Friday, September 29, 2017

The Tip of My Wish List: Goodreads Listopia Envy

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.
This month I decided to highlight books I've added to my wish list after seeing them on one of the many "best of" Goodreads lists. These lists can be killer for a TBR pile but I've limited myself to sharing just would take too long to share them all! I'd love to hear if anyone has read any of these too!

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Grief Cottage

The haunting tale of a desolate cottage, and the hair-thin junction between this life and the next, from bestselling National Book Award finalist Gail Godwin.

After his mother's death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she'd moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.

The islanders call it -Grief Cottage, - because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.

Grief Cottage is the best sort of ghost story, but it is far more than that--an investigation of grief, remorse, and the memories that haunt us. The power and beauty of this artful novel wash over the reader like the waves on a South Carolina beach.

Dreamland Burning

Some bodies won’t stay buried. Some stories need to be told.

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past, the present, and herself.

One hundred years earlier, a single violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.

The Signal Flame

The stunning second novel from National Book Award finalist Andrew Krivak—a heartbreaking, captivating story about a family awaiting the return of their youngest son from the Vietnam War.

In a small town in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains Hannah and her son Bo mourn the loss of the family patriarch, Jozef Vinich. They were three generations under one roof. Three generations, but only one branch of a scraggy tree; they are a war-haunted family in a war-torn century. Having survived the trenches of World War I as an Austro-Hungarian conscript, Vinich journeyed to America and built a life for his family. His daughter married the Hungarian-born Bexhet Konar, who enlisted to fight with the Americans in the Second World War but brought disgrace on the family when he was imprisoned for desertion. He returned home to Pennsylvania a hollow man, only to be killed in a hunting accident on the family’s land. Finally, in 1971, Hannah’s prodigal younger son, Sam, was reported MIA in Vietnam.

And so there is only Bo, a quiet man full of conviction, a proud work ethic, and a firstborn’s sense of duty. He is left to grieve but also to hope for reunion, to create a new life, to embrace the land and work its soil through the seasons. The Signal Flame is a stirring novel about generations of men and women and the events that define them, brothers who take different paths, the old European values yielding to new world ways, and the convalescence of memory and war.

Beginning shortly after Easter in 1972 and ending on Christmas Eve this ambitious novel beautifully evokes ordinary time, a period of living and working while waiting and watching and expecting. The Signal Flame is gorgeously written, honoring the cycles of earth and body, humming with blood and passion, and it confirms Andrew Krivak as a writer of extraordinary vision and power.

Unearthing years of buried secrets, Rilla Brae is haunted by ghostly visions tied to the tainted history of a mysterious island in this haunting novel from the author of The Girl Who Fell.

Maine-bred, independent Rilla Brae is no stranger to the deep. She knows the rhythms of hard work and harder seas. But when she experiences the sudden death of her father, the veil between the living and the dead blurs and she begins to be haunted by a girl on a nearby, uninhabited island. The girl floats a song over the waves, and it is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Familiar and distant.

Then Rilla meets Sam, a University of Southern Maine archeology student tasked with excavating the very island where the ghostly girl has appeared. Sam sifts the earth looking for the cultural remains of an island people who were forcibly evicted by the state nearly a hundred years ago. Sam tells Rilla the island has a history no locals talk about—if they know about it at all—due to the shame the events brought to the working waterfront community. All Rilla knows for sure is that the island has always been there—an eerie presence anchored in the stormy sea. Now Sam’s work and the ghostly girl’s song lure Rilla to the island’s shores.

As Rilla helps Sam to unearth the island’s many secrets, Rilla’s visions grow—until the two discover a tragedy kept silent for years. And it’s a tragedy that has everything to do with Rilla’s past.

Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list(updated as they become available):

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Magdalena at A Bookish Swede

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cover Crush: Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
I absolutely LOVE the texture in this cover! Doesn't it feel like you could reach right in and pop out the nut?  And the rest of the picture - the trees, the ax, the bird, and the mouse king - all seem intricately carved out of marble or something similar. Add to that the stylized writing and that beautiful blue background and the entire image is simply stunning.
Let's read the synopsis to what we can learn about the story within....

In this imaginative novel rooted in the rich soil of early-nineteenth-century German Romanticism, beloved New York Times bestselling author Gregory Maguire twins an origin legend of the famous Nutcracker with the life of Drosselmeier, the toymaker who carves him

Gregory Maguire’s novels have been called “bewitching,” “remarkable,” “extraordinary,” “engrossing,” “amazing,” and “delicious.” Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked, Wonderland in After Alice and Dickensian London in Lost, Maguire now takes us to the Black Forest of Bavaria and Munich of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffman. Hiddensee recreates the backstory of the Nutcracker, reimaging how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how it magically guided an ailing little girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a snowy Christmas Eve. It also brings to life the mysterious godfather Drosselmeier—the ominous, canny, one-eyed toymaker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s ballet—who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism a migrating strain of a Hellenic mystery-cult, and ponders a profound question: how a person who is abused by life, short-changed and challenged, can access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless. Ultimately, Hiddensee, offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized on the eve of a winter holiday, has something precious to share.
Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired

Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review: Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop

Publisher: Atria Books
Pub. Date: February 23rd, 2016
Pages: 336

Genre: Contemporary Fiction


A smart, obsessive debut novel about a young woman studying abroad who becomes caught up in a seductive French world—and a complex web of love and lust.

When thirty-year-old Brooke Thompson unexpectedly runs into a man from her past, she’s plunged headlong into memories she’s long tried to forget about the year she spent in France following a disastrous affair with a professor.

As a newly arrived exchange student in the picturesque city of Nantes, young Brooke develops a deep and complicated friendship with Sophie, a fellow American and stunning blonde, whose golden girl façade hides a precarious emotional fragility. Sophie and Brooke soon become inseparable and find themselves intoxicated by their new surroundings—and each other.

But their lives are forever changed when they meet a sly, stylish French student, Veronique, and her impossibly sexy older cousin, Alex. The cousins draw Sophie and Brooke into an irresistible world of art, money, decadence, and ultimately, a disastrous love triangle that consumes them both. And of the two of them, only one will make it home.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I absolutely LOVE interacting with authors...they are my (not so) secret rock stars! Imagine my delight when Andrea Dunlop herself reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reading her book...squeee!!! It felt like the perfect book for summer and I was excited to read it as my last official "summer read" of the year. While not quite what I was expecting from the synopsis and quotes on the cover, it ended up being an immersive and interesting peek into what it's like as a study abroad student in a world with far less rules and restrictions then you are used to.

I love that the reader knows from the beginning that Brooke is the friend that "makes it home", leaving you to wonder what was going to happen to Sophie. When we meet Sophie she seems very one-dimensional - gorgeous, popular, smart - and I loved seeing her character deepen and become more complicated. She's not as perfect as everyone seems to think and this comes as a surprise to Brooke as much as the reader. On the flipside, Brooke is quite reckless when she first meets Sophie and seems to become more level-headed (with a few exceptions) as Sophie spins out of control. The two made an interesting dichotomy and I very much enjoyed trying to decipher the finer points of their friendship.

My favorite aspect of the story would have to be the time spent building this world of being a college student studying abroad. Learning about the lessons they take, seeing what it would be like to live with a family who doesn't speak your language, discovering the mysteries around each corner with the characters and feeling that first sense of true was almost like I was experiencing everything too! Andrea Dunlop really brought this world alive for me and I absolutely love when an author does that.

Now, my only real issues with Losing the Light might have more to do with my expectations of what the story was about then the actual story. The cover describes it as compulsive and even talks about their being a murder mystery so, in my mind, I assumed it would be fast past and something that I just couldn't put down. It actually ended up being more of a slow burn sort of novel for me, with the tension between characters building slowly and, even when that tension "breaks" it isn't done with a 'bam!" but more of a slow release. Also, unless I missed it somewhere, I'm not really sure where the murder mystery comes in. This is much more a character study and a coming of age look at love and heartbreak and growing into one's skin than a  mystery of any kind.

The above being said, I did enjoy reading Losing the Light very much. I was transported to France and saw the joys and drawbacks to the world spun between the pages. I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a well written story dealing with travel, youth, and loss of innocence.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It is perfect for the story! Sun, sand, personifies a location in the story where the best part of Brooke's journey and the worst come together. Betrayal and heartache with this beauty as the backdrop makes it almost worse than if it happened somewhere else. Regardless, can't you picture this cover sticking out of your beach bag?

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Thank you to author Andrea Dunlop and Atria Books for providing me with a free copy of Losing the Light in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. For more information on the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, go to Goodreads HERE.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Publisher: Ballantine Books / Penguin Random House
Pub. Date: August 8, 2017
Pages: 352 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction | Women’s Fiction


A woman sets out on a cross-country road trip, unknowingly tracing in reverse the path her mother traveled thirty years before.

In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I absolutely adored Jessica Brockmole's debut novel, Letters from Skye, when I read it a number of years ago. It was the first epistolary novel I can remember reading that just completely captivated me and brought the characters and the Isle of Skye to vivid life. While I haven't yet read her sophomore novel, At the Edge of Summer, I've been wanting to for some time and didn't want to miss the chance on this newest book, Woman Enters Left, when the blog tour was announced. So I jumped on board and I'm so glad I did!

Woman Enters Left is really two stories in one - that of film star Louise Wilde in 1952 and that of friends Florrie and Ethel in 1926. I say it's really two stories because each is so well developed and detailed that I sometimes forgot that they were even connected through mother (Ethel) and daughter (Louise). Louise's story is narrative in style, describing her journey across the country and her search for truth and self, while Florrie and Ethel's adventure is told in journal entries, grocery lists and notes and, later, letters, medical records, and court documents. I really loved having these two stories that seemed, in broad theme, to be very similar, told in such different and unique ways. Even the actual drives are very different - Louise's is relatively comfortable and stylish - in my mind she looks very much like the woman on the cover! - while Florrie and Ethel are camping outside, under lean-to tents, and trying to mask pain, both physical and emotional, from each other. Even with these differences each woman is searching for the same thing - honesty, love, and hope that what they truly desire will become easier to see and, in a perfect world, attainable.

The time periods and situations are wonderfully brought to life in each story as well. It is so easy to picture the Hollywood heyday that Louise lives within, a filmy glamour that hides sexism and ugliness not far below the surface. We also get to see the aftermath of war through Louise's husband, who has just arrived back from the Korean War and is still dealing - or not dealing - with trying to get back to normal life with the addition of an injury that has put him in a wheelchair. I love this juxtaposition of glitz and glamour with heartache and unseemliness. In our other storyline, we have, on the surface, two friends on a great adventure across the country - one reaching towards a fulfilling career and one reaching towards family - while hidden below this surface is complicated love and great illness brought about when both of these women worked together painting luminous dials on watches that, unbeknownst to them, was giving them radium poisoning. I was only vaguely aware of Radium Girls before reading this story but I found this aspect to be quite fascinating. I also became quite taken with both Florrie and Ethel and hurt along with them as they tried to find their own happiness in the midst of some devastating realities.

While these two stories are quite separated, there is still the connection between Ethel and Louise and it kind of broke my heart watching both, in their own timelines, trying so desperately to find each other (Ethel literally and Louise figuratively). Louise's search for the truth of what happened to her mother and why her father took her away (leading to Ethel's journey with Florrie) was bittersweet but what it did do was give her time to figure out her own life and what she wanted from it. It also led to a wonderful, heartfelt ending that I absolutely loved.

I can't say enough about Woman Enters Left. It is such a uniquely told story that captures what it means to search for love, meaning, and happiness in life. Highly recommended!

What Did I Think About the Cover?

Come on it's perfect! The woman on the cover is Louise, with all her style and Hollywood attitude (in a good way!) and the car is exactly what I pictures her driving across the country. I can't think of anything else I'd rather see on the cover.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Random House Books for providing me with a free copy of Woman Enters Left in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are mine alone. Be sure to continue below for more information on the book, the tour, and how you can enter to win one of two SIGNED copies for yourself!

Advanced Praise for Woman Enters Left

“Tender, touching, original, and rich with delicious period detail of Hollywood’s heyday—buckle up, because you’ll definitely want to go on a road trip after reading this delightful book!”—Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home

Buy the Book



About the Author

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

For more information, please visit Jessica Brockmole’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

It's Giveaway Time!!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed copies of Woman Enters Left! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US 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!!

Woman Enters Left Book Tour Schedule

Monday, September 4

Review at Creating Herstory
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Tuesday, September 5

Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, September 7

Interview at T’s Stuff

Friday, September 8

Feature at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 11

Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, September 13

Feature at To Read, Or Not to Read

Thursday, September 14

Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, September 15

Review at Trisha Jenn Reads

Sunday, September 17

Review at Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings

Monday, September 18

Review at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, September 19

Interview at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, September 20

Feature at BookLiterati

Friday, September 22

Review at A Literary Vacation

Monday, September 25

Review at Portebello Book Blog

Tuesday, September 26

Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, September 27

Feature at Books of All Kinds

Thursday, September 28

Review at Jenn’s Book Vibes

Friday, September 29

Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, October 2

Review at What Cathy Read Next
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, October 5

Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, October 6

Review at Broken Teepee


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cover Crush: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
I've only listened to the audiobook version of one novel by Joe Hill - his graphic novel Locke and Key - but loved it so much I've gone out and bought all of his other books in anticipation of some free time to devour them. I mention this to explain how excited I was when I heard he had a new book coming out. Then I saw this cover! There is just so much to look at! First off it's all taking place in that strange looking sky, which fits the title, but then the longer you look at the images the more you see. Just look at all the things encapsulated within the falling man - skulls, horns, some sort of branches, a dragon, crows - I'm sure there is more that I'm missing! And maybe it's just me but it looks like a face on the right hand side of the clouds. I just can't get enough of this provocative and uber creepy image!
Read what kind of deliciousness we have to look forward to behind this cover....

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired

Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Writer's Ireland: Guest Post by Julie Christine Johnson, Author of The Crows of Beara

May 2002. My first trip to Ireland. Alone, I join a small group of strangers to hike the Beara peninsula, West Cork, and there I fall truly, madly, deeply in love. On the flight home two weeks later, I turn my face toward the window and sob. I am as if torn from a lover, forever. Ireland has changed me. Beara has given me a sense of peace and wholeness I have never before experienced.

The years pass and I return to Ireland several times, hiking the Wicklow Way, Connemara, the Dingle and Kerry peninsulas; exploring Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Kenmare, Tralee. But that first time—and Beara—remain a dream crystallized in photographs and memories.
Photo Credit: Julie Christine Johnson

January 2014. I set the first complete draft of my first novel aside to rest, exhausted by the effort to corral a 170,000 wordsoup into a 99,000 word manuscript. That novel becomes my debut In Another Life, which is named 2016 Gold Winner for Fantasy by FOREWORD Indies at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2017. I leave behind a timeslip of modern and medieval southwest France to enter the cool, scabrous beauty of southwest Ireland.

Perched on hill overlooking Ballycrovane Harbor in the remote southern end of the Beara peninsula sits a humped, ragged block of stone. One edge resembles the profile of a woman, her furrowed brow arched over a proud nose, her gaze fixed on the Atlantic Ocean. She is An Cailleach Bheara, the Hag of Beara, mother of Ireland. Her story is Ireland's story, her survival the enduring drama of a tortured land of legendary beauty. I learn of the Hag by reading the poetry of Leanne O’Sullivan, who grew up in the Hag’s shadow, a child of West Cork, a woman of Ireland. O’Sullivan’s work whispers, sings, howls of romance and loss in this place of stone and sea. This modern poet’s magic opens the door to the legend that shapes my novel’s spirit and themes.
Photo Credit: Julie Christine Johnson

I create the story of a recovering alcoholic who has a marriage to repair and a career to salvage, and another of an artist who cannot forgive himself for the tragedy he caused. As my characters begin to take shape, I know the threads connecting them will be found in the presence of the Hag. Her voice filters through these characters’ pain to reveal their authentic selves.
Photo Credit: Julie Christine Johnson

Spring 2015. I am packing for Ireland. The Beara peninsula, specifically. The Universe is granting me the opportunity to come full circle. I’ll visit An Cailleach Bheara for the first time. I will attend my first poetry workshop, led by Leanne O’Sullivan.

  June 2015. I am is in the land of poetry and legends, of An Cailleach, Clan Ó Súilleabháin, St. Caitighearn where battles were fought on gorse-cloaked mountains and warriors marked their Ogham runes on tall pillars. I am where the ruined shadows of a British Coast Guard station destroyed by the IRA in 1920 pale against the shadows of history cast by circles of ancient altars—these slabs of stone sculpted by Bronze Age hands now scratching posts for the russet and inky-black flanks of Angus and Friesian cows.
Photo Credit: Julie Christine Johnson
I am walking through Eyeries village where rows of houses line up like Crayons and lace curtains flutter in open windows; in MacCarthy’s Bar, Castletown-Bearhaven, enjoying the craic with new friends, laughter stealing my breath.
Photo Credit: Julie Christine Johnson

I am high on a hillside peering into the green and blue infinity, sheep scattering in my wake, boots soaked through with bog, fingers wrapped around a trekking pole, pack cinched around my waist like a lover’s arms. I learn that my novel, The Crows of Beara, has been offered a publishing contract and will take flight in September 2017. I am so happy I could explode from the very fullness of my heart.
Photo Credit: Julie Christine Johnson
Publisher: Ashland Creek Press
Pub. Date: September 1st, 2017
Pages: 300

Along the windswept coast of Ireland, a woman discovers the landscape of her own heart

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.

Praise for The Crows of Beara

"As Johnson's wounded, good-hearted characters sort inner truths along the mystical Irish coast, the personal decisions and missteps they make have consequences that reach around the world. A captivating tale of our yearning to belong and the importance of following this ancient call." --Kathryn Craft, award-winning author of The Far End of Happy and The Art of Falling

"Like Ireland itself, The Crows of Beara pulls at something deep inside the reader and won't let go. In this captivating and thoughtful novel, the enchantment of Ireland heals two damaged souls and reminds all of us that no matter how dark life may be at times, there is always hope." --Kelli Estes, USA Today bestselling author of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

"You don't have to love rain or Guinness or wild, windswept coasts to be seduced by the delicate intermingling of Irish mythology, environmentalism, and love that are entangled at the heart of this novel; the juxtaposition with darker, harder truths of grief and addiction create a rich and reflective resonance. From France to Ireland, across centuries and oceans...where will this author take us next?" --Jenny Williams, author of The Atlas of Forgotten Places

"Julie Christine Johnson swept me away from the first page. 'It is that nervous time between seasons, when chill winds skirr across faces upturned to the sun.' How can one stop reading after this? Johnson incorporates the beauty of the Beara Peninsula with such exquisite language that I wanted to fly off to Ireland immediately and hike the Beara Way. Annie Crowe is that memorable character--flawed but vulnerable--who fails in fits and starts but engages the reader with her desire to rediscover life. Johnson writes with her pulse on the heart of the people who fly off the page. When she introduces Daniel, aching and shamed, she does not fall into sentimentality. Opting for truth, she creates depth, even when reaching back into Gaelic mythology to prove her point. Johnson writes music on the page with words. She is a lush writer who does not turn away from the heart. " --Julie Maloney, poet, author, director of Women Reading Aloud

"In this important novel, Julie Christine Johnson brings together a remote peninsula in the west of Ireland with environmental issues that threaten a local community and its attachment to the landscape...Written in a lyrical voice with honesty and authority on the environment, addiction and recovery, and the magic of the Irish landscape, The Crows of Beara is a passionate story of one woman's recovery of her soul." --Christine Breen, author of Her Name Is Rose and O Come Ye Back to Ireland (with Niall Williams)

"The Crows of Beara takes the age-old question of whether a book's setting can be a character one step further by proving that it can be an emotion. Ireland is longing. Daniel is the lure. And Annie -- well, she's something special. A sumptuous book through and through." --Scott Wilbanks, award-winning author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

"Haunting, hopeful, and transporting. You'll sink into this story of loss and redemption and be carried away from the very first page." --Kelly Simmons, international selling author of One More Day and The Fifth of July

Buy the Book


About the Author

Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in journals including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; and River Poets Journal. Her work has also appeared in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and psychology and a master’s in international affairs.

Named a “standout debut” by Library Journal, “very highly recommended” by Historical Novels Review, and “delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical” by bestselling author Greer Macallister, Julie’s debut novel In Another Life (Sourcebooks) went into a second printing three days after its February 2016 release. A hiker, yogi, and swimmer, Julie makes her home in northwest Washington state.

You can learn more about Julie by visiting her website and can connect with her on Twitter.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cover Crush: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
Ah, what a frenetically beautiful cover this is! There's so much chaos going on, with the birds flying around in every direction, partially covering up the wording so you almost get the feeling that they will cover everything soon. I love the way the lettering is so standard and uniform, which is such a great contrast to the wildness all around it. I also love how the center seems to glow faintly. To be honest I'm not sure what the novel is about, based on this cover, however I don't really care...I just keep staring at it!
The synopsis might give us more information to explain this frenzied cover....  
A novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca of San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.
Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired

Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Spotlight on Fortune’s Wheel: The First Meonbridge Chronicle by Carolyn Hughes

Publisher: SilverWood Books
Pub. Date: November 7th, 2016
Pages: 270

Book Series: The Meonbridge Chronicles
Genre: Historical Fiction

Plague-widow Alice atte Wode is desperate to find her missing daughter, but her neighbours are rebelling against their masters and their mutiny is hindering the search.

June 1349. In a Hampshire village, the worst plague in England’s history has wiped out half its population, including Alice atte Wode’s husband and eldest son. The plague (which we call the Black Death but they called the Great Mortality, or the Pestilence, or simply, the Death) arrived only days after Alice’s daughter Agnes mysteriously disappeared and it prevented the search for her.

Now the plague is over, the village is trying to return to normal life, but it’s hard, with so much to do and so few left to do it. Conflict is growing between the manor and its tenants, as the workers realise their very scarceness means they’re more valuable than before: they can demand higher wages, take on spare land, have a better life. This is the chance they’ve all been waiting for!

Although she understands their demands, Alice is disheartened that the search for Agnes is once more put on hold. But when one of the rebels is killed, and then the lord’s son is found murdered, it seems the two deaths may be connected, both to each other and to Agnes’s disappearance.

Extract of Fortune's Wheel


Alice atte Wode, the Millers’ closest neighbour, was feeding her hens when she heard Joan’s first terrible anguished cries. Dropping her basket of seed, she ran to the Millers’ cottage. She wanted to cry out too at what she found there: Thomas and Joan both on their knees, clasped together, with Peter’s twisted body between them, sobbing as if the dam of their long pent-up emotions had burst. Alice breathed deeply to steady her nerves, for she didn’t know how to offer any solace for the Millers’ loss.

Not this time.

It was common enough for parents to lose children. It didn’t mean you ever got used to their loss, or that you loved them any less than if they’d lived. Few lost five children in as many months. But the Millers had. The prosperous family Alice knew only six months ago, with its noisy brood of six happy, healthy children, had been swiftly and brutally slaughtered by the great mortality.

Every family in Meonbridge had lost someone to the plague’s vile grip – a father, a mother, a child – but no other family had lost five.

The great mortality, sent by God, it was said, to punish the world for its sins, had torn the village apart. It had struck at random, at the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the innocent and the guilty. Some of its victims died coughing up blood, some with suppurating boils under their arms or next to their privy parts, some covered in dark, blackish pustules. A few recovered, but most did not and, after two or three days of fear and suffering, died in agony and despair, often alone and unshriven for the lack of a priest, when their loved ones abandoned them. After five months of terror, half of Meonbridge’s people were dead.

When the foul sickness at last moved on, leaving the villagers to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, Thomas and Joan Miller went to church daily, to pray for their five dead children’s souls, and give thanks to God for sparing Peter. Then the arrival of baby Maud just a few days ago had brought the Millers a bright ray of hope in the long-drawn-out darkness of their despair.

But Peter hadn’t been spared after all.

Praise for Fortune's Wheel

“...exceptionally well written...astoundingly well researched.”

“...visually descriptive, atmospheric and felt authentic….”

“...completely intriguing, fascinating and surprisingly emotional...more please!” 

“...saturated with expertly researched descriptions which capture the essence of medieval life.”

“…captivating…opened my eyes to a personally unexplored genre.”

“…grab yourself a copy and get lost in an altogether different time.”

Buy the Book


About the Author

Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire, in southern England. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government. She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Fortune’s Wheel is her first published novel, and a sequel is under way.

You can learn more about Carolyn on her website and blog, and connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Blast: The Soldier's Return by Laura Libricz

Pub. Date: September 15, 2017
Series: Heaven’s Pond Trilogy, Book Two

Genre: Historical Fiction

The year is 1626. A senseless war rips through parts of Germany. Ongoing animosity between the Catholics and the Protestants has turned into an excuse to destroy much of the landscape situated between France, Italy and Denmark. But religion only plays a minor role in this lucrative business of war.

The young dutchman, Pieter van Diemen, returns to Amsterdam in chains after a period of imprisonment in the Spice Islands. He manages to escape but must leave Amsterdam in a hurry. Soldiers are in demand in Germany and he decides to travel with a regiment until he can desert. His hope of survival is to reach Sichardtshof, the farm in Franconia, Germany; the farm he left ten years ago. His desire to seek refuge with them lies in his fond memories of the maid Katarina and her master, the humanist patrician Herr Tucher. But ten years is a long time and the farm has changed. Franconia is not only torn by war but falling victim to a church-driven witch hunt. The Jesuit priest, Ralf, has his sights set on Sichardtshof as well. Ralf believes that ridding the area of evil will be his saving grace. Can Pieter, Katarina and Herr Tucher unite to fight against a senseless war out of control?

The Soldier’s Return is the second book in the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy and will be released on September 15, 2017.

Buy the Book


About the Author

Laura Libricz was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature.

She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market.

Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.

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

The Soldier's Return Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 4

A Book Geek
Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang!

Tuesday, September 5

100 Pages a Day
The Reading Queen

Wednesday, September 6

Must Read Faster
Just One More Chapter

Thursday, September 7

The Writing Desk
The Maiden’s Court
To Read, Or Not to Read

Friday, September 8

 Book Nerd
CelticLady’s Reviews

Saturday, September 9

Passages to the Past
Books, Dreams, Life

Sunday, September 10

I Heart Reading

Monday, September 11

A Literary Vacation
Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Tuesday, September 12

Jo’s Book Blog
WS Momma Readers Nook

Wednesday, September 13

Laura’s Interests
Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, September 14

A Holland Reads
Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, September 15

T’s Stuff
Pursuing Stacie


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cover Crush: All Is Beauty Now by Sarah Faber

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....

As I look at this cover it's kind of hard for me to pinpoint exactly what I love about this cover, but love it I do! Some of it, I think, is the beautifully painted bird and foliage and then the angry slash cutting right through it! What does it mean? While giving a sense of texture - which I do love in a cover - it also makes me think that something horrible is coming to the beautiful things within this story.

Amy I correct in my assumption? Let's see....

Set against the seductive world of 1960s Rio de Janeiro, an exquisite debut novel about family secrets, divided loyalties, and what we're willing to do to save ourselves.

This mesmerizing first novel follows a glamorous family as they prepare to leave the seeming paradise of Brazil for Canada in the wake to the mysterious disappearance--and presumed drowning--of their eldest daughter a year earlier. As the novel moves back and forth between the members of the Maurer family, we are taken into the heart of a family whose beauty and charm belie a more troubling reality. We meet the family's brilliant and charismatic father, whose bipolar extremes are becoming increasingly disturbing; his long-suffering wife, who once had a brief affair that proves to have shattering consequences for the family she swore to protect; their two remaining daughters, both on the brink of understanding the darker currents that run in their once-proud family; and the lost daughter herself, a beautiful young woman undone by her own grand delusions.

Taking readers from the golden beaches of Rio to the poverty of its fishing villages, from the glamour of the legendary Copacabana Club to the austerity of a remote convent, this revelatory novel takes us into the soul of a family already living in the shadow of loss and now poised to leave behind everything they've ever known, if only they could make peace with the past.

Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):

Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede