Friday, July 29, 2016

The Tip of My Wish List - "The Next Gone Girl"

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 July I've decided to go with books that have been touted as "the next Gone Girl". While I admit to finding myself slightly annoyed that so many books are being compared to Gone Girl (you can find lists of them everywhere), I did really enjoy the book and seem to add a good amount of comparison novels to my wish list. So I guess I'm guilty of searching for the next Gone Girl as much as the next person!

I'll link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy of the books if they sounds like your style. I really hope you enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these or have others you would add to the list.


All the Missing Girls

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

The Girl on the Train

The debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.


And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?  

Where The Found Her

From the author of the New York Times bestseller and 2014 Edgar and Anthony nominee Reconstructing Amelia comes another harrowing, gripping novel that marries psychological suspense with an emotionally powerful story about a community struggling with the consequences of a devastating discovery.

At the end of a long winter, in bucolic Ridgedale, New Jersey, the body of an infant is discovered in the woods near the town’s prestigious university campus. No one knows who the baby is, or how her body ended up out there. But there is no shortage of opinions.

When freelance journalist, and recent Ridgedale transplant, Molly Anderson is unexpectedly called upon to cover the story for the Ridegdale Reader, it’s a risk, given the severe depression that followed the loss of her own baby. But the bigger threat comes when Molly unearths some of Ridgedale’s darkest secrets, including a string of unreported sexual assaults that goes back twenty years.

Meanwhile, Sandy, a high school dropout, searches for her volatile and now missing mother, and PTA president Barbara struggles to help her young son, who’s suddenly having disturbing outbursts.
Told from the perspectives of Molly, Barbara, and Sandy, Kimberly McCreight’s taut and profoundly moving novel unwinds the tangled truth about the baby’s death revealing that these three women have far more in common than they realized. And that their lives are more intertwined with what happened to the baby than they ever could have imagined.

Into the Darkest Corner

When young, pretty Catherine Bailey meets Lee Brightman, she can't believe her luck. Gorgeous, charismatic, and a bit mysterious, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true.

But what begins as flattering attention and spontaneous, passionate sex transforms into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon discovers that Lee's dazzling blue eyes and blond good looks hide a dark, violent nature. Disturbed by his increasingly erratic, controlling behavior, she tries to break it off; turning to her friends for support, she's stunned to find they don't believe her. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine plans a meticulous escape.

Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine—now Cathy—is trying to build a new life in a new city. Though her body has healed, the trauma of the past still haunts her. Then Stuart Richardson, her attractive new neighbor, moves in. Encouraging her to confront her fears, he sparks unexpected hope and the possibility of love and a normal life.

Until the day the phone rings . . .

From debut author Caroline Kepnes comes You, one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2014, and a brilliant and terrifying novel for the social media age.

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

A terrifying exploration of how vulnerable we all are to stalking and manipulation, debut author Caroline Kepnes delivers a razor-sharp novel for our hyper-connected digital age. You is a compulsively readable page-turner that’s being compared to Gone Girl, American Psycho, and Stephen King’s Misery
Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list:

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede is sharing her top picks for time travel novels HERE.
Stephanie at Layered Pages has five novels in the Sebastian St. Cyr Series by C.S. Harris she's excited to read HERE.

Heather at The Maiden's Court picked five historical novels featuring women who work HERE.

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired has 5 books centered around Midwives HERE.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Spotlight on BLOOD SYMMETRY by Kate Rhodes

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishing 
Imprint: Witness Impulse
Pub. Date: July 12, 2016

Pages: 368

Alice Quentin Series
E-ISBN 9780062444073

Price: $2.99 (find purchase links at Harper Collins Publishing)

Clare Riordan and her son, Mikey, are abducted from Clapham Common early one morning. Hours later, the boy is found wandering disorientated. Soon after, a container of Clare's blood is left on a doorstep in the heart of London.

Psychologist Alice Quentin is brought in to help the traumatized child uncover his memories, with the hope that it might lead the authorities to his mother's captors. But Alice swiftly realizes Clare is not the first victim... nor will she be the last.

The killers are desperate for revenge... and in the end, it will all come down to blood.

Praise for the Alice Quentin Series

“Alice is a vividly realized protagonist whose complex and harrowing history rivals the central crime storyline.” —New York Times bestselling author Sophie Hannah

“A fast-moving, entertaining mix of sex, suspense and serial killings.” –Washington Post

About the Author

Kate Rhodes is the author of three previous Alice Quentin novels, Crossbones Yard, A Killing of Angels and The Winter Foundlings, as well as two collections of poetry, Reversal and The Alice Trap. She writes full-time now, and lives in Cambridge with her husband, a writer and film-maker.

Find out more about Kate on her website and blog, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Spotlight on THE GIRL IN THE RIVER by Kate Rhodes

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishing 
Imprint: Witness Impulse
Pub. Date: October 20th, 2015

Pages: 357

Alice Quentin Series
E-ISBN 9780062444042

Price: $2.99 (find purchase links at Harper Collins Publishing)

Jude Shelley, daughter of a prominent cabinet minister, had her whole life ahead of her until she was attacked and left to drown in the Thames. Miraculously, she survived. A year later, her family is now asking psychologist Alice Quentin to re-examine the case.

But then a body is found: an elderly priest, attacked in Battersea, washed up at Westminster Pier. An ancient glass bead is tied to his wrist.

Alice is certain that Jude and her family are hiding something, but unless she can persuade them to share what they know, more victims will come.

Because the Thames has always been a site of sacrifice and death.

And Alice is about to learn that some people still believe in it…

Praise for the Alice Quentin Series

“Alice is a vividly realized protagonist whose complex and harrowing history rivals the central crime storyline.” —New York Times bestselling author Sophie Hannah

“A fast-moving, entertaining mix of sex, suspense and serial killings.” –Washington Post

About the Author

Kate Rhodes is the author of three previous Alice Quentin novels, Crossbones Yard, A Killing of Angels and The Winter Foundlings, as well as two collections of poetry, Reversal and The Alice Trap. She writes full-time now, and lives in Cambridge with her husband, a writer and film-maker.

Find out more about Kate on her website and blog, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Interview with B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Dean Hamilton

Please join me in welcoming B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Dean Hamilton to A Literary Vacation!! Dean was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He spent the first half of his childhood chasing around the prairies and western Canada before relocating to Toronto, Ontario. He has three degrees (BA, MA & MBA), reads an unhealthy amount of history, works as a marketing professional by day and prowls the imaginary alleyways of the Elizabethan era in his off-hours.

Much of his winter is spent hanging around hockey arenas and shouting at referees. He is married, with a son, a dog, four cats and a turtle named Tortuga. THE JESUIT LETTER is his first novel of a planned series called THE TYBURN FOLIOS. A short prequel novella, BLACK DOG is also available on Amazon.
A sequel to THE JESUIT LETTER, called THIEVES CASTLE, is currently under development and expected to be completed sometime in 2017.

Hello, Dean, and welcome to A Literary Vacation! To start off with, please tell us a little about your book, The Jesuit Letter?

The Jesuit Letter is historical fiction, set in England in 1575. Most fiction embedded in the Elizabethan era tends to be tales of Court intrigue, set amidst the silken splendor of palaces. Mine tends to hang about in ale-soaked taverns, muddy streets and fetid back-alleys where cold-steel by lantern light offers redemption or grim death by turns…

The main character in
The Jesuit Letter, is an ex-soldier turned play-actor named Christopher Tyburn . Tyburn abandoned the war against the Spanish in Flanders, but remains haunted by his brutal wartime experiences. Now returned to England, he is the newest member of The Earl of Worcester’s Men.
Since the inn yards of London are closed due to plague, the troupe are on the road, touring the market-towns of the Midlands. When Tyburn accidentally intercepts a coded letter from a hidden Jesuit priest in Warwickshire, he is entangled in a dangerous conspiracy, caught between a secret group of Catholic recusants and their hunters. He must track down the Jesuit to clear his name... or die a traitor's death. His only hope happens to be an eleven-year old glover's son named William Shakespeare.

What drew you to tell this story, about this particular time and place in history?

I’ve always had a deep fascination with all aspects of the Elizabethan era and the Renaissance, and in particular a long-standing interest in the life of William Shakespeare. The Elizabethan era is really one of the first recognizably modern periods in history, marking the shift in the Western world from a medieval worldview to a more modern state. It saw a flowering of literature, theatre, art, music, science, exploration, government and politics that permeated and utterly changed the culture that preceded it.

It also had its horror stories, and one in particular that stands out is the massive shift in English religious beliefs that permeated the century and the often horrific results that transformation created. The English Reformation saw the country transform from Catholic to Protestant to Catholic and back to Protestant, all in a time period of less than 30 years. For the average person, landing on the wrong side of the fence at the wrong time could mean anything from fines to imprisonment, savage torture and death.

I’ve tried to reflect some of that ambiguity in the world of
The Jesuit Letter, with the dangerous political machinations of the various powers, the nobility and the monarchy, and the quiet, secret lives of recusants and priests that saw themselves as trying to bring about the religious salvation of a country while others saw them fomenting a violent and inescapable political turmoil and treason.

Toss in some dangerous conspiracies, a hidden Jesuit priest, coded letters, a little romance and an eleven-year old future Bard of Avon, and you have a fun mixture for story-telling.

It sounds like The Jesuit Letter is a wonderful mix of real people, places, and events from history mixed in with fictional elements. How did you decide where to stick to the facts as they are known, and where to alter what is known or add your own touches?

I tried to stick to factual events, locations and historical characters as accurately as possible. The reality is that historical fiction requires hard and meticulous research, a critical eye and the ability to parse from history the day-to-day that governs your characters and your settings. Changes that deviate too widely from the real-world elements of the era pulls the reader out of the period and the setting, detracting from the story-line and the overall credibility of the tale. Research, context and, more importantly, being able to reflect and mirror the feel for the era in the story, are critical elements in making historical fiction work.

I think writers of historical fiction need to be careful that research doesn't overwhelm storyline. It is very easy to suffer from excessive inclusion - the need to make certain that your depth of research is reflected on the page. It is very easy to get distracted by the need to explain and the temptation, when a terrific piece of research needs to be incorporated into a scene, is to make the scene about the research rather than the character or the story. When something takes you days or weeks to research and plan, the urge to have that fictional moment encompass more to justify all the hard work that went into it, can be an easy and common trap.

Historical fiction is best when the author is painting in the corners, dropping in the innocuous and oft un-noted details that help make the era and the landscape come alive in ways that the reader barely overtly notices, but builds and supports the overall world and setting. It is found in the canted timber walls and the worn pasteboards, the sour warm ale and the mud-caked cobbles, the taste of spiced wine and the rancid stench of a urine-soaked alley. The research leads the writer, helping enter into that world, where they need to critically pick the elements and moments to entrap in prose, and pull the reader into their time-warp and an engrossing story.

What sort of research went into writing The Jesuit Letter? Did you do any traveling as part of your research?

Probably more research than was needed! The germ of the idea behind The Jesuit Letter came out of reading a biography of William Shakespeare but once the idea had been fleshed out came the realization that I needed to know more. The next three years were spent on immersing myself in the history of the period. I have at least three shelves worth of history books and biographies, and another of binders filled with articles, art and miscellaneous information. Historical fiction research is a bit like an iceberg, only about 10% ever shows up in the work, but the hidden 90% lurks under the surface. By way of example, there is one scene of cardplay in the book. This required extensive research into the history of playing cards, researching the rules behind primero (a card game), as well as some hours dealing mock hands at my kitchen table to understand the play and rhythm of the game…all for a scene that encompasses maybe two and a half pages.

The research still hasn’t stopped. If anything, it has broadened to encompass some wider aspects of the Elizabethan and Renaissance era. I’ve looked at everything from clothing and diet, card-playing, Elizabethan theatre, sword-play and fighting skills to spycraft and politics. I regularly bore people about the subject, if they make the mistake of asking!

With regards to research travel - unfortunately not at this point. I’m hoping to get a research trip in sometime in the coming year for a new book.

Was there anything you discovered as part of your research that you found surprising or shocking?

I think prior to becoming immersed in the era, that I had failed to grasp the complexity and nuanced view of the religious and political situation that Queen Elizabeth and her contemporaries had faced. They very much walked a knife-edge in dealing with both the multitude of Catholic recusants on one side and the hard-line Puritans on the other. It is very hard for a modern reader to get a clear appreciation of the religious absolutism that drove the Catholic Church to deliberately set about to undermine and destroy what they saw as a heretical power governing England – one that threatened the souls of an entire country and the validity of the Papacy. It ended up being an immensely political issue – to whom do people owe their allegiance, Queen or Pope? A wrong choice could, and often did, end fatally.

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. Do you have a favorite time period to write and/or read about, or do you enjoy jumping around as I do?
I tend to jump about, both in my historical fiction and in my history reading. The Elizabethan and Renaissance eras are one obsession, but I read ancient history as well, Greek and Roman history, the history of exploration and trade - the Silk Road remains a topic of much fascination, and the medieval era, as well as more modern works covering international politics, the World Wars and the post-9/11 world.

In historical fiction I will confess to reading *anything* by Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden, both of whom are superlative writers. I have a great fondness for George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series. I also highly recommend Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series, which is both poetic and brilliant.

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

Writing and life are a tough balance. Squeezing in time to put words to paper is often frustratingly slow. I had the advantage of having a hugely supportive wife who helped me find the time I needed on weekends, holidays and evenings to drop in and out of the Elizabethan world and tell my story. The biggest single issue I ran into was, oddly enough, entirely seasonal. My son was enrolled in competitive hockey, so seven months out of the year, from September through to March, I was haunting hockey arenas four to five days a week. Between driving him to and from practices and games, writing time became a scarce commodity. I was able to scare up some time by dragging my laptop into the arena restaurant on occasion. Most of my “prequel” novella BLACK DOG was written sitting at hockey arenas. Once spring and summer arrive, it becomes writing season for me.

What drew you to independently publish The Jesuit Letter as opposed to seeking traditional publishing?

I spent about a year or so sending out agent query letters while researching self-publishing at the same time. More and more, it began to look like a viable possible alternative and the lack of response from agencies helped spur on the decision to look at new options. I finally just got tired of waiting for an agent to say yes and wanted to find out what readers thought of my work.

I wanted to present the most professional work possible, so I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for hiring a professional editor and a cover designer. I successfully raised $3200 and after much work launched the book last year – on April 23rd, Shakespeare’s birthday.

During the last year,
The Jesuit Letter landed an Editor’s Choice selection from the Historical Novel Society (HNS), and was one of nine books short-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award. It was also short-listed as one of ten semi-finalists for the 2016 M.M. Bennet’s Award for Historical Fiction. And now, a BRAG Medallion! Obviously, I must be doing something right.

Wow, congratulations on all the accolades! How wonderful! Speaking of indieBRAG, How did you discover indieBRAG and what does it mean to you to have The Jesuit Letter awarded the BRAG Medallion?

Indie Brag and the BRAG Medallion are hard to miss, once you start looking at independently published books. They just keep turning up – really good books, all with a BRAG Medallion on them! It was fairly clear very early that the BRAG Medallion was a terrific sign of quality writing and quality books that any author would be honoured to have bestowed on their work.

There are just so many self-published books available on the market today, sometimes of highly variable quality, it becomes maddeningly hard to separate your book from the rest and effectively market your work to have it stand-out. The BRAG Medallion offers readers an independent evaluation and a visible symbol of a quality work, vetted and evaluated for that quality. It is a tremendous help for both readers and authors. I feel privileged and honoured to have
The Jesuit Letter to receive a BRAG Medallion. I literally jumped from my chair when I received the news.

Thank you for the chance to talk to your readers! I hope they enjoy the interview and take the opportunity to read
The Jesuit Letter.


Thank you so much, Dean, for answering my questions! The Jesuit Letter sounds spectacular!
You can learn more about Dean Hamilton and his books on his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter. You can purchase a copy of The Jesuit Letter on Amazon. You can also purchase a copy of the prequel novella, Black Dog, on Amazon.
A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Colleen has chosen to interview Dean Hamilton, who is the author of The Jesuit Letter, 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.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Blast: The Irish Inheritance by Martin Lee

Publication Date: June 15, 2016
eBook; 285 Pages

Series: The Jayne Sinclair Series, Book One
Genre: Historical/Mystery

June 8, 1921. Ireland.

A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.

November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.

Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father.

How are the two events linked?

Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past.

The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.

It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.

Buy the Book

About the Author

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in
history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

You can find more information on M.J. Lee and his novels on Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Irish Inheritance Book Blast Schedule

Monday, July 11

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book Blast: As Death Draws Near (Lady Darby Mystery #5) by Anna Lee Huber + Tour-Wide Giveaway!

Pub. Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 336 

Hardcover & eBook

Series: Lady Darby Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

The latest mystery from the national bestselling author of A Study in Death tangles Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage in a dangerous web of religious and political intrigue.

July 1831. In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter.

Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travel to Rathfarnham Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous.

Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end…

Praise for The Lady Darby Mysteries

“Riveting…Huber deftly weaves together an original premise, an enigmatic heroine, and a compelling Highland setting for a book you won’t want to put down.”—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author

“[A] history mystery in fine Victorian style!”—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author

“[A] fascinating heroine…A thoroughly enjoyable read!”—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author

“[A] clever heroine with a shocking past and a talent for detection.”—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author

Buy the Book


About the Author

Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery
Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a degree in music and a minor in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana, and when not working on her next book she enjoys reading, singing, traveling and spending time with her family.

For more information please visit Connect with Anna Lee Huber on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway Time!!

To win a paperback copy of As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber, please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form HERE. Two copies are up for grabs!


Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Giveaway is open to US & Canada 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!!!

As Death Draws Near Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, July 5

100 Pages a Day
Jorie Loves a Story
Passages to the Past
Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, July 6

Layered Pages
Buried Under Books
CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, July 7

The Lit Bitch
The Book Junkie Reads
A Dream within a Dream
To Read, Or Not to Read

Friday, July 8

History Undressed
Diana’s Book Reviews

Saturday, July 9

A Chick Who Reads
Reading Is My SuperPower

Sunday, July 10

Book Drunkard

Monday, July 11

It’s a Mad Mad World
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, July 12

The Reading Queen
Curling up by the Fire

Wednesday, July 13

Brooke Blogs
Queen of All She Reads
History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, July 14

Book Nerd
A Literary Vacation

Friday, July 15

A Holland Reads
Beth’s Book Nook Blog


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Where Writers Write: Guest Post by Laura Ellen Scott, Author of The Juliet

My writing space is in a transitional mode, mainly because I have retired the old writing desk that my grandfather built—it’s uncomfortable and starting to fall apart. With three novels under my belt and another in draft mode, I feel like it’s time for me to stop thinking of my writing room as the Guest Bedroom and start thinking of it as my Home Office (with a bed in it). So for the first time in my life, I’m trying to turn my desk into a destination, heavy on the ocean colors, mint candles, and a cool internet radio station from Russia called Cosmic Waves. I wrote my last book on mint candle fumes, and now I’m addicted. I’m pretty happy with how the space is developing, but I have yet to solve the problem of power cords. 

The other place I write is at my cabin in the West Virginia panhandle. I don’t have a dedicated space there, but it isn’t necessary since there are breathtaking views from every window.

In either location, I write under the intense scrutiny of my two terriers, Penelope and Trillian.

 Trade Paperback – Available now
Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing
ISBN13: 9781945502002
258 pages

 During Death Valley’s great wildflower bloom of 2005, retired cowboy actor Rigg Dexon gives a rootless woman a gift that will change her life forever: the deed to The Mystery House, a century old shack long thought to be the hiding place of a legendary emerald known as The Juliet.

Willie Judy remembers Dexon from cereal commercials she watched as a kid, but now she’ll spend the next seven days searching for the truth about him, the house, and herself, as the history of The Juliet reveals the American Dream’s dark side—one that is corrupt, bawdy, and half insane. 

Praise for The Juliet

"As rich, varied, and vivid as the wildflower bloom in Death Valley, The Juliet gives us a panorama of lives desperate to be reinvented and, in that most American story, drawn west for one final chance. Scott's characters' good luck may be fleeting as those rare flowers, but the thrill of following them into the desert lasts through the very last page and beyond."-Steve Himmer author of The Bee-Loud Glade, Fram, and Scratch

Buy the Book


About the Author

Laura Ellen Scott is the author of several novels including Death Wishing, a comic fantasy set in post-Katrina New Orleans, The Juliet, a western about the search for a cursed emerald in Death Valley, and the New Royal Mysteries series set in a fictional college/prison town in Ohio. The first New Royal Mystery is The Mean Bone in Her Body, will be released in late 2016. Born and raised in Northern Ohio, Laura now lives in Fairfax, Virginia and teaches creative writing at George Mason University. 

The Juliet Blog Tour Schedule

Lovely Bookshelf (7/11/16)

Lectito (7/12/16)

A Literary Vacation (7/12/16)

Rainbow of Books (7/13/16)

Alternating Current’s The Coil (7/13/16)

Historical Fiction Excerpts (7/14/16)

The Book Wheel (7/14/16)

Grab the Lapels (7/15/16)

History from a Woman's Perspective (7/15/16)


Monday, July 11, 2016

Excerpt of The Tulip Factory by Kacie Davis Idol + Giveaway!!

Please enjoy this excerpt of The Tulip Factory, the debut novel by Kacie Davis Idol that explores the concept of rediscovering who you are at any age and following your heart even if it takes you to unexpected places. Don't forget to continue after the excerpt for information about the book, the author, and how you can enter my giveaway to win a copy of your own!

Prologue: Corinne

When I was little, I was the flower girl in my aunt’s wedding. She was your true eighties rocker chick, and even in 1990, she was still clinging to her preferred decade, shoulder pads and all. The late-spring wedding was full of blue dresses, yellow corsages, and really big hair.

I can remember it like it was yesterday; we were sitting in the elder’s room of my family’s church before the ceremony. The scent of hairspray and old hymnals permeated the air. Back then my hair was much blonder and way curlier than it is now, and my mom had neatly pulled the front back with an oversize yellow bow. I sat on the floor in the corner of the room, twirling my empty flower girl basket in circles. It was painted white and had a yellow ribbon threaded through the handle to complement the wedding theme.

The florist had just arrived with a cardboard box full of carefully arranged white roses, also tied with yellow ribbons. She began passing out the bouquets to the bridal party, starting with the bride. One by one, the overzealous group of women in their puffy-sleeved dresses and stiff bangs eagerly took their budding bundles. I waited patiently with my empty basket for my white rose petals to sprinkle down the aisle.

My parents had been talking me up for weeks, so I was excited for my big debut. I had practiced multiple times during the wedding rehearsal, and I knew exactly when to walk and where to stand. I was a quiet child. I did what I was told without causing a scene, and I didn’t like getting into trouble. Once all the bouquets had been handed out, the giddy bridal party beamed proudly and got into position, ready to make their way down the aisle. That’s when my mom came in to check on everyone and to join the procession as the maid of honor. Noticing my bare basket, she hurried over and squatted down beside me, getting on my level.

“Sweetie, where are your rose petals?” she asked.

I had never gotten my rose petals. The florist had completely forgotten them. My aunt began freaking out, the florist started to panic, and the bridesmaids kept teasing their hair, pretending to be worried at the same time. Just then, my dad came busting through the door like a superhero. (Maybe he didn’t “bust” through the door, but that’s how it plays out in my memory.) He came straight over to me, and my mom told him about the latest wedding debacle. She was shaking her head and trying to calm my aunt by offering to tear some petals off of her own bouquet for me to throw. Apparently that “wasn’t an option.” That’s when my dad spoke up. He announced that he had an idea, kissed my mom on the cheek, and left the room in a hurry.

My aunt paced the floor and stared at the clock. It was a small room, and it was starting to feel smaller by the second. My stomach rumbled from hunger, and the hairspray fumes were making me dizzy. Just as I thought I was going to have to eat the sugar cubes next to the coffee maker, my dad came running through the door. His cheeks were flushed and he was out of breath. Before my mom could even ask where he had been for the last ten minutes, he made a beeline for me, holding something wrapped in brown paper.

He unwrapped the thin package and pulled out a handful of fresh yellow tulips. He eased himself down to the floor by my side and smiled. My aunt peered over his shoulder and commented on how the flowers didn’t look like roses. He immediately shushed her. Not only were they not roses, but they were certainly not white. He started pulling the petals off and dropping them into my basket, then handed me the other tulip and told me to do the same. My dad had saved the day and also my shining moment as a flower girl. I’ll never forget what he said to me next.

“This is your moment, baby girl. If the world is all white roses, then you’re a field of tulips.”
Publisher: Inkshares
Pub. Date: June 7th, 2016
Pages: 200

Before they exchange even a single word, Corrine knows that James will change everything. And sure enough, their serendipitous meeting in a North Carolina coffee shop sets off a whirlwind of desire and possibilities for the two.

Timing, however, isn’t on the couple’s side. After their relationship ends, Corrine finds that years of putting her career and passions on hold for love have led to a stalled life. She once saw her receptionist job as temporary but got too comfortable and, before she knew it, lost sight of her dream of becoming a writer.

Now, as Corrine makes her way into her late twenties, she’s on a quest to find herself. As she struggles to figure out what she really wants, she’ll discover that sometimes you have to take happiness into your own hands and that a fulfilling life is built on opportunities—even the missed ones.

Praise for The Tulip Factory

"The Tulip Factory is a realistic tale about how difficult life and love can be…A different and enjoyable happily ever after." —

"…a timely, inspiring story with honest, likable characters and compelling North Carolina settings. I very much enjoyed following Corrine as she navigates the choppy waters of early adulthood, sorting out her desires and dreams as best she can. A poignant read for those of us who have floundered through it ourselves."—Angel Schroeder, Owner of Sunrise Books

"Being in my 40s I look back at my 20s and realize how anxious I was of the future. The Tulip Factory brought me back to that time in my life and made me laugh.... Great beach read!"—Suzanne Lucey, Owner of Page 158 Books

Buy the Book


About the Author


Kacie Davis Idol lives in Kernersville, North Carolina, with her husband, beautiful baby daughter, and beloved dogs. The Tulip Factory is her debut novel.
You can connect with Kacie on Facebook and Twitter.


Giveaway Time!!!

Thanks to Angela Melamud at Inkshares I have one copy of The Tulip Factory up for grabs (US and Canada only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

Please Note: When verifying the extra entries I've noticed that some people are saying they follow me in certain ways that they, in fact, do not. I want to give extra entries to those that are actually taking the time to follow my blog, so please double check that you are in fact following me before saying you do. This verification is becoming a time consuming process so I will begin to remove all extra entries for those that I find are not being honest.

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on July 18th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email with their mailing address. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
Good Luck!!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Release Day Spotlight on Summer of Love by Katie Fforde

Publisher: Bookouture
Pub. Date: July 8th, 2016
Pages: 404

A gorgeously romantic summer read about fresh starts, friendships and falling deeply in love.

Sian Bishop has left the hustle and bustle of the city to throw herself into an idyllic new life in a charming countryside cottage.

With her young son, her picture-postcard garden and her furniture restoration business, she's very happy and very busy. She is not - repeat not - looking for love.

But Sian’s good intentions are torpedoed one glorious summer’s evening with the arrival of Gus Berresford. One-time explorer and full-time heartbreaker, Gus is ridiculously exciting, wonderfully glamorous and a completely inappropriate love interest for a single mother.

But she and Gus have met before. And, despite Sian's best intentions, it isn't long before she's falling for him all over again ...

Feel the sun on your face and fall in love with this gloriously romantic tale from the No.1 bestselling Katie Fforde.

Buy the Book


About the Author 

Katie Fforde started writing when her mother gave her a writing kit for Christmas. She thinks she
was fed up with her saying she wanted to write but not doing it. As Katie had three small children at the time, she thought this was a tiny bit unfair! But it seemed to do the trick and she started writing and loved it. It was eight years before she had a publisher and ten before a book appeared on a shelf.

Katie has now been a published writer for over 20 years and has written over 20 bestselling novels and has sold over 3 million books.

She has lived in the same house in Gloucestershire for over thirty five years and loves that her grandchildren are close by.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Interview with B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Rosaline Riley

Please join me in welcoming B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Rosaline Riley to A Literary Vacation!  Rosaline was born and grew up in Lancashire in the north of England. She lives in London now, and has one husband, four grown up children and five grandchildren.

For many years she was a literature tutor in the Lifelong Learning Department at Warwick University where she specialised in teaching 20th century and contemporary novels, both on the university campus and in outreach locations around the area. For her this was a dream job. What could be better than studying novels with groups of interested readers?

When she moved to London in 2006 she began writing seriously, attending novel writing courses at Birkbeck College and the Faber Academy.

To date, she has written and published two novels – The End of the Road which has recently been awarded a BRAG Medallion and Clad in Armour of Radiant White which was awarded the Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence.

She is now working on her third novel – which is set in Australia, a country that she and her husband fell in love with eleven years ago and are always looking for excuses to revisit.


Hello, Rosaline, and welcome to A Literary Vacation! To start off with, please tell us a little about your book, The End of the Road?

Thank you Colleen. I’m delighted to be here.

The End of the Road is about two women - Jane, whose husband Neil has recently died, and her friend Fran who also happens to be the mother-in-law of her daughter Lucy. The novel opens when Fran, who has just arrived for a weekend visit with Jane, suddenly and inexplicably goes missing, throwing Jane’s life and those of their inter-related families into turmoil. 

In the days and months following this traumatic event, one guilty secret after another comes to light and Jane is forced to re-assess both her marriage and her relationship with Fran.

So it is a novel about betrayal and deception and the problem of forgiveness. ‘Forgive and forget’ – easy to say, impossible to do. It is also, though, about friendship – female friendship, a complex subject which seems to be something of a preoccupation of mine as it also figures large in my other novel Clad in Armour of Radiant White.


It sounds like The End of the Road is chock-full of familial loss and drama as well as a mystery component. Where did the idea for the story originate from?

The End of the Road is the second novel I wrote. When the first one wasn’t considered ‘commercial’ enough I set about looking for something that might be considered more so. Having someone go missing seemed like a good idea, so I started from there.

Did you have an outline of how things would proceed and conclude from the beginning, or did you develop the story as you wrote it?

For me there’s a whole creative process to be gone through before I even think about starting to write. Ideas appear, I start to play around with possible plot scenarios, characters begin to take shape in my mind. The more time I spend on this preliminary phase the more things change. And once I start the actual writing, this creative process continues and yes, I do change and develop the story (and the characters) as I go along.
With The End of the Road it became clear, quite early on, that the ‘missing person’ opening was merely a catalyst for what is essentially a novel about relationships. And once the themes of the novel became clear it became easier to plot my way towards what I hope is a psychologically satisfying ending.
Did you do any research, possibly into the grieving process or procedures when a person goes missing, before writing the story? If so, was there anything you learned as part of the research process that surprised or shocked you?

When I started down the missing persons track I did a bit of online research on police procedure and prosecution policy. Similarly, I did look into bereavement counselling. But it was reading up about the complex psychological implications of forgiveness that I found the most interesting and revealing as this became a theme which found its way into my novel in ways that I hadn’t anticipated at the outset.  

"The question of forgiveness, though, continued to exercise her. Who benefitted from it, she wondered, the forgiver or the forgivee? (If there was such a word?) If the forgivee was dead – which Neil was – it couldn’t possibly matter to him whether she forgave him or not. However, it might make a difference to her. If she could bring herself to forgive him – not necessarily right away, but in time – then she might rid herself of all this destructive rage. Forgive and forget, isn’t that what they say? (Them again.) But how hard it was to forgive. And how utterly impossible it would be to forget – regardless of the benefits of doing so." - (The End of the Road)

I know that many authors are often big readers as well. Do you have a favorite genre, or do you like to jump around a bit? Do you have any favorite authors?

When I was teaching, my focus was on literary fiction (does that counts as a genre?) - mainly 20th century and contemporary fiction, with an emphasis on women writers.

But since becoming an indie author myself I’ve been reading a lot of other indies across a variety of genres, e.g. historical, crime, thrillers. So far, though, I haven’t been tempted by fantasy and/or the paranormal, of which there seems to be such a lot around!

There are many authors whose books I have enjoyed reading. One of my all-time favourites has to be Virginia Woolf. I have read To the Lighthouse many times. I’m also an admirer of Katherine Mansfield, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, to name a very few. Recently I discovered the novels of Elena Ferrante and read them all compulsively. A wonderful experience!

And male writers? I love Peter Carey’s novels, and I have enjoyed reading Jonathan Franzen. (Not sure why that sounds a bit like a confession!)

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

I try very hard to have a consistent, daily writing routine, but needless to say I rarely manage this for any length of time.

After breakfast I do yoga (gentle yoga, you understand!) then I aim to write for the rest of the morning. The idea is to make these morning writing sessions compulsory. Life, however, will keep getting in the way of them. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but I have to admit that often I’m guilty of using ‘life’ as an excuse for my own lack of self-discipline.

Once I’m into a novel it becomes easier to sit down and get on with it. But I don’t plough on until I get to the end. I edit and edit as I go along. (If editing were an Olympic sport I’d be a medal contender.) And then when I do get to the end I start editing all over again. This is the part of novel writing I like the best and when I’m at this stage I can sit down for hours at a time every day. 

I’m now embarking on my third novel, having just spent six weeks in Australia (where it is set) researching it, and I’m so full of enthusiasm and determination at the moment that my morning sessions are going well.

What drew you to independently publish The End of the Road as opposed to seeking traditional publishing?

I wrote most of The End of the Road while on the Faber Academy’s six-month Novel Writing course. At the end of the course, I did have a couple of agents interested in it but (at the end of the day) they didn’t take it further. Times are hard in the publishing industry; people are reluctant to take on first-time novelists.

I then sent it out to a bunch of other agents but it soon became clear that I was wasting my time. So I was faced with the choice of either giving up on it, or publishing it myself. I felt that it was good enough, so I chose to do the latter. And I have to say that I’ve been very pleased with my decision.
How did you discover indieBRAG and what does it mean to you to have The End of the Road awarded the BRAG Medallion?

I am a member of a wonderful organization called ALLi – the Alliance of Independent Authors – and it was through this that I heard about indieBRAG. It comes very highly recommended and many of its members are themselves BRAG Medallion Honorees.

I submitted The End of the Road because, like I said, I thought it was good enough to be published, but it is one thing to think that oneself, another to have quality external validation. When I heard it had been awarded the medallion I was absolutely thrilled!
Thank you, Rosaline, for taking the time to answer my questions!!
You can learn more about Rosaline and her books on her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can purchase The End of the Road on Amazon and Amazon UK.
A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Colleen has chosen to interview Rosaline Riley, who is the author of The End of the Road, 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.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Release Day Blitz! The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack

Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Picador USA
Paperback; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250095770

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time Travel/Mystery/Romance

Finalist for the 2016 RWA Prism Awards for Best First Book & Best Time Travel/ Steampunk category.

Two lovers who have travelled across time.

A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research.

A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery.

At once a sweeping love story and a time-travelling adventure, Gwendolyn Womack’s luminous debut novel, The Memory Painter, is perfect for readers of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Life After Life and Winter’s Tale.

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections―possibly even flashback from another life―and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan’s paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.

Their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet―visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

The Memory Painter, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Inception, is at once a taut thriller and a deeply original love story that transcends time and space, spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history.

Advanced Praise for The Memory Painter

“Gwendolyn Womack’s tale dazzles.” ―US Weekly (Standout Spring Novels)

“…hang on for a wild and entertaining ride around the world and through the centuries back to ancient Egypt.” ~ Library Journal, starred review

“A sweeping, mesmerizing feat of absolute magic. . . . ” ~ M.J. Rose, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“Layers of past and present form a rich pastry of a narrative, poignant and thoughtful, rich and suspenseful, filled with intrigue and dripping with meaning… ” ~ Charlie Lovett, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Bookman’s Tale and First Impressions


Buy the Book


About the Author

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college at the
University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing Theatre, Video & Cinema. Currently she resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she can be found at the keyboard working on her next novel. The Memory Painter is her first novel.

For more information visit Gwendolyn’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Trailer


Release Day Blitz Participants