Friday, December 30, 2016

The Tip of My Wish List - Most Anticipated 2017 Historical Fiction

If you're anything like me you've got a book wish list so long there is no way you will ever be able to read through it all. And, on top of that, it's never ending because you just can't stop adding more books to it! To try and organize myself I'm sharing 5 books from my wish list that I'm most excited to get to, usually with a common theme, on the last Friday of each month. I know a number of excellent bloggers 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 books to your own wish list. I'll also link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy of the books if they sound 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.

For my last wish list post of 2016 I've decided to go with the historical fiction books I'm most excited to get my hands on in 2017. These do not include the books I've already received for review (which, let me just tell you, are AWESOME) but the ones I'm still itching for. There are so many excellent books coming out next year, so this was really hard to narrow down!


1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth matter where it leads.

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July, 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First, Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naïve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Summer, a captivating and moving story of the unlikely relationship between a lady and her maid on the eve of World War I.

As I watched him—his long legs striding the narrow path through the heather, his golden hair catching the sun—I had a hideous feeling in the pit of my stomach. For it seemed as though he was already marching away from me.

In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson’s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady’s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell’s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences—and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer.

But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline’s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress—a secret that will bind them together forever...

Veronica Speedwell returns in a brand new adventure from Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries...

London, 1887 . . Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman's noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer, a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia's life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime.

From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed....

"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!"

As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit -- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past -- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life.

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.


Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list:

Heather at The Maiden's Court has 5 Historical Romances that are 1st in a series that she's looking forward to reading HERE.

Magdalena at Bookaholic Swede is sharing 5 Crime and Horror novels with a snowy theme HERE.

Stephanie at Layered Pages has 5 random books she's excited to read HERE.

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired is sharing 5 novels that include postcards in their narrative HERE.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Top 16 Books of 2016

Ah, this has been quite a good year for reading! Because I have trouble limiting myself to a favorites list as short as "top ten" I've decided to share my top 16 books of the year. I rated all of these 4.5 or higher (click the titles for my review). It's quite a mixed bag of genres this year and I not only enjoyed books by authors I already loved but found some new ones to add to my favorites list. Let me know in the comments if you've read any of these, or if there are any books on your own "best of 2016" lists that I need to be sure to add to my wish list. 


Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.

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.

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

The Edge of Lost by Kristina  McMorris

From bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes an ambitious and heartrending story of immigrants, deception, and second chances.

On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skilfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

In Depression-era Boston, a city divided by privilege and poverty, two unlikely friends are bound by a dangerous secret. . .

 Maeve Fanning, a first generation Irish immigrant, was born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and headstrong, Maeve is determined to better herself despite the hardships of the Great Depression. However, she also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite for experience that soon finds her spiraling downward in New York City. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an involuntary patient in a remote psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her unladylike desire for freedom.

After her release, Maeve returns to Boston to start over again, landing a job at an antiques shop catering to the city’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven for the obscure and incredible, supplying one-of-a-kind artifacts to its customers while providing Maeve with unique access into the world of New England’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to a wealthy family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the same young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Maeve becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover just how far she’s willing to go to reinvent herself.

 A rich, universal story of ambition, transformation, desire, and betrayal, Rare Objects is acclaimed writer Kathleen Tessaro’s finest work to date.

June by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore

From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever.

 Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a "Best Book of the Summer" by Glamour and USA TODAY—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

 In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

Following her bestselling debut novel Come Away with Me, Karma Brown returns with an unforgettable story that explores the intricate dynamics between friends and mothers

Hannah and Kate became friends in the fifth grade, when Hannah hit a boy for looking up Kate's skirt with a mirror. While they've been close as sisters ever since, Hannah can't help but feel envious of the little family Kate and her husband, David, have created—complete with two perfect little girls.

She and Ben have been trying for years to have a baby, so when they receive the news that she will likely never get pregnant, Hannah's heartbreak is overwhelming. But just as they begin to tentatively explore the other options, it's Kate's turn to do the rescuing. Not only does she offer to be Hannah's surrogate, but Kate is willing to use her own eggs to do so.

Full of renewed hope, excitement and gratitude, these two families embark on an incredible journey toward parenthood…until a devastating tragedy puts everything these women have worked toward at risk of falling apart. Poignant and refreshingly honest, The Choices We Make is a powerful tale of two mothers, one incredible friendship and the risks we take to make our dreams come true.  

Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Audie Award Finalist, Original Work, 2016 

Based on the best-selling, award-winning graphic novel series Locke & Key - written by acclaimed suspense novelist Joe Hill (NOS4A2, Horns) and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez - this multicast, fully dramatized audio production brings the images and words to life.

A brutal and tragic event drives the Locke family from their home in California to the relative safety of their ancestral estate in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, an old house with powerful keys and fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. As siblings Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke discover the secrets of the old house, they also find that it's home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all....

Featuring performances by Haley Joel Osment (Entourage, The Sixth Sense), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is the New Black, Star Trek: Voyager), Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Stephen King (The Stand, 11-22-63), as well as a cast of more than 50 voice actors, this audio production preserves the heart-stopping impact of the graphic novel's astounding artwork through the use of richly imagined sound design and a powerful original score.

*Locke & Key contains explicit language and adult situations.

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty. . . .

 So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—Lala, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. Lala knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love, the kind of love his parents won’t—or can’t—show him.

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

How well do you ever really know the family next door?

Bucolic Newport Cove, where spontaneous block parties occur on balmy nights and all of the streets are named for flowers, is proud of its distinction of being named one the top twenty safest neighborhoods in the US. It’s also one of the most secret-filled.

Kellie Scott has just returned to work after a decade of being a stay-at-home mom. She’s adjusting to high heels, scrambling to cook dinner for her family after a day at the office—and soaking in the dangerous attention of a very handsome, very married male colleague. Kellie’s neighbor Susan Barrett begins every day with fresh resolutions: she won’t eat any carbs, she’ll go to bed at a reasonable hour, and she’ll stop stalking her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Gigi Kennedy seems to have it all together—except her teenage daughter has turned into a hostile stranger and her husband is running for Congress, which means her old skeletons are in danger of being brought into the light.

Then a new family moves to this quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac. Tessa Campbell seems friendly enough to the other mothers, if a bit reserved. Then the neighbors notice that no one is ever invited to Tessa’s house. And soon, it becomes clear that Tessa is hiding the biggest secret of all.
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter

Althea Bell is still heartbroken by her mother’s tragic, premature death—and tormented by the last, frantic words she whispered into young Althea’s ear: Wait for her. For the honeysuckle girl. She’ll find you, I think, but if she doesn’t, you find her.

Adrift ever since, Althea is now fresh out of rehab and returning to her family home in Mobile, Alabama, determined to reconnect with her estranged, ailing father. While Althea doesn’t expect him, or her politically ambitious brother, to welcome her with open arms, she’s not prepared for the chilling revelation of a grim, long-buried family secret. Fragile and desperate, Althea escapes with an old flame to uncover the truth about her lineage. Drawn deeper into her ancestors’ lives, Althea begins to unearth their disturbing history…and the part she’s meant to play in it.

Gripping and visceral, this unforgettable debut delves straight into the heart of dark family secrets and into one woman’s emotional journey to save herself from a sinister inheritance.

The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore

International sensation Santa Montefiore presents the first book in a trilogy that follows three Irish women through the decades of the twentieth century—perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Hazel Gaynor.
Born on the ninth day of the ninth month in the year 1900, Kitty Deverill is special as her grandmother has always told her. Built on the stunning green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill is Kitty’s beloved home, where many generations of Deverills have also resided. Although she’s Anglo-Irish, Kitty’s heart completely belongs to the wild countryside of the Emerald Isle, and her devotion to her Irish-Catholic friends Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the castle’s cook, and Jack O’Leary, the vet’s son, is unmatched—even if Jack is always reminding her that she isn’t fully Irish. Still, Jack and Kitty can’t help falling in love although they both know their union faces the greatest obstacles since they are from different worlds.

Bridie cherishes her friendship with Kitty, who makes her feel more like her equal than a servant. Yet she can’t help dreaming of someday having all the wealth and glamour Kitty’s station in life affords her. But when she discovers a secret that Kitty has been keeping from her, Bridie finds herself growing resentful toward the girl in the castle who seems to have it all.

When the Irish revolt to throw over British rule in Southern Ireland, Jack enlists to fight. Worried for her safety, Jack warns Kitty to keep her distance, but she refuses and throws herself into the cause for Irish liberty, running messages and ammunition between the rebels. But as Kitty soon discovers, her allegiance to her family and her friends will be tested—and when Castle Deverill comes under attack, the only home and life she’s ever known are threatened.

A powerful story of love, loyalty, and friendship, The Girl in the Castle is an exquisitely written novel set against the magical, captivating landscape of Ireland.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Longlisted for the National Book Award–Fiction

 It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

A young woman travels alone to a remote island to uncover a past she never knew was hers in this thrilling modern ghost story

 When a mysterious letter lands in Hallie James's mailbox, her life is upended. Hallie was raised by her loving father, having been told her mother died in a fire decades earlier. But it turns out that her mother, Madlyn, was alive until very recently. Why would Hallie's father have taken her away from Madlyn? What really happened to her family thirty years ago?

In search of answers, Hallie travels to the place where her mother lived, a remote island in the middle of the Great Lakes. The stiff islanders fix her first with icy stares and then unabashed amazement as they recognize why she looks so familiar, and Hallie quickly realizes her family's dark secrets are enmeshed in the history of this strange place. But not everyone greets her with such a chilly reception―a coffee-shop owner and the family's lawyer both warm to Hallie, and the possibility of romance blooms. And then there's the grand Victorian house bequeathed to her―maybe it's the eerie atmosphere or maybe it's the prim, elderly maid who used to work for her mother, but Hallie just can't shake the feeling that strange things are starting to happen . . .

In The Tale of Halcyon Crane, Wendy Webb has created a haunting story full of delicious thrills, vibrant characters, and family secrets.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


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?

Check out these other End of Year posts from some of my favorite bloggers:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Interview with Lynn Cullen, Author of Twain's End

I can’t start this interview without first gushing over the fact that I absolutely LOVED your previous novel, Mrs. Poe. Before preparing these questions I went back and read my review and, I have to say, I became very excited again about the whole story. It might be time to re-read it! Anyway, I’m clearly a huge fan, so thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. And welcome to A Literary Vacation!

I’m thrilled that Mrs. Poe struck a chord with you, Colleen, and I’m delighted for a chance to discuss Twain’s End with you. Thank you for inviting me upon A Literary Vacation. I could certainly use one, having just finished nine months of intense work on the first draft of my next novel.

I imagine you do need a vacation of any kind after such intense work! But I have to say I love to hear you've been busy writing as that means another book will be on the way for me to read :) ! To start off our discussion of your newest, Twain's End, can you tell us a little bit about it? What drew you to tell this story?

We all know Mark Twain as the white-haired humorist with a pithy crack about every subject. Many of us imagine that he was a grown-up version of his character Tom Sawyer, the mischievous boy who grew up along the Mississippi. The actual human behind Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens, is much different than our image of him, although we can’t be faulted for believing in it. He and his family carefully cultivated the public persona of Mark Twain. 

The real Sam Clemens came from an extremely poor family headed by a father whose bankruptcy caused young Sam great shame. All his life he wanted to be rich and beloved by the world, and by great force of will and a lot of help from his loved ones, Sam achieved this goal. One of the persons who helped him to this goal in his later years was his secretary, Isabel V. Lyon. 

For nearly seven years, until the year before his death, Isabel did everything for the man from taking care of every want of his grown daughters, to dealing with reporters, to handling all of his social needs, to washing that mane of white hair! Isabel’s diary, upon which I based my book, tells of her devotion, service, and, frankly, worship of the man. Yet, after six and a half years of service, she suddenly married Twain’s business manager, Ralph Ashcroft, and two months after that, Twain launched on a smear campaign against her that was astonishing in its viciousness and ugliness. My first reaction was “The man dost protest too much, methinks.” My second was, my goodness, the man must have been completely in love with her. I launched into my research to prove this theory and, in the process, found a noble and much-wronged woman in the real-life person of Isabel Lyon. Twain’s End is her story.

Is there anything in particular that draws you to historical fiction? Are there any particular times in history you gravitate towards or do you just enjoy history in general?

I’ve always been interested in how humans tick. What better way to study human psychology than through the lives of famous people? Over the years, as I’ve immersed myself in researching my real-life characters with the goal of understanding how they think, I’ve been struck with one salient factor: famous people are rarely who we think they are. I’ve made it a specialty in my books to square the reputations of my characters with their actual lives. I love a misunderstood legendary figure!

What sort of research did you conduct when writing Twain’s End? Have you ever traveled to the locations discussed in the story before or during the writing process?

I make a point of visiting the location of every scene in my books. Not only does that ensure the authenticity of the setting, but often gives me ideas for new scenes. The scenes in Twain’s End in Florence, Italy and Bermuda were very much influenced by my travels. The scene in the Pitti Palace, for example, came from my own tour there--Raphael’s paintings left a big impression on me. I could just see Twain viewing them with Isabel (which they no doubt did.) 

An important part of my research was to not only read dozens of biographies about Twain, but ones about other characters, as well. Clara Clemens’s book about her father, Isabel Lyon’s diary, and the recollections of the maid, Katy Leary, were invaluable. On top of that, there were letters to pore over and many family pictures to peruse. The body language in the photos were full of juicy clues.

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

A typical writing day starts after a walk and lasts for eight or more hours. How many of those eight hours that I’m strictly glued to my seat depends on how close I am to a deadline. Early on in the first draft of a book, I’m up and down a lot—pulling a story out of the ether is extremely hard mental work and I pop up a lot for breaks. My grown daughters and their families live in town so I try to see them most days in order to keep sane. I visit book clubs locally or via Skype at least once a week, which keeps me grounded, too. I’m grateful for reader interaction—it not only enriches my writing but broadens me as a fellow human.

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 really love connecting with readers through book clubs—I’m easily reached to set one up through my author Facebook page. I welcome comments from readers, there, too, and try to answer quickly. I’ll happily respond to anyone through A Literary Vacation, as well. I’m deeply grateful for the time and work dedicated bloggers like you put into getting out the word about my books.

That is so kind of you to say! I can tell you that we book bloggers love every bit of interaction we have with wonderful authors like you, especially since I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers like we are. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

I’ve been a reading fanatic my whole life, starting with the back of cereal boxes as a kid, so I can’t even begin to list my favorites. But I will say that Penelope Lively and Elizabeth Strout have greatly influenced my writing. I reread Olive Kitteridge for the third time while writing my latest.

Are you working on any other books that we can look forward to reading in the future?

My next book is about a woman and her two grown daughters who make a pilgrimage in the height of the Great Depression in 1934 to meet…drumroll, please… Betty Crocker. 

Thank you for the opportunity to chat! I enjoyed my time on A Literary Vacation.

Thank you so much for stopping by and answering my questions, Lynn!! You have made me soooo excited to read your next book!! I'll be waiting as patiently as possible to get it in my hot little hands!

Everyone! As I said before I became a huge fan of Lynn Cullen when I read her first novel, Mrs. Poe. I recently read Twain's End as well and thought it was amazing (click on the titles to read my reviews). Be sure to pick up her books if you want exceptional historical fiction. You can find more information about Lynn, her books, and links to everywhere you can purchase a copy on her website.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Interview with B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Katelyne Parker

Please join me in welcoming B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Katelyne Parker to A Literary Vacation today! Award-winning author, Katelyne Parker, was born in 1972 in Brooklyn, New York, but came of age in South Florida. After she graduated from Barry University, she worked as an educator for over fifteen years. Her debut novel, Hosanna, is a captivating story that will confront the mind and inspire the soul. Today, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

Hi Katelyne, and welcome to A Literary Vacation! To start off with, please tell us a little about your book, Hosanna.

Thank you so much, Colleen. 

Hosanna is a story of a young woman born illegally to a black man and a white woman during the reign of Jim Crow. To hide the truth of Hosanna’s birth story, her racist maternal grandmother forces her to be a maid in her own home. 

After years of rejection and pretense, Hosanna grows infuriatingly rebellious toward her tight-lipped family and insists the truth be told. But she learns soon enough, that sordid truths aren’t welcomed in this small Georgia town where social traditions and segregation laws are a bulwark standing between her and the family she desperately craves.

Hosanna sounds like such a fascinating, unique character that has faced, and continues to face, a myriad of difficulties and pain in her life. What drew you to tell her story? Do you think your readers will be able to relate to aspects of her story?

Hosanna first appeared to me in a dream in 1998 when I saw Miss Margret, Hosanna’s maternal grandmother, sitting on the porch railing of her stately antebellum home. It wasn’t strange to see her drinking out of a cup as gracefully as she was, but it was strange to see her unfazed as she witnessed a fire blazing from a distance. That’s when I awakened, confused but curious. The questions came suddenly: Who is this woman? Where is she from? And why isn’t she troubled? After all, a fire was blazing! That’s when I took pen to paper and began recording what I recalled from that vision and started my frequent visits to the local library to research Georgia segregation history. I’ve always been attracted to stories of the South like, To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind, so Hosanna’s story was a natural evolution from those beloved classics. I knew in short order, that this unexpected dream would become one of many scenes I felt compelled to expand and build around. 

I can imagine many readers relating to Hosanna’s feelings of rejection and her relentless need to feel valued. And I’m almost certain that quite a few of us, out of all generations, have had to wrestle with our views on race at some point in our lives. Perhaps older generations would have raw recollections or experiences from that era and could relate to Hosanna in that way. Conceivably, individuals of all ages and ethnicities could draw parallels to the racial tensions we currently have in our country today. But I too, can imagine many of us wanting to find a semblance of hope on the other side of those tensions where we could see a way forward. I’d like to think Hosanna could be that launch point for such a discussion and that discussion would then lead to a newer way of seeing these issues, and that new way, I hope, could lead to a more profound healing that many well-intentioned people seek.

Being that Hosanna is historical fiction, did you have to do any research while writing? If so, was there anything you found particularly interesting during that process? Anything you wish you could have incorporated that didn’t make it into the story?

Yes, I researched Georgia and U.S. History from the pre-Civil War era to 1967, the year the Supreme Court ruled state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional. 

I found the first person accounts from blacks and whites during that time the most riveting. If any reader believes the characters in Hosanna ring authentic, they can credit the real life people who left accounts of their experiences during the era of Jim Crow. 

As for historical research that didn’t make the cut, I purposely and without regret excluded the events of southern history I felt would not move the story forward. If a historical event or fact did not relate significantly to the plot, then I had no desire to bring it in, especially if I felt it would detract from the reader’s understanding of the story.

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 admire people like you who have broad historical interests. But I’m afraid I don’t ever jump around time periods. I am particularly fixed on reading and writing about southern history from the pre-Civil War era through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

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

Well, I’m a homeschool teacher, so my mornings are primarily dedicated to my son’s academic and athletic development. Since we have full control over our schedule, I teach in the mornings, then write and conduct research when necessary in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends. 

I balance my time by creating a schedule that we try to stick to in earnest. There are rare times that I wake up at two or three o’clock in the morning inspired to write pages and pages of scenes. So I don’t hinder that inspiration. I wake up and immerse myself in the world of my characters. There are times when I’m devoid of inspiration, so I read, research, or ask myself questions to provoke creativity. And that seems to work well for me. 

In the end, I go with the flow of life. If life tells me, my family needs more of my time, I follow that gut instinct. If life tells me that my inspiration is overflowing and a scene must be unveiled, I go with that. I don’t force what’s not there. I live in the present. And have learned through experience to exercise what I call extreme patience.

Are you working on anything now that you can share with us?

Years ago, Danelle McCafferty, a wonderful editor with amazing foresight and talent helped me in the very early stages of this project. From her insightful feedback, I decided there was more to Hosanna’s story, but it didn’t have to be all in one book. I learned to zoom in from the bird’s eye view I found myself perched on. Then I removed two extensive story-lines from Hosanna. One of which, I’ve now entitled, M’donia. For those who’ve read Hosanna, M’donia is a section of Midville where a group of black residents were living on land designated white-only. Sadly, these residents suffered persecution for refusing to vacate land that they strongly believed was rightfully theirs. Hosanna’s love interest, John Irvin, is the main character in M’donia and he tells his story of overcoming adversity and opposition with perseverance and grace. I am extremely excited about this project. I strongly believe M’donia will be just as engaging, powerful, and thought-provoking as Hosanna.

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

It’s no secret that traditional publishers are inundated with author queries. I strongly believe it’s almost impossible to find all the quality first-time writers in that kind of environment. In the early years, I sought traditional representation, but that door did not open to me. However, independent publishing provided me the forum to express myself freely, to take my work directly to the readers, who I’m convinced are the ultimate arbiters of excellence. Those same readers are my unbiased reviewers. They provide me with invaluable feedback and that feedback encourages me and informs me that this work has brought inspiration and enjoyment to their lives. I’m profoundly humbled for the opportunity to reach my audience through independent publishing. But that doesn’t mean I am not open to traditional publishing, it only means independent publishing is the most viable avenue for me at this point in my career.

How did you discover indieBRAG and what does it mean to you to have Hosanna awarded the BRAG Medallion?

I began by learning more about the book industry. I soon discovered that if an independent author wanted to distinguish themselves from the innumerable books in the literary marketplace, they would first need to write a quality book and acquire recognition through reviews and awards. So I submitted Hosanna to one of the most prestigious literary groups available to independent authors today—indieBRAG. 

It means so much to be honored with the B.R.A.G. Medallion for literary fiction. For years, I had been seeking validation for the painstaking work I had put into Hosanna. And so to win this award fulfilled that desire. I will be forever honored and grateful to indieBRAG, the vanguard of the literary world, founded on the magnanimous mission of recognizing and promoting quality works of fiction to the reading public, who’d otherwise be unaware of emerging authors like me.

Thank you so much, Katelyne, for sharing your answers with me today!

You can learn more about Katelyne and her book on her website and well as the IndieBRAG site. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest

You can purchase a copy of Hosanna on Amazon

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Colleen has chosen to interview Katelyne Parker, who is the author of Hosanna, 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 Hosanna merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Spotlight on The Semper Sonnet by Seth Margolis

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Diverson Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 374 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery/Thriller


In this stunning thrill ride, perfect for fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry, a long-lost manuscript, written for Elizabeth I, holds the key to unlocking the past—and to eliminating the future.

Lee Nicholson is ready to take the academic world by storm, having discovered a sonnet she believes was written by William Shakespeare. When she reads the poem on the air, the words put her life in peril and trigger a violent chase, with stakes that reach far beyond the cloistered walls of academia.

Buried in the language of the sonnet, in its allusions and wordplay, are secrets that have been hidden since Elizabethan times, secrets known only to the queen and her trusted doctor, but guessed at by men who seek the crown and others who seek the world. If the riddles are solved, it could explode what the world knows of the great Elizabeth I. And it could release a pandemic more deadly than the world has ever imagined.

Lee’s quest for the answers buried in the sonnet keeps her one step ahead of an international hunt—from the police who want her for murder, to a group of men who will stop at nothing to end her quest, to a madman who pursues the answers for destructive reasons of his own.

As this intelligent thriller moves back and forth between Tudor England and the present day, Lee begins to piece together the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words, carrying the story to its gasp-out-loud conclusion.

Praise for The Semper Sonnet

"Imaginative plotting and depth of character distinguish this centuries-spanning thriller…”—Publishers Weekly

“The Semper Sonnet is a wildly imaginative thriller that fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry will love.”—Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author

“This provocative and knuckle-biting thriller will have you on the edge of your seat as it careens through the hallowed halls of academia into the turbulent past. Hold tight to your farthingales: this is a roller-coaster ride of a book!”—C.W. Gortner, international bestselling author of The Last Queen

Buy the Book


About the Author

Seth Margolis is a writer whose most recent novel, THE SEMPER SONNET, was published on April 19. He is the author of six earlier novels, including LOSING ISAIAH, which was made into a film starring Halle Berry and Jessica Lange.

Seth lives with his wife, Carole, in New York City. They have two grown children, Maggie and Jack. Seth received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.

For more information, please visit Seth Margolis’ website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Semper Sonnet Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, December 1

Blog Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Friday, December 2

Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Saturday, December 3

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, December 5

Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, December 6

Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, December 7

Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Thursday, December 8

Interview at Author Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Friday, December 9

Review at Trisha Jenn Reads

Monday, December 12

Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Wednesday, December 14

Review at JulzReads

Thursday, December 15

Guest Post at JulzReads

Friday, December 16

Spotlight at Books, Dreams, Life

Monday, December 19

Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, December 21

Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, December 27

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Wednesday, December 28

Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, December 29

Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, December 30

Review at Broken Teepee


Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Blast: Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich by C.W. Gortner + Tour-Wide Giveaway!

Paperback Release Date: December 13, 2016
William Morrow, Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780062406071

432 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Contemporary Women/ Biographical

Marlene Dietrich’s femme fatale persona defined her, but behind the glitz of 1930s Hollywood was a remarkably modern woman, determined to live by her own terms.

A rebellious girl, Marlene’s genteel family expectations curtail her until Germany’s defeat in the Great War gives rise to the decadence of Weimar Berlin. Here, Marlene finds her niche as a cabaret actress. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tuxedo, she performs to packed houses and has a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention until she finds overnight success in the scandalous movie The Blue Angel. As Hitler seizes power, Marlene sets sail for America to become one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, starring opposite Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. When Hitler tries to entice her back to Germany, Marlene defiantly declares her stance, risking her life to perform for Allied troops. And upon the war’s savage end, she finally returns to Germany to discover a heartbreaking secret amidst the war’s devastation.

MARLENE is out in paperback on December 13 and features exclusive extra content. A perfect gift for lovers of old Hollywood and strong dames! To find out more, please visit:



From the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the tyrannical movie studios of Los Angeles, this sweeping story of passion, glamour, art, and war is a lush, dramatic novel of one of the most alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age: Marlene Dietrich.

Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When her budding career as a violinist is cut short, she vows to become an actress, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses and conducts a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention until she finds overnight success in the scandalous movie The Blue Angel.

For Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler rises to power, she sets sail for America to become a rival to MGM’s queen, Greta Garbo. As one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, she stars with such legends as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Defiant in her stance against the Nazis, Marlene chooses instead to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, she tours with the USO, performing for Allied troops in Europe and Africa. But one day, she must return to Germany, where she will discover a heartbreaking secret amidst the war’s devastation that transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling account of this extraordinary legend, MARLENE reveals the inner life of a woman of grit and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path.

Praise for Marlene: A  Novel of Marlene Dietrich


“Skillfully evokes the cross-dressing, sexually fluid atmosphere of the seedy nightclubs that helped Marlene define her unique appeal. Well-detailed and truly moving; an ambitious account of the German-American star. ” —Kirkus Reviews

“Full of the sizzle and decadence of Weimar Berlin, and the scandal and soirees of Hollywood’s golden era, this is a gloriously entertaining read. CW Gortner’s Marlene is utterly beguiling, the kind of woman who only comes along once in a century. Reader, you can’t take your eyes off her!” —Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author

“From the ribald cabarets of Weimer-era Berlin to the glamour of golden-era Hollywood, beguilingly androgynous and fiercely passionate Marlene Dietrich . . . fairly leaps off every page.” —Booklist, starred review

Buy the Book


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. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twittter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.

It's Giveaway Time!!

To win a paperback copy of Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich by C.W. Gortner, please enter via the Gleam form HERE. Two copies are up for grabs!
 Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 20th. 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!!

Marlene Book Blast Tour Schedule

Tuesday, December 13

 Kinx’s Book Nook
A Bookaholic Swede
To Read, Or Not to Read
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, December 14

 The Lit Bitch
Unabridged Chick
The Never-Ending Book
Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Thursday, December 15

 Impressions In Ink
CelticLady’s Reviews
Please Pass The Books
What Is That Book About

Friday, December 16

 Broken Teepee
Books, Dreams, Life
Saturday, December 17

 SJ2B House of Books
Ageless Pages Reviews
Beth’s Book Nook Blog
First Impression Reviews

Sunday, December 18

T’s Stuff
100 Pages a Day
Passages to the Past

Monday, December 19

 Book Nerd
A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, December 20

 I Heart Reading
Creating Herstory
Just One More Chapter