Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Life of Eileen O'Connell - Guest Post by Kevin O'Connell, Author of Two Journeys Home: :A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe

 

Since Two Journeys Home’s predecessor volume, Beyond Derrynane, was first published, now some eighteen months ago, Eileen O’Connell has captured the attention of virtually everyone familiar with the story. Whenever people – critics, readers, friends – have spoken and/or written about Eileen, or for that matter asked me about her, her courage and/or strength are mentioned as frequently as – or even more than – her arresting physical presence.

 Of less focus has been what was Eileen’s quiet yet continuing struggle between being strong and courageous and the realities of being an Eighteenth-Century female, not to mention an aristocrat – even of a “fallen” aristocracy – in that period, in a time when and especially in a social setting in which, women were expected to do as they were told, to be meek, pliant and gentle. As became quickly apparent in Derrynane Eileen proved to be none of these.

 As a child bride, in Beyond Derrynane, she initially accepted the reality of being, as one character observes “sold like a fine horse” to an extremely wealthy man of advanced age, whom she’d never met – solely to benefit her family’s largely-illegal commercial interests. When she was unexpectedly confronted by violence, she reflexively responded to it with her own even more extreme measures, showing herself to be not at all reluctant to employ the use of firearms, in retribution as well as in her on-going defence.

That she did so virtually insured her continued safety – perhaps even more importantly, it permitted her to create the kind of life largely unimaginable to one such as herself. In addition to being the spouse of a wealthy and powerful individual, as intended by the O’Connells, she achieved a remarkable degree of autonomy, power and control over her husband and her life.

 Widowed within months of her marriage, Eileen (albeit through her brother, as the head of her family – women, of course, would not speak of such things publicly!) would customarily be expected to make it be known that she was seeking another advantageous marriage. Rather, provided with an alternative, she struck out on an entirely different path, one that took her far from home into what must have seemed, even to her at the time, as at least something of a daunting environment, albeit one in which she came to thrive – in no small measure because of her strength and courage.

As the Saga continues, so too does Eileen “chart her own course”, drawing from this inner strength to sustain herself in difficult circumstances – even those in which she would probably not have found herself had she “behaved properly”.

 Considering the singular nature of this complex young woman, one must reflect on whether, and if so how, her independence, courage and strength may have impacted her in the world of the Eighteenth Century.

 I believe it is fair to say that the structure of the O’Connells of Derrynane very much reflected the overall ethos of the period: Like Eighteenth Century Europe itself, it was largely male-dominated, raucous, untidy and, at times, dangerous. (I say “largely” because – at least according to the old tales and as my own stories are written – Eileen’s mother appears in many ways to control the inner workings of the world that was Derrynane – the largely self-sufficient, heavily-guarded remote sanctuary at the tip of County Kerry, which the family called home.) She may have perhaps been something of a “model” for Eileen, though even Maire speaks of herself as “being just a woman, a weak woman”.

Eileen is obviously intelligent – indeed, “’brilliant,’ the priests say,” she reflects at one point.

As one character observed early on in Derrynane, speaking in part about Eileen, “(T)he O’Connells, they are unusual people. They are frighteningly intelligent; one is able to see and hear this in the girl herself. From merely a few moments spent with and near her . . . , I am able to say that her Latin puts the damned priests to shame, her French is near flawless and – though she is still a mere girl, a child, and only just beginning to grasp the reality of who and what she is – even at this juncture she is as poised as a woman twice her age, and more regal than most I have ever encountered in Dublin, indeed in London as well.

“These O’Connells are arrogant and prideful, yes . . . they see themselves as somehow benighted, even though they are mere graziers and smugglers and thieves and cattle-rustlers, and God knows what else in addition.

 “They live down there at the very end of Kerry, protected by their mountains and their own cunning and by what appears to be a strange combination of fear and awe that they have somehow managed to instil in their good Protestant neighbours, so as to keep them in thrall. They lie hidden in their glens, nourished in many ways by the ocean that they treat as their own; they journey to Spain the way we may go to London . . . They are singular, indeed, like it or not, and many, many in Ireland do not!

 “Despite the fact that the O’Connells may be disliked by many—indeed hated by some—. . . they do not appear to care what anyone thinks . . .”

Standing six feet and an inch, perhaps two feet tall, and broad shouldered, Eileen is not only an imposing figure but a strikingly beautiful woman – with thick, waist-length blue-black hair, the deepest of blue eyes, a husky, almost sensual voice. It is with a remarkable degree of cunning, that she rarely hesitates to employ either or both of her appearance and courage to her advantage, the general result of which, for good or for ill, she finds is that she is intimidating to most men . . . and virtually all women.

Though her physical and personal attributes largely serve her well as the stories progress, one does wonder if being “intimidating to most men . . . and virtually all women” might leave this young woman feeling isolated and alone in the complex, at times dangerous, worlds in which she comes to dwell.

I think not – perhaps the most significant reasons for this conclusion being that, despite her gender and (save to some degree for her older sister Abigail, with whom she first went to Vienna), unlike all of the six other still-living sisters Eileen embodies, and indeed (unlike Abby) fully embraces, the O’Connells’ reputed attributes: In addition to being “frighteningly intelligent,” she is arrogant and prideful, and one can only assume that, with significant exceptions, she cares very little about what most individuals with whom she may come in contact think about her.

This having been said, it would relatively simply to conclude dismissively that Eileen was or could easily be viewed as little more than a snobbish bore.

To do so would be an unfortunate conclusion, for she comes to move easily amongst the grandeur and the personalities at the Habsburg court, beloved especially by her youngest charge, her Little Archduchess, Maria Antonia, and greatly respected by the Empress Maria Theresa herself – no easy individual with whom to get along if the history books are accurate.

It is precisely because of her courage and strength of character that Eileen proves to be successful in Vienna. She does so because she is able reconcile these attributes, and the further fact that she is extremely well-educated, with the reality that she is very much an Eighteenth-Century woman. She readily defers to the Empress, and deftly – and respectfully – manages her relationships with lesser courtiers, virtually all being superior to her. She is conservative in her views, a firm absolute monarchist – her disdain for English rule in Ireland notwithstanding.

To say that Eileen O’Connell is a strong personality would be an understatement – I say this as I have “experienced” her strength. Hearing her stories from an early age, I have “known” Eileen virtually all of my life, and, for reasons unbeknownst, have always felt some mystical, numinous connection with her. Interestingly, Beyond Derrynane began as a family chronicle, focusing on the youngest O’Connell child, Hugh. Though the opening scenes involved Eileen’s return to Derrynane, they primarily introduced the little boy. Within a matter of days of writing, however, Eileen had somehow managed to push and elbow her way into my imagination, indeed, thoughts, story-lines, actual scenes and dialogue “appeared” as if by magic – and from that point the Derrynane Saga has largely become Eileen’s story.

Like her life as a whole, she has made it her own.
 
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  
 
Publisher: Gortcullinane Press
Pub. Date: November 1st, 2017
Pages: 310
 
Book Series: The Derrynane Saga (Book 2)
Genre: Historical Fiction


It’s 1767. As the eagerly anticipated sequel to Beyond Derrynane begins, Eileen O’Connell avails herself of a fortuitous opportunity to travel back to Ireland. In Two Journeys Home, the O’Connells encounter old faces and new—and their lives change forever.

Her vivacious personality matched only by her arresting physical presence, Eileen returns to Derrynane this time not as a teen aged widow but as one of the most recognised figures at the Habsburg court. Before returning to Vienna she experiences a whirlwind romance, leading to a tumult of betrayal and conflict with the O’Connell clan.

Abigail lives not in the shadow of her sister but instead becomes the principal lady-in-waiting to Empress Maria Theresa.

Hugh O’Connell leaves behind waning adolescence and a fleeting attraction to the youngest archduchess when he begins a military career in the Irish Brigade under Louis XV. But more royal entanglement awaits him in France…


Author Kevin O’Connell again deftly weaves threads of historical fact and fancy to create a colourful tapestry affording unique insights into the courts of eighteenth-century Catholic Europe and Protestant Ascendancy–ruled Ireland. Watch as the saga continues to unfold amongst the O’Connell’s, their friends and enemies, at home and abroad.


Praise for Two Journeys Home



"O’Connell is a fantastic storyteller. His prose is so rich and beautiful it is a joy to read. The story is compelling and the characters memorable – all the more so because they are based on real people. . . I am Irish but I did not know about this piece of Irish history. It is fascinating but historical fiction at the same time . . . Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers!"- Beth Nolan, Beth’s Book Nook


"I enjoyed the first part of the Saga awhile back . . . (and) couldn’t wait to continue the story of Eileen and her family . . . this author really does have a way with words. The world and the characters are so vivid . . . Overall, I was hooked from page one. I honestly think that (Two Journeys Home) was better than (Beyond Derrynane) – which is rare. The characters and world-building was done in such a beautiful manner . . . I can’t wait for the next one . . ."- Carole Rae, Carole’s Sunday Review, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell


"Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe . . . is a gripping story that will transport the reader back in time, a story with a strong setting and compelling characters . . . a sensational romance, betrayal, family drama and intrigue . . . The plot is so complex that I find it hard to offer a summary in a few lines, but it is intriguing and it holds many surprises . . . great writing. Kevin O’Connell’s prose is crisp and highly descriptive. I was delighted (by) . . . how he builds the setting, offering . . . powerful images of places, exploring cultural traits and unveiling the political climate of the time . . . The conflict is (as well-developed as the characters) and it is a powerful ingredient that moves the plot forward . . . an absorbing and intelligently-crafted historical novel . . . ."- Divine Zapa for Readers’ Favourite

 

Buy the Book

 

About the Author

 
Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and the descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French Army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. He holds both Irish and American citizenship.

An international business attorney, Mr. O’Connell is an alumnus of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.

A lifelong personal and scholarly interest in the history of eighteenth-century Ireland, as well as that of his extended family, led O’Connell to create his first book, Beyond Derrynane, which will, together with Two Journeys Home and the two books to follow, comprise the Derrynane Saga.

The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland.
 
To learn more about Kevin and his writing visit his website and Amazon profile page, and connect with him on Facebook.

 

Novel Expressions Blog Tour Schedule

 
February 19th

Spotlight Layered Pages

February 20th

Guest Post -The Writing Desk
Guest Post – Blood Mother Blog

February 21th

Book Review - A Bookaholic Swede
Book Excerpt – Kate Braithwaite
Guest Post – A Literary Vacation

February 22nd

Interview & Review – Flashlight Commentary
Book Excerpt – Just One More Chapter
Book Review –Impressions In Ink

February 23rd

Book Review – Lock, Hooks and Books
Book Review – before the second sleep

March 5th
 
 
*Find out  more about Novel Expression Blog Tours on their website*
 


TLC Book Review: The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 384

Genres: Fiction / Historical Fiction / Biographical Fiction


Synopsis



In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.


“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”


In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.


What Did I Think About the Story?



When I read the synopsis of The Atomic City Girls I knew I wanted to read it as soon as I could get my hands on it! I've read lots of stories that take place before, during, or directly after WWII, from a variety of angles and perspectives, but surprisingly enough I had not read anything that dealt with Oak Ridge, Tennessee or the secretive work done there. It was a whole new world for me to explore and I went into the reading with very high expectations. I'm happy to say that many, if not all, of  my expectations were met and by the last page I felt like I had a brand new understanding and appreciation for the work done at home in support of the horrific fighting happening abroad.

Right from the start I was awed by the well-rounded approach author Janet Beard presented for the reader. Oak Ridge was quite the conglomeration of very different people, from the top scientific minds and trained soldiers to hardworking yet undereducated local women and African American field hands and everything in between. While still separated for the most part by race and class they all nonetheless lived for years within this highly secured fishbowl of hard work and fast play that served to not only shoot the Allies into the lead of atomic warfare but served to foster quite a lot of drama for its inhabitants. They all came to Oak Ridge for a variety of reasons - to escape guilt, to find a wealthy husband, to prove oneself a worthy man even if not fighting across seas, to try and secure a better future for ones family, and much more - and none left without being highly effected by what they experienced there.

My favorite aspect of the novel was the attention given to the actual day to day goings on of the people who lived there. They worked long, odd shifts (work that was done without really knowing why it was being done...all the secrets!) and had a vast variety of goods and entertainment at hand at all hours - a movie theatre, cafeteria, pharmacy and grocery, bowling alley, dance hall, and more. They lived in a variety of housing as well, depending on their rank, marital status, and race, whether that be trailers, dormitories, or traditional houses. The women dressed in their best, brightest dresses whenever possible and men sought to impress in pristine dress or uniforms (most at least). There was even a more dangerous side for those that sought it out, filled with things like gambling and illegal alcohol. It all comes to life in an exciting way and really drives home the unique and exhilarating time and place this would have been.

My only real issue (if it can be called that) with the story was some of the highly unsympathetic characters who I sometimes found a distraction from the more interesting central theme of what was actually happening at Oak Ridge. While I enjoyed both June and Joe as well as the perspectives they brought to the table, I found both Sam and Cici just awful people. Cici is particularly horrid, using anyone and anything in her power to get what she wants and to ensure she is able to put everyone else in their places, way below her. Sam is a practiced complainer and alcoholic who doesn't treat June the way she deserves and seems to be unhappy no matter what he is experiencing. While these two characters serve their purposes in moving along certain aspects of the narrative (in particular Sam), I would have preferred they not be such dislikable characters. These aspects of their personalities didn't add anything to the story for me and served to only irritate me when they showed up on the page. I also have to wonder at the title of the story as it's about so much more than the women who worked at Oak Ridge. Joe and (unfortunately) Sam are as much a part of the overall story as June and Cici, making the title seem like an odd choice to me.

Overall, The Atomic City Girls was a fascinating look at this singular place and time in history. I very much enjoyed learning about what was being done at Oak Ridge and the interesting environment it was for those that worked there. I should also mention that each chapter ends with actual historical photographs from Oak Ridge, which I LOVED. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, particularly that which takes placed during WWII, will enjoy the peek into this insular world not as well known (at least not to me) as other aspects of the war.


What Did I Think About the Cover?



I love it! It fits the story perfectly and did as much to draw me to this story as the synopsis.



My Rating: 3.5/5.0


Thank you to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for providing me with a free copy of The Atomic City Girls in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the tour!


 

Praise for The Atomic City Girls




“The Atomic City Girls is a fascinating and compelling novel about a little-known piece of WWII history.”—Maggie Leffler, international bestselling author (Globe and Mail) of The Secrets of Flight


Buy the Book


About the Author


Photo by Bradley Cummings


Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard earned an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.

Find out more about Janet at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

 


TLC Book Tour Schedule



Tuesday, February 6th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, February 7th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand
Friday, February 9th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, February 12th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, February 13th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, February 14th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, February 15th: Time 2 Read
Monday, February 19th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Tuesday, February 20th: Openly Bookish
Wednesday, February 21st: A Literary Vacation
Thursday, February 22nd: Bibliotica
Monday, February 26th: Literary Lindsey
Tuesday, February 27th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
Wednesday, February 28th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds
Thursday, March 1st: bookchickdi







Tuesday, February 20, 2018

HFVBT Feature: The Line of His People & The Oath of the Father by C.J. Adrien + Tour-Wide Giveaway!

The Line of His People



Pub. Date: September 1, 2013
Pages: 389

Series: Kindred of the Sea, Book #1
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Vikings



France, 799 A.D. The Northmen sacked the monastery at dawn, before anyone had awakened. They burned the village and slaughtered all who stood in their path. The relics of Saint Philbert were lost, and the island was abandoned by those who once dwelled there.


Years later, the monk Abriel – survivor of the same attack as a young boy – is sent to recover the relics to help restore the reputation and legitimacy of Saint Philbert. What he discovers on his journey changes his life forever.

Northmen had colonized the island in the absence of the monks. They hold the key to finding the relics, but they have greater plans for Abriel, plans that will take him to the North to find his destiny.


Praise for The Line of His People



“Adrien’s novel is a well thought out, deeply researched narrative that marries history with young adult fiction. In a time where females are popular among the young adult sector, this male focused novel is a welcome reprieve and appeals to a need for an action packed novel.” – Portland Book Review

“A well-written tale with vividly imagined characters.” – Trevor Schmidt, author of The Corsair Uprising series.

 

Buy the Book

 
 
  

The Oath of the Father

 
 
Pub. Date: March 1, 2015
Pages: 381

Series: Kindred of the Sea, Book #2
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Vikings
 

Coast of Brittany, 822 A.D.

King Abriel Haraldsson is a man on the run.

Injured in combat, his warriors take him to a nearby monastery to find a healer. The monks accept to care for him, but fake his death and steal him away to a distant island to be reconverted to their faith.

Believing the king of Herius to be dead, suitors from the north descend upon the island kingdom with the intent to marry Queen Kenna to usurp her husband’s lands and wealth. Most terrifying among them is the fierce warlord Turgeis — known for his prowess in battle and lust for blood — who sets his sights upon the queen.

When a messenger from afar returns with news that Abriel survived his injuries, Turgeis sets sail to ensure the king will never return.

Thus began the hunt.


Buy the Book

 
 

About the Author

 
 
C.J. Adrien is a French-American author of Viking historical fiction with a passion for Viking history. His Kindred of the Sea series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett.

C.J. Adrien’s novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds.

For more information, please visit C.J. Adrien’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
 
 

It's Giveaway Time!!



During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a set of The Line of His People & The Oath of the Father! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 13th. 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!!
 
 

HFVBT Schedule



Monday, January 29

Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 1

Review at Donna’s Book Blog (The Line of His People)

Monday, February 5

Review at Pursuing Stacie (The Line of His People)

Wednesday, February 7

Feature at A Bookaholic Swede

Monday, February 12

Review at The Writing Desk (The Line of His People)

Tuesday, February 13

Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, February 15

Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Friday, February 16

Feature at Broken Teepee

Monday, February 19

Review at Laura’s Interests (The Line of His People)

Tuesday, February 20

Review at Donna’s Book Blog (The Oath of the Father)
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Friday, February 23

Review at Cup of Sensibility

Monday, February 26

Review at Pursuing Stacie (The Oath of the Father)

Thursday, March 1

Review at Locks, Hooks and Books (The Line of His People)

Monday, March 5

Review at Laura’s Interests (The Oath of the Father)

Tuesday, March 6

Review at WS Momma Readers Nook (The Line of His People)

Tuesday, March 13

Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past


 
 
 




Friday, February 16, 2018

New Release Spotlight: MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT By Saralyn Richard

Pub. Date: February 17, 2018
Publisher: Black Opal Books

Pages: 350

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Mystery / Thriller


A powerful and rich playboy, a rare and naturally-occurring poison, a newly divorced woman with an ax to grind, and pressure from the former President of the US are just a few of the challenges facing Detective Oliver Parrott. African-American and a former college football hero making a name for himself in the criminal justice system, Parrott answers a routine call for back-up when someone dies at a country estate the morning after an elaborate birthday party. When he learns the deceased is the wealthy former Secretary of the Treasury, Preston Phillips and just about everyone at the party has a motive to kill him, Parrot realizes this will be the investigation to make—or break—his career.


Praise for Murder in the One Percent



"An Everyman detective is asked to solve a murder in a wealthy community in which ample motives and abundant resources make everyone a suspect...Detective Oliver Parrott, who takes charge of the case, is so struck by the partygoers' consensual impressions of the selfish businessman that he realizes the case may be more about who didn't kill Preston than who did."—Kirkus Reviews


“…there’s as much intrigue here and build-up as the best the genre has to offer. Ms. Richard has a modern winner in Detective Oliver Parrott, a real cop’s cop. If there’s a sequel coming, I’ll want first dibs.”–George Wier, author of the Bill Travis Mysteries and co-author of Long Fall From Heaven


“The twists unravel, then turn around and bite you. Saralyn Richard’s take on the classic murder mystery is fresh, fun, and deadly.”—Bob Bickford, author of Deadly Kiss, ITW Best First Novel Award Winner


“… a rollicking whodunit that will make you stay up late at night and leave you guessing until the very end. Move over, Dame Agatha Christie. There’s a new kid on the block.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree


"... With a crisp, felicitous prose style, and a vivid eye for the kind of detail that conjures a world and characters of dimension, Saralyn Richard stakes claim to territory pioneered by P.D. James and Agatha Christie... An impressive, page-turning debut... "—Mark Valadez, Executive Story Editor, USA Network's "Queen of the South" and Crackle's "The Oath"


“… Saralyn Richard gives the reader convincing insight into the lives of 21st century party-going one-percenters, many with a motive for murder, and a puzzle worthy of Dame Agatha.”—Susan P. Baker, author of UNAWARE, A Suspense Novel


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author



Mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard has been a teacher who wrote on the side.  Now she is a writer who teaches on the side. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children in five countries. Murder in the One Percent is her first mystery. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn is now revising her second mystery, Murder at Lincoln High. She has lived in New Orleans, St. Louis, and Chicago, and now lives in Galveston, Texas. Learn more at www.saralynrichard.com.




Thursday, February 15, 2018

Cover Crush: The Storm King by Brendan Duffy

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you 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. You'll find my Cover Crush selection below and I'll link to everyone else's at the end of the post.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 
 
 
 
This is such a cool cover! At first I thought it was a blue wall with greenery around it and water dripping down, then I noticed the car in the lower right hand corner and realized the blue was a body of water and the greenery around it were trees. However water wouldn't drip down in this manner over a view like this, so I'm not sure what we are looking at! I love covers that alter my perception as I look more closely at it and challenge me to figure out exactly what I'm seeing. All things considered I find it a very captivating cover and don't want to look away!
 
I've got to read the synopsis for this one....
 
 
Haunted by dark secrets and an unsolved mystery, a young doctor returns to his isolated Adirondacks hometown in a tense, atmospheric novel in the vein of Michael Koryta and Harlan Coben.

Burying the past only gives it strength--and fury.

Nate McHale has assembled the kind of life most people would envy. After a tumultuous youth marked by his inexplicable survival of a devastating tragedy, Nate left his Adirondack hometown of Greystone Lake and never looked back. Fourteen years later, he's become a respected New York City surgeon, devoted husband, and loving father.

Then a body is discovered deep in the forests that surround Greystone Lake.

This disturbing news finally draws Nate home. While navigating a tense landscape of secrets and suspicion, resentments and guilt, Nate reconnects with estranged friends and old enemies, and encounters strangers who seem to know impossible things about him. Haunting every moment is the Lake's sinister history and the memory of wild, beautiful Lucy Bennett, with whom Nate is forever linked by shattering loss and youthful passion.

As a massive hurricane bears down on the Northeast, the air becomes electric, the clouds grow dark, and escalating acts of violence echo events from Nate's own past. Without a doubt, a reckoning is coming--one that will lay bare the lies that lifelong friends have told themselves and unleash a vengeance that may consume them all.
 
 
Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):
 
 
 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

L.A.P. it Marketing Spotlight on MARY –Tudor Princess by Tony Riches

Pub. Date: February 1st, 2018
Publisher: Preseli Press
Pages: 322

Genre: Historical Fiction


From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.


Excerpt from Chapter One – Midsummer’s Day 1509




After the long ceremony Mary sat with her grandmother under a golden canopy of state at the coronation banquet in Westminster Hall. Lady Margaret had offered to act as regent for the first months of Henry’s reign. Not one voice challenged her suggestion, a mark of her power and influence.

Henry and Catherine sat on high-backed gilded thrones before the highest nobles and clerics in the land. The men wore scarlet cloaks and the ladies displayed their finest jewels, saved for such special occasions. Mary wore a gold necklace of bright diamonds and pearls, another of her father’s treasures, now a gift to her from Henry.

The sense of history being made hung heavy in the warm summer air. Mary swatted at one of the buzzing black flies and frowned as it evaded her. She looked up as it flew high over the guests to join others, circling like carrion crows waiting for the sweet-tasting delicacies to be served.

She regretted the tight lacing of her new damask gown of deepest blue, another gift from Henry. The edges were trimmed with gold lace, despite her grandmother’s sharp retort that it was too soon to end her mourning, even to celebrate a coronation. Her long golden hair, plaited and looped under her ornate French cowl, prickled in the heat and she fanned her face with her hand.

Lady Margaret scanned the crowded tables with a critical eye. ‘Your brother asked me to select his advisors. I pray he will take heed of their experience and wisdom.’

Mary glanced across at Henry, who was enjoying being the centre of attention. ‘It’s good to see so many of father’s loyal supporters, Grandmother. They will know how to best serve his son.’

Although sure her grandmother had chosen well she guessed many would soon be replaced. Henry couldn’t be more different from her father and would appoint his own men, who shared his youthful tastes.

Startled by the sudden blast of a fanfare announcing the first course of the banquet, she turned to see the Duke of Buckingham riding a black charger with richly embroidered trappings. Behind him rode the Lord Steward on a horse caparisoned with cloth of gold, hooves clattering on the flagstoned floor.

They led a procession of servants in Tudor green-and-white livery carrying heavy gilded platters bearing delicacies for the feast. The servants were all young nobles, proud to represent their families in the service of the new king. The leading server, face impassive as his duty demanded, seemed to struggle with the weight of a whole swan. Others carried silver trays of game birds, spiced larks and cockatrices, made from the front half of cockerels grafted on to the back halves of piglets.

A handsome young servant filled Mary’s golden cup with rich red wine. She smiled as she raised her cup in the air and caught her brother’s eye.

‘To our new king. May God grant you a long and happy reign!’ Her clear young voice carried well, turning heads despite the chattering guests.

Henry beamed at her. ‘Thank you, my dearest sister.’ His voice echoed across the hall and he raised his own goblet. ‘To the future!’ He drank deep and gestured for the waiting musicians to strike up a lively tune. The music lifted Mary’s spirits and she even saw their grandmother manage a smile. The new era had begun.


Buy the Book

 
 
 
 

About the Author

 



Tony Riches is a full-time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors.
 
For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website, his Goodreads page, and his popular blog, The Writing Desk, and find him on Facebook and Twitter.
 
 
 

 


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

HFVBT Feature on The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend by Nicole Evelina + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
Pub. Date: November 21, 2017
Pages: 281

Genre: History & Criticism/Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology



Guinevere’s journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years…and it’s not over yet.

Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. As a result, she is often seen as a one-dimensional character. But there is more to her story. By examining popular works of more than 20 authors over the last one thousand years, The Once and Future Queen shows how Guinevere reflects attitudes toward women during the time in which her story was written, changing to suit the expectations of her audience. Beginning in Celtic times and continuing through the present day, this book synthesizes academic criticism and popular opinion into a highly readable, approachable work that fills a gap in Arthurian material available to the general public.

Nicole Evelina has spent more than 15 years studying Arthurian legend. She is also a feminist known for her fictional portrayals of strong historical and legendary women, including Guinevere. Now, she combines these two passions to examine the effect of changing times and attitudes on the character of Guinevere in a must-read book for Arthurian enthusiasts of every knowledge level.


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction, romantic comedy and non-fiction writer, whose four novels have collectively won over 20 awards, including two Book of the Year designations (Daughter of Destiny by Chanticleer Reviews and Camelot’s Queen by Author’s Circle). Her most recent book, THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN, traces the evolution of the character of Guinevere in Arthurian legend from her Celtic roots to the present day, showing how the character changed along with the period’s views of women. Nicole is currently working on MISTRESS OF LEGEND (2018), the final book in her Guinevere’s Tale trilogy.

As an armchair historian, Nicole researches her books extensively, consulting with biographers, historical societies and traveling to locations when possible. For example, she traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.

Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, as well as a member of the Historical Fiction Writers of America, International Arthurian Society – North American Branch, Romantic Novelists Association, Novelists, Inc., the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Alliance of Independent Authors, the Independent Book Publishers Association and the Midwest Publisher’s Association.

For more information, please visit Nicole Evelina’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads. Sign up for Nicole’s newsletter to receive news and updates.


It's Giveaway Time!!

 
 
 

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two paperback copies of The Once and Future Queen! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 28th. 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!!
 
 

HFVBT Schedule

 

Wednesday, January 31


Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 1


Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, February 2


Feature at A Bookaholic Swede
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, February 6


Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Wednesday, February 7


Excerpt at What Cathy Read Next

Thursday, February 8


Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Friday, February 9


Interview at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, February 12


Review at Bookworms Anonymous
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Tuesday, February 13


Feature at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, February 14


Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, February 15


Feature at Just One More Chapter

Friday, February 16


Guest Post at The Writing Desk

Monday, February 19


Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Thursday, February 22


Feature at A Holland Reads

Monday, February 26


Review at Cup of Sensibility
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, February 27


Review at Curling Up by the Fire

Wednesday, February 28


Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit



 
 
 



Monday, February 12, 2018

Audiobook Review: IT by Stephen King

Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Pub. Date: March 9th, 2010
Length: 44 hours, 57 minutes

Genre: Fiction / Horror / Fantasy


Synopsis



"A landmark in American literature" (Chicago Sun-Times) Stephen King's number-one national best seller about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers...an evil without a name: It.


Welcome to Derry, Maine. It's a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made 28 years ago calls them to reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city's children. Now children are being murdered again, and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry's sewers.


Readers and listeners of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.


What Did I Think About the Story?



I grew up absolutely LOVING the Tim Curry TV miniseries version of Stephen King's IT. Then I went and saw the first installment of the new movie version coming to theatres, which was so different from the miniseries, and knew I needed to see how the two compared to the original story. Lucky me I spotted an audiobook version available to borrow from my library and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see how Stephen King intended the story to unfold. I'm not afraid to admit that the audiobook version of IT was as terrifying as I imagined it would be!

Anyone who reads, watches, or listens to horror stories most likely already knows the basic premise of IT. If you don't the synopsis above will fill you in. This is a story about visceral and all-consuming fear. It's an evilness that has lurked below this small town for centuries and a group of teenagers who set out to destroy it once and for all. It's mind-bending and nightmare-inducing and a consuming story, especially when experienced as an audiobook. It also, surprisingly enough, has mixed in to it this touching coming-of-age and first love story that would seem out of place in less capable hands than Stephen King's. It really does have something for everyone, as long as readers or listeners are able to handle some graphic language and situations.

Steven Weber as narrator for this story is perfection. He has this wonderful speaking voice that is great for narration as well as this ability to change his voice for the various characterizations and really inhabit the insanity that is Pennywise (the clown personifying the evil). He has this way of speaking, this low-burning growl and terrifying shrieking quality, that made Pennywise so scary that I could feel my heart begin to race when he entered a scene. I was amazed at how well he read this long and multi-layered story and really want to find some other audiobooks narrated by him.

As you can see above, this is a LONG story. It was so long, in fact, that I had to check it out from my library in two installments (only being allowed to check it out for two weeks at a time). Because it's so popular these two separate rentals were literally months apart. My eagerness to finish the story was so great, though, that I happily waited for the book to become available again and then put everything else aside to make sure I could finish it the second time around. And I don't regret a minute of it. The story never dragged and every minute of the almost 45 hours felt needed to fully tell this story. I don't think I've ever devoted this much time and energy into a story before and felt this satisfied at the end.    

IT might be my favorite audiobook experience to date (Locke and Key is hard to beat) and is definitely the best audiobook version of a novel I've come across. The combination of an excellent horror story and an exceptional narrator are hard to resist and anyone who's been thinking of giving this story a try, as I was, need to run out and get your hands on a copy. I've read a few stories by Stephen King and very much enjoyed them, and this is no exception. He's considered by many to be the master of horror and it's not hard to see why.


What Did I Think About the Cover?



This cover doesn't really do much for me, however I've seen some more recent covers that give you more of a chill befitting this terrifying story. To be honest I would have picked up this audiobook regardless of the cover so I didn't really care about what it looked like for once!


My Rating: 5.0/5.0


I borrowed a copy of IT from my library's Overdrive account. All opinions are mine alone. To find out more about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, see Goodreads HERE.
 
 


Friday, February 9, 2018

New Release Spotlight: The Undertaker's Daughter by Sara Blaedel

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 336

Genres: Contemporary Fiction / Thriller / Suspense / Mystery


Already widowed by the age of forty, Ilka Nichols Jensen, a school portrait photographer, leads a modest, regimented, and uneventful life in Copenhagen. Until unexpected news rocks her quiet existence: Her father--who walked out suddenly and inexplicably on the family more than three decades ago--has died. And he's left her something in his will: his funeral home. In Racine, Wisconsin.

Clinging to this last shred of communication from the father she hasn't heard from since childhood, Ilka makes an uncharacteristically rash decision and jumps on a plane to Wisconsin. Desperate for a connection to the parent she never really knew, she plans to visit the funeral home and go through her father's things--hoping for some insight into his new life in America--before preparing the business for a quick sale.

But when she stumbles on an unsolved murder, and a killer who seems to still be very much alive, the undertaker's daughter realizes she might be in over her head . .


Praise for Author Sara Blaedel



"One of the best I've come across." -Michael Connelly

"Sara Blaedel is a force to be reckoned with. She's a remarkable crime writer who time and again delivers a solid, engaging story that any reader in the world can enjoy." -Karin Slaughter

"One can count on emotional engagement, spine-tingling suspense, and taut storytelling from Sara Blaedel."-Sandra Brown


"Compelling and unique, THE UNDERTAKER'S DAUGHTER delves into a dark and fascinating world rarely explored in suspense fiction. Sara Blaedel knows how to reel in her readers and keep them utterly transfixed."―Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of I Know a Secret


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
Sara Blaedel is the author of the #1 international bestselling series featuring Detective Louise Rick. Her books are published in thirty-seven countries. In 2014 Sara was voted Denmark's most popular novelist for the fourth time. She is also a recipient of the Golden Laurel, Denmark's most prestigious literary award. She lives in New York City.
 
Learn more about Sara and her writing on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
 
 


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cover Crush: The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you 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 never thought I would see a picture of the human heart and think it was beautiful, but here you go! I think the fact that it's mostly covered with intricately drawn flowers helps. The colors are my favorite part, just saturated with pigment. This is the kind of picture I'd want to frame!
 
What in the world is the story about? Read the synopsis to find out....
 
 
A debut novel that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart's capacity for forgiveness...

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they're happily married wives and mothers with successful careers--Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie's life--both professionally and personally--throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick's unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.
 
 
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, February 7, 2018

New Release Spotlight on The Missing Wife by Sheila O'Flanagan

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 480

Genres: Contemporary Fiction / Romance / Suspense


Readers of Marian Keyes, Lisa Jewell, and Santa Montefiore will love bestselling author Sheila O'Flanagan's THE MISSING WIFE.


Have you ever wanted to disappear?


When Imogen Naughton vanishes, everyone who knows her is shocked. She has a perfect marriage. Her handsome husband treats her like a princess. She's always said how lucky she is. So why has she left? And how will she survive without Vince?

What goes on behind closed doors is often a surprise, and Imogen surprises herself by taking the leap she knows she must. But as she begins her journey to find the woman she once was, Imogen's past is right behind her...

Will it catch up with her? And will she be ready to face it if it does?


Praise for The Missing Wife



"...will have you gripped until the very end."--- Look Magazine

"Another first class bestseller. I read the book in one sitting as it was so enjoyable, full of romance and kept you riveted until the last page. A must for all [of Sheila's] fans."--- Woman's Way

"Must have"--- Sunday Express

"Smart and twisty"--- Heat

"O'Flanagan is one of our best-known, best-loved and most prolific women's fiction authors...[The Missing Wife] is a thoroughly satisfying, well-paced plot from a sure and experienced pen."--- Independent


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author



Sheila O'Flanagan is the author of several books, including Someone Special, Bad Behaviour and Yours, Faithfully, which have been huge bestsellers in the UK and Ireland. Prior to taking the decision to write full time, Sheila pursued a very successful career in banking and finance. In her spare time she plays competitive badminton and is currently a director of the Irish Sports Council.

  



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Release Day Blitz: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Pub. Date February 6th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 394

Genre: Historical Fiction


After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...



Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.


Advanced Praise for Next Year in Havana

 


Chanel Cleeton's Next Year In Havana is a flat-out stunner of a book, at once a dual-timeline mystery, a passionate romance, and paean to the tragedy and beauty of war-torn Cuba. The story of sugar heiress Elisa, watching Cuba fall into revolution as Castro rises, is intertwined with the modern-day tale of Elisa's granddaughter Marisol as she returns to Cuba after Castro's death. Both women fall for fire-brand revolutionaries, but Cuba itself emerges as their true love-interest, threatening to break both women's hearts as Elisa and Marisol each grapple in their own way with what it is to be Cuban, what it is to be an exile, and how to love and live in a homeland riven by revolution. Simply wonderful!- Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

Cleeton has penned an atmospheric, politically insightful, and highly hopeful homage to a lost world. Devour NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA and you, too, will smell the perfumed groves, taste the ropa vieja, and feel the sun on your face. Just a wonderful and educational book!- Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America's First Daughter


A vivid, transporting novel. Next Year in Havana is about journeys-- into exile, into history, and into questions of home and identity. It's an engrossing read. - David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife

An evocative, passionate story of family loyalty and forbidden love that moves seamlessly between the past and present of Cuba’s turbulent history— how one young woman’s sacrifice becomes the key to her granddaughter’s future—how culture and spirit survive against all odds. Next Year in Havana kept me enthralled and savoring every word.- Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Beach


In Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton's prose is as beautiful as Cuba itself, and the story she weaves--of exile and loss, memory and myth, forbidden love and enduring friendship--is at once sweeping and beautifully intimate. This is a moving, heartfelt, and gorgeously realized story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.- Jennifer Robson, USA Today bestselling author of Somewhere in France


Buy the Book

 
 


*Learn more about Next Year in Havana including downloading the book club guide and more HERE*

  

About the Author

 

Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.
 
Learn more about Chanel on her website and connect with her on Facebook (and her Facebook Reader Group), Twitter, Goodreads, and Instragram. You can also sign up for her newsletter HERE.