by Anne Garrels (1/7)
  • Justice for All: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2/1)
  • Justice for All: Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf (2/6)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Chosen Maiden (3/5) 
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): One Child by Mei Fong
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Armchair Adventures: Kindred by Octavia Butler (5/7)
  • Global Voices: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (6/1) 
  • Small Press Works in Translation: Before the Feast by Sara Stanisic (6/5)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Peek Into the Past): Bears in the Streets by Lisa Dickey (6/15) 
  • Armchair Adventures: Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (7/1) 
  • Collections Near and Far: Whatever happened to interracial love? By Kathleen Collins (7/22)
  • Peek into the Past: The Black Calhouns by Gail Lumet Buckley (7/23)
  • Global Voices: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (7/24)
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (7/25)
  • Collections Near and Far: Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (7/26) 

Challenge Totals:
  • January: 10 books
  • February: 9 books
  • March: 19 books 
  • April: 11 books
  • May: 5 books
  • June: 6 books 
  • July: 8 books 
How did it go this month?

I had a little bit of an uptick this month. I'm hoping to finish at least a challenge or two this month!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Dear Hamilton Cover Reveal and Giveaway!!!


From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

We’re celebrating Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s Birthday today and you get the gift! Don’t miss the beautiful cover below and a special giveaway, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy today!


About My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton (Coming 4.3.2018):

Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest to Form a More Perfect Union

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife...

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…


Pre-Order on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GooglePlay | iBooks | Kobo


To celebrate Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s Birthday today, we have a surprise for you! Share the cover of MY DEAR HAMILTON and fill out the Rafflecopter below to receive an Exclusive Excerpt!

    New York Times bestselling author, Stephanie Dray is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.      

Stephanie’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

  New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kaye. Her New York Times bestselling debut historical novel, America's First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.    

Laura’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter Sign-Up


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes

Title: The Sworn Virgin
Author: Kristopher Dukes
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 8, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When 18-year-old Diana’s father is mysteriously shot dead in the cobblestone streets of 1910s Albania, Diana must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Mirlinda.

Nearing starvation, Mirlinda secretly sells Diana into marriage with Edi, the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Rather than lose her freedom, Diana swears to remain a virgin for the rest of her life, a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household, can work for a living and carry a gun. She may participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow.

When an ill stranger stumbles into her life, she nurses him back to health, saving his life but risking her own when she falls in love with him. . ."

My Two Cents:

"The Sworn Virgin" is the story of Eleanora, a woman who chooses to live as a "sworn virgin," a tradition that will allow her to basically be the master of her own destiny and be in control of her own life as long as she keeps to her promise. But promises are hard to keep and love may find her whether she wants it to or not.

I was very interested in the custom of "sworn virgins" in Albania. It is a concept that I had never heard of before. It's so interesting to me to learn about new customs like this through books. "Sworn Virgins" could carry guns (something that gets our heroine into a lot of trouble in the book). They could wear men's clothing and could work the way that men are allowed to. I really liked all of the detail that the author packed into this book about the custom.

While the story and historical context was interesting, the writing felt a little stiff in some places. There would be passages that would flow very nicely and then others that seemed to get mired into telling rather than showing. Eleanora is a strong character and I liked that but a lot of her strength is explained rather than shown, which did take me out of the book a little.

Overall, this was a fascinating subject that I would love to read more about!


Monday, August 7, 2017

HF Book Tours: Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Title: Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale
Author:  Ruth Hull Chatlien
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Amika Press
Publish Date: June 14, 2017
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Southern Minnesota, August 1862. Smoke fills the horizon and blood soaks the prairie as the Sioux fight to drive white settlers from their ancestral homeland. Sarah Wakefield and her young son and baby daughter are fleeing for their lives when two warriors capture them. One is Hapa, who intends to murder them. The other is Chaska, an old acquaintance who promises to protect the family. Chaska shelters them in his mother’s tepee, but with emotions running so high among both Indians and whites, the danger only intensifies. As she struggles to protect herself and those she loves, Sarah is forced to choose between doing what others expect of her and following her own deep beliefs."

My Two Cents:

 "Blood Moon" is the story of Sarah, a woman who had a very tough early life and was thrown out of the house for not sins of her own but the sins of her stepfather. When she marries a doctor after being abandoned by her family, she finally thinks that the rough part of her life is over. On the frontier of Minnesota, there is still danger all around as Sarah and her children are taken by warring Native American tribes. Sarah will once again have to use her mental toughness to survive and to help her children survive.

The characters in this book are all well drawn and fascinating. Our main character, Sarah is especially interesting. While other white captives seem to fight the Native Americans every step of the way, Sarah strongly believes that showing kindness and respect to her captors is the way to ensure her life and the lives of her children are not taken. This will not make her many friends among the other white captives who begin to see Sarah as a traitor who actually cares for the Sioux that have taken them. I found the juxtaposition between how Sarah treats her captors (and how they treat her back) and how the other captives act (and how the Sioux treat them) absolutely fascinating. Yes, this book is about the Sioux wars of the mid-1800s but it also has a more universal message, which I really enjoyed.

I will admit that I didn't know much about this time period and the events in the book. I really liked how much historical detail the author packed into the book. I loved reading about the home life of the settlers as well as the Native Americans. The author does a great job of bringing both the characters that fill this book as well as the vast settings to life. This is a good book that brought me to a new time and place!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review and Guest Post: The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath

Title: The Woman in the Shadows
Author:  Carol McGrath 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Accent Press
Publish Date: August 4, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realises she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband… 

Security – and happiness – comes when Elizabeth is introduced to kindly, ambitious merchant turned lawyer, Thomas Cromwell. Their marriage is one based on mutual love and respect…but it isn’t always easy being the wife of an influential, headstrong man in Henry VIII’s London. The city is filled with ruthless people and strange delights – and Elizabeth realises she must adjust to the life she has chosen…or risk losing everything."

My Two Cents:

"The Woman in the Shadows" is the story of Elizabeth, the wealthy daughter of a cloth merchant who is determined to be the master of her own success in a time where it was unseemly to do so. Married and widowed at a young age, Elizabeth is actually hopeful that her widowhood will give her more flexibility to pursue her own passions. And then she meets Thomas Cromwell (yes, that one) and her life will change as her life suddenly revolves around what is going on at court.

I know that I've said this but I'll say it again: I love how history books and historical fiction (perhaps more so historical fiction) gives us the ability to see historical figures in a different way. Our history books are mostly limited to a few facets of a single person. Thomas Cromwell is definitely one of those people where there seems to be the same focus on him in many different places so it was interesting to see him as a spouse to Elizabeth and a parent to children, facets not often focused on since Cromwell and what he did in his life seems so tied to Henry VIII.

And Elizabeth herself is such a fascinating character. We get to know her well before she meets Cromwell. Her first marriage is one of convenience. Her husband is kind to her but is using her to protect himself from the scrutiny of having a male lover. They respect each other but it is by no means a love match. Even after her husband's death, Elizabeth cannot fully escape his shadow, a thread that plays over and over again in surprising ways throughout the book.

I loved seeing a different point of view of Cromwell and this book shows that there still may be stories yet to uncover about the Tudors. It exemplifies why the Tudors and those on the periphery of their court continue to inspire curiosity about uncovering more about them!

Author Guest Post:

The Inspiration for ‘The Woman in the Shadows’.
My new novel The Woman in the Shadows is released on August 4th. It is about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife to Henry VIII’s infamous statesman, Thomas. Why on earth would I write a novel about this unknown Tudor woman? I must admit I hesitated. Anything written about Thomas Cromwell in the realms of Historical Fiction could risk a serious danger, that of living in the shadows of Hilary Mantel’s eloquent prize winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Yet when I thought about it, I saw an opportunity to take a glance at Thomas Cromwell’s early career and domestic life through the eyes of his wife. I had written in detail about realism and romanticism in Wolf Hall in a Creative Writing MPhil thesis and therefore knew Mantel’s territory well. I also read History at University. The narrative thrust of Mantel’s book concerns Cromwell’s involvement with the King’s Great Matter. I was more curious about how he arrived at this point and what Elizabeth thought about her ambitious husband. What was marriage like to such a man? Who might Elizabeth have been? What was it like to live in early Tudor London? What might Elizabeth have thought about Catherine of Aragon? I wanted to give Elizabeth a plausible life and so, since her father was a cloth merchant, I suspected that her first husband’s family might have had this involvement too. After all, Tudor marriages, especially a first marriage, was a marriage between families.
Elizabeth was a shadowy character to research. Only her birth, death and marriages are recorded history and the fact that her previous husband was a Yeoman in the King’s Guard. She was apparently a comfortably off young widow. Thomas Cromwell worked as a merchant and was a self-taught lawyer. He was involved in legal transactions for The Merchant Adventurers. Both families came from Putney, and both had some involvement in cloth. His father was not just a Blacksmith: he was a brewer, owned land, grazed sheep, had been a JP and he owned a fulling mill where cloth was cleaned before the dyeing process. Elizabeth had no children by her first marriage, so I speculate about her first marriage. I am, after all, writing Historical Fiction.
By 1520 she had three children with Thomas Cromwell.
I was curious about their domestic life. I invent Elizabeth’s early widow-hood, her desire to have her independence through running her own cloth business, her father’s determination to see her remarried and her meeting with Thomas. I believe most of what I have written to be plausible but do not claim it as ‘the’ truth. It is a ‘truth’.  Widows could run their own businesses and have apprentices. I suggest that her second marriage is one of mutual respect and possibly a romantic match. There is evidence that charming, sociable Thomas Cromwell was no more ruthless any other upwardly mobile Tudor in this early period of his career. Connections mattered especially for a young man with intelligence, ambition and personality. Thomas Cromwell owned all of these qualities. It was through his own family connections that he came to work as steward of York Place circa 1516, one of Cardinal Wolsey’s residences. It was not through any ruthless move. Thomas Cromwell owned a phenomenal memory, was a man of new learning, humanism, and spoke Italian and French fluently. He was curious early on about Church Reform. He, like, Wolsey came from a modest background.
I was also interested in investigating the world of the early Tudor merchant class, women in trade, and domestic life.
At this time, England was competing with Flanders for trade in fabrics. Elizabeth, as I write her story, wanted to sell cloth abroad. She was purchasing and selling new fabric mixes with exotic names such as bombazine, as it was one way she could stand out as a female trader. Other aspects of the fabrics trade that interested me were The Sumptuary Laws of the period and how these could be circumnavigated. The merchant class liked to ape the nobility and the nobility wanted to keep them in their place. Laws about what people could wear were reinvented throughout the Tudor period to discern between the classes! I use this within the story line. Even so, Thomas dressed modestly throughout his life. Yet, the inventory of Austin Friars indicates they both loved jewels, beautiful fabrics and tapestries and, interestingly, clothing so maybe he wore other than sombre colours and rich fabrics privately. We know not!
I enjoyed imagining the Cromwells’ domestic life as they moved from her modest Wood Street house after they were married to Fenchurch Street, and finally to Austin Friars a lovely Tudor home beside the ‘good’ address of Austen Friary. It was an upper middle class neighbourhood. There, they lived beside wealthy Italian merchants, minor nobility and later, Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador. I was fascinated by the everyday detail of early sixteenth century home life, especially child-rearing, girls’ education, servants, cooking, furniture and clothing. I loved how the year was marked by the ritual of festivals and saints’ days, that London was smelly, dangerous and thrilling full of cut-throats and ambition and thrilling and colourful. I incorporated all of this into the fabric of the novel to recreate the Cromwells’ world.
Austin Friars features at strategic points throughout the novel as Elizabeth’s story is revealed. On a Midsummer’s Day in 1526, Elizabeth moves from room to room and from these points of reference the readers are transported back into Elizabeth’s life, her life with her first husband, her life with Thomas, her mistakes and her high points, her hopes and sorrows, always with political events shading the background. I chose this particular date because I wanted to end the book on a high note before her death and before Thomas gets swept into Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from power and into Thomas Cromwell’s life at court. He is just on the cusp of entry into the King’s service.
Finally, where I found facts I kept to these and hopefully have been successful in doing what novelists do best- put the flesh on the bones of history, because the historical novelist is in the position of balancing an aesthetically distant past and an engagement with the present. Fiction is a way of knowing about the past, a meditation on history rather than an entirely accurate retelling of historical truth. I hope that if you read The Woman in the Shadows you enjoy it and feel that you have had a glimpse into Elizabeth’s world.

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