Friday, March 30, 2018

The Tip of My Wish List: 2018 Debut Novels

If you're anything like me you've got a book wish list so long there is no way you will ever be able to read through it all. And, on top of that, it's never ending because you just can't stop adding more books to it! To try and organize myself I'm sharing 5 books from my wish list that I'm most excited to get to, usually with a common theme, on the last Friday of each month. I know a number of excellent bloggers who will be doing similar posts and I'll be sure to link to their posts as well so you can see all the goodies we're excited about and, hopefully, add a few new books to your own wish list. I'll also link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy of the books if they sound like your style. I really hope you enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these or have others you would add to the list.

For this month's theme I've picked 5 debut novels coming out in 2018. I love discovering new authors and particularly love debuts as you get to see an author at the beginning of their talents. So often they've put in years of blood, sweat, and tears to create that first novel and it comes across in the writing. 


In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.

South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?

Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Everything Here is Beautiful

Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister's protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it's Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor's diagnosis.

Determined, impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in — but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?

Told from alternating perspectives, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its core, a heart-wrenching family drama about relationships and tough choices — how much we're willing to sacrifice for the ones we love, and when it's time to let go and save ourselves.

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

This voyage is special. It will change everything…

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

In this spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.


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, March 29, 2018

Cover Crush: The Lake House by Kate Morton

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. 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.....
Full disclosure...I've already read this book and own a hardcover copy. However I kind of wish I could read it for the first time again with this cover! It has such a secret garden feel to it and I LOVE the dress on the woman making her way through the foliage. The bright, saturated color is gorgeous and I just want to stare at this one for hours (but I won't...okay maybe I will.).
Read on for the synopsis....

An abandoned house...

June 1933, and sixteen-year-old Alice Edevane is preparing for her family's Midsummer Eve party at their country home, Loeanneth. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.

A missing child...

Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Detective Sadie Sparrow retreats to her beloved grandfather's cottage in Cornwall. Once there, she stumbles upon an abandoned house, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.

An unsolved mystery...

Meanwhile, in her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family's past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape...
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
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, March 28, 2018

Spotlight on The Renewal by Mike Torreano

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Pub. Date: March 19th, 2018
Pages: 248

Genre: Historical Fiction / Western

Ike McAlister has finally put the ghosts of his past to rest. He’s found new joy with a spirited wife, a young daughter, and a mountain valley ranch where a man can make something of himself. But a coming railroad through the South Park valley threatens to take his land and tear his hard-won peace apart.

Discovering that the railroad could easily bypass his ranch, he organizes opposition and earns the animus of the formidable foreman. When Ike’s brother Rob, the sheriff, is bushwhacked, Ike sets out on a high stakes quest to get the killer before the killer gets him.

*Read an interview with author Mike Torreano on Layered Pages*

Buy the Book


About the Author

Mike Torreano has a military background and is a student of history and the American West.

His western mystery, The Reckoning, was released September 2016 by The Wild Rose Press and the sequel, The Renewal, is due to be released soon. He’s working on the next western now and he also has a coming-of-age Civil War novel looking for a publisher.

Mike’s written for magazines and newspapers. An experienced editor, he’s taught University English and Journalism. He’s a member of the Historical Novel Society, Pikes Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Western Writers of America and several other western writing groups. He brings his readers back in time with him as he recreates life in 19th century America.
Learn more about Mike on his website.
*Find out  more about L.A.P. it Marketing on their website*


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

HFVBT Feature: The Revolutionist by Robert M. Tucker + Tour-Wide Giveaway!

Publisher: Wise Words Publishing
Pub. Date: December 3rd, 2017
Pages: 600 Pages

Genre: Historical / Action Adventure

Two different families escape from the political tyranny of their respective homelands, the Josephsons from Sweden and Matias and Kurt Bauman, brothers from Germany and Austria Hungary, with the aid of a Viennese opera diva, Sophie Augusta Rose, and Jean Guenoc, a former Jesuit priest, family friend and protector and partisan of the French underground.

Their journey brings them to America in the throes of the industrial revolution during the 1890s and early 1900s. Ingrid and Olaf Josephson settle on a small wheat farm in North Central Minnesota to raise their children, Newt and Julie.

Among the Jewish entrepreneurs forced to leave Germany and Austria-Hungary, Matias and Kurt Bauman re-establish their transportation company in Chicago, Illinois.

In search of a secret list of insurgent social democrats, the bounty hunter assassin, Luther Baggot, tracks his victims to the American heartland. Following the murder of their mother and father, Newt, Julie, and their friends, Aaron and Beth Peet, hide from the killer in a Northern Minnesota logging camp. Believing the children have taken possession of the list, Luther tracks them down.

Fleeing to a central Minnesota town, the four young people come across a remote business location of Bauman Enterprises and meet Matias Bauman, who had been a friend and former political collaborator with Newt’s and Julie’s parents. He takes them all to Chicago where a different world opens up to them as they are thrust into the turmoil and violence of an urban society and economy careening into the new century.

Buy the Book


About the Author

Rob Tucker is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and received his graduate

Rob worked as a business and management consultant to advertising, corporate communications, and media production companies as well as many others. Now retired, he resides with his wife in Southern California where he devotes much of his time to writing.

He is a recipient of the Samuel Goldwyn and Donald Davis Literary Awards. An affinity for family and the astute observation of generational interaction pervade his novels.

His works are literary and genre upmarket fiction that address the nature and importance of personal integrity.

For more information, please visit Robert Tucker’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles.

It's Giveaway Time!!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of The Revolutionist! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

HFVBT Schedule

Thursday, March 1

Excerpt at Teaser Addicts Book Blog

Monday, March 5

Excerpt at What is That Book About

Wednesday, March 7

Feature at WS Momma Readers Nook

Sunday, March 11

Interview & Excerpt at T’s Stuff

Thursday, March 15

Feature at A Bookaholic Swede

Monday, March 19

Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 23

Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, March 26

Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Tuesday, March 27

Feature at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, March 28

Interview at Donna’s Book Blog

Thursday, March 29


Friday, March 23, 2018

HFVBT ~ Excerpt of 1886: Ties That Bind by AE Wasserman + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

The Central Valley, California, United States

August 1886

The passengers waited on the Delano Station platform for its arrival; some relaxed on crude wooden benches, while others stood in anticipation, ready to pick up their suitcases to board as soon as they could. The hot California sun danced on the metal rails while the motionless air under the depot’s overhang hung heavy with heat.

They saw it first, a dark dot where the rails converged. Those sitting stood in anticipation, gripping their bags with tight fists. Everyone as a unit slowly moved toward the edge of the worn wooden planks, leaving the stale shade of the overhang so they might encroach upon the edge above the gap, where shiny rails on dark ties lay embedded in gravel deep below. Not too close, for that felt dangerous, but close enough to peer up the track as the dark dot rapidly enlarged into the locomotive they expected.

The black steel mass burst forth into the station, as promised, but failed to fulfill its duty to stop. Indeed, failed to even slow. It monstered through, roaring indignation. The would-be passengers instinctively took a step back under the protection of the short roofed area and away from the now-filled gulf as the wheels spun on hidden rails. The whizzing blur of noise and black roared, followed by a dark-gray car flashing square windows as it clacked past, rapid rhythm, the wind-wake whipping onto the depot platform. Everyone stood frozen with the force of the noise and braced against the hot gust that slammed their bonnets, hats, skirts.

Then it was gone. Silence. A void—above the rails and within their senses. Quiet.

Stunned by the sudden unexpected, they all gasped in unison; a communal breath. Wide-eyed, they tried to speak as they slowly began to recognize what they had just seen fly past.

Two men standing nearest the wooden edge exchanged horrified looks. Clad in dungarees and cotton shirts, they adjusted their wide brimmed hats, and as if practiced, simultaneously turned. “Someone has to stop that train!” The second replied, “Let’s go!” They ran inside the depot sprinting toward the front door and out onto Main Street.

The rest remained on the platform. Some had dropped their valises; mothers stood with babes tight in their arms, or children held against their skirts. Husbands shielded their wives as they all began to react.

Did you see what I saw? Was that real? Were they …?

Those who spoke would finish with their hands over their mouths for what they had seen, was, in fact, unspeakable. The image burned in their minds, like the lingering light in an eye after a lamp’s extinguished wick.

The raging engine had held no engineer. Instead, draped upon the coal bin behind the cab was a body. The car flew by, a body or two leaned awkwardly on a seat, and in one case, flung with shoulders, arms and head hanging through a window, flopping with the speeding rhythm of the iron beast.

The train raged away, diminishing in size as quickly as it had emerged for its arrival.

The metal parade was a dead man’s train.
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Pub. Date: November 8th, 2016
Pages: 370

Series: Langford Series, Book #2
Genre: Fiction/Historical

It is 1886 as Englishman Lord Langsford travels by train to San Francisco. Newly widowed, Langsford is desperate to escape his grief, demons, and life in England. As Langsford completes the last leg of his transcontinental journey, his life unexpectedly changes once again when he crosses paths with Miss Sally Baxter, a beautiful rancher who packs a pistol in her purse.

Sally has made it her mission to find the men who robbed a train and killed her brother. Unfortunately, no one—not even the owners of the Southern Pacific Railroad—seem to care. Unable to resist her pleas, Langsford offers to help Sally and soon becomes entangled in a web of politics, corruption, and greed. As murder, threats, and attacks ensue that endanger both Sally and Langsford, influential men in both California and Washington, D.C. jockey for positions of power. Langsford, who finds himself oddly attracted to Sally, now must sort through criminals and politicians alike to discover the truth behind her brother’s death and prevent his own murder.

Praise for 1886: Ties That Bind

“Not only is this a fast-paced historical mystery, 1886 Ties That Bind offers commentary on the political and social issues that are still relevant today.” – Helga Schier, PhD, author and founder of With Pen and Paper

“Wasserman’s writing is atmospherically rich. Very strongly recommended.” – Historical Novel Society, London, critical review of 1884 No Boundaries

Buy the Book


About the Author


The daughter of a newspaperman, A.E. Wasserman grew up in a household filled with books and stories. At age 14, she wrote her first novella and never stopped writing.

She is the author of a new mystery/thrillers series, the first of which takes place in London: 1884 No Boundaries, A Story of Espionage and International Intrigue. The second in the Langsford Series, 1886 Ties That Bind, A Story of Politics, Graft and Greed, has just been released.

Her work, critically acclaimed as “richly atmospheric,” is being noticed by readers and critics alike, and has garnered international attention, not only in the U.S., but Europe and the U.K. as well. She recently received top honors from Writer’s Digest for her work.

After graduating from The Ohio State University, she lived in London, then San Francisco. Currently she resides in Southern California with her family and her muse, a Border Collie named Topper.

For more information, please Visit the author’s web site at You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

It's Giveaway Time!!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of 1886 Ties That Bind by A.E. Wasserman! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Good Luck!!

HFVBT Schedule

Tuesday, February 27

Feature at Passages to the Past

Saturday, March 3

Excerpt at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Sunday, March 4

Interview at T’s Stuff

Wednesday, March 7

Excerpt at Let Them Read Books

Friday, March 9

Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, March 12

Interview at Donna’s Book Blog

Thursday, March 15

Review at Locks, Hooks, and Books

Tuesday, March 20

Review at Teaser Addicts Book Blog

Thursday, March 22

Review at Impressions in Ink

Friday, March 23

Excerpt at A Literary Vacation

Friday, April 6

Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cover Crush: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

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. 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.....

I absolutely love the flow (no pun intended) of this cover! Not only is the river twisting around but the grasses and flowers are also twirling around on the banks, giving it a delicious sense of motion. The dragonflies are nice touch as well, and I love the mellow colors against that black background. Add on to that the fact that I peek the authors name at the bottom - I loved The Thirteenth Tale - and I'm really, really excited to get a copy of this book and see the beauty in person!

What could the story be about....

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

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
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, March 21, 2018

The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Publisher: Matador & TimeLight Press
Pub. Date: February 16, 2018
Pages: 434

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy

Book #4
Genre: Historical Fiction

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

Buy the Book


About the Author


Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website,, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

It's Giveaway Time!!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Good Luck!!!

HFVBT Schedule

Monday, February 26

Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Tuesday, February 27

Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, February 28

Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, March 1

Feature at What Is That Book About

Friday, March 2

Review at Book Drunkard

Monday, March 5

Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, March 6
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, March 7

Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, March 9

Review at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, March 12

Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, March 13

Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, March 15

Feature at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 16

Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, March 19

Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, March 21

Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, March 22

Review at Back Porchervations

Friday, March 23

Feature at Button Eyed Reader

Monday, March 26

Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, March 28

Review at Broken Teepee
Review at Impressions In Ink

Friday, March 30

Review at Bookramblings

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Pub. Date: February 6th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 387

Genre: Historical Fiction


From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I have to admit right up front that I am a forever fan of Susan Meissner's novels. I've read nearly all of her historical fiction and have purchased the few I haven't yet read to read as soon as I can. I feel so lucky that I've gotten to be a part of her street teams in the past and that she was kind enough to offer me a copy of her newest novel, As Bright as Heaven, to read. My answer...YES PLEASE!! This newest venture moves away from her typical format in that it keeps the reader solely in the past (many of her other novels have both historical and contemporary timelines) and I, for one, loved being transported to Philadelphia in 1918 and shortly thereafter and being completely immersed in the heartache and hope of the Bright family and the country at large.

The story opens up with the Bright family moving to Philadelphia after a devastating tragedy. Pauline's husband has been given the opportunity to apprentice in and someday take over his uncle's funeral parlor. It's a wonderful opportunity for the whole family, not only because of it's greater opportunities financially but for Pauline to explore the new companion - death - that seems to be shadowing her since the tragedy. However, as the family begins settling in to this new life, two overwhelming world events barge in to turn everything on its head - WWI and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

As Pauline's husband goes off to do his part for the war, along with a neighbor who has become a big part of their life, Pauline and the girls are forced to take over a larger part in the funeral home and within the city dying before their eyes. It is during this time that choices are made that will have devastating and lasting effects on all of their lives and that will shape the course of their lives forever.

I was amazed at how well Meissner brought the devastation of the Spanish Flu to life within these pages and just have heartbreaking and widespread it was! Having the Bright family run a funeral home was the best possible way to show this as they would (and did) have bodies literally stacking up at their door. It's terrifying and claustrophobia-inducing as the various characters don't want to step outside without a mask for fear they will be struck ill. Meissner further drove the point home by developing these characters - both primary and secondary - so well and then having them swept away by the flu right before our eyes. It broke my heart to come to care for some of these characters and then to see them gone in an instant without any rhyme or reason. It truly was heartbreaking but also made the aftermath and growth of the remaining characters so much more compelling.

While definitely taking a backseat to the Spanish Flu the time and detail given to the men who went off to WWI and the PTSD issues many had when they returned was also well done, mainly shown through the neighbor. I can't say too much about this as it leads to other developments later in the story, but I will say that it not only scared these men - both physically and mentally - but took them away from their loved ones, robbing them of being able to say goodbye to those killed during the flu epidemic. I would never have thought of this aspect of what the war robbed these men of and really appreciated getting to see it from this angle.

I am being purposely vague about the rest of the story because I don't want to spoil anything. However, I will say that I appreciated seeing how the Bright daughters were effected by their experiences during this time and how it shaped them into the young women they became. I came to really care for two of them (one ended up somewhat self-centered and unfortunately got on my nerves a little) and admired the choices they made, even if some of them were somewhat questionable choices. These are strong female characters who stood by their actions and I, for one, love that.

As Bright as Heaven is top shelf historical fiction. It's detailed and tragic and hopeful and so many other things. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or really just a wonderful read.      

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's so pretty, even more so in person!! I love the soft, sort of distressed colors and the backdrop of what I imagine is Philadelphia. The solitary woman could be any of our women, really, and I love the overall composition. Beautiful cover!

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of As Bright as Heaven from author Susan Meissner. All opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, see Goodreads HERE.

Reviews of Susan Meissner's Other Novels



Monday, March 19, 2018

Audiobook Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Publisher: Random House Audio

Release Date: October 3rd, 2017

Length: 18 hours , 9 minutes

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Fiction / Thriller / Technothriller / Suspense

Book Series: Robert Langdon, Book #5


Where do we come from?

Where are we going?

The stunningly inventive new novel from the world's most popular thriller writer.

Bilbao, Spain

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement - the unveiling of a discovery that "will change the face of science forever." The evening's host is Edmond Kirsch, a 40-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon's first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch's precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch's secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain's Royal Palace itself...and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face to face with Kirsch's shocking discovery...and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Origin is Dan Brown's most brilliant and entertaining novel to date.

What Did I Think About the Story?

Readers seem to either love or hate Dan Brown's books and I fall heavily into the former category. All of his novels have been fast-paced, action-packed explorations into countries, cultures, and hidden aspects of history that I would probably never get to experience otherwise. He brings the reader along as he explores the world and teaches us fascinating little factoids about the locations or object being discussed, making you feel like you are getting a deeper picture of what is happening within the story. In this way Origin is a typical Dan Brown, going even farther than normal to ask and answer questions that are at the heart of humanity: where do we come from? Where are we going?

Origin tackles some of the biggest and most controversial warring aspects of modern life: religion vs. science, classical vs. modern, new vs. old, fact vs. belief. While Brown veers heavily towards the belief in science and technology he also shows an appreciation and love for the classical and the artistic, showing links between the measured science of and the beauty and chaos of nature and life as we know it. I can't tell you too much more about the overall plot of the story without giving something away, but I will say that Brown offers up some compelling answers to the questions he presents, ones that make me both excited for and terrified for humanity's future.

My favorite aspect of the story, and one that sort of drives home the point of the ceaseless advancement of technology, is the fact that one of Robert Langdon's companions on this madcap journey is a virtual docent at the museum, one created by Edmond Kirsch himself. "Winston" is a key player in helping Langdon discover what Kirsch was going to reveal to the world and making sure that his revelations are released. While he doesn't physically travel with the human characters he's able to interact with them virtually and search through copious amounts of information to assist in a fraction of the time it would have taken Langdon. To be honest I'm not sure how they would have proceeded without him! That isn't to say that Winston is perfect, but you'll have to read/listen to the story to discover his downfalls.

I listened to this story as an audiobook and I think it was the perfect way to experience it. The narrator (Paul Michael) was excellent, keeping the tension tight and the action flowing while also never glossing over those delightful little facts Brown throws in to educate and entertain his readers. Michael also did a wonderful job of changing the accents between characters, given their various countries of origin, something I imagine can't be easy to do. The sound of his voice perfectly matched the Robert Langdon in my head so it was an all around enjoyable experience!

If you already enjoy Dan Brown books you are sure to enjoy Origin as well. If you've never read a book by Brown before this might be a great place to start as you don't have to have read the previous Langdon books to jump into this story. It's a thought-provoking yet quick read that keeps you entertained from cover to cover.      

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's okay. I like the sort of circling around, closed environment effect of the shell that hints at the cyclical qualities of nature discussed in the story. Other than that it's pretty plain, which is a shame given how vivid and colorful the story is.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I borrowed a copy of Origin 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, March 16, 2018

Novel Expressions Blog Tours: Excerpt of Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimie K. Runyan

Chapter I

1931, Miass, Chelyabinsk Oblast, the Gateway to Siberia

I stared as the rainbow-hued blooms danced in the breeze, imagining them ballerinas on the Moscow stage. The expansive steel-blue mountains, always capped with a hood of ice, were so different from the narrow streets and towering buildings of the city where I had spent my earliest years. My memories of the capital were garish with color. On bleak days, I could see in my mind Saint Basil’s with its earthy, sienna-colored body and onion-shaped spires swathed in rich tones of emerald, ruby, sapphire, and topaz, always set against a flurry of snow. The white swirl of frost made the colors reverberate even more, the memory refusing to be erased from the brilliant palette of my youth. The people—happy or cross, handsome or plain—were more colorful, too. Miass was gray, and the people with it. They mined in the hills, tended their shops, managed their farms. Mama worked in the laundry, day after day in a fog of gray.

But for two weeks in July, the muddy hills along the riverbank outside Miass were a riot of color. The summer of my tenth year was a particularly magnificent display. The splashes of lavender, crimson, and indigo against the sea of grass were the closest thing I could imagine to heaven. It was as though the Ural Mountains had been given an annual allotment of color by the new regime and they had chosen to use it up during those two glorious weeks.

I should have been at home in the cabin, doing the mending or preparing supper for Mama. She would be too tired to attend to these things when she came home, but to waste any of that color seemed inexcusable. So I left the chores undone, reveling in the light of summer.

When the hulking, olive-green airplane scarred the sky with its white trail, I thought perhaps my mother’s worst fears had been realized, that my imagination had run wild and I had finally gone mad. She would be so disappointed, but there was always a satisfaction in being proved right, I supposed.

But then I saw the neighbor, a squat old farmer with a face like a weathered beet, emerge from his cabin and follow the winding white exhaust from the sputtering engines with his dull, black eyes until the green speck was low on the horizon. It was real, and it was landing in the field outside the town square.

I knew I was running the risk of making Mama angry. I had no school that day, or marketing, or any other errand that would call me into town. She didn’t want me there more than I had to be, but she could hardly blame me for my curiosity. Papa used to talk about the airplanes he had flown in the European War—the war that had made him a hero—and Mama had to know the lure of seeing an aircraft for myself would be too great to resist.

I ran the two kilometers into Miass, and by the time I reached it, the townspeople had abandoned their work and gathered in the field to the east of town to see the remarkable machine and its pilot. He was a tall man with dark hair and a bristling black mustache that gleamed in the afternoon sun. He spoke to the crowd with a strong voice, and they stood captivated, as though Stalin himself had come to speak. I had seen Stalin once when he addressed the people of Moscow, and was far more impressed with this new visitor with the leather helmet and goggles atop his head.

Mama, who had been straining to take a peek, spotted me as I approached the crowd, and wove her way through the throng to my side, clasping my hand when I was within reach. Her power for worry was a formidable monster, and I had learned it was easier to placate it than to fight it.

“I thought this would bring you in, Katya. I wish you’d stayed home.” Annoyance or sheer exhaustion lined her face. “I can’t afford to leave early to see you home.”

“I made it here, Mama. I can make it home,” I answered, careful to keep any hint of cheek from my tone.

“Very well,” she said. “But I won’t tolerate this again.”

I laced my fingers in hers and kissed the back of her hand, hoping to soften her mood. I wouldn’t enjoy this if she were angry with me. “What has he told everyone, Mama?”

“He’s flying across the whole country,” she said, absently stroking my hair with her free hand. “He says there is a problem with his engine and he had to land for repairs.”

She strained her neck and stood on the tips of her toes to get a better view of the aircraft, but it was useless for me. I was a tall girl but still could not hope to see over the heads of the swarm that encircled the astounding contraption. I broke free from Mama’s grip and squeezed myself through the cracks until I was standing only a few centimeterss from the metal casing. It was not smooth, as it appeared from a distance, but dimpled by the rivets that attached the sheets of metal to the frame beneath.

The pilot answered the townspeople’s questions with patience.

“How does it stay up?” one of the town’s mechanics called out.

“Aren’t you afraid to crash?” a young woman with a squawking toddler asked.

They didn’t seem like interesting questions to me, but all the same he didn’t answer the mechanic with a sarcastic “Fairy dust” or the young mother with a “No, I wouldn’t feel a thing if I did,” as others might have done. He gave a very simple explanation and spoke as if each question was the most important matter in his world. No one chattered when he offered his explanations; no one muttered about men forgetting that their place was on the ground.

Emboldened, I placed my hand on the metal of the plane’s body, warmed by the summer sun, but not too hot to touch for a few seconds. I removed my hand before the pilot could chastise me. Though I longed to run my hands along the wings that spread outward forever, I wouldn’t have the stolen caress ruined by a reprimand. Papa’s descriptions had not come close to doing the machine justice. My mind could only begin to understand the freedom this aircraft gave its pilot. He could go anywhere he pleased: If he could fly from the western border of Russia to the farthest reaches of Siberia, there was nothing stopping him from continuing on to see the wonders of China. Better still, he could go back west to see Geneva, Madrid, Florence, and all the cities Mama had dreamed of seeing but no longer spoke of.

I knew that if I had one of these machines for myself, I would never settle in one place for the rest of my days. I would hop from the pyramids of Egypt to the Amazon to the streets of New York and wherever else my fancy flew me. I looked at the pilot and tried not to let my jealousy consume me. He had earned his wings, his freedom. Someday I could earn mine, too. I would take Mama on my adventures, and she could leave the laundry behind her. She’d never do so much as rinse a blouse out in a sink ever again. She would smile again. Sing again. We would eat like queens and hire people to see to the less pleasant tasks of daily life. I would never speak that aloud in front of my teacher, Comrade Dokorov. He’d chastise me for setting a bad example of capitalist greed.

In an unprecedented gesture of generosity, Mama’s boss allowed her to come home early that day without docking her pay, owing to my presence in town. The plane must have bewitched him as it had me. The entire way home and all throughout preparations of dinner, I spoke of nothing but the pilot and his airplane. Mama listened patiently, but her cornflower eyes began to grow hazy.

“I’m sorry, Mama. I’m boring you,” I said, adding the potatoes to the stewpot.

“No, darling. I’m simply tired, as usual.” She wiped her brow with the back of her hand as she stirred.

“I’m going to learn how to fly a plane of my own someday, Mama. I’m going to get us out of here.”


Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Pub. Date: January 1st, 2018
Pages: 316

Genre: Historical Fiction

A novel—inspired by the most celebrated regiment in the Red Army—about a woman’s sacrifice, courage, and love in a time of war.

Russia, 1941. Katya Ivanova is a young pilot in a far-flung military academy in the Ural Mountains. From childhood, she’s dreamed of taking to the skies to escape her bleak mountain life. With the Nazis on the march across Europe, she is called on to use her wings to serve her country in its darkest hour. Not even the entreaties of her new husband—a sensitive artist who fears for her safety—can dissuade her from doing her part as a proud daughter of Russia.

After years of arduous training, Katya is assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—one of the only Soviet air units comprised entirely of women. The Germans quickly learn to fear nocturnal raids by the daring fliers they call “Night Witches.” But the brutal campaign will exact a bitter toll on Katya and her sisters-in-arms. When the smoke of war clears, nothing will ever be the same—and one of Russia’s most decorated military heroines will face the most agonizing choice of all.

About the Author

Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She is the author of two previous historical novels: Promised to the Crown and Duty to the Crown, and hard at work on novel #4. She is active as an educator and a speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.
To learn more about Aimie and her work, please visit her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Novel Expressions Blog Tour Schedule

March 12th

Book Review – 2 Kids and Tired Books

March 13th

Guest Post – Let Them Read Books
Book Review – Locks, Hooks and Books

March 14th

Book Spotlight – The Writing Desk
Book Review – The Maiden’s Court

March 15th

Book Excerpt – A Bookaholic Swede

March 16th

Interview – Just One More Chapter
Book Excerpt – A Literary Vacation
Book Review – before the second sleep

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cover Crush: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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. 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.....
Who doesn't love a creepy cover with a spooky house at the center?! I love how desolate and foggy it seems, with our one solitary figure walking towards what you just know is going to be danger (don't you want to yell at her to run away....or is that just me?) I really enjoyed Ruth Ware's In A Dark, Dark Wood so I would have picked this one up either way, but the cover makes me want to read it RIGHT NOW!
Let's see what we can expect to find behind this eerie cover....

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
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
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