Friday, February 26, 2016

The Tip of My Wish List - Fiction Based on Real-Life Artists

To change things up this year, I've decided to do a monthly post on 5 books from my insane wish list that I am most excited about getting to. Some might be new, some old and some out of wish list has it all! I'll pick a theme each month and share my wish list post on the last Friday of the month. I know a number of excellent reviewers who will be doing similar posts and I'll be sure to link to their posts as well so you can see all the goodies we're excited about and, hopefully, add a few new book to your own wish list. 

For February I've decided to share my top novels based on real-life artists, specifically writers and painters. I'll link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy if it sounds like your style. I really hope you enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these or have other novels based on the lives of artists that I should add to my list.
From the bestselling and highly acclaimed author of Mrs. Poe comes a fictionalized imagining of the personal life of America’s most iconic writer: Mark Twain.

In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?

In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen reimagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.

Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.
A novel about the life of American master painter Georgia O’Keeffe, her love story with photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and her quest to come of age as a woman. In this novel of a couple, and of passion, betrayal, and art, Georgia comes alive as never before. By the writer whose work Edna O’Brien called "shimmering, audacious."

Georgia O’Keeffe is a young woman, painting and teaching art in Texas, when she travels to New York to meet Alfred Stieglitz, the married gallery owner of 291, modern art promoter, and photographer. Their instantaneous attraction and powerful hunger for each other draw her into his world of art, sex, and passion, and she becomes his mistress and his muse. As their relationship develops, so does Georgia’s place in the art world, but she becomes trapped in her role as the subject of Stieglitz’s infamous nude photographs of her; the critics cannot envision her as her own being. As her own artistic fervor begins to push the boundaries of her life, we see Georgia transform into the powerfully independent woman she is known as today.
From Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl, comes a brilliant new novel about a literary couple. The unlikely marriage between Nathaniel Hawthorne, the celebrated novelist, and Sophia Peabody, the invalid artist, was a true union of passion and intellect.…

Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman’s traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia’s vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children’s needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia’s energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.

Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature.…
Sometimes he dreamt he held her; that he would turn in bed and she would be there. But she was gone and he was old. Nearly seventy. Only cool paint met his fingers. “Ma très chère . . .” Darkness started to fall, dimming the paintings. He felt the crumpled letter in his pocket. “I loved you so,” he said. “I never would have had it turn out as it did. You were with all of us when we began, you gave us courage. These gardens at Giverny are for you but I’m old and you’re forever young and will never see them. . . .”  

In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Claude Monet decided that he would rather endure a difficult life painting landscapes than take over his father’s nautical supplies business in a French seaside town. Against his father’s will, and with nothing but a dream and an insatiable urge to create a new style of art that repudiated the Classical Realism of the time, he set off for Paris.

But once there he is confronted with obstacles: an art world that refused to validate his style, extreme poverty, and a war that led him away from his home and friends. But there were bright spots as well: his deep, enduring friendships with men named Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, Manet – a group that together would come to be known as the Impressionists, and that supported each other through the difficult years. But even more illuminating was his lifelong love, Camille Doncieux, a beautiful, upper-class Parisian girl who threw away her privileged life to be by the side of the defiant painter and embrace the lively Bohemian life of their time.

His muse, his best friend, his passionate lover, and the mother to his two children, Camille stayed with Monet—and believed in his work—even as they lived in wretched rooms, were sometimes kicked out of those, and often suffered the indignities of destitution. She comforted him during his frequent emotional torments, even when he would leave her for long periods to go off on his own to paint in the countryside.

But Camille had her own demons – secrets that  Monet could never penetrate, including one that when eventually revealed would pain him so deeply that he would never fully recover from its impact. For though Camille never once stopped loving the painter with her entire being, she was not immune to the loneliness that often came with being his partner.

A vividly-rendered portrait of both the rise of Impressionism and of the artist at the center of the movement, Claude and Camille is above all a love story of the highest romantic order.  
From a talented new author comes a poignant and haunting novel of creation and desire, passion and madness, art and love.
A young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles to discover she is being sketched by a red-haired man in a yellow straw hat. This is no ordinary artist but the eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh—and their meeting marks the beginning of a remarkable relationship. He arrives at their first assignation at No. 1, Rue du Bout d'Arles, with a bouquet of wildflowers and a request to paint her—and before long, a deep, intense attachment grows between Rachel and the gifted, tormented soul.
But the sanctuary Rachel seeks from her own troubled past cannot be found here, for demons war within Vincent's heart and mind. And one shocking act will expose the harsh, inescapable truth about the artist she has grown to love more than life.
Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list:

Heather at The Maiden's Court shared her wish list of novels that take place in Ancient Lands HERE.

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede shared her five historical fiction books based on real people (great minds think alike!) HERE.

Stephanie at Layered Pages shared her top thrillers HERE.

Erin at Flashlight Commentary shared her top novels with cover art that feature photography HERE.

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired Books shared her top wish list books set in Paris HERE.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: Daughter of Destiny (Guinevere's Tale #1) By Nicole Evelina + Giveaway!!

Publication Date: January 1, 2016
Lawson Gartner Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 326 Pages

Genre: Historical Fantasy


Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her.

In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.

Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.

You may think you know the story of Guinevere, but you’ve never heard it like this: in her own words. Listen and you will hear the true story of Camelot and its queen.

Fans of Arthurian legend and the Mists of Avalon will love Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy that gives Guinevere back her voice and traces her life from an uncertain eleven year old girl to a wise queen in her fifth decade of life.

What Did I Think About the Story?

Before deciding to read Daughter of Destiny I knew very little about Guinevere's story, other than the bare minimum most people know about the myth surrounding her, Arthur and Camelot, so I was very excited to see that this was going to be her story, from her point of view, told from a young age. The Prologue really captured my attention, with Guinevere saying she had been maligned by history and wanted to make sure the truth was told. Once I read this I knew I was going to enjoy this story, and I'm happy to say I was right.

Daughter of Destiny is a delicious mix of history and fantasy, nature vs. mysticism, and the learning of basic skills of every young woman of this time period and the honing of divine ones.  Guinevere's time on Avalon was probably my favorite portion, as the reader gets a front row seat to the education of a priestess and the maturation of young women of note that would have their own sets of pressures and responsibilities to look forward to when they left the island.  I think that Guinevere represents such a unique perspective and watching her struggle with will vs. destiny and heart vs. duty was fascinating, even when I knew the eventual outcome could only fall one way.

There are so many interesting characters that populate this story and I loved having the opportunity to see them as their younger selves and to see how their life experiences and interactions would lead them to become the adults we are more aware of. We get to see Morgan (who is quite disturbed), The Lady of the Lake, Merlin, Lancelot and even Isolde and Tristan!

Beyond the interesting characters the setting is also quite well developed, so it was easy to feel immersed in this medieval world. I loved learning the general customs, rituals and celebrations and even meals that would have been experienced by our characters. This sort of detail roped in my history-loving heart and I had a wonderful time walking in the characters' shoes and experiencing all the sights and sounds on offer.

The story ends at a pretty perfect point, not so much a cliffhanger but a great jumping off point for Book 2. And directly following this we get a sneak peek of Book 2, which really interested me as we get to see Morgan enter the story again and, whenever Morgan enters the picture, you know drama will follow. The Author's Note was exactly what I like to see as well, nicely rounding out the fact vs. fiction information that I look for when reading historical fiction.

Daughter of Destiny is a wonderful book for those looking for further development of Guinevere's story as well as historical fiction with some fantasy thrown in. I'm very excited to see how Book 2 progresses the story!

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's okay. It's not the kind of cover that would have me instantly picking it up to read the back synopsis, but it does represent the story well.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of Daughter of Destiny in exchange for an honest review. Read on for more about the book, the author and how to enter the tour-wide giveaway for one of two copies of Daughter of Destiny!

Praise for Daughters of Destiny 

“A gripping read that brings a wonderfully depicted Guinevere tumbling out of the shadows of myth.” – Anna Belfrage, author of The Graham Saga

“Nicole Evelina shows a deep and passionate love for the Arthurian world, and her re-weaving of the story of Guinevere and Arthur makes for enjoyable reading. With more volumes to come, if you like stories of Camelot, ancient priesthoods, magical Avalonian dreams and embattled romance, this is for you.” – John Matthews, author of ‘Arthur of Albion’ and ‘The Camelot Oracle’.

“Colorful and exciting…love all the characters. You will have a ball with this book.” – Serena Scott Thomas, actress and audio book narrator

Buy the Book

About the Author

Nicole Evelina is a St. Louis-born historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her first four books are coming out in 2016:

1. Daughter of Destiny (January 1 – This is the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view)
2. Camelot’s Queen (March 23 – The second book in the trilogy)
3. Been Searching for You (May 23 – a contemporary romantic comedy that won in the single title romance category of the 2015 Great Expectations Contest (sponsored by North Texas RWA) and the 2015 Gold Rose Contest (sponsored by Portland RWA) and is a finalist in five others.
4. Madame Presidentess (July 25 – Historical fiction about 19th century American Presidential
candidate Victoria Woodhull, the first American woman to run for President)

She hopes to have the final book in Guinevere’s Tale available in late 2016 or early 2017.

Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society, and Sirens, a group supporting female fantasy authors, as well as a member of the Romance Writers of America, Women Fiction Writers Association, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

She is one of only six authors who completed the first week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness in 2014. Nicole has traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.

Her website/blog is and she can be found on Twitter as well as on Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram and Tumblr.

Giveaway Time!!

To win a paperback copy of Daughter of Destiny (Guinevere’s Tale, Book One) by Nicole Evelina please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form HERE. Two copies are up for grabs!


Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 26th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Giveaway is open to US residents only.

Only one entry per household.

All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion

Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Good Luck!!

Daughter of Destiny Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 8

Spotlight at Unshelfish

Tuesday, February 9

Review at Bookish
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, February 10

Review at Curling up by the Fire
Guest Post at To Read, or Not to Read

Thursday, February 11

Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, February 12

Review at Broken Teepee
Interview at Author Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, February 15

Review at Laura’s Interests
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Tuesday, February 16

Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, February 17

Review at Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 18

Review & Interview at Singing Librarian Books

Friday, February 19

Review at Book Nerd

Monday, February 22

Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Tuesday, February 23

Review at The Baking Bookworm
Review at The Hive at Black Tea & Milk

Wednesday, February 24

Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Thursday, February 25

Review at A Literary Vacation
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, February 26

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Guest Post at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Q & A with Julie Christine Johnson, Author of In Another Life

Please join me in welcoming Julie Christine Johnson, author of In Another Life, to A Literary Vacation! In Another Life sounds PHENOMENAL and I'm really excited to read it as soon as I get the chance. In the meantime, Julie has graciously agreed to answer some questions for me that I hope will really get you excited to read her new book. And, as usual, I'll have information on her book after the Q & A. Please enjoy!


First off, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by A Literary Vacation! I’m always fascinated to get inside the head of an author and see what inspires them to write the captivating novels that they do. Every author seems to have their own unique approach to their craft and learning that process really helps me, as a reader, get a better appreciation for the end result. So I can’t wait to learn more about your process!

Colleen, I’m thrilled to be here! Thank you for making time for me and In Another Life on your beautiful blog!

I have been a huge fan of historical fiction novels, especially those that jump back and forth through time, showing how the past inevitably affects the present characters, for a while now. There just seems to be an unlimited amount of angles, events and approaches to tackle this story style and satisfy a readers longing for both history and a contemporary setting. In In Another Life, you take the reader to thirteenth century Languedoc and Paris as well as to modern-day Southern France and present a cast of characters battling with both historical fact and mystical belief. Where did you come up with the idea?

I’ve lived in and traveled throughout France, so it seems natural that my first novel would come from this place that is my heart’s second home. In the spring of 2011, my husband and I spent a few weeks in Languedoc and we fell deeply under the spell of its haunting beauty and history. We spent our days clambering around medieval ruins and our evenings reading up on local history, particularly the Middle Ages, while sharing a bottle of gorgeous Languedoc wine. I had no idea then that I was researching a novel, but an image remained with me that I couldn’t shake: a woman, deep in thought, standing on a cliff overlooking the Corbières valley. From the ruins of a Cathar citadel behind her, a man steps out and joins her. I was aching to find out who they were, but I was certain she was from the present and he, from the past. Then I read about the Cathars’ belief in reincarnation and I knew I had my way in to the story. 

What draws you to historical fiction? Are there any particular times in history you gravitate towards or do you just enjoy history in general? Are there any other turning points in history that you would love to write about?

This is where I tell you that it amazes me that I wrote a work of historical fiction! I never thought I had the patience for the research, or that I’d be able to pull off a believable world. But I’m a voracious reader, much of it historical fiction and non-fiction, so in many ways, it felt very natural. Continental European, British and Irish history of any era has always held my attention, as well as that of the Levant. I do have a WWII-era story idea set in France and Germany I’d love to explore. 

What does a typical day in your life look like? When do you fit in time to write?

These days, it’s more a question of finding time to fit in the rest of life. I’m a full-time writer, which means every day, seven days a week. I’m an early riser—I get up around 4 a.m. Those quiet, predawn hours are precious times to write and read. Then I work out, have breakfast with my husband, run errands or clean house, and I’m back at my laptop by 10 a.m. I work until 3 or 4, get out for a leg-stretching, head-clearing walk. Evenings are for cooking, yoga classes, reading. I also lead a 2-hour novels-in-progress workshop two afternoons a/week and I’m a freelance story/developmental editor. 

A lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?

I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable using social media as sales mechanism. I’m there for the conversation, the interaction, and discovery. Writing can be such a lonely endeavor, and engaging with readers and writers is a way to get out of your own head and open it to different perspectives, to share your joy and seek support and offer your heart and help to others. 

Having said that, I will be raffling off copies of books I love to subscribers of my newsletter. It’s my way to support other authors, to share books that have touched and inspired me. And to give something back to my readers!

I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

Reading is not only my escape, I consider it an essential part of my job description as a writer. I have at least two books going at any one time, a novel, a volume of poetry, and some sort of writing guide as inspiration and motivation. I just checked my Goodreads stats: 132 books read in 2015. ☺ 

Are you working on any future books at this time? If so, can you tell us a little about it?

At the moment, I’m plowing through revisions of my second novel, The Crows of Beara, which will be published in September 2017 by Ashland Creek Press. Crows is set in contemporary southwest Ireland, with a thread of magical realism woven through (of course: it’s Ireland!). My agent is reading a draft of my third novel (title TBA), which is set in New Zealand, where I lived in the mid-late 2000s. The narrative goes back and forth between an American woman who immigrated to New Zealand and her next-door-neighbor, who is a little girl of Maori descent. I’m also researching a possible sequel to In Another Life. I’ve got my ideas-it would be another past/present setting–but I’d treasure knowing which characters readers would love to see again. 

Thank you, Colleen!

Thank YOU, Julie! Your upcoming books sound wonderful and I'm loving how unique the premises are. That has got to be a hard thing to do with all the books out there, so bravo!! Everyone, check out more about In Another Life below and be sure to pick up your copy as soon as possible!


Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Pages: 368

It is January 1208 and in a village on the border between Provence and Languedoc, a monk whispers a benediction over the body of a slain papal emissary. The Cathars—followers of a heretical faith—are blamed for the assassination. The Pope declares a holy war and Languedoc is forever changed. 

Eight hundred years later, historian Lia Carrer returns to southern France to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. Instead of finding solace in Languedoc’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, the woman trying to heal risks love, and loss, again. 

Reincarnation is familiar ground for Lia—an expert in the mystical beliefs of the ancient Cathar faith—but to reconcile the truth of that long-ago assassination, the logical researcher must accept religious fantasy as historical fact. Three lost souls enter her life, each holding a key to the murder that launched a religious crusade in the heart of Europe. 

In Another Life is set amidst the medieval intrigue of thirteenth century Languedoc and Paris, intertwined with Lia's modern quest to uncover the truth of an ancient murder and free a man haunted by ghosts from his past.

Praise for In Another Life

“Delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical, IN ANOTHER LIFE is a novel with an extraordinary sense of place. Fans swept away by Diana Gabaldon’s 18th-century Scotland will want to explore Julie Christine Johnson’s 13th-century Languedoc.” Greer Macallister, author of The Magician's Lie

“In this lovely novel, Johnson shows us the redemptive power of love and second chances through the ages. Evocative of Outlander, In Another Life is a thrilling combination of romance, adventure, and history.” Margaret Dilloway, author of Sisters Of Heart And Snow and How To Be An American Housewife

“Johnson’s heartbroken researcher wends through the lush landscape and historical religious intrigue of southern France seeking the distraction of arcane fact-but instead, like the reader, is transformed by the moving echo of emotional truth. An imaginative, unforgettable tale.” Kathryn Craft, author of The Art Of Falling and The Far End Of Happy

Buy the Book

About the Author

Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt, and the anthologies
Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs.

Her second novel, The Crows Of Beara, a finalist in the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, has sold to Ashland Creek Press for publication in fall 2017. In this work of women's fiction, a struggling American PR executive and an enigmatic Irish artist face off over the development of a copper mine in rural Ireland, finding love and redemption amid the rugged, mystical land.

A runner, hiker, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State with her husband. In Another Life is her first novel.

Find out more about Julie on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Blast: Banished by Kimberley Griffiths + Giveaway!

Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Hardcover & Ebook; 416 Pages
Series: Forbidden, Book #2

Genre: YA/Historical/Romance    

She thought she’d lost everything . . .

After spending months traveling the harsh, unforgiving Mesopotamian desert, Jayden reunites with a broken, injured Kadesh. Although everyone was convinced the violent and unpredictable Horeb, Jayden’s betrothed, killed the handsome prince, Jayden knew in her heart that her love was alive and safe. But their reunion is short-lived, as they learn Horeb is on their trail and determined to take back the girl he has claimed. Soon, the two star-crossed lovers are on the run toward Sariba, Kadesh’s homeland, where, as heir to the Kingdom, he plans to make Jayden his princess.

But the trek to Sariba is fraught with heartache and danger. After narrowly escaping being stoned to death for a crime she didn’t commit, and learning that her sister has disappeared, Jayden’s only solace is her love for Kadesh. But even he is keeping secrets from her . . . secrets that will change everything.

This gorgeous and enchanting sequel to Forbidden, is full of love, danger, and heated passion that will leave readers breathless.


Buy the Book

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository



About the Author

Kimberley Griffiths Little was born in San Francisco, but now lives in New Mexico with her husband and their three sons.

For such award-winning middle grade novels as When the Butterflies Came, The Last Snake Runner, The Healing Spell, and Circle of Secrets, her writing has been praised as "fast-paced and dramatic," with "characters painted in memorable detail" and "beautifully realized settings."

Kimberley adores anything old and musty with a secret story to tell and makes way too many cookies
while writing.

She's stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland; sailed on the Seine in Paris; ridden a camel in Petra, Jordan; shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria.

Awards: Southwest Book Award, Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel, Bank Street College Best Books of 2011 & 2014, Crystal Kite Finalist, and New Mexico Book Award Finalist.

For more information please visit Kimberly's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Sign Up for Kimberly's Newsletter.

Banished Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, February 2

Passages to the Past

Wednesday, February 3

The Lit Bitch
Let Them Read Books

Thursday, February 4

I'm Shelf-ish

Friday, February 5

Broken Teepee

Monday, February 8

A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, February 10

Anastacia Reads

Friday, February 12

A Leisure Moment

Monday, February 15

I Heart Reading

Tuesday, February 16

A Dream within a Dream

Wednesday, February 17

What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 18

Bittersweet Enchantment

Friday, February 19

Curling up by the Fire

Monday, February 22

The Life & Times of a Book Addict

Tuesday, February 23

A Literary Vacation

Thursday, February 25

 A Book Geek

Wednesday, March 2

The Never-Ending Book


To win a $25 Amazon Gift Card & Signed Copies of Forbidden and Banished please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form HERE.
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
 Giveaway is open internationally.
Only one entry per household.
All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
 Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Good Luck!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Interview with B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Rebecca Lochlann

Please join me in welcoming B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Rebecca Lochlann to A Literary Vacation today! Rebecca lives west of the Rocky Mountains with her husband. Whenever work allows, they vanish into the wilderness searching for hidden high places where the Milky Way carves a bright path undimmed by city lights, where bristlecones thrive and coyotes sing to the moon. She’s had many varied jobs, but her passion, from a young age, has been writing. A lifelong fan of the classic Greek myths, she began envisioning a new epic story very early on, one launching from the foundation of the classics and continuing through the centuries right up into the present and future. Her goal is to create a new myth: one that offers the same flavor and unique magic as the Greek classics, yet which will interest modern readers.


Hi Rebecca, and welcome to A Literary Vacation! To start off with, please tell us a little about your book, The Year-God’s Daughter, the first book in The Child of the Erinyes series.

Thank you so much, Colleen, for this opportunity to say something about my series. Blogging and reviewing is detailed work that requires commitment and a heck of a lot of time. My hat is off to you and your compatriots. My thanks as well to Stephanie Moore Hopkins for thinking of me, and of course to IndieBRAG.

The Year-god’s Daughter is Book One of the Child of the Erinyes series. It introduces not only the characters, but also their world: my vision of what Bronze Age Crete and the Greek mainland might have been like just before the volcanic eruption on the island of Thera. We meet the young Cretan princess, Aridela, who lives in the fabulous palace at Knossos, and the Greek brothers, Chrysaleon and Menoetius. They are sons of the king of Mycenae, and on his orders come to Crete seeking a way to overthrow this wealthy, powerful society. All three think they know how to manipulate the future to their own ends. The choices they make—good and bad, wise and foolish, propel them into a journey through time, forcing them to ride out history as it unfolds—not as influential leaders but commoners like most of us. Unlike most of us, they are major players in Goddess Athene’s long-term game plan.

Through the eyes of Aridela, Chrysaleon, and Menoetius, the reader experiences the collision of opposite cultures—matriarchal Crete with warlike Mycenae. At its core is the annual rise of the star Iakchos (Sirius to us), the sacrifice of the old king, and the fight (to the death) between men determined to become the new king, which takes place in the dark labyrinth beneath the temple at the heart of Knossos.

The second edition of The Year-god’s Daughter was finished and released last year. I would like to mention that the first three books are available as a digital boxed set (over 900 pages) for those who prefer a firmer conclusion when they read.

The Year-God’s Daughter takes place in Bronze age Crete and deals with a lot of mythology, sacrifice and battle. How much research went into writing this story? What sort of balance did you strike between incorporating true history and more fantastical elements?

My research began with Moon, Moon, an amazing book by Anne Kent Rush. Before that, I thought anything I wrote about a matriarchy would have to be pure fantasy—that the idea was as fantastical as an animated Disney fairy tale. This book started me on the path of learning where, how, and when these places could have actually existed, and at first, it was quite difficult and expensive. There wasn’t much out there—and what I could track down was out of print. I worked at bookstores just to have easier access to obscure books! But eventually, more was published on these subjects, and my work became easier. I read archaeological texts that painstakingly define eras by the style of pottery shards (rather dry reading, that), history books, books of Greek myth, books about the palace-temple at Knossos, books about volcanic eruptions, and treatises on the submerged role of women in these vanished times. I have a vast library now, and a bibliography at my website for those interested in reading more. While I guess I have to apply the fantasy label to the religious beliefs and practices that I’ve written in my book, they actually may not be so far-fetched.

Historians and archaeologists are currently in agreement that the eruption of the Thera volcano didn’t destroy the civilization on Crete, but there are indications that the island fell under Mycenaean control afterwards. I was intrigued with this; in its basic form, The Year-god’s Daughter and its two companion novels tell how the changeover might have happened, using the evidence we have. Then there are the consequences, as Athene watches the theft of her island and her people. That part—Athene’s curse and the return of Aridela and her two lovers through time—is straight fantasy, of course. But a lot of what the reader encounters in TYGD is a fleshing out of archaeological data into a story.
I see that The Year-God’s Daughter is the first book in The Child of the Erinyes series and that this series is going to stretch from the Bronze Age into the near future. Given this stretch in time, can you give us a little taste of what’s to come? Will those stories move away from history into more a fantasy genre?


I stick close to history in my books, very close indeed. The fantastical elements, up to the last book (When the Moon Whispers) are there, but in the background, influencing the characters subliminally, teasing and generally just out of reach. However, in the last book and its companion novella, which take place in the future…all bets are off!

After the Bronze Age, the saga takes a giant leap in time. The middle three books are all set in Scotland—two in the Victorian era and one in the Dark Ages. Then comes the denouement, in the near future, with a wife gone missing for over twenty years, a billionaire, his estranged brother, and the full, unfettered return of submerged memories from every life. The final novella, Swimming in the Rainbow, dips into a specific segment of the last act and wraps things up. So, rather like the original Narnia Chronicles and Star Wars, the series does not always progress in linear form.
Historical fiction happens to be my all-time favorite genre and I find myself going back and forth between what periods of history are my favorite to read about. Is the Bronze Age your favorite time period to write and/or read about, or do you enjoy jumping around as I do?

I DO enjoy jumping around, and thanks for the question, as it gives me the opportunity to explain my thoughts on that! The Bronze Age was my favorite for many years but I spent so much time and energy there that I’m a bit burned out on it now. Thankfully, my series accommodates this need to research and build new adventures in new places. It skips forward and backward in time and travels to different areas of the globe. Plus, the characters change, giving the reader (and me) a whole new person to bond with, and is, in my opinion, more interesting than keeping everyone static. Though they all carry certain identifying characteristics from one life to the next, each incarnation brings new personality quirks that living over and over again will necessarily create. After all, the whole purpose is to groom them for the climax, so they do need to change and grow—or, in some cases, diminish.

By the time I became involved with the ancient Mediterranean, I had already put many years of research into Scotland. I used what I learned to write the three books that follow the Bronze Age: The Moon Casts a Spell (set in the Outer Hebrides), The Sixth Labyrinth, and Falcon Blue. I’m getting ready to publish The Sixth Labyrinth, which takes place in 1870s Scotland, London, and the Hebrides. Then I will fall backward in time to tell the tale of the very first life after Crete. Falcon Blue is set near Cape Wrath, in the early medieval period after the Romans have abandoned Britain. These books have been even more of a challenge than the first three, since there is a lot less wiggle room, and conversely, a lot MORE to write about. For instance, eighteen-seventies Britain was chock-full of intriguing people and events. It’s been hard work, but great fun! 

What does a typical day (if there is one) look like for you? How do you balance writing and the rest of your life?

At the moment, I don’t. I rise early, I make coffee, and I get to work. I don’t stop until late at night, when I can no longer concentrate. I usually work fourteen hours a day or more. I really want to get this next book out—it’s so close. It interrupts my sleep with its demands. It’s simply obsessing me. 

What drew you towards independent publishing as opposed to seeking out a traditional publisher?

I had a feeling from the beginning that what I wanted to do would preclude me from any traditional publisher, and I was right. Each book in my series builds upon the last, and there are overlapping themes and struggles, all reaching towards the end goal. What publisher or even agent would be willing to read the rough drafts of 8 books by an unknown? Non-negotiable deadlines are also difficult in a series that is continually evolving. So, vive la independent publishing!

How did you discover indieBRAG and what does it mean to you to have The Year-God’s Daughter awarded the BRAG Medallion?

The wonderful IndieBRAG! It was my first award, I believe, which helped my psyche enormously, and what an organization! Tireless, invaluable to readers, and, unlike some other review & award sites, always kind and supportive. Although IndieBRAG is established and respected to the highest degree, there is no hint of pretentiousness. I believe I first learned of IndieBRAG through fellow historical fiction authors, for instance Elisabeth Storrs and Richard Sutton, early medallion winners. Since then, quite a few of my fellow historical fiction partners have won IndieBRAG medallions. Sometimes, when this series feels as though it has taken over my life, and when I wonder if it will ever be completed, and when bills need to be paid and the dust on the furniture is thick, when there’s an endless list of things to do—cover decisions, advertising, editing, yet more research—knowing that IndieBRAG thought my work worthwhile helps keep me on track. I cannot say enough in praise or in thanks. Where would authors be without dedicated bloggers, reviewers, and organizations like IndieBRAG?


 Thank you, Rebecca, for taking the time to stop by and answer my questions! You can learn more about Rebecca and her books on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. You can purchase The Year-God's Daughter on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes.

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Colleen has chosen to interview Rebecca Lochlann, who is the author of The Year-God's Daughter, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ® , a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Past Encounters merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

I've Been Interviewed!

One of the highlights of blogging is interacting with other wonderful likeminded bloggers and growing to call them friends. This year I've come to know a kick-ass team of bloggers that make this whole thing even more fun then I could have imagined. One of those lovely ladies is Stephanie over at Layered Pages.  She came up with the idea to interview other bloggers to share a little bit about each of us and our experiences in blogging and I am delighted to say she's interviewed me! You can read the interview HERE and be sure to follow her blog if you aren't already, she's fabulous! You can also follow her on social media at the links below:

Enjoy :)!!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review of Platinum Doll by Anne Girard

Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication Date: January 26th, 2016
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction


Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, Platinum Doll tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film. 

It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream—to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights. In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want—a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends—except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition—to be an actress on the silver screen. 

With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth—that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it. 

Featuring a glittering cast of ingénues and Hollywood titans—Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes—Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.

What Did I Think About the Story?

There's something fascinating to me about peaking behind the glamour and spectacle of the golden age of Hollywood and seeing the grit, disappointment and sacrifice hidden beneath. I haven't read a book yet or seen a movie set during this unique time and place that doesn't highlight the hardships that come with the privileged life those that make it come to experience. This can sometimes come across to me as "poor me, I'm so rich and sad", but that isn't the case at all with Anne Girard's Platinum Doll. In this lovely novel of the life of Jean Harlow the reader is thrust into the heart and mind of this complex and incredibly admirable woman and made to truly appreciate all she did to make her dreams come true.

Right off the bat I have to say that I absolutely LOVE Girard's depiction of Harlean, aka Jean Harlow. I didn't know very much about her before, but from the very beginning I knew I was going to like her. She starts off as this bookish teen that was so vivacious, loving and full of hope for what the future could hold that it was completely infectious. Watching her tentatively go after this exciting new adventure in Hollywood and realize at such a young age - 17! - that she can be a wife, daughter and actress was inspiring, even as I knew it couldn't last. I ached for both her and her husband as they struggled to find their footing in a world where they had very different expectations for the future and I kept hoping they would find a way to get the help they needed and make it work, even with the villain (in my opinion) of the story doing everything in her power to push them apart.

Coming to this villain, it has been a while since I've disliked a character as much as I did Harlean's  mom, Jean (yes, they were both "Jean Harlow" once Harlean made it her stage name, but Anne Girard does a remarkable job of keeping the reader from getting confused between the two). "Mama Jean" is just vile to me, being as manipulative, greedy and pig-headed as one could imagine. The only real character flaw I found in Harlean was her inability to stand up to her mother and willingness to forgive her, again and again, when she knew full well the horrible things her mother had done and the  unbelievable lengths she went to to make Harlean the star her mother never had the chance to be. However, it must be noted that I don't think I would have such strong feelings about this character if I didn't care so much for Harlean, and I also don't think she would have become the woman she did without the trials she faced that were influenced by her mother's actions. As Harlean ages she matures and is determined to make a life for herself as well as her family despite the various challenges thrown at her, and how can I not admire that?

While Harlean, her husband, Chuck, and Harlean's mother and step father are the central figures of this story, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that so many other exciting people walk through and make there marks as well. We get to meet Clara Bow, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes, Louis B. Mayer and so many more! I've always had a pretty big crush on Clark Gable and that feeling is definitely cemented with his depiction in Platinum Doll. With so many names coming and going through the story, some I was already familiar with and some that were new to me, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking through old pictures of all these fascinating people and then going back and visualizing them within the story. This is one of my favorite things about historical fiction and the fact that Girard had me continually mesmerized by these people really speaks to her abilities to bring these people back to life.

Aside from the incredibly fleshed out characters, the vibrant setting was just as captivating to me.  Girard absolutely brings this world to life - from the homes in Beverly Hills to the Brown Derby and Cocoanut Club to Grauman's Chinese Theatre - and I had no problem picturing myself right there with the stars even though I have never been there.  It is such an awe-inspiring setting and was the perfect background to while away the hours.

Platinum Doll is perfect historical fiction, brimming with alluring real-life characters and settings filled in with drama, emotion and language that fills in the gaps that history has long forgotten or wouldn't have documented. Whether you're new to Jean Harlow's story as I was or already quite familiar with her, I think there is so much to love within these pages. Highly recommended!

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's gorgeous! It perfectly fits the story - Harlean front and center, the palm trees, ocean and sunshine of California - and I think the font is very evocative of the time period. This cover would draw me in every time!

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Thank you to publicist Suzy Missirlian for providing me with a free copy of Platinum Dolls in exchange for an honest review!

Praise for Platinum Doll

“A fascinating, page-turning, behind-the-scenes look at what it took to be a celebrity in early  Hollywood.”  Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“An engrossing look at a Hollywood icon. I couldn’t put it down.”  Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Through A Glass Darkly

"Platinum Doll will entrance readers as Harlow entranced the world."  Heather Webb, author of Rodin's Lover

Buy the Book

About the Author

Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard (Madame Picasso), holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in
English Literature from UCLA. A chance meeting with the famed author Irving Stone 25 years ago sharply focused her ambition to tell great stories from history, and write them only after detailed research and extensive travel to the place her character lived. That determination has provided a fascinating journey that has taken her from the halls of Chenonceaux, to a private interview with one of Pablo Picasso's last surviving friends, and most recently an invitation inside Jean Harlow's home.

Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Courtesan, in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award-winning status.

Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow, is her 15th book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.

Find out more about Diane on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Blast: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

Publication Date: February 9, 2016 
Ballantine Books 
Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook 
400 Pages 

 Genre: Historical Fiction

Infamy is no accident. It is a poison in our blood. It is the price of being a Borgia. 

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias fascinated and terrorized 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Lucrezia Borgia, beloved daughter of the pope, was at the center of the dynastyís ambitions. Slandered as a heartless seductress who lured men to their doom, was she in fact the villainess of legend, or was she trapped in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and survival?

With the ascension of the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI, the new popeís illegitimate childrenóhis rival sons, Cesare and Juan, and beautiful young daughter Lucreziaóassume an exalted position in the papal court. Privileged and adored, Lucrezia yearns to escape her childhood and play a part in her familyís fortunes. But Rome is seductive and dangerous: Alliances shift at a momentís notice as Italyís ruling dynasties strive to keep rivals at bay. As Lucreziaís father faces challenges from all sides, heís obliged to marry her off to a powerful adversary. But when she discovers the brutal truth behind her alliance, Lucrezia is plunged into a perilous gambit that will require all her wits, cunning, and guile. Escaping her marriage offers the chance of happiness with a passionate prince of Naples, yet as scandalous accusations of murder and incest build against her, menacing those she loves, Lucrezia must risk everything to overcome the lethal fate imposed upon her by her Borgia blood.

Beautifully wrought, rich with fascinating historical detail, The Vatican Princess is the first novel to describe Lucreziaís coming-of-age in her own voiceóa dramatic, vivid tale set in an era of savagery and unparalleled splendor, where enemies and allies can be one and the same, and where loyalty to family can ultimately be a curse.

Buy the Book


Praise For The Vatican Princess

"Assiduously researched and expertly crafted . . . . This unholy plunge into Rome's darkest dynasty is wholly engrossing." - Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author 

"A spider web of Renaissance intrigue with a legendary cast . . . Impressive research, a lush background, and deft characterization make for a fascinating read." - Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author 

"Elegantly written and deeply researched . . . Renaissance Italy is vividly brought to life. Iím captivated by this knowledgeable authorís take on the controversial Borgias." - Alison Weir, NYT bestselling author

About the Author

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortnerís website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortnerís Newsletter for updates.

Giveaway Time!!

To win a Borgia-Inspired Velvet Bag & Beaded Bracelet from C.W. Gortner please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form HERE


Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 23rd. 

You must be 18 or older to enter. 

Giveaway is open to US residents only. 

Only one entry per household. 

All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

Good Luck!!!

The Vatican Princess Book Blast Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, February 9

Drey's Library
The Maiden's Court
CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, February 10

The Lit Bitch
The Never-Ending Book
A Dream within a Dream
What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 11

Laura's Interests
The Reader's Hollow
Flashlight Commentary

Friday, February 12

Let Them Read Books
To Read, Or Not to Read

Saturday, February 13

So Many Books, So Little Time
Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Sunday, February 14

100 Pages a Day
With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Monday, February 15

A Book Geek
A Bookish Affair
Puddletown Reviews

Tuesday, February 16

Just One More Chapter
Historical Fiction Obsession
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Wednesday, February 17

Impressions In Ink
A Literary Vacation
The Country Bookworm

Thursday, February 18

The True Book Addict
Ageless Pages Reviews

Friday, February 19

Passages to the Past
Kristin Un-Ravelle'd
Book Lovers Paradise

Saturday, February 20

Beth's Book Nook Blog
One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Sunday, February 21

Carpe Librum (Seize The Book)
Seize the Words: Books in Review

Monday, February 22

Broken Teepee
Book Drunkard
The Reading Queen

Tuesday, February 23

Teatime and Books
View from the Birdhouse
Historical Fiction Connection