Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: "Song of the River" by Sue Harrison


Synopsis:  Two ancient tribes on the verge of making peace become foes once more when a double murder jeopardizes a storyteller’s mission

Eighty centuries ago, in the frozen land that is now Alaska, a clubfooted male child had been left to die, when a woman named K’os rescued him. Twenty years later and no longer a child, Chakliux occupies the revered role as his tribe’s storyteller. In the neighboring village of the Near River people, where Chakliux will attempt to make peace by wedding the shaman’s daughter, a double murder occurs that sends him on a harsh, enthralling journey in search of the truth about the tragic losses his people have suffered, and into the arms of a woman he was never meant to love.

Song of the River is the first book of the Storyteller Trilogy, which also includes Cry of the Wind and Call Down the Stars.


My Thoughts:  I have never read a work of historical fiction quite like Song of the River. It's set in 6000 BCE in Alaska which makes the book incredibly unique and intriguing.

Song of the River is a richly detailed and very well-researched story. Harrison's descriptions of daily life in an Alaskan village bring the characters to life and introduce the reader to a whole other world that I didn't even know existed. The setting was beautiful and I felt like I could easily see everything she was describing. I can't imagine how much time the author spent researching this period in history; she even uses the old language for names and various items in the villages.

In addition to a beautiful setting, Song of the River has a variety of fascinating characters.  Aqamdax had to be my favorite; I enjoyed seeing her grow into her role as a storyteller and find her self worth in that role.  K'os was another character that really caught my attention.  Yes, she was the 'villain' of the story and had let her desire for vengeance overrun her but I still felt bad for her.  I spent a lot of time wondering what she would have become had she not been victimized when she was young.

This is the first book in a trilogy and there were just enough questions left unanswered that I am going to have to pick up the next book to see what happens.  Song of the River is a great edition to the historical fiction genre and I can't wait to read more of this author's work.  3 1/2 stars.

I received a copy of this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:


Sue Harrison grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and graduated summa cum laude from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature. At age twenty-seven, inspired by the cold Upper Michigan forest that surrounded her home, and the outdoor survival skills she had learned from her father and her husband, Harrison began researching the people who understood best how to live in a harsh environment: the North American native peoples. She studied six Native American languages and completed extensive research on culture, geography, archaeology, and anthropology during the nine years she spent writing her first novel, Mother Earth Father Sky, the extraordinary story of a woman’s struggle for survival in the last Ice Age. A national and international bestseller, and selected by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1991, Mother Earth Father Sky is the first novel in Harrison’s critically acclaimed Ivory Carver Trilogy, which includes My Sister the Moon and Brother Wind. She is also the author of Song of the River, Cry of the Wind, and Call Down the Stars, which comprise the Storyteller Trilogy, also set in prehistoric North America. Her novels have been translated into thirteen languages and published in more than twenty countries. Harrison lives with her family in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.    

Check out this awesome interview with Ms. Harrison! 


Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter:  #SueHarrisonTour

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: "The Age of Desire" by Jennie Fields

Synopsis:  For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.

At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.


My Thoughts:  In The Age of Desire, Jennie Fields tells the story of Edith Wharton, the woman, as opposed to simply Edith Wharton, the famous writer.  Her portrayal of Edith shows her transform from a someone stuck in an unhappy marriage to a woman finding love and passion for the first time.

I must say that Edith was a very complex character; there were times where I felt very sympathetic toward her and other times where I really did not like her.  Her home life was difficult but at the same time, she wasn't always the nicest person.  I don't think the character understood how she was treating those around her but I definitely felt sorry for characters like Anna and Teddy who had to deal with her self-centered attitude.  I liked that she found love with Morton Fullerton but the fact that she was so naive about him and their relationship was so frustrating for me as a reader.  There were times when I wished I could reach through the book and shake her!

Anna was my favorite character in the story.  I kind of saw her as Edith's conscience; she was the voice telling Edith what the right thing to do was (thought she didn't always listen).  She had this quiet, reassuring manner and no matter how she was feeling, it seemed that she was always willing to take care of those who needed her.  I just thought she was such an admirable character.  

I enjoyed the fact that the author included excerpts from Edith Wharton's diaries and letters.  It was fascinating to read her actual words and thoughts and to know that the events in the story really were based on Edith Wharton's experiences and emotions.  I think they added so much depth to the story.  I didn't know much about Edith Wharton prior to reading this book and had only read one of her books but after reading The Age of Desire, I am definitely going to have to delve further into her works.  3 stars.

About the Author:


Born in the heart of the heart of the country – Chicago -- Jennie Fields decided to become a writer at the age of six and produced her first (365 page!) novel when she was eleven.  She received her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop and published her first short stories while spending a postgraduate year at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.  But needing to feed her family  in the era just post-Mad Men, she became an early female copywriter at an advertising agency, soon rising to creative director and moving to New York.  In her 32-year advertising career, she wrote and produced many well-known and award-winning commercials.  People even now can embarrass her by telling her they grew up dancing to one of her McDonalds’ jingles. 

Still, fiction was her great love.  Writing during her lunch hour and after her daughter’s bedtime she penned her first novel, Lily Beach, which was published by Atheneum in 1993 to much acclaim.  Since then, she’s written three more novels including Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and The Middle Ages. Her latest, The Age of Desire, is a biographical novel based on the life of the author dearest to her heart, Edith Wharton.  An Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review, it describes Wharton’s mid-life love affair with a younger, manipulative man.  Why the affinity to Wharton?  Because she wrote about people attempting to break society’s expectations for them – which is something Fields has been yearning to do all her life.

 Check out more stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter:  #AgeOfDesireTour

Monday, August 19, 2013

Guest Post by C.W. Gortner, "Mary and Elizabeth: Sisters and Rivals"

I am so excited to welcome C.W. Gortner, author of The Tudor Conspiracy, to the blog today!


Mary and Elizabeth: Sisters and Rivals

There is something fascinating, and disturbing, about family members who turn on one another. The Tudor dynasty is no exception. Though Henry VIII did not sire many children, considering how often he wed, history has perhaps no sisters more famous for their rivalry than his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. 

Born of the king’s marriages to his first and second wives, respectively, Mary and Elizabeth were both declared bastards in turn after Henry divorced Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, and had Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, beheaded. The rivalry between the two mothers, each determined to hold onto their crown and defend their child, set the stage for a legacy of mistrust between the daughters, who were as different in temperament as any sisters could be.  

The eldest by seventeen years, Mary went from an adored childhood to a horrifying adolescence in which she saw her beloved mother supplanted by another. Humiliated and relegated to the status of a servant in her baby sister Elizabeth’s household, the scars of Mary’s teenage years can’t be underestimated.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, was barely three when her mother died and she was made illegitimate. A famous quip from this time is attributed to her when informed of her new status: “How is that yesterday I was Princess Elizabeth and today only Lady Elizabeth?” Young as she was, Elizabeth had a keen grasp of her situation. She grew into womanhood surrounded by danger and became adept at the rules of survival, aware that one misstep could lead to her doom, her mother’s example always before her.

Both sisters understood the perils intrinsic to royal life, but while Elizabeth learned to play the cards dealt to her, Mary remained steadfast in her right to stand above the crowd. They both had courage but their experiences couldn’t have been more disparate. Elizabeth was born into, and raised, in the Protestant Faith; like their brother Edward, she embraced it. Mary resisted, both from a deep-seated belief inculcated in her as by the rigidity of her own character, which was not given to change even when circumstances called for it. In the end, whatever rapprochement the sisters found as outsiders uncertain of their place, denigrated into savage rivalry when Mary became queen against all odds and they found themselves pitted against each other.  

Mary could not forgive the insults tendered to her by Anne Boleyn and in time, she came to see Elizabeth as the very incarnation of her late mother. In turn, Elizabeth began to recognize the stony threat that Mary’s hatred posed to her and her fragile position as the sole hope for the Protestant cause in England. Their pasts had made them who they were; and their struggle for supremacy would divide the country, sisters and rivals unto death.

This rivalry is the core of my new novel, THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY. Thank you for spending this time with me. To find out more about me and my books, please visit me at: www.cwgortner.com



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (51)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I had to go out of town unexpectedly last weekend and wasn't able to get my weekly haul post up so this week's post is comprised of two weeks worth of books.


From NetGalley:



For Review (From Historical Fiction Virtual Tours):




Purchased (Kindle ebooks):


 From the Library:




Whew!  I have a lot of reading to do!  Have you read any of these books?  What books did you get this week?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: "The Tudor Conspiracy" by C.W. Gortner

Synopsis:  Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner's The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.


My Thoughts: I always enjoy C.W. Gortner's books and The Tudor Conspiracy was no exception.  It was a fun historical mystery that kept me intrigued from beginning to end. 

Brendan Prescott is a neat character.  He grew up as a servant in the home of the Dudley's but he is smart and well-educated which always tends to surprise those who choose to underestimate him based on his origins.  He also has a pretty neat secret that I feel added something unique to this story and I'm curious to see how that might play out in future books.  I liked that he was not the usual ruthless spy; he was conflicted about his role as a spy.  He was devoted to protecting Princess Elizabeth but at the same time seemed to care about helping Queen Mary too.  I didn't envy his position because it seemed like no matter what, he was going to betray someone he felt close to.  

I also think Gortner made Elizabeth and Mary into two really fascinating characters.  He didn't put them in the usual molds that you might see when reading a Tudor era novel and I really appreciated that.  He made them seem so human and he didn't try to make one the 'good' one and the other the 'bad' one.  I thought they were both sympathetic characters and I enjoyed reading about them.

The Tudor Conspiracy is a fast read that pulled me in and held my attention to the very end.  There are multiple mysteries and secrets throughout the story; as the it progresses, the reader slowly peels away the layers to each mystery and finds out who is doing what and with what aim in mind.  I loved that!  There wasn't just one big reveal, there were several.  I definitely wanted to keep reading to uncover what was really going on underneath all the mysteries.   

The Tudor Conspiracy is the second book in the Spymaster Chronicles and I would highly recommend reading both this book and the first book, The Tudor Secret.  I am really hoping that there will be a third installment in this series because I really want to know what will happen to Brendan as he continues in his duties as a spy! 3 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:
 
C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information.  You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.

 Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter:  #TudorConspiracyTour

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: "Gracianna" by Trini Amador

Synopsis:  The gripping story of Gracianna--a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador's great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother's home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna's past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother's story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s--on her way to America, she hopes--but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it--even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won't soon forget.

My Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book! It was a little slow to start but once the story got moving,
it really pulled me in.  Gracianna is the story of an intelligent, ambitious Basque woman and her involvement in the French Resistance during World War II.  It is the remarkable story of one woman's struggle against the Nazis and her attempt to save her sister from the horrors of Auschwitz.

Gracianna was an unlikely heroine; she grew up in a small village in the Pyranees and moved to Paris to earn money so she could travel to America.  Her involvement in the French Resistance came about purely by accident but she quickly became a key player in the fight against the Nazis.  She handled her work with strength and grace; it was admirable to watch her deal with being in such a difficult situation.  When her sister was sent to Auschwitz, she did everything in her power to get her freed no matter what the cost.  While I liked Gracianna a lot, I think Juan was my favorite character.  He was such a calm and reassuring force in Gracianna's life.  I was so glad that they got together because he was so loving and supportive of Gracianna's work with the Resistance.

Gracianna is a wonderful addition to World War II era historical fiction.  I haven't seen many books out there that focus on the French Resistance so it was a breath of fresh air to read something different. 3 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Trini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It's a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing "insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Learn more at: www.gracianna.com, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.

Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.

Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter:  #GraciannaTour

 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Quick Review: "Surrender to Sultry" by Macy Beckett



From Goodreads:  Leah McMahon is back in Sultry Springs, Texas to help her dad recover from surgery. But there’s a new sheriff in town and he’s none other than Colton Bea, the wild-as-weeds boy who stole her heart a decade earlier.

Colt’s a changed man, and the feelings between these high school sweethearts are stronger than ever. But Leah’s got a secret so devastating that he may never forgive her. Can she find a way to earn absolution and build a future with the sultry man she’s loved half her life?


My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I absolutely love this trilogy and the final book is no exception.  Though I enjoyed all three books, this Surrender to Sultry may be my favorite of the three.  

Surrender to Sultry is Colt's story and I have to say that even though Colt was kind of a punk in the last book, I still thought he was an awesome character.  He's turned over a new leaf in this book and is so darn lovable.  Leah kind of bothered me at first because she was wound up so tight but as the story went on and more about her past came to light, I started to like her a lot.  I loved watching them dance around each other and the running banter was so cute.  The romance was also super hot and steamy in this book!  I also thought it was great that the author included Trey, Luke, June and Bobbi from the other books.  I liked these character sand it was nice to see them again!

Overall, Surrender to Sultry is a fun, romantic read.  I read it in a couple of hours and could not put it down.  And the epilogue, GAH!  It was so sweet and I definitely got teary eyed reading it.  Surrender to Sultry would make a great beach book and I would recommend it, and the rest of the series, to any reader.  4 stars.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mailbox Monday (1)



 I'm trying something new this week and decided to link up with Mailbox Monday.  This is a traveling meme and is being hosted by Penelope at The Reading Fever for the month of August.

I received several books this week and I can't wait to dive into them!

For Review (from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours)







 Purchased (Kindle ebook):

 

I am so stoked for this book!  I had to download the Kindle app on my phone because that was the only way I could read it!

What books did you get this week?  Leave me a link in the comments so I can check out your haul!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

June/July Wrap Up


 (Thought I should throw in a pic of the little missy!)

Oh my goodness, I can't believe it's August already.  July was kind of a blur!  Even though I have been a little busy with Miss Julia and moving to a new house this month, I was able to get a good amount of reading done (thank you nook app!).  I read 7 books in July and finished another that I wasn't able to finish in June (I was little busy there towards the end of the month and only read 4 books in June).  I have read 63 books so far this year so I am right on track to hit my goal of 75 books and will probably surpass it.  I am participating in some great blog tours in the coming months so I have a lot of great books to look forward to reading!

Here is what I read in June:

1.) Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann
2.) The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
3.) A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
3.) Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke

Here is what I read in July:

1.) A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin  
2.) Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah 
3.) The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley 
4.) To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell 
5.) The House at Riverton by Kate Morton 
6.) Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble 
7.) A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert 
8.) Royal Inheritance by Kate Emerson 

What books did you read in June?  Are you on track to meet your reading goals?



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: "The House at Riverton" by Kate Morton

From Goodreads:  Summer 1924 On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999 Grace Bradley, ninety-eight, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet's suicide. Ghosts awaken and old memories - long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind - begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge, something history has forgotten but Grace never could.


My Thoughts:  I love Kate Morton's books so I was really excited to pick this one up.  Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed in this one.  While the story had a lot of potential, it was slow moving and I found it hard to connect with the characters.  It looks like this is her first book and I must say that her writing and story-telling abilities have improved quite a lot since this book was published. 

I liked the older version of Grace, she seemed like a feisty old woman and I have an affinity for old people though I wasn't a huge fan of young Grace.  I think Morton did a good job of making old Grace into a much more mature character who had done a lot of growing up in her life.  I didn't like how much guilt she felt regarding the past; there is a big secret alluded to throughout the story and when it is revealed I felt like it was a little silly that Grace felt so guilty for what happened.  

The book kind of reminded me of Downton Abbey with their being the 'downstairs' and 'upstairs' characters.  I liked the downstairs characters a lot but the upstairs characters, not so much.  I thought Emmeline and Hannah were incredibly spoiled and self-centered and I had a hard time understanding Grace's devotion to them.  It seemed like she wasted a lot of her energy trying to build a relationship with Hannah when it was pretty obvious that it would only ever be a one-sided relationship.

The secret kind of got on my nerves throughout the story.  There is so much foreshadowing leading up to it and it wasn't revealed until the very end and at that point it didn't seem very shocking.  I also felt like it was kind of obvious what was going to happen by the end because it had been alluded to for so long.  I hate to be so negative about this book because I have enjoyed Morton's other books so much.  I definitely didn't hate the book but it didn't live up to my expectations.  3 stars.

This book is part of my personal collection.
 
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