July!

The Sunday Salon.com   

Where have I been this whole month of July, you ask? Or did you not even notice that I was absent?

It’s been a wind tunnel of changes!!!

As expected with any career move, priorities have shifted as my life has taken a new direction. At my previous full time job, I had spent the last four months not doing a whole lot as the owner was slowly inching towards shutting the 35 year old company down. I was avidly searching for a job – but knowing that my big fortieth birthday was in July and I was ONCE AGAIN undergoing a job search, I wanted one that would LAST. I had thought this last one would last, as I had replaced a lady five years ago who had been there for twenty five years and was retiring. I wanted to be retiring from that job in twenty five years myself. But, for whatever reason, the owner of the company did not have the normal, polite, caring personality of a person who would hand down his business to the son in law who had made his business profitable for the last fifteen years. Instead the owner handed over a last paycheck with uncivil ceremony to the son in law.

The writing was on the wall however, from my point of view, since Christmas time. I had been searching for THE JOB that would feature stability and longevity. And benefits. I worked at my last job for over five years and did not take a single vacation. I took a single day off for some surgery and that was about it. So when I handed in my resignation letter, my boss was relieved, as he was able to go forth with putting a sign out front to put the building for sale, etc. Meanwhile, all he had to do was transfer his business to his son in law and many people would have been happy, but that just wasn’t in the cards. Now an extended family is in upheaval and at odds with each other, and I am working at my local school district in a building that is less than a mile away. I started there on June 24, and that’s when I stopped writing blog posts. I have tons of learning to do as the sole Purchasing Specialist for the entire district, and with summer here my free time is being spent with the family as opposed to cuddling up with a book. Oh yes, I am reading some – but I just don’t have the zeal to blaze through books any longer. I am enjoying the sun before it gives me a heart attack, and then I’m simply hanging with the family. Zoo, movies, dinner, swimming etc. I definitely do not have the zeal to sit at the computer during my time off — I was able to blog and blog some more at the old office, but since that isn’t the case with my new career, things will be slow on the blogfront for the rest of its duration.

And my first vacation with my six year old is coming up! We are going to take an extended weekend trip to San Antonio: going to Sea World, Ripley’s museum, doing a River Boat ride etc. I have lived near Dallas, Texas for the last nineteen years and yet I have never been to San Antonio. My eleven year old daughter has seen more of Texas than I have!!

This new job offers vacations built in, so when my kids are off from school, I will be off too! The only difference is the summers, but that’s fine with me! Can you imagine this positive change in my life? NEVER have I had the luxury of taking days off when the kids were off from school, and NOW I will be off as well! A full week at Thanksgiving, almost two weeks at Christmas, Spring Break.. plus an additional ten days of personal time for the year. Wow. I have been so blessed and I am so glad that I was patient and held out for that perfect job that would be the best fit for my family. And blessed to be working in the business office with so many fantastic people, what a tremendous boon that is, and I am so thankful…not to mention all the extended relationships I am making with the teachers and personnel from nineteen schools.

So, now that you know I haven’t really dropped off to the dark side…

 My last post was a review of Patricia Falvey’s The Yellow House which put me at the halfway point of the TBR Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader. I then started reading the newest Philippa Gregory novel, The White Princess, and got bored so I put that aside to read Elizabeth Chadwick’s newest novel on Eleanor of Aquitaine The Summer Queen which I have still to write the review, sad to say. But I devoured that one. Obviously. I haven’t met a Chadwick novel I didn’t like.

But Gregory is another matter.. as a fellow reader once said to me, perhaps we are outgrowing Philippa Gregory. My last status update on GR regarding The White Princess:

“Put aside to read Chadwick’s. This novel was not holding interest anyway. Too many smh & WTF moments for my sanity right now. I’ll get back to it, though.”
That was July 6 at page 114. For some reason Elizabeth of York comes off as being as interesting as a white wall. And blah blah blah with all the dang gossipy stupid tawdry rumors that Gregory uses with relish, I am just not in the mood. Plus the fact I was sent the book to review, but not with any sort of agreement of WHEN I would review it, and once they told me to post on such and such a date, I’m sorry but I do NOT GET PAID TO WRITE REVIEWS AT YOUR REQUEST. So that just made me hate the book even more, and it was time to step away.

Now I am reading my next TBR Challenge book, Katherine, a classic historical by Anya Seton. This is also a read along at Classic Hist Fic on my Goodreads group, and it’s been great reading along with others. I am about 70% through it, and the first half was great but then started slowing down. Katherine’s character doesn’t seem very dimensional and she aggravates me, but the writing and the story itself keeps me going.

My next read will be Jean Plaidy’s Lion of Justice, which is book two in the Norman Trilogy. In my Plaidy Goodreads group we had loved The Bastard King, and so it was unanimous to choose the next in the series. We will start reading that July 28 and I have to work on setting up those discussions before I forget, so I will leave you all now!!

I hope your summers are all about being fun and amazing and most of all, relaxing!!

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The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

A story of Irish proportions! 

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
Published February 15th 2010 by Center Street
Hardcover, 352 pages
Source is a personal copy/not for review purposes
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars

THE YELLOW HOUSE delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Eileen O’Neill’s family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior’s soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore.

The Yellow House is a very stirring, emotive novel that re-imagines life in Ireland during the early 1900’s featuring a backdrop of civil war and religious strife. It gives us all fictional characters, but they are all so well told you would have trouble believing this all came from a debut author’s mind. Full of love, hate and bonds of love, the story weaves all the elements of life in Ireland through the first person narrative told by the strong-willed and admirable character of Eileen O’Neill: full of flaws, yet so full of determination so the reader can’t help but root for her even when she is making disastrous decisions.

There are many events that occur through the book, from births to death to marriages and love lost and found but I am certainly not going to spoil all that fun for you. There is a definite family saga feel to this story with a very strong cast of supporting characters, and the added political backdrop of the turmoil between Freedom Fighters and Protestants and Catholics was a bonus for the historical lover in myself.

I found myself tearing up during the last portion of the novel it was just that good, and I have no problems recommending this quick-reading expansive novel to anyone who wants to be immersed in a story full of Irish charm and violence, music men and freedom fighters, romance and revenge. Since this release, the author has published another novel based in Ireland which also mentions our main protagonist so I’m putting that one on my wish-list too.

This novel was one of my picks for the Roof Beam Reader’s 2013 TBR Challenge. Click the button to see my progress thus far:

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Filed under #histnov, 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Review, Ireland

Trouble In Store by Carol Cox

Wild West Rogues In Disguise

Trouble In Store by Carol Cox
Christian Historical Fiction
Bethany House, June 1 2013
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:3 stars

Fired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he’s not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas mess up all he’s worked for. He’s determined to get Melanie married off as soon as possible, and luckily there are plenty of single men in town quite interested in taking her off his hands. The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn’t want her to marry up with any of them. He’s drawn to Melanie more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store unexpectedly offer positive results.
But someone doesn’t want the store to succeed, and what used to be just threatening words has escalated into deliberate destruction and lurkers in the night. When a body shows up on the mercantile steps–and the man obviously didn’t die from natural causes–things really get dangerous. Can Melanie and Caleb’s business–and romance–survive the trouble that’s about to come their way?

Trouble In Store is a story of a young woman forced to make her own future when she finds herself without an income and without friends. The last place she had any family was many miles away, yet she decides to take her chances and seek them out as a last resort. Her welcome to Arizona is not as expected, but since she has nowhere else to go she is determined to make the best of her situation. Melanie decides to help Caleb run a mercantile store and strange events occurring around them spell danger for them both.

This novel was a quick read and based on other reviews I was expecting a little more power behind the story   but instead it seemed to be a bit too cookie cutter for me. The faith feature that I expect from this publisher also seemed to be toned down; there were no characters that were struggling with their faith and I didn’t grasp an underlying Christian theme other than an occasional meeting with the preacher in public.

One of the main difficulties I had with trying to immerse myself in the story were the characters themselves. The author forgot to describe these two main protagonists and so we only got to learn about them through their conversations and mannerisms. If the author portrayed Caleb as a handsome merchant using her eloquent and descriptive prose, perhaps I would have cared a little more instead of imagining the blank faces of Melanie and Caleb. Instead, it was 66% of the way through that I finally learned that Caleb had ‘soft, sand-colored waves’ of hair. And that’s it.

Otherwise, the plot read well: dilemma, quaint romance, mystery, murder, lynch mobs and then a happy romance in the middle of a small western town in 1885. Dusty, wide open spaces and simple living was an easy setting to portray for the author which she did well. Running the mercantile store was a theme to the story and a helpful tool for the author to introduce several interesting characters along with details of the items for sale from days gone by. I have to mention that there were a few instances where I was guilty of  ‘smack of my head’ moments due to the implausible actions of our protagonists which didn’t help endear me to the story, but since this was a fairly standard Christian historical, if you imagine a young Brad Pitt going in perhaps you’ll love this one as much as some of the other reviewers did.

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Filed under 19th century, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Bethany House, Christian Fiction

TSS | Mailbox | IMWAYR

The Sunday Salon.com   
Visit Svea’s blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to start linking up your Sunday posts; Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea whose purpose is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week.

Happy Sunday fellow book lovers!! Hope your week has been going well! I have some crazy busy adjustments coming up for me, and I hope it can only mean good things ahead, as I found myself a new job! The job where I had been for the last five years was coming to an end since the boss had no inclination of handing the company over to anyone after his retirement, and I hope my next job will finally at last be my last career move. I start on Monday as a Purchasing Specialist for my local school, and I am super excited/scared!

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia’s Mailbox and is being hosted by Bellezza @ Dolce Bellezza for this month. The Story Siren also hosts IMM, so we can find some cool YA titles there as well.

I had bought a few titles at Half Price Books this week:

The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier
“Someone jolted my elbow as I drank and said, ‘Je vous demande pardon, ‘ and as I moved to give him space he turned and stared at me and I at him, and I realized, with a strange sense of shock and fear and nausea all combined, that his face and voice were known to me too well. I was looking at myself.”
Two men-one English, the other French-meet by chance in a provincial railway station and are astounded that they are so much alike that they could easily pass for each other. Over the course of a long evening, they talk and drink. It is not until he awakes the next day that John, the Englishman, realizes that he may have spoken too much. His French companion is gone, having stolen his identity. For his part, John has no choice but to take the Frenchman’s place-as master of a chateau, director of a failing business, head of a large and embittered family, and keeper of too many secrets.

Loaded with suspense and crackling wit, “The Scapegoat” tells the double story of the attempts by John, the imposter, to escape detection by the family, servants, and several mistresses of his alter ego, and of his constant and frustrating efforts to unravel the mystery of the enigmatic past that dominates the existence of all who live in the chateau.

Hailed by the “New York Times” as a masterpiece of “artfully compulsive storytelling,” “The Scapegoat” brings us Daphne du Maurier at the very top of her form.

Liberty’s Promise (Romancing America) by Amber Miller Stockton
Relive the birth of a new country as three women battle to know who they can entrust their hearts. Raelene is all alone, but is there peace in following the wishes of her dead father? Elanna is intelligent for her young age, but will her love for an older man turn into passing fancy when his integrity is questioned? Margret’s loyalties are torn when the colonists rebel, for how can a relationship with a British soldier built on deceptions survive? Will each woman find her place of freedom to embrace her faith and trust her heart to love?

For Review:

Trouble In Store by Carol Cox
Fired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he’s not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas mess up all he’s worked for. He’s determined to get Melanie married off as soon as possible, and luckily there are plenty of single men in town quite interested in taking her off his hands. The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn’t want her to marry up with any of them. He’s drawn to Melanie more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store unexpectedly offer positive results.

But someone doesn’t want the store to succeed, and what used to be just threatening words has escalated into deliberate destruction and lurkers in the night. When a body shows up on the mercantile steps–and the man obviously didn’t die from natural causes–things really get dangerous. Can Melanie and Caleb’s business–and romance–survive the trouble that’s about to come their way?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


The What Are You Reading meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

I had just read and reviewed Venus In Winter by Gillian Bagwell which I enjoyed very much. I was a little nervous going in for several reasons, but I am happy to report I was not disappointed at all. The novel features Bess of Hardwick, a favorite historical figure of mine.

Since the last book mentioned in the Mailbox post above was a review read, I read that one after finishing Venus In Winter by Bagwell. Trouble In Store was a Christian historical, and it was by an author I had heard only good things about so I was hoping it would be pack a little bit more oomph. Review will come up later this week.

And as far as what’s next… I am not entirely sure. Probably will dabble in some devotionals to get my mind in the right spot for the new job, and perhaps pick up Robert Parry’s Wildish which I had to put down a few weeks back. I do want to apologize for not being able to visit the bloggers on their Monday posts till perhaps later in the evening.. the new job will surely frown upon my cavorting on the web during my first day!! =)

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Filed under #IMWAYR, Mailbox Monday, The Sunday Salon

Venus In Winter (A Novel of Bess of Hardwick) by Gillian Bagwell

Venus In Winter (A Novel of Bess of Hardwick) by Gillian Bagwell
Historical Fiction/Tudor
Penguin July 2013
Paperback 435 pages
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars


My previous review of Gillian’s novel The Darling Strumpet

The author of The September Queen explores Tudor England with the tale of Bess of Hardwick—the formidable four-time widowed Tudor dynast who became one of the most powerful women in the history of England. 

On her twelfth birthday, Bess of Hardwick receives the news that she is to be a waiting gentlewoman in the household of Lady Zouche. Armed with nothing but her razor-sharp wit and fetching looks, Bess is terrified of leaving home. But as her family has neither the money nor the connections to find her a good husband, she must go to facilitate her rise in society. 

When Bess arrives at the glamorous court of King Henry VIII, she is thrust into a treacherous world of politics and intrigue, a world she must quickly learn to navigate. The gruesome fates of Henry’s wives convince Bess that marrying is a dangerous business. Even so, she finds the courage to wed not once, but four times. Bess outlives one husband, then another, securing her status as a woman of property. But it is when she is widowed a third time that she is left with a large fortune and even larger decisions—discovering that, for a woman of substance, the power and the possibilities are endless. 

Bess of Hardwick has always been my absolutely favorite Tudor figure, and close behind her is Lettice Knollys. I was overjoyed when I heard that there was a novel in the works about her, though I was nervous about how her character would come through after I was totally disappointed with Philippa Gregory’s portrayal of her shrewish Bess in The Other Queen.

Bagwell does a phenomenal job of portraying the qualities of Bess that made me fall in love with her: strong, sensitive, intelligent, loving, and an accounting whiz. Well, she may not have been that last one but from previous reads and knowing that she seemingly was a phoenix rising from the ashes as far as her real estate properties go, she was a skilled business woman. Her marriages helped her in that regard, but she worked hard to keep what she could, and Bagwell portrays this diligent aspect of Bess perfectly. Her story begins as a child amongst those proverbial ashes and she goes to the noble houses to better secure her place in the Tudor courts. We watch Bess grow up and marry all along that glittery evil backdrop of Henry VIII’s wives and then the reigns of Henry’s children. Supporting characters include fellow courtiers and her family members, and of course eventually Elizabeth I and the ever changing political backdrop of rising and falling factions.

While this Tudoresque story is familiar to most, Gillian Bagwell offers a plausible sense of the world of Bess of Hardwick. The novel flows well because it is so character driven and focused on Bess’s life which humanizes the woman behind the house of glass that she is known for. While I was pleasantly enjoying the story throughout, the final scene tugged at my heart and I really loved the way it ended. And I was probably relieved that I did not have to repeat the events of her marriage to George Talbot, since it seems to be that particular marriage that had gotten the most coverage in the books I’d read before. This time, we get to experience Bess’s coming of age and how she got to where she was, giving us a truly empathetic portrait that will make you love her as much as I do.

One of the threads woven through this story was the fact the Bess would pray to God during the hard times or when her loved ones were facing the fierce royal ire of Kings and Queens. As a Christian fiction reader, this was very well done and I appreciated the additional tone this added, but of course this is subject to preference. As I told the author, I had high hopes for this novel on my favorite Tudor heroine, Bess of Hardwick. Thank you for surpassing my expectations, Ms. Bagwell! I loved the novel and recommend it to others interested in Bess of Hardwick.

~~~~

Other reads on Bess that I recommend are two non-fiction works where I read before my ‘professional’ reviewing days, here are links to my amateur thoughts on these three titles:
Arbella by Sarah Gristwood
Bess of Hardwick Empire Builder by Mary Lovell

Bess was also featured in Philippa Gregory’s novel of Mary Queen of Scots, The Other Queen, but I disliked that portrayal very much and would not recommend it.

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Filed under 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Bess of Hardwick, Gillian Bagwell, Tudor

Sunday Monday Bookish Stuff

The Sunday Salon.com   
Visit Svea’s blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to start linking up your Sunday posts; Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea whose purpose is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week.

Happy Summertime, bloggers!! What are your plans now that your kiddos are out of school/getting close to summer? Do you have read a thon plans for your summer? I have worked very hard on diligently cutting back on the review requests so that I could have some spare time in the summer to just loaf. I remember this time last year I was kicking myself because I had so many review books and couldn’t appreciate the fact that it was summer time. When you work full time, all the seasons tend to blend together anyway, so the fact that the hobby of reading has become more like a second job can be depressing! So turning away review books may be hard on a voracious reader, but very beneficial for working moms like me who need some sort of respite from it all. It’s been a bit crazy on the homefront lately so I wasn’t even able to compose a post for last week’s Sunday/Monday Memes, but I didn’t think y’all would miss me =)

This summer I have already set in place two different Group Reads for which I invite you to:

July 12: Katherine by Anya Seton
July 28: Lion of Justice by Jean Plaidy

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia’s Mailbox and is being hosted by Bellezza @ Dolce Bellezza for this month. The Story Siren also hosts IMM, so we can find some cool YA titles there as well.

On my Paperbackswap wishlist forever was this one that I’m not really in the mood for now but here it is:

Elizabeth’s Spymaster: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War that Saved England by Robert Hutchinson
England in the time of Elizabeth was on the brink of disaster. On the continent, Catholic Spain sought to forcefully reimpose the Catholic Church on its Protestant neighbors. At home, a network of powerful Catholic families posed a real and serious threat to the Protestant queen. In this world, information was power: those closest to the Queen were there because they had the best network to gather it.Elizabeth’s Spymaster is the story of the greatest spy of the time: Sir Francis Walsingham. Walsingham was the first ‘spymaster’ in the modern sense. His methods anticipated those of MI5 and MI6 and even those of the KGB. He maintained a network of spies across Europe, including double agents at the highest level in Rome and Spain—the sworn enemies of Queen Elizabeth and her protestant regime. His entrapment of Mary, Queen of Scots is a classic intelligence operation that resulted in her execution.
As Robert Hutchinson reveals, his cypher experts’ ability to intercept other peoples’ secret messages and his brilliant forged letters made him a fearsome champion of the young Elizabeth. Yet even this Machiavellian schemer eventually fell foul of Elizabeth as her confidence grew (and judgment faded). The rise and fall of Sir Francis Walsingham is a Tudor epic, vividly narrated by a historian with unique access to the surviving documentary evidence.

No Angel (The Spoils of Time #1) by Penny Vincenzi
No Angel is an irresistibly sweeping saga of power, family politics, and passion-a riveting drama and a fervent love story. Celia Lytton is the beautiful and strong-willed daughter of wealthy aristocrats and she is used to getting her way. She moves through life making difficult and often dangerous decisions that affect herself and others-her husband, Oliver, and their children; the destitute Sylvia Miller, whose life is transformed by Celia’s intrusion; as well as Oliver’s daunting elder sister, who is not all she appears to be; and Sebastian Brooke, for whom Celia makes the most dangerous decision of all.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of London and New York in the First World War, No Angel is, as British Good Housekeeping wrote, “an absorbing page-turner, packed with believable characters and satisfyingly extreme villains, eccentrics, and manipulators.” Readers of Maeve Binchy, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and Anita Shreve will fall in love with this epic, un-put-downable novel.

With more than 3.5 million copies sold, Penny Vincenzi is one of the world’s preeminent writers of popular fiction-and American readers no longer have to miss out on the fun. With the publication of No Angel, a novel introducing the engaging cast of characters in the Lytton family, Overlook opens a thrilling new dimension to this author’s already illustrious career.

Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War by Jane Hampton Cook (I read the author’s new release American Phoenix on John Quincy Adams and I was impressed enough to buy this one!)

The book features 365 devotionals, one for each day of the year. – Each devotional features a 400-450-word story, a relevant scripture, and an application-oriented sentence prayer. – Each week highlights five stories that chronicle the Revolutionary War, followed by two weekend features called Weekend Reflection and Sabbath Rest. Weekend Reflection takes a modern-day twist on a topic, such as contentment and life purpose, presented in the preceding stories. 
Sabbath Rest highlights a sermon from the Revolutionary era. 
The stories may be so captivating for some readers that they may read the book from “cover to cover.” – As readers consider the meaning of the American Revolution, they may also experience a revolution in their own hearts, one devotional at a time.

Inheritance: Southern Son Saga of Doc Holliday by Victoria Wilcox — I had run a guest post from the author on my other blog and she kindly offered me an autographed copy as a thank you for the spot, what a nice lady! Such a pleasure to do business with 😉  I’d probably read this closer to when the next book comes out next Spring, as I do not like having to read my series books too far apart.
The name Doc Holliday conjures images of the Wild West and the shootout at the OK Corral, but before he was a Western legend he was a Southern son, born in the last days of the Old South with family links to the author of Gone with the Wind. Now this amazing story is told for the first time in a trilogy of novels entitled Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday. The story begins with Inheritance, set during the turbulent times of the American Civil War, as young John Henry Holliday welcomes home his heroic father and learns a terrible secret about his beloved mother. Inheritance is the first novel in an epic tale of heroes and villains, dreams lost and found, families broken and reconciled, of sin and recompense and the redeeming power of love.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


The What Are You Reading meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

I haven’t had the luxury to read much of anything lately – I’ve tried but failed to concentrate – but from previous reads I had posted two reviews recently, and have zero clue when another will come this way so enjoy these two!!

Last week I reviewed The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley.. great stuff!

After that one I definitely want to read all her other stuff too. I had eagerly anticipated this one after I had read The Shadowy Horses and I wasn’t disappointed.

and another great read:

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer (review) — I had read this a few weeks ago and I fell in love with the thought of a sexy preacher man =) bad me!!! Such a great inspirational story, I will probably always recommend Karen Witemeyer as a truly faith-based storyteller. Not for those who do not like inspirational themes however.

I started to read the newest book by Robert Parry but just couldn’t get into it presently, so I picked up Gillian Bagwell’s Venus in Winter which is a novel featuring my very first Tudor Favorite Figure: Bess of Hardwick, hoping this novel will stir some of my lost inspiration:

The author of The September Queen explores Tudor England with the tale of Bess of Hardwick—the formidable four-time widowed Tudor dynast who became one of the most powerful women in the history of England. On her twelfth birthday, Bess of Hardwick receives the news that she is to be a waiting gentlewoman in the household of Lady Zouche. Armed with nothing but her razor-sharp wit and fetching looks, Bess is terrified of leaving home. But as her family has neither the money nor the connections to find her a good husband, she must go to facilitate her rise in society. When Bess arrives at the glamorous court of King Henry VIII, she is thrust into a treacherous world of politics and intrigue, a world she must quickly learn to navigate. The gruesome fates of Henry’s wives convince Bess that marrying is a dangerous business. Even so, she finds the courage to wed not once, but four times. Bess outlives one husband, then another, securing her status as a woman of property. But it is when she is widowed a third time that she is left with a large fortune and even larger decisions—discovering that, for a woman of substance, the power and the possibilities are endless . . .

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Filed under #IMWAYR, Mailbox Monday, The Sunday Salon

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

Ready for a gush fest? LOVED LOVED LOVED!

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House; June 1, 2013
Christian Historical Fiction
Review copy provided for free from Litfuse in exchange for this honest review
Burton Book Review Rating:Totally Awesome!

Purchase a copy here

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the person is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?

Stealing the Preacher is book two in Karen Witemeyer’s Archer brothers series, the previous novel being Short-Straw Bride (review) which I loved and gave 4.5 stars. This one gets 5 stars! I absolutely LOVE Bethany House Publishers allowing the faith theme to be so majorly prevalent in their Christian historicals, and it was so strong in this novel that I spiritually latched on to Brother Archer very quickly, but I knew I would since I loved him in Short-Straw Bride. And he sure wasn’t that hard to read about either, the way Joanna gets all pink in the face around him -whew- throw that girl a towel!!

Crockett Archer had no idea he was about to meet Joanna, the love of his life, when her father abducted him from a train. Crockett had other places to be and other people to meet, but God had other things in mind and that was Joanna and her goal for restoring faith for her father.

From rebuilding a church and nursing an injured man, Crockett Archer has all the right moves, and he has moved right into Joanna’s path who cannot get enough of the man. Turns out the socialite Holly wants Crockett too, so there’s a little not so nice competition going on. Luckily, Crockett sees through Holly’s ways but can he reform her before someone gets hurt? A dash of intrigue, a great bit of romance and full on unabashed faith keeps this story going in page turning fashion from start to finish. I absolutely loved this story -perhaps I was in the need of a preacher man – but those who don’t revel in God’s glory probably would feel too consumed by the verses being recited throughout. I cannot wait to see what is next from Karen Witemeyer and I am definitely going to get to reading her previous novels sooner rather than later. Stealing the Preacher was just what this reader wanted: a sexy Christian cowboy and a fantastic romance that offers unforgettable characters rewarded with redemption, it’s going on my Best of 2013 list without a doubt.

/end gush fest.

Even though this could be a stand-alone, I highly recommend you read Short-Straw Bride first in order to understand the dynamic behind Crockett’s character.

Karen Witemeyer is “kindling” the excitement for Stealing the Preacher (Bethany House) with a Kindle Fire Giveaway and connecting with readers at her June 18th Facebook Author Chat Party!

StealingPreacher300

  One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer 

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at 4pm on June 18th. Winner will be announced at the Stealing the Preacher” Facebook Author Chat Party on June 18th. Connect with Karen for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Karen will also share an exclusive look at her next book and give away books and other fun prizes throughout the evening.


So grab your copy of Stealing the Preacher and join Karen on the evening of June 18th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!

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Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Best of 2013, Bethany House, Christian Fiction, Karen Witemeyer

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Effortless storytelling

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (a sort of sequel to The Shadowy Horses)
Historical Timeslip
Sourcebooks Landmark, June 4 2013
Paperback 544 pages
Review Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this review, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars

Nicola Marter was born with a gift: when she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When the gallery she works in receives a wooden carving she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird, the mythical bird that inspires an old Russian fairytale and was once owned by Russia’s famed Empress Catherine.

Nicola’s investigation into the Firebird’s origin draws her into the 1715 world of Anna Logan and leads her on a quest through Scotland, France and Russia, unearthing a tale of love and sacrifice, of courage and redemption.

After reading of young Robbie in The Shadowy Horses, I had been eagerly anticipating The Firebird as Rob is now a grown man but still happily using his sight to peek into the history that he stumbles upon. The story follows Rob and Nicola as they both search for a woman during the 1700’s which would help give answers to a woman they would like to help. Their search for Anna consists of Nicola and Rob traveling to the places they believe Anna Moray to be, and using their paranormal gifts they are able to ‘watch’ Anna’s life unfold during her childhood and adulthood. The Scots talk that was so endearing in The Shadowy Horses comes alive again with Rob’s voice, only this time he exudes a powerful but sensitive masculinity that keeps us wanting more of his story and his voice.

It becomes a timeslip novel as we are sucked into Anna’s historical world, with Captain Graeme, Captain Jamieson and Vice Admiral Gordon during the tumultuous era of Jacobite uprisings and exiles and traitors. There are quite a few historical threads and settings, from a convent at Ypres to St. Petersburg as we – along with Rob and Nicola – trace Anna’s intriguing path which is full of intrigue, suspense, romance and sorrows. Anna is the star of the show, yet the contemporary relationship between Rob and Nicola doesn’t detract from the story, which is different from other timeslips that we read where we would prefer to get back to one storyline over the other. Each of the characters all had something to like and something to give, and we wanted to learn as much as we could within these pages. Some of the actual history bits were like a cat’s string – baiting me to learn more but the book itself didn’t uncover overly much of the historical facts that were actually occurring. I am very intrigued with Russia, St. Petersburg, Peter The Great and will now seek to learn more because of the glimpses I’ve had through this book.

Kearsley’s writing is so fluid and descriptive that every word was a pleasure and after reading the author’s note I see that some of the historical characters were also in The Winter Sea which I have yet to read but definitely have very good reason to now. This was a wonderful story that will create new Kearsley fans, but I do hope that readers get to read The Shadowy Horses (& maybe even The Winter Sea) first so that they can better appreciate the background to the story. Let the record show that I am not a reader of paranormal, or timeslip novels, but if it’s a Kearsley novel I’m all over it. Once I read a few more of her works I am sure I will be listing Susanna Kearsley as one of my favorite storytellers.

12 Comments

Filed under 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Susanna Kearsley

The End of The Point by Elizabeth Graver

 

The End of The Point by Elizabeth Graver
Harper: March 3, 2013
Hardcover 352 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the May 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:

Synopsis:

A precisely observed, superbly crafted novel, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver charts the dramatic changes in the lives of three generations of one remarkable family, and the summer place that both shelters and isolates them.

Ashaunt Point, Massachusetts, has anchored life for generations of the Porter family, who summer along its remote, rocky shore. But in 1942, the U.S. Army arrives on the Point, bringing havoc and change. That summer, the two older Porter girls—teenagers Helen and Dossie—run wild. The children’s Scottish nurse, Bea, falls in love. And youngest daughter, Janie, is entangled in an incident that cuts the season short and haunts the family for years to come.

An unforgettable portrait of one family’s journey through the second half of the twentieth century, Elizabeth Graver’s The End of the Point artfully probes the hairline fractures hidden beneath the surface of our lives and traces the fragile and enduring bonds that connect us.

If the author’s intent was to focus on the genre of literary fiction and its skim the surface type of nuances, she succeeded. She presents us with the Porter family unit that summers in a fictional town of Ashaunt, Massachusetts and rarely leaves the setting. The family includes children’s caregivers who were Scottish and we leave the Point to visit Scotland with the caregivers as a rare reprieve from Ashaunt. Other than that, the setting remains the same as the author focuses her story on the people in the family and their personal struggles. Bea, the caregiver who has no life outside the family she cares for; Helen, the precocious elder child; and later Charlie, who is Helen’s son who suffers from depression and drug dependence. The eras evoke significance, as we begin in the 1940’s and the war effort that was evident from the front porch of their summer escape; later wars and the sixties also lend background themes as causes to the eccentricities of the characters.

The prose reads fluidly, but once you get comfortable with the characters and the heavily foreshadowed plot told through third person, the events seem to stand still.  In the last third of the novel there seems to be a lull as the author focuses on characterization with a very observational ambiance. One sentence will describe a character’s thought and in that same sentence offhandedly mentions that years later such and such happened. This constant peek into the future ruined whatever sort of wonder I had at what would happen to the characters. The novel portrays living at Ashaunt through the eyes of passing generations with a depressive slant towards the grim reality of persistent misunderstandings yet enduring constancy. Though it lacks the emotional impact I would have preferred, I did appreciate her descriptive style.

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Filed under 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Literary Fiction

Giveaway Reminder | TSS | Mailbox Monday | FTC Update

The Sunday Salon.com   
Visit Svea’s blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to start linking up your Sunday posts; Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea whose purpose is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week.

Hey bloggers!

If you missed it amongst all the fun Armchair BEA posts from the blogosphere (are you under a rock?), I finally remembered to get a giveaway up…
So go to my Giveaway post if you want to be one of three winners of some cool books!!

All three of these little stacks of books are looking for new homes, don’t miss your chance to win them.

I participated in a ArmchairBEA Twitter party and I won something! Last year I had won some books for the daughter also, but she has yet to devour them. She is her father’s daughter. So this year I chose Sharon Lathan’s new novel The Passions of Dr Darcy as my win.

A few weeks back I posted an editorial information post about the FTC and their guidelines… and I did formally ask the FTC to please explain the nature of their Endorsement Guides as they would relate to a book blogger or a book reviewer or a bookish person who talks about books. I mailed them a letter, directed them to my site asking them to clarify their view of blogger vs. endorser AKA ADVERTISER:

Long ten page response cut short: Bloggers are endorsers, even as some on twitter land debated that term.
Everything I have been doing is cool and you are probably safe, too. They pointed me to a link on their own site which is from 2010. Basically, everything we’ve been doing before is good as I hardly come across any book reviewers anymore who don’t automatically disclose their source of the book in the review. As long as you are doing that, you are fine, end of story. They simply want you to disclose your source of the book, and not just have a graphic on your sidebar that links to your policy on another page that only then would state that you receive books for review for free; there should be a ‘clear and concise’ statement of your source and preferably at the beginning of your spiel. If you disclose within each review that you have received the book in exchange for an honest review, then we are all golden.

It’s not rocket science, especially since folks like me who have been blogging about books for a number of years have already trained ourselves to be upfront with our blog readers. If you have a relationship with an author/publisher/marketing company/blogging for books company, your average internet hopper must know that relationship. It gets trickier with affiliate links, Amazon Associate stores, those who get help with hosting, or those who have a Paypal button, but if you are disclosing properly then I would simply move on and keep reading =)

The Armchair BEA also had a quick post about Ethics of Blogging which everyone should read and realize that it is better for the blogging community to blog ‘ethically’ and with full disclosure, to ensure our credibility as a whole, regardless of what country you blog from. “Those who refuse to be accountable or play by ethical rules would be exposed as biased or fraudulent. In the end, the readers and true bloggers would benefit greatly.”

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia’s Mailbox and is being hosted by Bellezza @ Dolce Bellezza for this month. The Story Siren also hosts IMM, so we can find some cool YA titles there as well.

Since I’m being a really good girl and I am kinda hating the review schedule and by extension, BOOKS in general… I haven’t gotten any physical books for Review. WHEEEEE!

But I did go to HalfPrice books and get a little stack of books to try and ease my woes. Shopping is fun, right? Especially if you have a gift card AND they’re having a 20% off sale.

Links go to Goodreads for more information:

Featured eBook Download:

Broken Identity by Ashley Williams (basically since I feel broken
Drake Pearson, a narrow-minded 18-year-old barely enduring Missouri’s heat, is tired of feeling empty. Living conditions are about as cozy as a cardboard box, on account of his alcoholic father who can find nothing better to do than argue relentlessly with him. When Drake thinks he can’t take another blow, he is reminded daily of his mom who vanished twelve years ago. And now there’s a dead body. After a terrible accident turns into a protected secret, a twisted string of events brings Drake miles away from home to an elderly man’s front door. Every promising opportunity also brings new doubts and temptations to run away—this time for good. When the secret he has kept locked away threatens to reveal itself, Drake knows he must shield it with his very life, even if the love he has been shown undeservingly is about to be destroyed.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


The What Are You Reading meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

“Heaven Help Us” is tons of fun.. here is a pic of my giggly fat face.. and some fun saintly facts if you are my FB Friend.. which I’ve been thumbing through.

I have been having a bit of a depressive lull invade my person in case you couldn’t tell, so I was slowly reading Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck. If there is any way that you could be sad in your life, this book is not the best for it. It is a sad look at the pending demise of a marriage and how it affects others… but a very good book nonetheless, just bad timing for me personally. Sad sad sad. I posted my review here.

Then it was time to read Julie Lessman’s newest, Love at Any Cost. I had seen mixed reviews for this one, as some did not like the passion/repetitive lustful thinking within a Christian historical, so I went into it with trepidation. And a few pages in holy hell annoyance with the descriptions of slanting lips, thin lined lips, flat lips, smile tipping, smile rebounding, then going crooked again. Or tilting. But the author is such a sweet lady I really hoped that I could let the book grow on me. So I dove in full force and spent my Saturday with it and now I need to formulate a formal review for HNS. Yuck. There was even a zagged smile in there.

Obviously, this is not a great time in my personal life to be talking about lips or smiles for some reason since they seem to be aggravating me to no end. Hope your reading week is better!

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Filed under #IMWAYR, FTC, Mailbox Monday, The Sunday Salon