Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pub. Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pages: 400

Genres: Contemporary Fiction / Mystery / Suspense / Thriller


An addictive new novel of psychological suspense from the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train.

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

What Did I Think About the Story?

Oh my, how I've been waiting for Paula Hawkins's second book to come out! I did a buddy read of Ms. Hawkins's first novel, The Girl on the Train, last year with some blogger friends and was blown away by how much I actually enjoyed the mystery/thriller, where all of the characters were genuinely screwed up but somehow so compelling that I couldn't stop turning the pages (you can read my full review HERE). Like with anything, the more the anticipation built up for this newest book to come out the more excited I got to get it in my hot little hands and devour it. As soon as I saw it as an add-on to my Book-of-the-Month subscription for May I snatched it up. I even saved it as my special treat for the long weekend I had over Memorial Day/my birthday weekend. Now, having finished the story, I think I might have sabotaged my own reading experience since it would have been nearly impossible to live up to the expectations I had built within my own head. Did I love every page of Into the Water and feverishly turn all the pages like I did with The Girl on the Train? Was it still an enjoyable reading experience? Definitely.

My biggest "issue" with Into the Water was the pacing. As the story unfolded it tended to drag me along instead of propelling me to keep reading. We learn early on about the two most recent deaths in the river, then slowly learn about the various other drownings that have occurred there over the years through our various narrators (and there are a number of them) and the sporadic excerpts from the book Nel (the single mother mentioned in the synopsis) was writing and which the people of the town she lived in didn't want to be published. With these alternating narrators, all of which clearly have their own agendas and aren't giving the reader the whole truth, it made it somewhat hard to keep track of how everyone interacted and fit together and to keep a grasp on the forward development of the main mystery of the story - did Nel Abbott kill herself, or did someone murder her and make it look like a suicide? And, if murder, who and why?

What I did enjoy about the story (and I'm sure many people might not agree with me) were the unreliable characters. They are all unlikable in varying degrees and none are innocent or exempt from the many mistakes that have been made, and buried, in this town. However, it's this unlikability and unpredictability that makes the story so intriguing and keeps the reader guessing as to what is really happening and what these narrators are leaving out for us to eventually discover. There is quite a bit of heartache and anger and confusion for these characters to work through and I, for one, love going along on their journeys as they work through these complicated emotions and grapple with the consequences of their often impulsive actions.

All in all I did enjoy Into the Water even though it did not, for me, come even close to being as good as The Girl on the Train. I would definitely recommend anyone new to Paula Hawkins start with The Girl on the Train and, for those that have already read and enjoyed that story, to temper their expectations of this newest book. I will definitely keep this in mind when her next book comes out and go into that reading with lowered expectations.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think this cover is absolutely perfect! The colors are vibrant, the hazy, distorted image makes you wonder who is lying beneath the surface, and the very image fits the story perfectly. I think even the fluid typography is perfect. I actually selected this cover for one of my weekly Cover Crush posts and I stand by that...this is a gorgeous and alluring cover!

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

I bought a copy of Into the Water for my own library. All opinions are mine alone. You can find more information about the book and it's author, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads HERE.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cover Crush: The River of Kings by Taylor Brown

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

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

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

 It's hard to even know where to begin to describe what I love about this cover...but I'll try! The colors are so vibrant and deep and when I first glanced at the cover I thought it was just a man on a river at the perfect time of day for that glorious light. Then, as I glanced deeper, I saw the alligators in the dark blue-green water and what look like workers or possibly Indians fighting them off. I absolutely love this as it gives the feeling of another time, one possibly hidden from the man above water in the sunlight. It really is just stunning!

Let's have a peek at what the story has in store for us....

Two brothers travel a storied river’s past and present in search of the truth about their father’s death in the second novel by the acclaimed author of Fallen Land.

The Altamaha River, Georgia’s “Little Amazon,” has been named one of the 75 “Last Great Places in the World.” Crossed by roads only five times in its 137-mile length, the blackwater river is home to thousand-year-old virgin cypress, descendants of 18th-century Highland warriors, and a motley cast of rare and endangered species. The Altamaha has even been rumored to harbor its own river monster, as well as traces of the most ancient European fort in North America.

Brothers Hunter and Lawton Loggins set off to kayak the river, bearing their father’s ashes toward the sea. Hunter is a college student, Lawton a Navy SEAL on leave; both young men were raised by an angry, enigmatic shrimper who loved the river, and whose death remains a mystery that his sons hope to resolve. As the brothers proceed downriver, their story is interwoven with that of Jacques Le Moyne, an artist who accompanied the 1564 expedition to found a French settlement at the river’s mouth, which began as a search for riches and ended in a bloody confrontation with Spanish conquistadors and native tribes, leaving the fort in ruins and a few survivors fleeing for their lives.

In The River of Kings, SIBA-bestselling author Taylor Brown artfully weaves three narrative strands—the brothers’ journey, their father’s past, and the dramatic history of the river’s earliest people—to evoke a legendary place and its powerful hold on the human imagination.
Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:

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


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Spotlight on Loveweaver by Tracy Ann Miller

Publication Date: June 30, 2017
eBook; ASIN: B01H7M46BC

Genre: Historical Romance

The year is 895. Slayde’s job as an top military leader of Kent is to rid England of the last of the Viking raiders. But Llyrica is no ordinary Viking. She’s a beauty with a mysterious past … and a talent for weaving song spells. Even as Slayde saves her from drowning, he knows Llyrica will be a dangerous distraction.

Llyrica is now a stranger in a strange land on a mission to fulfill a deathbed promise. But she must also find her missing brother. This man, Slayde, known as The StoneHeart in his country, seems determined to block her at every turn. And yet she can’t help but be drawn to the affectionate, loving side of him that awakens when he sleeps – The sleepwalker.

Unknown to both Llyrica and Slayde, each will use the other to accomplish their quests. Both will also fall under the song spell that she wove into the braid of his tunic.

Will her Lovespell ensure a happily ever after for them? Or condemn them to a love that was never meant to be?

Praise for Loveweaver

“When I started reading Loveweaver I never expected it to end up as one of my favorite historical romances ever. It was such a unexpected but amazing surprise. I loved everything about this book!” – Bookfever Book Blog

“Llyrica is a clever heroine who will have Slayde on her terms. Slayde, determined to resist, has not a prayer. Many secondary characters add to the story, making it a rich tapestry. And some exciting scenes will keep your heart pumping. It’s also intriguing with the spells woven into the cloth by the “songweaver”. Viking lovers will enjoy the match between a Saxon loyal to King Alfred and a Viking maiden from Denmark.” – Regan Walker, author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances

Buy the Book


About the Author

Although Tracy Ann Miller is primarily a graphic designer, (see her work at she has been writing novels for over 20 years.

She was an active member of the National Romance Writers of America with her local chapter, The Virginia Romance Writers. It was there she honed her craft by attending workshops, conferences, and by coordinating The VRW’s Fool for Love Contest.

Before being published, she entered and won numerous writing contests, including The Fool for Love Contest for Loveweaver, and the Between the Sheets best love scene contest for The Maiden Seer.

She writes to keep the hero and heroine interacting in story as much as possible (no long separations) and of course they get a spectacular happily ever after.

For more information, please visit Tracy Ann Miller’s blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.

Loveweaver Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, June 12

Interview at Bookfever

Tuesday, June 13

Excerpt at Books, Dreams, Life

Wednesday, June 14

Review at Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, June 15

Excerpt at Romantic Historical Reviews

Friday, June 16

Spotlight at The Sassy Book Lover
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Monday, June 19

Interview at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, June 21

Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Friday, June 23

Review at Broken Teepee

Friday, July 7

Spotlight at Passages to the Past


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Blast:Traitor’s Knot​ ​by Cryssa Bazos

Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Endeavor Press
eBook; 394 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

Praise for Traitor's Knot

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story.” – Elizabeth St. John, author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife

Buy the Book

Traitor’s Knot is available in eBook from Amazon

About the Author

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She blogs about English history and storytelling at her blog, the 17th Century Enthusiast, and is an editor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog site.

Cryssa’s debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press.

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

Traitor's Knot Book Blast Tour Schedule


Wednesday, May 31

Passages to the Past

Thursday, June 1

A Bookaholic Swede

Friday, June 2

The Writing Desk

Monday, June 5

Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, June 6

Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, June 8

 So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, June 9

I Heart Reading

Monday, June 12

What Is That Book About

Tuesday, June 13

Books, Dreams, Life

Wednesday, June 14

The True Book Addict

Thursday, June 15

A Holland Reads

Sunday, June 18

Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, June 19

Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots (with excerpt)

Tuesday, June 20

A Literary Vacation
To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, June 21

Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, June 22

 CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, June 23

Book Nerd


Monday, June 19, 2017

Interview with B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Pam Lecky

Please join me in welcoming B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Pam Lecky to A Literary Vacation today! Pam is an award-winning Irish historical fiction author. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was published in 2015 and was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made 'Editor's Choice' by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond Novel in February 2017.

Currently she is working on two new novels; Kashmir Velvet, a Victorian crime novel set in London and Yorkshire and The Carver Affair, a Victorian crime novel set in her native Dublin. Earlier this year she published In Three-Quarter Time, a short love story set in the WW1 era in Dublin which will also form part of a US/Irish Anthology due to be published later this year. April 2017 saw the publication of The Lighthouse Keeper, which is a contemporary short ghost story.
First off, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and answer some questions for me, Pam! Historical fiction is my all-time favorite genre and I’m always amazed at the myriad perspectives authors find to highlight for us readers. How did you decide where to set your award-winning novel, The Bowes Inheritance?

Hi, and thanks for hosting me, Colleen.

There are several settings in the book, both in Ireland and the North-West of England. As an Irish writer I wanted to use settings I was familiar with so it made sense to start off in my home town of Dublin. I have been lucky for most of my working life to be located in the beautiful Georgian quarter of Dublin, around Fitzwilliam Square. In the late Victorian era, many of the fabulous houses had become lodging houses and some were even tenements. So I start the story with the two Campbell sisters, Louisa and Eleanor, in a lodging house on Herbert Street. They are the last remaining members of a once affluent and proud County Galway family and are living in genteel poverty.

To up the tension I had to transplant them to unfamiliar ground, as the original premise for the story was a young woman inheriting a property and having to fight to keep it. I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between the Irish Ascendency and the British gentry. Although often related, the Irish were always looked down upon as second-class. So, I decided to take Louisa and transplant her into a slightly hostile environment in England. As I have a great love of the sea, I searched for a suitable coastal location. I am also a keen family historian and had discovered that my great-great grandparents had spent time in Carlisle in the 1840s, so I centred my location search in Cumbria. You can’t set a novel in Cumbria and not use the Lake District! Lake Buttermere is the setting for a wedding which takes place in the book and is also the place where my two main characters finally admit their feelings for each other. Most of the action takes place in a fictional coastal town called Newton (which is a mix of several coastal towns on the Cumbrian coast).

Is there anything in particular that draws you to write historical fiction? Are there any specific times in history you gravitate towards or do you just enjoy history in general? Do you also enjoy writing contemporary stories?

There were a lot of influences in my childhood and the earliest one I can remember was actually television. Historical dramas in particular caught my attention, even though at that young age I didn’t really understand the stories. Ah but the costumes, the architecture and the way people behaved – something clicked. My father was a great reader and encouraged me to be as well; as a child and a teen I devoured books and I mean devoured. Then Dad bought me the complete works of Jane Austen and a foundation was laid. For those familiar with the 19th century world, I think I actually became a bluestocking! I munched my way through classics, dined on crime (modern and historical - Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James my absolute favourites – what fantastically twisty minds those women had), and supped at the feet of Georgette Heyer’s heroes and heroines.

So I suppose it was only natural that my fascination with the 19th century would influence my writing even though my love of history encompasses many eras. The late Victorian decades have a particular draw as they were a time of rapid change. Having said that, it was a chance remark by an uncle which prompted me to write a short story, In Three-Quarter Time, which is a fictional version of my grandparents’ love affair and is set in Dublin in the WW1 period.

One of the joys of being indie is that I have the freedom to explore many eras. My latest published short story is totally different to anything I’ve written before and is a contemporary short ghost story - The Lighthouse Keeper. It is likely I will keep trying new things as it is important to try to keep your work fresh and interesting.

What sort of research do you conduct when writing? Have you ever traveled to the locations before or during the writing process?

Research is the glue that holds your plot and characters together, and in my case, it suggested sub-plots and minor characters. I’m lucky in that I love research and often have to pull myself away from it to actually write. Those who buy historical fiction tend to know their history but as an author you find yourself in the tricky position of just how much period detail to include. You don’t want to bog the story down with it and yet you need to convey a sense of time and place. Authentic detail is my obsession but I try not to overwhelm the story. Many authors in this genre fall into the trap of bombarding the reader with historical reference to the detriment of the story. Your reader wants to be entertained not lectured. If you love the period you are writing in, it will show in the subtle detail of your work – how your characters speak and act in the situations you create.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible for me to travel to Cumbria while I was writing the book so I relied heavily on maps, google, blogs and old newspapers and even photo diaries of a climber for Lake Buttermere. Last year I was lucky enough to eventually get to visit Buttermere for a few brief hours. It was a wonderful and emotional day for me and someday I will go back and spend more time there. It is such a beautiful place.

My next novel is set in Yorkshire and London, both of which I am slightly familiar with but I do believe a research trip (or trips!) will be required.
I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

I’m afraid I’m very predictable - I read mostly historical fiction set in the 19th century predominantly and have a particular love of Victorian crime. My reading time is very limited these days as I work part-time, need to squeeze in writing and researching and the dreaded promotion and marketing. So, if a book doesn’t grab me in in the first chapter, I generally don’t go any further with it. I recently came across the Victorian crime novels of M.R.C. Kasasian and they are my new obsession. They are wonderfully written with quirky characters. I can only aspire to write like he does. By the way, he is also a really nice guy as I discovered when we connected on Twitter. His latest book goes live on 1st June. I’ll be standing by my Kindle ready to pounce!
Because I’m always fascinated to learn an author’s journey to publication, can you tell us a little bit about your journey? What made you want to become a writer?

I wrote a little as a teenager - bad poetry which was truly awful angst-ridden stuff that will never see the light of day. Then life took over - marriage, kids, and work. It was while on career break from work after my third child was born, that the idea of writing a novel popped into my head - not to publish but just to see if I could do it. I did and it felt amazing. Several more followed; again I never intended them to be seen by anyone else. But then one story seemed a bit stronger and the rest is history!
What led you to independently publish The Bowes Inheritance? What would you say are the biggest pros and cons of independently publishing versus mainstream publishing?

I sent out the manuscript to lots of agents. Unfortunately, it was unedited and had every rookie error you could imagine. As you can probably guess, no one wanted to know about it. In desperation, I turned to an author friend. She advised me to get an editor and learn about the business. A self-publishing day in the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin clinched it. I felt I had burnt my bridges with all of the agents by sending the manuscript out to soon and I liked the idea of being in control - so I decided to go for it. I found a superb editor in the UK, Hilary Johnson, who whipped it all into shape and in July 2015 I hit the publish button.

Other than experiences recounted to me by traditionally published author friends, I have no first-hand experience of the big publishing houses. Thankfully, self-publishing is a very real option for someone in my situation. I have come to it in a roundabout way, and relatively late in life, but I’m very glad I did. This is where I have to confess to like being in control and self-publishing is incredibly powerful. My experience has been positive. Ok, I will confess to one weekend of pulling my hair out trying to get to grips with a print on demand template, but I conquered it. The biggest thrill of all is getting positive feedback from readers - you cannot beat that.

The downside, of course, is the reality - you are now a business and your book is a product. You must nurture your brand. Marketing and promotion are time thieves and like most other indies, I’d much rather be writing. But I suppose there is one positive to social media and that is the incredible people you meet online. I now have many author friends and I am involved in various writing groups worldwide.

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

I am currently working on my first Victorian crime novel, Kashmir Velvet, which I am hoping to publish later this year.

Thank you so much, Pam, for sharing your answers with me today!
You can learn more about Pam's writing on her website and can read more about The Bowes Inheritance on the IndieBRAG site. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
You can purchase a copy of The Bowes Inheritance on Amazon. You can also purchase copies of Pam's other books, Three-Quarter Time and The Lighthouse Keeper, on Amazon as well.
A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Colleen has chosen to interview Pam Lecky, who is the author of The Bowes Inheritance, our medallion honoree at
indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ® , a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as The Bowes Inheritance merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Blast: The Fortune Painter by Gwendolyn Womack + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Paperback Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9781250099778

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Mystery


Semele Cavnow appraises antiquities for an exclusive Manhattan auction house, deciphering ancient texts—and when she discovers a manuscript written in the time of Cleopatra, she knows it will be the find of her career. Its author tells the story of a priceless tarot deck, now lost to history, but as Semele delves further, she realizes the manuscript is more than it seems. Both a memoir and a prophecy, it appears to be the work of a powerful seer, describing devastating wars and natural disasters in detail thousands of years before they occurred.

The more she reads, the more the manuscript begins to affect Semele’s life. But what happened to the tarot deck? As the mystery of her connection to its story deepens, Semele can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Only one person can help her make sense of it all: her client, Theo Bossard. Yet Theo is arrogant and elusive, concealing secrets of his own, and there’s more to Semele’s desire to speak with him than she would like to admit. Can Semele even trust him?

The auction date is swiftly approaching, and someone wants to interfere—someone who knows the cards exist, and that the Bossard manuscript is tied to her. Semele realizes it’s up to her to stop them: the manuscript holds the key to a two-thousand-year-old secret, a secret someone will do anything to possess.

Check Out the Book Trailer

Praise for The Fortune Painter

“Beginning as a clever mystery based on an ancient manuscript and evolving into a family epic spanning centuries, an international thriller, and a destined romance, The Fortune Teller has something for everyone. Offer it to fans of A.S. Byatt’s Possession and Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series.”―Booklist

“Womack alternates back and forth between a whirlwind history that spans thousands of years and the suspense of Semele’s search…Entertaining.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The Fortune Teller is a gripping, twisting tale that spans thousands of years, thousands of miles, and perhaps even crosses over to the ‘other side.’ A fascinating read that is that unlikely combination of unputdownable and thought-provoking.”—B.A. Shapiro, bestselling author of The Art Forger and The Muralist

“There aren’t enough words to adequately describe how much I love The Fortune Teller. It is a gripping and masterfully woven combination of history, mystery, fate, adventure, and family ties: a true page-turner that enthralls from the first sentence with unique characters, fascinating settings, and intriguing artifacts. Womack brilliantly illuminates how there is more at play in the world than logic can explain.”—Kelli Estes, USA Today bestselling author of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

“The Fortune Teller takes you on an international thrill ride across centuries—with fascinating research and memorable characters—proving once again that Gwendolyn Womack is a magician, keeping readers turning pages with wonder and awe.”—M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author

“What a mesmerizing journey. The suspense increases steadily throughout the novel, as Semele realizes her identity is caught up in the mysterious manuscript and that the truth of her own abilities is a secret people will kill for. Readers who enjoy the novels of Katherine Neville, Kate Mosse and Diana Gabaldon will savor this treat.”—Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

Buy the Book

About the Author

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack studied theater at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She holds an MFA in Directing Theatre, Video, and Cinema from California Institute of the Arts. Her first novel, The Memory Painter, was an RWA PRISM award winner in the Time Travel/Steampunk category and a finalist for Best First Novel. She now resides in Los Angeles with her husband and her son.

For more information please visit Gwendolyn Womack’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterestand Goodreads.

It's Giveaway Time!!!

During the Book Blast we will be giving away a Tarot Deck & Book Set! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Description: This deck/book set provides everything you need to understand tarot. The full-size deck is a vibrantly recolored version of the classic Rider-Waite deck, updated with subtle shading that gives depth to the familiar tarot scenes. The 272-page, user-friendly handbook with full-color illustrations is perfect for beginners as well as experienced readers who want to refresh their tarot skills.

Giveaway Rules

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

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, June 6

Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 15

The Paperback Princess

Friday, June 16

Yelena Casale’s Blog

Wednesday, June 21

Book Nerd

Monday, June 26

CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, June 27

Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, June 28

A Fold in the Spine

Thursday, June 29

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cover Crush: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

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

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

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
 For me, this is such a simple yet striking cover. Given the title hinting at happiness my first instinct is vibrant colors and swirly designs. The fact that this cover is so muted yet with a beautifully engraved framing (which perhaps seems slightly warn and neglected) draws my eye and makes me wonder why this "happiness" is so understated. I also love the pop of color that the flower and the author's name give to the overall effect.

Let's see what The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is really about....

A richly moving new novel-the first since the author's Booker-Prize winning, internationally celebrated debut, The God of Small Things, went on to become a beloved best seller and enduring classic.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness transports us across a subcontinent on a journey of many years. It takes us deep into the lives of its gloriously rendered characters, each of them in search of a place of safety - in search of meaning, and of love.

In a graveyard outside the walls of Old Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At the Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around each other, as though they have just met.

A braided narrative of astonishing force and originality, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is at once a love story and a provocation-a novel as inventive as it is emotionally engaging. It is told with a whisper, in a shout, through joyous tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Its heroes, both present and departed, have been broken by the world we live in-and then mended by love. For this reason, they will never surrender.

How to tell a shattered story?
By slowly becoming everybody.
By slowly becoming everything.

Humane and sensuous, beautifully told, this extraordinary novel demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy's storytelling gifts.
Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:

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


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New Release Spotlight on Small Hours by Jennifer Kitses

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: June 13th, 2017
Pages: 288

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

In the vein of Richard Russo and Tom Perrotta, a gripping, suspenseful, and gorgeous debut novel--told hour-by-hour over the course of a single day--in which a husband and wife try to outrun long-buried secrets, sending their lives spiraling into chaos.

Advanced Praise for Small Hours

"Jennifer Kitses slowly and artfully turns up the flames in her debut novel until Small Hours reaches a raging boil. Tom's and Helen's disparate twenty-four hours, wracked and ruined by a jumble of anxieties and miscues, unravel with the tension of a thriller and the gimlet-eyed observations of a novel of manners.” —Teddy Wayne, Whiting Award-winning author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Loner

"Jennifer Kitses's taut debut, SMALL HOURS, is like a time bomb whose ticking you don't notice until it's too late. I was riveted, shaken, and deeply moved by this insightful story of a marriage on the brink.” —Will Allison, New York Times bestselling author of Long Drive Home

"A brave, brilliant debut, written in prose like the edge of a razor blade, about how little it takes for any of our lives to spin out of control--and how we can struggle to put back the pieces. Gripping, haunting--and dare I say it? Life changing.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Timesbestselling author of Pictures of You, This Is Tomorrow, and Cruel Beautiful World

"The big secrets that haunt Small Hours will keep you on high alert, wondering what you don't know about your friends and neighbors.” —Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing

"In her page-turner of a debut, Jennifer Kitses has captured the spirit of Tom Perrotta and Richard Russo, painting a dramatic portrait of a suburban marriage on the rocks. She shows all too well the emotional pitfalls of working parenthood and the precipice that so many of us navigate every day. A rich, searing, and unforgettable novel.” —Julia Fierro, author of Cutting Teeth and The Gypsy Moth Summer

"The heart of this taut novel is a tinderbox waiting to explode. Kitses's surprisingly suspenseful plot finds intrigue in unexpected corners, as a married couple faces existential crises in a hothouse environment of suburban ennui, with shades of Homes's Music for Torching. A damning portrait of unexamined privilege and a radically persuasive argument for the need for communication in relationships.” —Matthew Thomas, New York Timesbestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

Over 24 increasingly suspenseful hours, a family's suburban life unravels.A tense domestic drama, Kitses' first novel alternates between the points of view of a husband and wife torn apart by what they don't tell each other...Leavened with occasional humor...the novel gradually and inexorably ratchets up its suspense...The novel succeeds as both a disquieting tale of ordinary horror and a portrait of a marriage at a tipping point. —Kirkus

"Well paced, offering heart-pounding tension...Fans of Matthew Norman, Sarah Dunn, and Emma Straub will enjoy this cautiously optimistic domestic drama full of small kindnesses and deep betrayals.” —Booklist

Buy the Book

About the Author

Jennifer Kitses grew up in Philadelphia. She graduated from the University of Virginia and received an M.Litt. in Creative Writing (the equivalent of an MFA) from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In 2000, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a reporter for Bloomberg News and attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She also worked as an assistant research editor at Condé Nast Portfolio and as a managing editor at Columbia Business School. Currently she is a writer and editor for CUNY's graduate school, and contributes to the alumni magazines of Columbia Business School and the University at Buffalo. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers, including The New York Observer, and in Akashic Books' online series, Mondays Are Murder. She is a member of the Columbia Fiction Foundry writing workshop and lives in New York.

Find out more about Jennifer on her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Spotlight on The Belle of Two Arbors by Paul Dimond and Martha Buhr

Born at the turn of the twentieth century in Glen Arbor, near the dunes of Northern Michigan, young Belle is the first child of a gruff stove works boss and a crippled mother who weaned Belle on the verse of Emily Dickenson. When a natural disaster results in her mother’s death and nearly takes the life of her younger brother Pip, Belle creates a fierce, almost ecstatic farewell song. Thus begins her journey to compose a perfect Goodbye to Mama.

At 21, Belle ventures south to Ann Arbor for university, with teenaged Pip in tow. There, she befriends Robert Frost, Ted Roethke and Wystan Auden and finds that her poetry stands alongside theirs, and even with that of her hero, Dickinson. Her lyrics capture the sounds, sights, and rhythms of the changing seasons in the northern forests, amidst the rolling dunes by the shores of the Great Lake.

Despite the peace she finds, Belle also struggles in both homes. Up north, she battles her father who thinks a woman can’t run the family business; and clashes against developers who would scar the natural landscape. In Ann Arbor, she challenges the status quo of academic pedants and chauvinists.

Belle’s narrative brings these two places to life in their historic context: a growing Midwestern town driven by a public university, striving for greatness; and a rural peninsula seeking prosperity while preserving its natural heritage. Through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Post-War Boom, Belle’s story is hard to put down. Her voice and songs will be even harder to forget.

Advanced Praise for The Belle of Two Arbors

“The Belle of Two Arbors is a beguiling story about a talented woman from the back of beyond who dares to establish her own identity. Capturing the upper reaches of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Dimond creates a new American fable that, like the great novels of Willa Cather, both lacerates and heals: An ingenious feat of fictional biography.” –Theodore Rosengarten, National Book Award All God’s Children: The Life of Nate Shaw and MacArthur Fellow

“Paul Dimond’s Belle of Two Arbors is historical fiction at its most informative and engaging. Belle is poet, protectress, matriarch and muse, whether advocating for a more inclusive University in Ann Arbor or promoting the preservation of America’s premier national lakeshore in Glen Arbor. Fans of the poets Frost, Roethke, Auden and Dickinson are in for a treat: Belle weaves their histories in Michigan and the legacies of Dickinson and Frost in Amherst expertly with the fictional characters. A treasure of a read!” –Barbara Stark-Nemon, author of award-winning historical novel, Even in Darkness

“Dimond imagines the intertwined lives of literary giants in a saga as evocative as Faulkner, with plot lines as cracking as Hemingway’s short stories in Michigan’s northern woods. Belle’s bravery and artistic consciousness are an inspiration.” –John Dempsey, Chair Michigan Historical Commission and co-author Michigan Notable Book Award Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors

“In the company of Paul Dimond’s extraordinary Belle, we witness the turbulence of a rapidly changing America in the first half of the 20th century. In her roles as poet, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and conservation leader, Belle interacts with a well-realized cast of characters, both imagined and real, most notably the poet Robert Frost. In this full and searching ‘portrait of a lady,’ Dimond renders the opportunities and obstacles that shape Belle’s story in such a way as to remind us that her world is also ours in the making.” –Donald Sheehy, Ed. The Letters of Robert Frost. Vols. 1–2

About the Author

Since birth Paul Dimond has shared his time between Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and Glen Arbor amidst Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan.

Prior to researching and writing The Belle of Two Arbors, Paul Dimond served as the Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, tried several major race case that divided the U.S. Supreme Court and served as the Special Assistant to President Clinton for Economic Policy. He has also practiced law, chaired a national real estate firm and continues to spend his time between the two Arbors. He is an alumni of Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School. Visit his Website.

The Belle of Two Arbors Tour Schedule 

June 1: Jorie Loves A Story (Review)
June 2: Teddy Rose Book Reviews (Guest Post)
June 8: Jorie Loves A Story (Interview)
June 13: A Literary Vacation (Book Spotlight)
June 19: Tea Leaves (Review)
June 21: Black Sheep Reader (Review)
June 22: Readaholic Zone (Review)
June 26: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)
June 30: Kritter’s Ramblings (Review)
July 11: Booklove (Review)
July 14: CelticLady’s Reviews (Review)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Book Blast: Where Rainbows End by Annemarie Brear

Publication Date: May 23, 2017
Choc Lit
eBook; ASIN: B071P7KBH6
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Romance/Western

Can she hold on to her dreams…?

It’s 1850 and the Noble family have travelled to the other side of the world to start a new life after scandal drove them from their native England.

Pippa Noble is determined to reclaim their honour by making her father’s plan for an outback farm reality, although her ambition is frowned upon by a society that has very set ideas about a woman’s place…

Pippa learns the hard way about the unforgiving nature of the bush, sometimes with devastating consequences. And when unfortunate circumstance leads to Pippa tending the farm alone, it is the friendship of neighbouring estate owner Gil Ashford-Smith that helps her through.

Then an unexpected visitor from England arrives, putting Pippa’s dreams in jeopardy. But she refuses to let go. She will hold onto her family’s land, even if it means losing everything else…

Praise for Where Rainbows End

“A compelling story of a headstrong woman who defies the traditional female role and forages a successful life through hard work and a strong vision. Excellent descriptions of the outback and the hardships of life in Australia in the 1850’s.” – Amazon Review

Buy the Book

About the Author

AnneMarie has been a life-long reader and started writing in 1997 when her children were small. She has a love of history, of grand old English houses and a fascination of what might have happened beyond their walls. Her interests include reading, genealogy, watching movies, spending time with family and eating chocolate – not always in that order!

AnneMarie grew up in Australia but now lives in the UK.

For more information please visit AnneMarie Brear’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, May 29

T’s Stuff

Sunday, June 4

Passages to the Past

Monday, June 5

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Cover Crush: Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

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

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

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

 I'll be perfectly honest with you....I'm not really sure what is going on within this picture, but I love it anyways! There appears to be a shipwreck and another boat full of men fighting to stay upright in a stormy sea, all making me think of darkness and turmoil. Then you've got what looks to be a partial painting of a tiger in the upper left hand corner which clearly doesn't fit with the rest of the cover but must have something to do with the overall story within. What could it all mean??

Let's see if the synopsis gives us any clues....

 A thrilling and powerful novel about a young boy lured to sea by the promise of adventure and reward, with echoes of Great Expectations, Moby-Dick, and The Voyage of the Narwhal.

Jamrach’s Menagerie tells the story of a nineteenth-century street urchin named Jaffy Brown. Following an incident with an escaped tiger, Jaffy goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals, alongside Tim, a good but sometimes spitefully competitive boy. Thus begins a long, close friendship fraught with ambiguity and rivalry.

Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedi­tion. Onboard, Jaffy and Tim enjoy the rough brotherhood of sailors and the brutal art of whale hunting. They even succeed in catching the reptilian beast.

But when the ship’s whaling venture falls short of expecta­tions, the crew begins to regard the dragon—seething with feral power in its cage—as bad luck, a feeling that is cruelly reinforced when a violent storm sinks the ship.

Drifting across an increasingly hallucinatory ocean, the sur­vivors, including Jaffy and Tim, are forced to confront their own place in the animal kingdom. Masterfully told, wildly atmospheric, and thundering with tension, Jamrach’s Mena­gerie is a truly haunting novel about friendship, sacrifice, and survival.
Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:

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


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Changing Horses Mid-Stream: An Ancient World Author Jumps To The 20th Century - Guest Post by Kate Quinn, Author of The Alice Network

I am so happy to wish the enigmatic Kate Quinn a hearty Happy Book Birthday to her newest gem, The Alice Network!! I'll be reviewing this book later on in the month but didn't want the day to go by without sharing all about the book with you. In turn, Kate is sharing a lovely guest post with us on her switch from writing about the ancient world to the 20th Century. So sit back, enjoy, and go out and get yourself a copy of The Alice Network!

“What's a girl like you doing in a time like this?”

It's a question I've grown familiar with, as a historical novelist who has made a recent, monumental jump in time periods. My first love was the ancient world, and that was where I gravitated when penning my first novels, eventually writing four set in early Imperial Rome. I made a two-book jump after that to the Italian Renaissance and the delicious cesspit that was the rule of the Borgia pope, but that wasn't too big a leap: it was still Italy, still Rome, still comfortably pre-modern. But my latest book “The Alice Network” pole-vaults all the way into the 20th century, telling dual storylines of World War I female spies and an unraveling post-World War II mystery with its roots in the previous war's spy ring—and a jump that big will give you whiplash, believe me. Why, readers asked, did I make such a big change in subject and research matter?

Part passion, and part practicality. I have always been a writer with far more story ideas teeming in my head than I can ever get round to writing, and there were always some 20th century notions lurking among the plots about Roman empresses and Renaissance courtesans. I started giving those fledgling ideas some serious consideration when I looked at the market and saw that the ancient world and the Renaissance, much as I love those historical eras, weren't selling as frequently as they had in years past. This didn't bother me particularly; reading tastes come and go in cycles, and in a few years what is unpopular or oversaturated now will cycle back around into style. But in the meantime it made sense to shelve Imperial Rome and the Renaissance papal states, and take a look at what was really selling . . . and what was selling was 20th century historical fiction.

Now, I can't write what I don't love—I don't think any author can—but the question here wasn't “Can you write in an era you don't love?” It was “Can you learn to love a new era?” Had the answer been “no” I would have junked the 20th century idea and gone to something else, but the answer turned out to be “yes.” I like the 20th century a lot, and once “The Alice Network” bloomed into a full-fledged story in my mind, it positively begged to be written.

Making a jump this big does have its scary moments, though. After writing four books in ancient Rome and two in the Renaissance, I'm very comfortable in those worlds. I know the courtship customs, the vocabulary, the period-appropriate coinage and clothes and food, and I have it all at my fingertips without needing to look much of anything up. Writing in a historical era you know well is like lounging around in your favorite Pjs, or dog-paddling through the shallow side of the swimming pool. Taking on an entirely new historical era feels like being tossed head-first into the deep end: I was researching everything in a frantic effort to acquire the kind of familiarity with the era that novel-writing requires. Because it isn't getting a battle's date wrong that will sink your story; concrete dates and bare-bones facts are for the most part easy to look up—it's the tiny details like not knowing if a zipper would be on the back or the side of a woman's dress in 1947, or how much afternoon tea would cost with rationing laws in place. Those are the things that are hard to dig up, and I sweated bullets researching “The Alice Network.”

But it was worth it. I'm proud of this book, and I hugely enjoyed writing it. I still love ancient Rome and the Italian Renaissance, and I plan to pen more stories set there . . . but for the time being, I'm enjoying my jump to the 20th century, and have no plans to leave just yet!
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: June 6th, 2017
Pages: 528

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

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

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

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

Praise for The Alice Network


“Told through the lens of two very different women, the eras unfold separately and then collide with shocking results. Lovingly crafted and brimming with details, readers are sure to be held in Quinn’s grip watching as the characters evolve. Powerful reading you can’t put down!”—RT Book Reviews, 4.5 star, “Top Pick”

“Both funny and heartbreaking, this epic journey of two courageous women is an unforgettable tale of little-known wartime glory and sacrifice. Quinn knocks it out of the park with this spectacular book!”—Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America's First Daughter

“The Alice Network... perfectly balances a propulsive plot, faultlessly observed period detail, and a cast of characters so vividly drawn that I half expected to blink and see them standing in front of me. This is historical fiction at its best--thrilling, affecting, revelatory.”—Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Moonlight Over Paris

“Kate Quinn delivers an enthralling tale filled with breath-taking narrative that will make the reader feel as if they’re in the back of the roadster, riding along with the raucous Eve and courageous Charlie on their clandestine adventures. Suspenseful and engrossing, THE ALICE NETWORK is a must-read!”—Heather Webb, author of Rodin's Lover

“A ring of daring female spies known as the Alice Network left a legacy of blood and betrayal. Two women suffering the losses of two different wars must join forces, one to find her voice and her redemption, the other to face her fears and her oldest enemy. Kate Quinn strums the chords of every human emotion with two storylines that race over continents and through decades to converge in one explosive ending.”—Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris

"A powerful story filled with daring and intrigue, The Alice Network will hook readers from the first page and take them on an unforgettable journey."—Chanel Cleeton, author of Next Year in Havana

Buy the Book


About the Author

KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

To learn more about Kate check out her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.