Thursday, January 31, 2013

Booking Through Thursday

This week's question is: Do you lend your books? Are any out on loan right now? Do you have any that have been loaned to you? Do you put a time limit on these? Do you think people should make an effort to read the loaned book quickly?

I do lend my books but I can be a little picky about who I lend books to. Above all, I just want to make sure that my book is returned to me in good condition. I do re-read books so I definitely want to make sure that I get the book back if it's a book I really like. I don't put a time limit on my loans (my sister has had one of my books now for over a year now); I'm just happy when people enjoy the books that I let them borrow. While I don't put time limits on the books that I loan out, if I am lent a book, I will try to read it as quickly as possible!

What say you?

Join in the fun here!

Review: Scarlette by Davonna Juroe

Title: Scarlette
Author: Davonna Juroe
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Bumble B Media, Inc.
Publish Date: October 12, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a YA fiction fan.
  • You're a paranormal fan.
  • You like  fairy tale retellings.
What's the Story?:

From "What if Little Red Riding Hood was real?

Ninety years before the Brothers Grimm penned their version of Little Red Riding Hood, a historic, gruesome series of events shocked all of Europe. In 1765, an unidentified wolf-like animal ferociously mauled dozens of peasants in the GĂ©vaudan region of France.

Whispered rumors of unnatural creatures blended with age-old superstition, causing mass hysteria, and a werewolf was blamed for the carnage. Alarmed, King Louis XV sent his best huntsmen to rid the province of the beastly scourge, but this legendary massacre had only just begun.

Scarlette, an 18-year-old peasant, lives under this dark threat, knowing the nightmarish monster lurks in the surrounding forest. A poor seamstress, she labors to make ends meet and is skeptical of supernatural gossip.

Until her grandmother survives an attack.

Scarlette learns her grandmother is infected by the bite of the animal. Desperate to save her, Scarlette begins to uncover the dark secrets of her village and finds there are those who wish to keep their pasts hidden. As time grows short, Scarlette is befriended by a local nobleman and a woodcutter who share an eerie history with the wolf.

To save her grandmother, Scarlette must unravel the mens' connection and solve a long-forgotten crime. But as she pieces together the clues, Scarlette finds herself torn between the two men, both of whom desire more than friendship and together hold the key to the cure."

My Two Cents:

I really love retellings of fairy tales so on that alone, I was very excited and anxious to read this book. "Scarlette" is a sort of retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. This isn't a cheery story but Little Red Riding Hood was not a cheery story. Wolves eating sweet little grandmothers, dressing up as said sweet little grandmothers, and then trying to eat little girls? Yeah, that's definitely a little scary. Ms. Juroe weaves the Grimm's fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood with a really imaginative story to come up with a thoroughly winning combination.

If you've ever read any of the Grimm's fairy tales, you know that many of them are a bit creepy and this book is definitely in that vein of fairy tales and I absolutely loved it! I really loved the main character of Scarlette. She starts out being scared but is so compelled to find out what happened to her grandmother, really the only caring person that she has in her life that she puts her fear aside to try to find out if her grandmother's disappearance has anything to do with the wolf (or is it werewolf???) attacks that are happening in her small French village. I love when characters come into their own throughout a story and this is most definitely the case with Scarlette. I also love her "voice" in the book. She's a very logical thinker and even though she is scared and most definitely makes some mistakes, in the end, it's her wit that sees her through. Scarlette is definitely a well written character who I loved following in this story!

I was left with some questions after the book ended that I wish had been answered. I still didn't understand why Scarlette's mother was so terrible. It's hinted at but never fully explained. Since her horribleness becomes a big part of the story, I wanted to understand more. Also, I wanted to know more about why the werewolves were attacking the town. Is it just because they were werewolves? I also wanted to know more about their background as well.

Overall, this is a good retelling with a great main character!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Mariano's Crossing by David M. Jessup

Title: Mariano's Crossing
Author: David M. Jessup
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Pronghorn Press
Publish Date: November 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publicist; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "Based on real characters and the mysteries connected with historic events, Mariano’s Crossing is a mesmerizing tale of people struggling to find their places in the rapidly changing landscape of post-gold rush Colorado. Mariano Medina, a former scout with Kit Carson, has become the richest man on Colorado’s Big Thompson River. But his success provokes resentment among the new settlers. To bolster respect for his family, Medina decides to send his daughter, Lena, to an expensive boarding school. But his Indian wife, Takansy, has other ideas. She wants Lena to pursue her skills with horses, her “spirit path.” As their conflict grows, young John Alexander, son of a domineering, hardscrabble sawmill owner, tries to persuade Lena to run away with him to start a new life. Their tug of war soon spirals out of control as secrets past and present propel them toward their final, haunting encounter."

My Two Cents:

I was initially drawn to Mariano's Crossing because it's historical fiction (you all know how much I love historical fiction) and two, it takes place in Colorado. I was born in Colorado and I have a lot of family in Colorado to this day. Colorado has a very rich history with a lot of big personalities like Kit Carson. Mariano Medina, who was one of Carson's scouts, is at the center of this book. He was a real person but I had never heard his name before. I love reading about the lesser known stories in our history so this was very interesting to me.

I really enjoyed this book. Mariano, a man of Mexican descent, and his wife, who is of Native American descent, have an incredibly hard time finding their place in the 1860s world where mixed race marriages were not common and were sort of frowned upon. Whereas Mariano had a high ranking place when he was with the likes of Kit Carson, trying to make an everyday living with his family is proving harder than any expedition he had been on. I really liked the sort of fish-out-of-water aspect of this book. The whole family really struggles to find their place.

I also really liked the story between Lena, Mariano's daughter, and John Alexander, the son of another shopkeeper in town. They come from two different worlds but neither of them really seems to see that even when both of their families seem to want to stop at nothing to keep them apart. This book is definitely character-driven more so than anything else. Jessup does a really good job of giving the reader some insight into all of the different characters.

Bottom line: A great character driven historical fiction!


Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Here's the book that I'm anxious for this week:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Cherokee Talisman by David-Michael Harding

Title: Cherokee Talisman
Author: David-Michael Harding
Format: Paperback
Publisher: QCY Books
Publish Date: November 15, 2012
Source: I received a copy from PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You don't mind tough subjects.
What's the Story?:

From "They were blood-thirsty savages - superstitious, dirty animals. They were thieves and killers who burned houses to the ground and kidnapped women and children.

They were protectors of a Nation – guerrilla fighters serving their country. They were husbands and fathers who built homes in lush valleys for their families.

They were – the same men.

In 1775 perspective came with the color of your skin.

An orphan boy, Totsuhwa, is taken under the wing of legendary Cherokee war chief Tsi’yugunsini, the Dragon. But even under a dragon’s wing isn’t safe when a covetous nation forms around them.

Amid the battles, Totsuhwa fights the reoccurring pain of loss until he meets Galegi, who becomes his wife. Trying to raise their son in a peace the new world won’t allow, they teach him the strictest Cherokee traditions while white assimilation, encroachment, and treachery grows. General Andrew Jackson wages war against tribes across the southeast and the toll is high. With his people gradually losing everything, Totsuhwa must find a way to save his family — and the Cherokee nation — before all is lost."

My Two Cents:

Cherokee Talisman follows the story of a Cherokee family headed by Totsuhwa, a man who is educated by some of the greatest leaders of the Cherokee tribe. Later on in the book, it also follows his son, Chancellor, who grows up in a much different and much more dangerous world than his father. This book is the first book in a planned series. The end of the book gives you a taste of what is to come in the next book. It definitely made me want to read on!

The story of the Cherokees in the United States is a very sad one. It is hard for me to think about their story without thinking about the infamous and sad Trail of Tears and the brutality under President Andrew Jackson. It was a very dark time in American history and a time that is still incredibly difficult to think about even today so many years later. Cherokee Talisman explores Cherokee life in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. Even though this was before the Trail of Tears, there was still a lot of issues and extreme tension between the white settlers who were trying to expand the country of the United States west and the Native Americans who had lived in the western parts of the country for much longer. It was eye-opening to be reminded of how long Native American tribes like the Cherokees faced and fought adversity at the hands of the government and the settlers.

Some parts of the book were very hard to read just because there was a lot of brutality but it seems to be a very realistic story about what happened during this period of time and reality is not always that pleasant. The things that happened to Totsuhwa's wife were truly heartbreaking. Although this book is fiction, it is a very important read about things that are still not discussed much in the history of our country.

Overall, this is a good and important historical fiction read.


First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

My intro today comes from Indiscretion by Charles Dubow.

"Eleven in the morning. The backyards of houses rumble by. Here and there an above ground pool, discarded patio furniture, rusting bicycles. Barking dogs tied with ropes. Dry lawns. The sky is a pale blue, the heat of early summer just beginning to unfurl itself. Every fifteen minutes or so the train stops. More people get on than off."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Eternal by H.G. Nadel

Title: Eternal
Author: H.G. Nadel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourced Media Books
Publish Date: January 2, 2013
Source: I received a copy from PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a YA fiction fan.
  • You're a paranormal fan.
What's the Story?:

From "A love story that spans across continents and centuries.

Julia Jones is an eighteen-year-old science prodigy with a big secret. After landing a prestigious internship with brilliant but eccentric Dr. Caleb Bertel, she is finally ready to move on from her mother's death. But after Julia revives Dr. Bertel from a near-fatal electrocution, strange things start to

Without warning, Dr. Bertel disappears. Then Julia receives threatening notes on her car, and someone has her followed. The young police officer assigned to the case, Austin Moore, believes the events are connected and asks her to help him solve the mystery of Bertel's disappearance. Instantly
attracted to him, Julia agrees. Still, she knows that she has seen Austin somewhere before, if only she could put her finger on it.

Will Julia uncover the mystery of Bertel's disappearance before it's too late, and does she dare trust Austin with her heart?"

My Two Cents:

"Eternal" is the kind of story that you sink down into and read in only a handful of sittings. This book is compulsively readable. It's fairly fast paced and has some interesting twists and turns that definitely kept me on my toes!

This book is a sort of retelling, sort of continuation of the story of the love affair of the French priest, Pierre Abelard and his love affair with the beautiful Heloise, who was a science prodigy in her own right. We don't get to find out much more about Pierre and Heloise other than they find themselves in forbidden love. I'm not sure that this story is one that young adult readers would know much about and I think it would have been really helpful to know more about the love story and why it was forbidden in order to show that in the present day story in this book that Austin and Julia don't just fall into the sort of insta-love that seems to be prevalent in a lot of young adult books. It also would have filled in some of the holes in this story, I think.

I really liked the character of Julia. I think a lot of times, female characters in love stories, especially younger female characters can suffer from "damsel in distress" syndrome where they need to be saved by some big, strong guy character. Julia at least tries to save herself because she doesn't seem to want to be a bother to anyone else. I appreciated that about her. I also appreciated that she is a genuinely smart person. I think she would be a great role model for young adult readers. She is a science prodigy and definitely enjoys and is not shy about being really smart, which is also very cool for a young adult character.

I really enjoyed all twists and turns in the book.

Bottom line: a pretty good book with a strong female lead!


Mailbox Monday!

Okay, I'm trying to get back into doing some weekly memes. I've sort of been out of the game for awhile. Here's what I got in my mailbox last week:

Did you get anything good in your mailbox this week?

Don't forget to check out the giveaways I have going on right now:

Win an ebook copy of Kiss of the Butterfly (2 chances to win)!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Archetypes: Who Are You? by Caroline Myss

Title: Archetypes: Who Are You?
Author: Caroline Myss
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Hay House
Publish Date: January 8, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're interested in self-help books.
What's the Story?:

From " Have you ever wondered why you are drawn to certain people, ideas, or products and turned off by others? Are you constantly searching for something you can’t put your finger on, or wondering whether you are living a life that truly fits?

 In Archetypes, New York Times best-selling author Caroline Myss delves into the world of archetypes, which have been the subject of her work for more than 25 years. Archetypes are universal patterns of behavior that, once discovered, help you better understand yourself and your place in the world. In short, knowing your archetypes can transform your life.

Within the pages of this book, Myss writes about ten primary archetypes that have emerged in today’s society: the Caregiver, the Artist/Creative, the Fashionista, the Intellectual, the Rebel, the Queen/Executive, the Advocate, the Visionary, the Athlete, and the Spiritual Seeker. In each chapter, she explains one individual archetype, showing how it has evolved and then in fascinating detail lays out the unique characteristics, the defining graces, the life challenges, and other information to help you understand if you are part of this archetype family and if so, how you can fully tap into its power. She also offers tips and practical advice on how to fully engage with your archetypes.

Learning which archetypes best describe you is just the beginning. You can then use this knowledge to make more conscious decisions about everything from careers to relationships, avoiding common pitfalls of your personality type while playing up your strengths. The result is a happier, more authentic you. It’s never too late to change your life by embracing your archetypes to the fullest.

So are you a Rebel? An Artist? A Visionary? Join us . . . and find yourself."

My Two Cents:

"Archetypes: Who are you?" is an interesting look at various archetype, or sort of types of people that there are in the world. Myss' premise is that by understanding what archetype you are, you can unlock some more of your potential. This book looks at 10 archetypes and interestingly enough, this book is only focused on women and archetypes for women. This is not mentioned in the book blurb on the flap of the book. Luckily, I'm a woman and therefore, I got something out of this book but if you're a guy, this is probably not the book for you and I would definitely consider looking at a different book about archetypes (there are many out there) that is more geared for either men or all people (I think looking at one for all people would be very helpful personally). It did kind of rub me the wrong way that the book was focused on just women, mostly because I don't really see why there has to be different books for men and women.

This book did give me a little bit of a new way to look at myself though. I fit into several of archetypes (caretaker and intellectual) mostly. The book is broken out by archetype and goes into specifics about such things as the pros and cons of each archetype as well as things that each person should be cognizant of. For instance, for the intellectual archetype, it is important to be aware of the fact that even though intellectuals are usually well read, they are also often guilty of shutting themselves out to opinions that they see as less educated than the ones that they hold. If I am being completely honest, that is most definitely something that I am guilty of; especially when it comes to subjects that I feel like I know a lot about. This book did make me a little more aware of the fact that I need to try a little harder when it comes to having a totally open mind.

I think this book was fairly good overall. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

HF Virtual Book Tours Guest Post and Giveaway: Tinney S. Heath

Today, I am very pleased to have Tinney S. Heath, author of A Thing Done here to A Bookish Affair. Thanks for stopping by, Tinney!

Lately I've been thinking about dialogue in historical fiction.

Should our characters speak in archaic language, to suggest the times they live in, or should we “translate” their words into language they might be using today? Do we risk being incomprehensible and sounding artificial, or do we take a chance on jarring our readers out of the story by sounding too modern, which is, after all, another kind of artificiality?

I suspect most writers find their comfort zone somewhere between the two extremes. Different readers, too, will have their different preferences. What draws one reader in will put another reader off.

An English-speaking author will approach dialogue differently if writing about English-speaking people in World War II (where the language can be accurately reconstructed) than if writing about earlier or non-English-speaking societies, where it probably can't, at least not with the cadences, subtleties, and nuances of actual spoken language. Even written language, where we have it to refer to, generally does not reflect the way language was spoken.

I write about medieval Italy, so I'm automatically translating. Using the actual language my characters spoke is not an option. I tend to favor a more contemporary style (think Marcus Didius Falco, the breezy and street-smart detective in Lindsey Davis's wonderful series of mysteries set in imperial Rome), especially when my characters are talking in an informal situation.

I'll raise the formality to a higher level if a noble-born character is making a speech to a gathering of other nobles, and I'll take it right back down to contemporary casual (but not modern slang) if it's performers, servants, or lowlifes talking among themselves. A highborn character talking to a lowborn character? That will depend on his or her personality, and the situation.

For many years I belonged to a medieval reenactment society. Although we weren't known for overmuch emphasis on authenticity – imagine Vikings dancing English country dances with Italian Renaissance ladies, usually under a basketball hoop in a gym somewhere - people did like to do what we called “speaking forsoothly.”

For example, a medieval lady in an elaborate (but machine-washable) houppelande approaches a merchant in tunic and breeches. He has his merchandise set up on a folding table. She says, “Milord, I would right gladly purchase some of your wares, but alas, I have no more ducats [or shillings, or florins, or marks, or francs, depending on who she's pretending she is], for we didst stop on our way hither to procure viands from the Royal Purveyor of Forcemeat Patties. Canst accept recompense from Master Card instead?” He replies, “Aye, milady, and willingly. The good Master Card is always welcome here, as are Lady Visa and New World Express.”

It doesn't usually get quite that silly in novels, but it can come alarmingly close. And yet there are writers who employ hints of archaic language very effectively – a slight shift in word sequence, an old (but not impenetrable) word or phrase, a word pulled from a foreign language, its meaning clarified by context. And it can be wonderful. But the best of them do it a little, here and there, not in every sentence, every paragraph, every page. It's like writing dialect: a little goes a long way.

One of my pet peeves is the complete absence of contractions in a lot of historical fiction dialogue. It's as if our forebears hadn't been clever enough to figure out how to save themselves a few nanoseconds and elide their words. Yet if you study a medieval song text in the original language, or a poem, you're likely to find it bristling with apostrophes – elisions to make it scan, to make it sound the way people would have sung or said it. (This is one case where written language does provide us with valuable clues about spoken language, because both poetry and song are designed to be heard.)

I do think those of us who favor a more contemporary sound in dialogue need to weed out any blatantly anachronistic words or phrases. And I don't mean only current usages. In editing my book I realized I had used a phrase we usually think of as coined by Shakespeare (“the beast with two backs,” from Othello). I checked, and while a similar phrase does appear in Rabelais, that still only takes us back as far as 1532. It may sound archaic to a modern reader, but for my characters in 1216, it hasn't yet been said. It had to go.

And even though “trigger” does not necessarily imply a gun (you can trigger a trap, for example), I removed all mention of an event triggering a brawl, because to a modern reader a trigger suggests a gun, even if subconsciously. The thought of a gun will certainly jar someone out of a 13th century mindset.

Just as some authors get the first glimmer of their ideas in the form of mental pictures, my ideas come to me in their earliest form as snatches of dialogue. And the characters who speak to me in my head are speaking their dialogue the way I write it. To try to render it more “forsooth” would feel dishonest, and it would water down the impact of whatever those characters have told me as they struggle to come to life, in words that are both theirs and mine.

I'd like to thank Meg for hosting me on her great blog and giving me a chance to ruminate about dialogue in historical fiction.


I'm pleased to be able to give away a copy of A Thing Done. One lucky winner will win a copy of this great book (open to US only).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't Forget to Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, January 14
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Author Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 15
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, January 16
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Thursday, January 17
Review at The Book Garden

Friday, January 18
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria

Monday, January 21
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, January 22
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Judith Starkston’s Blog

Wednesday, January 23
Review & Giveaway at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, January 24
Review at A Bookish Affair

Friday, January 25
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair


Burns Night!

You may know that Robert Burns was a Scottish poet but did you know that he had his own holiday that is widely celebrated in Scotland? Every January 25th, people remember this great poet with a night of celebration called Burns Night! Now, I personally have never celebrated Burns Night but I love any event that celebrates a literary aspect. Besides, the celebration itself sounds pretty cool. While you may not find me trying haggis anytime soon, you may find me raising a glass of whiskey to this great poet!

My favorite Burns poem: 

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Fun Facts about Robert Burns:

- J.D. Salinger’s famous 1951 novel ‘Catcher in the Rye’ based its title from a poem by Robert Burns ‘Comin' Thro' the Rye’.
- Bob Dylan selected Burns' 1794 song 'A Red, Red Rose' when asked for the source of his greatest creative inspiration.

- John Steinbeck took the title of his 1937 novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ from a line contained in Burns' poem ‘To a Mouse’: ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley’.

- Auld Lang Syne, by Burns, is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as being one of the top three most popular songs in the English language. The other two are ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’.

- After Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus, Robert Burns has more statues dedicated to him around the world than any other non-religious figure.

- A miniature book of Robert Burns’ poetry was carried into orbit by astronaut Nick Patrick on a two week space mission in 2010, completing a 5.7 million mile trip and 217 orbits of the Earth.

- Robert Burns produced over 550 songs and poems. That averages at around 25 works for each year of his adult life (Burns passed away at 37).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

HF Tours Review: A Thing Done by Tinney S. Heath

Title: A Thing Done
Author: Tinney S. Heath
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Fireship Press
Publish Date: October 31, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "In 1216 the noble families of Florence hold great power, but they do not share it easily. Tensions simmer just below the surface. When a Jester's prank-for-hire sets off a brawl, those tensions erupt violently, dividing Florence into hostile factions. A marriage is brokered to make peace, but that fragile alliance crumbles under the pressure of a woman's interference, a scorned bride, and an outraged cry for revenge.

At the center of the conflict is Corrado, the Jester, whose prank began it and who is now pressed into unwilling service by both sides. It will take all his wit and ingenuity to keep himself alive, to protect those dear to him, and to prevent the unbridled ambitions of the nobles from destroying the city in a brutal civil war."

My Two Cents:

In the beginning of the 13th century, Florence was ruled by a couple of super powerful families who took their rivalries to a whole other level. Each family wants to be on top and the slightest issue can turn the balance of the city entirely on its head. The stakes are very high and it seems like just about any little thing could set either family off! "A Thing Done" explores in great historical detail what happens when these families fight over a slight by one onto the other. It is most definitely not a pretty picture.

What's so fascinating about this book is that instead of focusing on one of the members of these families, but instead, it is told from the perspective of a fool, a jester, who in the eyes of both families is simply expendable. I loved that it was Corrado, the fool, who told the story. You get a good sense of just how crazy everyone outside of the families thinks the families are. Corrado is thrown in the mix when he is asked to play a trick on one family over the other side of the family so he's right in the mix. I thought that it was fascinating to have this book told from the fool's perspective. He's looked down by both families but in the end, I think he ends up being smarter than many of the other people who play a part in this story.

I loved reading about Florence during this time period. It was really such a fascinating place with all of the different politics going on. This book probably takes place earlier than any other book that I have read about Florence before. Heath most definitely gives readers a lot of information to digest about the city. Sometimes the information and detail bogged down the story but on the whole, it was very good detail.

As a history lover, I also appreciated the extensive real history behind the story of "A Thing Done" in the back of the book. I am always interested about the historical details behind the historical fiction story and this section talks about a lot of different things in the book. It's really awesome stuff!

 Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, January 14
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Author Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 15
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, January 16
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Thursday, January 17
Review at The Book Garden

Friday, January 18
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria

Monday, January 21
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, January 22
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Judith Starkston’s Blog

Wednesday, January 23
Review & Giveaway at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, January 24
Review at A Bookish Affair

Friday, January 25
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: Water Will Find its Way by Bronagh Slevin

Title: Water Will Find its Way
Author: Bronagh Slevin
Format: Ebook (the author wanted me to mention that it comes in paperback too)
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: June 25, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You don't mind sad stories.
  • You love family stories.
What's the Story?:

From "Water Will Find its Way describes the journey of three generations of women to discover their origins, and their quests for fulfillment and belonging. Exploring the displacement of a mother and her two daughters in three different continents and over a time span of forty years, it tells of the importance of passing down cultural and ancestral heritage especially when personal and national annihilation are at stake."

My Two Cents:

First off, know that "Water Will Find its Way" will break your heart. It will break your heart a lot. Slevin writes in such a way that it is nearly impossible to not feel something for the characters in this book as they go through incredibly tough times and incredibly tough situations that I cannot imagine having to deal with myself. Although this book is very sad, it is also the story of triumphing over the odds when they are stacked against you tenfold.

I loved that this story is a multi-generational story. It follows three generations of Armenian women who all have gone through difficult things in their life. The main focus is on the grandmother of the family, Nairi, who leaves Armenia during the horrendous Armenian genocide in the first part of the 20th century in order to save herself. Because the story is multi-generational, you get to see how each generation deals with the family stories of their past, which is a very cool perspective.

I loved the settings in the book. The book takes place in Armenia, Argentina, and Spain. I have not read a lot of books at all about Armenia and very few if any books about Armenia so it was a real treat to get to read about these places. Slevin captures the desperation in Armenia during the genocide. She captures the harshness to newcomers in Argentina, where Nairi escapes to after leaving Armenia. You can picture these places and it really helps to flesh out the stories of the three women in this book.

I did wish the transitions between who was speaking were a little more clear. Some of the transitions were rather abrupt and made it hard to follow along with the story. It really took me out of the story a little bit.

Overall, this is a great, albeit, heartbreaking story that will appeal to historical fiction lovers and those that love multi-generational stories.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

HF Virtual Tour Review and Giveaway: The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan

Title: The Forgotten Queen
Author: D.L. Bogdan
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: January 29, 2013
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why Are You Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan
  • You love the Tudors!
What's the Story?:

From "From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. Her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But while Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And nothing can guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of loss she falls prey to an ambitious earl and brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal and secret alliances, Margaret has one aim—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost…"

My Two Cents:

Henry VIII is an imposing figure in history as well as being popular fodder for historical fiction books. Sure, many of us have read about Henry's brother, Arthur, as he was married to Katherine of Aragon before Henry married her. I don't think I've ever read a book about one of Henry's sisters though. This book is told from the perspective of Margaret Tudor, Henry's sister who goes to Scotland and becomes queen. Her life is not without drama though and I loved reading about her! I love the Tudors and I loved that I finally got a chance to see a new-to-me member of the Tudor family in this great book.

I really did like Margaret. She's likeable even when she is making really bad decisions, which she does quite a bit. Even though she goes to Scotland at a very young age, she still wants to keep the Tudor part of her alive, which I totally understand but she never realizes that in order to thrive in her new country, she has to forge a new personality and a new life for herself in Scotland. I found myself rooting for her to make different decisions regarding herself and her family.

Also, in this book, we get a glimpse of a younger Henry VIII, who still seems like sort of a miserable human being. He's a nasty child whose modus operandi when he doesn't get his way seemed to be to stomp his feet. He's a nasty brother when his sister comes to seek shelter in England after things go badly for her in Scotland. Because the book is written from Margaret's perspective, we get the intimate picture of Henry VIII from someone who knew him well, a sibling!

I did find myself wishing that there had been a clearer delineation of time throughout the book. At least in the ARC that I read, there wasn't a firm delineation of time, which made it sort of difficult to follow along with how much time had passed!

I really loved the writing of this book. This will have been the second Bogdan book that I have read and I continued to be thrilled with the great historical detail and Bogdan's way with words. You can tell that the author has a really good ear for conversations which translates perfectly to the page.

Don't Forget to Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, January 21
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Tuesday, January 22
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, January 23
Review at My Reading Room
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, January 24
Review at Unabridged Chick
Author Interview & Giveaway at My Reading Room
Friday, January 25
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria
Monday, January 28
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Review & Giveaway at The Broke and the Bookish

Tuesday, January 29
Review & Giveaway at Always with a Book
Review at Review From Here

Wednesday, January 30
Review & Giveaway at Ageless Pages Reviews
Author Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, January 31
Review at The True Book Addict

Friday, February 1
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Author Interview & Giveaway at The True Book Addict


One lucky winner will win a copy of The Forgotten Queen (open internationally).

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Giveaway Winners: Second Chance Grill and Treasure Me

I am pleased to announce the winners of the Second Chance Grill and Treasure Me winners.

The winner of the hard copies is:

The winner of the ebook copies is:

The winners have been sent emails and have 48 hours to respond.

Review and Giveaway: Kiss of the Butterfly by James Lyon

Title: Kiss of the Butterfly
Author: James Lyon
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: July 22, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like vampires that are actually scary (i.e. they don't sparkle)
What's the Story?:

From "'The smell of blood is in the air, I sense it even now. People thirst for it; the entire country is mad with desire for it. And now we are going to war with our brothers because they look like us, and because we can smell our blood coursing through their veins...' A mysterious letter starts a university student on a journey into the war-torn lands of rapidly disintegrating Yugoslavia. Naively trusting his enigmatic professor, the student unwittingly descends into a dystopian crucible of decay, destruction, passion, death, romance, lust, immorality, genocide, and forbidden knowledge promising immortality. As the journey grows ever more perilous, he realizes he must confront an ancient evil that has been once again loosed upon the earth: from medieval Bosnia to enlightenment-era Vienna, from the bright beaches of modern-day Southern California to the exotically dark cityscapes of Budapest and Belgrade, and horrors of Bosnia."

My Two Cents:

"Kiss of the Butterfly" is part mystery and part thriller. There is even a little bit of historical fiction in there my fellow historical fiction lovers (the book takes place in 1990s, the 18th, and 15th centuries). There are vampires but these most definitely are not your sparkly, brooding vampires (okay, they might be brooding but they're actually a little scary). Lyon weaves in Balkan folklore to bring the vampire myths to life. Guys, I really love books based on folktales. They are so interesting! It's so interesting to me to see how someone takes an old story and turns it into something really different and special. Before this book, I was really not familiar with the Balkan vampire folklore, other than Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a. the one and only Dracula) but let me tell you, it is completely fascinating! It's even harder to take historical events and weave them together with such a myth so that the events still seem completely real and plausible!

I love the setting of the book, especially the parts set in the 1990s. If you'll remember, the early 1990s were a really difficult time in the Balkan regions. There was total chaos because of the Bosnian War, which was in full swing. So many different countries were included. Lyon weaves in the horror of the vampires with these real life events in a really amazing way. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book!

Overall, I really enjoyed how the book was laid out. Sometimes the detail verged more into the telling rather than the showing, which made the first half of the book initially hard to get into. The upside of all of the detail is that you get a really good sense of the myths behind the story, which is very cool. There is a lot of explaining of the myth and the various locations. The book really picks up in second half with a lot more action and a total escalation of the action in the story. Once the book really gets going, it keeps going fast and furious until the final climax.

This book will definitely appeal to a lot of different kinds of readers. Thrillers are not usually my usual kind of reading but I found a lot to like about this book. I love the history so much!


I have two ebook copies of the book up for grabs (open internationally)!


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Giveaway: That Night on Thistle Lane

Today, I am very excited to be able to give away a copy of the book, "That Night on Thistle Lane" as well as a small soap package (US only).

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below:

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: That Night on Thistle Lane by Carla Neggers

Title: That Night on Thistle Lane
Author: Carla Neggers
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Publish Date: January 29, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You're a hopeless romantic.
  • You like sweet stories.
What's the Story?:

From "Librarian Phoebe O'Dunn deals in stories, but her passion for history has taught her that happy endings are rare. Her life in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts, is safe and uneventful...until she discovers the hidden room.

Among its secrets is a cache of vintage clothing, including a spectacular gown-perfect for a gala masquerade in Boston. In the guise of a princess, Phoebe is captivated by a handsome swashbuckler who's also adopted a more daring persona. Noah Kendrick's wealth has made him wary, especially of women: everybody wants something.

When Noah and Phoebe meet again in Knights Bridge, at first neither recognizes the other. And neither one is sure they can trust the magic of the night they shared-until an unexpected threat prompts them to unmask their truest selves.

After all, it takes more than just the right costume to live out your personal fairy tale. It takes heart...and the courage to be more than you ever dreamed."

My Two Cents:

This was my first time reading a Carla Neggers book. Neggers has put out a ton of books (mostly in the suspense/thriller and romance-type genres) but I had not read a single one before I got my hot little hands on "That Night on Thistle Lane"! I was happy to get the opportunity to read one of her books, especially this one because it has to do with a small town library (what bookish person among us doesn't like stories about libraries and more books)!

Although this book is the second book in a planned series, this book can very much be read as a standalone read. The first book focuses on a different storyline and has some of the same characters as "That Night on Thistle Lane" but you will not feel like you are missing anything if you jump right in and read this book.

"That Night on Thistle Lane" is sort of a Cinderella tale. A woman, Phoebe, who doesn't get out much discovers a dress in a secret room in a library where she works. She wears it to a masquerade. It's totally out of character for her to go to things like masquerades so she is able to go almost totally under the radar. She meets a handsome stranger who later ends up in her town. The story from there is a little bit predictable but this is definitely sort of a fun and light read for when you want to kick back and relax a little bit with a nice story.

This book is mostly a romance with a little bit of a mystery, although the mystery is very minor and is not really suspenseful at all. This book is definitely more for those who enjoy sweet and innocent romances.

My Favorite Library Contest:

The “My Favorite Library Contest” gives people a chance to win $1000 for their favorite library as well as a collection of Carla's books. All the details are on Carla Neggers' website: If your entry is selected (100 words or less telling me about your favorite library), you also receive books and a gift basket of some of Carla's favorite New England goodies. Libraries have meant so much to Carla and she's heard from countless readers over the years who feel the same. The contest runs until April 1 but please enter today!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Ten Days by Janet Gilsdorf

Title: Ten Days
Author: Janet Gilsdorf
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: October 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan
  • You don't mind tough subjects
What's the Story?:

From "In a riveting debut novel infused with uncommon insight, Janet Gilsdorf draws readers into an unforgettable story of love, heartache, family, and renewal.

After six years of marriage, Anna and Jake Campbell have settled into a routine of daily responsibility and familiar comforts. The demands of raising two small children—three-year-old Chris and baby Eddie—take a toll, especially combined with Jake’s schedule as an orthopedic surgeon. But together, cautious Anna and calm, optimistic Jake negotiate, sometimes gracefully, sometimes not so much, every obstacle that comes their way. Until the night Eddie gets sick.

When Anna phones Jake at work to seek advice, he reassures her that Eddie has just caught her cold. But with the morning light comes the terrible realization that her baby is seriously ill. Guilt-ridden, deeply angry, and shell-shocked, Anna spends bottomless hours alone in the ICU where Eddie teeters on between life and death. In the days that follow Eddie’s diagnosis, grief gives way to recrimination and accusations. Anna, focused only on her younger son, ignores Chris’s need for attention, while Jake is drawn to an old temptation. And the six steady years Anna and Jake have spent together—years of give and take, hope and hardship, inside jokes and shared memories—seem suddenly fragile and fleeting.

Ten Days is a beautifully written and compelling story of the simple, momentary choices that come to shape our lives, of love tested to the limit, and of the myriad small triumphs that can become our greatest joys."

My Two Cents: 

"Ten Days" is the story of every parent's worst nightmare (or not being a parent myself, what I would imagine every parent's worst nightmare is at least). Your kid is sick with some sort of unknown illness and you have no idea what to do for them. This is exactly what happens to Anna and Jake. To make matters worse, both of them seem to almost be at wit's end of their marriage and relationship with each other. It's really sad. One would think that a child's illness would bring them together but both of them seem to be so bent out of shape with each other that things only seem to get worse.

I understand that good marriages don't last forever all the time but I could not really understand why there seemed to be so much dislike and coldness between them. They alternately blame each other in passive aggressive ways during their child's illness. Is it because of something that happened in the past that we the readers aren't aware of? Did it just sort of happen without a reason? There is a litany things that it could be but we are not privy to what that something is. It definitely took away from the book a little bit for me. I think I would of connected with the characters better if I could understand what happened to their marriage.

I also really did not get the story line with the daycare provider. She has all of these health inspectors scrutinizing her because two kids at her daycare get meningitis yet they don't comment on the fact that she doesn't have hot running water or some of the other things that are going on in her house. It was just interesting.

The baby in the book is suffering from meningitis, a very scary disease. As this book was written by a pediatrician, there is a lot of good detail in the book about the disease and its origin and possible treatments.

Bottom line: An ok read about real-life medical issues.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Seven Locks by Christine Wade

Title: Seven Locks
Author: Christine Wade
Format: ARC
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: January 1, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "In the years before the American Revolution, a woman’s husband mysteriously disappears without a trace, abandoning her and her children on their farm at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. At first many believe that the farm wife, who has the reputation of being a scold, has driven her husband away. But as the strange circumstances of his disappearance circulate, a darker story begins to unfold, sending the lost man's wife on a desperate journey to find the means and self-reliance to ensure her family’s survival.

Inspired by a famous American folktale, Seven Locks is an ambitious and poignant exploration of family love, secrets, and misunderstandings, and of the inner and outer lives of the American frontier at the end of the eigtheenth century.

In this lyrical and complex book, which opens with a mystery and ends with a literary twist, Wade creates a rich, imaginative and tactile evocation of life and times in the historical Hudson River Valley, where the lines between myth and reality fade in the wilderness beyond the small towns, while an American nation struggles to emerge."

My Two Cents:

I am a little torn on "Seven Locks." First off, I really, really liked the writing. While the book itself deals with some pretty negative topics but the writing is almost lyrical. The writing is definitely what kept me reading. I also loved that this book was inspired by a folktale. Even if I was not familiar with the folktale, it was interesting to see how the author twisted the story to make it into something new again.

The story is told from the point of view of a mother (whose name we never get to know) and a daughter, Judith. I thought it was interesting that so few of the characters are named in the book. Really the only ones that have names are Judith, Judith's school teacher, and the neighbor. As for the rest of them, they are only referred to by things like husband, father, and son. I found myself wondering as I read the book if this was done intentionally and if so, to what purpose.

I had a really hard time connecting with the mother. She seems really mean and cruel, especially to her husband. I wondered if she hadn't gone through some past trauma or something to make her the way that she is but the book never really goes into that.

I really enjoyed the setting of the book. Most of it takes place in upstate New York in the late 1700s, which was a very interesting time for anyone in America of course. Judith's family is Dutch and it was interesting to see how Judith's mother still clings to the Dutch way of life while Judith says several times how excited she is to be an American Daughter. Historical fiction fans will definitely enjoy that aspect.

Bottom line: A solid read with a lot of questions left unanswered.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Review: The Little Russian by Susan Sherman

Title: The Little Russian
Author: Susan Sherman
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publish Date: January 15, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You don't mind difficult situations.

What's the Story?:

From "The Little Russian spotlights an exciting new and assured voice in historical fiction. The novel tells the story of Berta Alshonsky, who revels in childhood memories of her time spent with a wealthy family in Moscow, a life filled with salons, balls, and all the trappings of the Upper Class, very different from her current life as a grocer’s daughter in the Jewish townlet of Mosny. So when a mysterious and cultured wheat merchant walks into the grocery, Berta’s life is forever altered. She falls in love, unaware that he is a member of the Bund, The Jewish Worker’s League, smuggling arms to the shtetls to defend them against the pogroms sweeping the Little Russian countryside.

Married and established in the wheat center of Cherkast, Berta has recaptured the life she once had in Moscow. So when a smuggling operation goes awry and her husband must flee the country, Berta makes the vain and foolish choice to stay behind with her children and her finery. As Russia plunges into war, Berta eventually loses everything and must find a new way to sustain the lives and safety of her children. Filled with heart-stopping action, richly drawn characters, and a world seeped in war and violence; The Little Russian is poised to capture readers at every turn."

My Two Cents:

Since visiting Ukraine two summers ago (I went to visit a friend in the Peace Corps and on top of that, my ancestors were from there as well so my visit was really for two purposes), my affinity for reading about all things Ukrainian, Russian, and Soviet Union has really grown so I was excited to dig into this book merely because of the setting. What I found within the pages, was so much more than just a setting!

The setting itself was very intriguing. It really made me understand why my great, great grandparents left the country (interestingly enough, they probably would have been making their way to the U.S. via Canada when this book opens up). Ukraine was not the happiest place to be in the early 20th century. Sherman captures so much of the country. You can see the little stores in Mosny. You can see the fields. You feel like you're there!

Even though it took awhile, I really ended up liking the character of Berta. Berta kind of rubbed me the wrong way in the beginning. At a young age, she goes to live in glamorous Moscow with a rich family as sort of a companion for her cousin and pretty much thinks the world of herself when she comes back to her small town in Ukraine for what she thinks is just a visit back home. I didn't like how stuck up she was and how she wanted to try and pretend that she was from some place else. She marries a man who intrigues her with his mysteriousness, which proves to truly be a double edged sword, as he is engaged in some illegal activities. Fortunately (perhaps unfortunately) for Berta, she learns a little humility but only after she makes a dumb decision to stay behind in a war torn country with all of her worldly possessions (bright, she is not sometimes). But eventually she wises up and grows. I love, love, love when you can see changes in a character over time. You really feel like she is growing and maturing.

This book will be fascinating to history lovers. It focuses on what the newly formed Soviet Union was like before religion was essentially removed. Many of the characters are Jewish, a religion that was definitely villified under Soviet rule. Sherman does a great job of capturing the crazy amount of chaos that there was in this rapidly changing environment

Monday, January 14, 2013

Odds and Ends: Farm Show

Guys, where do the weekends go? The husband and I were up in Pennsylvania this weekend to see family and friends and to go to the infamous Farm Show. What is the Farm Show you ask? The Farm Show is basically a country fair minus the rides so there's good food, awesome animals, rodeos, tractor shows, farm equipment, etc. I love going to see the animals. Being raised a thoroughly suburban girl, I didn't get to hang around with cows or chickens much growing up so the novelty of getting to see all of the farm animals is very much still there for me.

And of course, there is the butter sculpture, which is not to be missed if you  go to the Farm Show. It is exactly what it sounds like: a sculpture made of butter. Each year it's a little different. Below is a picture of what it looked like this year.

Oohs and ahhs, people, oohs and ahhs.

Like I said, I also like getting to play with the animals. I even found an animal that I would really like in my backyard.

Baby cow!!!
I need this baby cow in my life (I don't care what my neighbors say). She was so, so cute. I got to pet her a little and she gave my fingers big sloppy cow kisses. It totally made my day!

I loved the Farm Show and can't wait to go again next year!

How was your weekend?
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