A Novel of Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt

Read the book review of my latest favorite novel by Robin Oliveira.

Newest novel by Tracy Groot

Featured in February's Historical Novel Society magazine as an Editors' Choice.

Welcome to the new look!

I changed the look of my blog!

Favorite reads of 2013

These were the best of the best for 2013 - use this short list to help you with your next library trip!

New Recommended Read

Another wonderful addition to your Wars of the Roses collection!

Jul 24, 2014

Giveaway! Introducing Susanna Kearsley's SEASON OF STORMS

There are a few authors that have me swooning at all of their new releases, and Susanna Kearsley is one of them. Very excited to be a part of a pre-publication tour for her newest novel Season of Storms! Even more excited that when I received the ARC in the mail I saw a blurb/quote from Burton Book Review on the back cover. These kinds of things make me a happy blogger.

And so with happiness, I give you the following synopsis and excerpt from the new novel, which you will have a chance to win your own advance readers' copy at the end of the blog post.
Enjoy!
Available from Sourcebooks Landmark, September 2 2014
A mystery trapped in time..In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed. 

Now, two generations later, Alessandro D’Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands—at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D’Ascanio’s magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake’s disappearance—and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro. But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia’s fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back…

Excerpt:
From Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

It was noon when he reached the Piazza San Marco.
The midday sun had bleached the square and cast a haze across the piazzetta, so that even the statues of San Teodoro and San Marco’s winged lion, they who had for these eight centuries stood vigi lant, their eyes fixed ever eastward over the serene lagoon, appeared today to slumber on their columns while below them at the edge of the canal the water barely swelled beneath the waiting row of gondolas.
He turned his back upon the gleaming pinnacles and domes of the basilica and searched among the faces in the strolling crowd for hers. No easy task, that. All of Venice seemed to be here, standing idly sharing gossip in the shadow of the bell-tower, or lunching at café tables by the Moorish colonnades. Music rose and met from either side of the piazza where the orchestras competed for attention from beneath their café awnings, a cultivated duel of rival melodies and rhythm that yet managed to produce a pleasing harmony.
Maître!” a delighted voice behind him cried and, turning, he recognized the oldest of the waiters from the café on his right, a sun-creased man from Corsica whose thick French accent clung to every word. “Maître, what a joy to see you here again. You must sit here, where all who pass can see you and pay tribute to your talent.”
He hesitated…he had not meant to stop here, but rather, like one of his own hounds, to keep to the chase, to find the scent and pursue it, relentless…but the waiter’s words, the blatant adoration, moved him suddenly. He sat. What did it matter, he thought, if he paused for a meal? Did not his own hounds hunt the better when they were refreshed?
He ate and drank deliberately, in honor of the watching eyes. A scraping of chairs at the table behind him announced the arrival of a new party, young, gay with laughter. A man in English said: “Oh no, but it really was too bad of you, John, not to stop the boat and let her have a go. She might have done it.”
Nonsense. From what I’ve heard, nobody gets in to see him. That man of his guards him like a Gurkha.”
And then a woman, in amusement, said: “I fancy Celia’s a match for any man’s man. Aren’t you, darling?”
Still with his back to their table he froze, his glass half-lifted to his lips, as something wonderful and warm began to tingle all along his spine. Fighting the impulse to leap to his feet at that moment and face her, he felt in his pockets for pencil and paper. Their meeting, this first meeting, mustn’t be ordinary. It must be creative, it must have appropriate drama. He wrote quickly, and signaled the waiter.
Yes, maître?”
Keeping his voice hushed he urged the man closer, conspiring.
Behind me—the blonde at the table behind me…”
A glance flickered over his head and then back again. “Yes, maître?”
There is only one blonde?”
There is, maître.”
Excellent. When I am gone, you will give her this note,” he said, folding the paper and pressing it into the waiter’s hand.
You will give it to her privately, pretending it is something she has dropped, perhaps. Do this for me, and I will be forever in your debt.”
The waiter bowed his head and left.

Once more the laughter of the English party rang out close behind him, and he raised his glass and drank the sweetness of the wine and smiled.


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers’ Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

Links to my reviews of a few of Susanna Kearsley's recent novels:
The Splendour Falls
The Firebird
The Shadowy Horses


GIVEAWAY of one ARC copy of Season of Storms!
(Open to USA only)

Jul 18, 2014

Mutiny of the Heart by Jennifer Bray-Weber



Mutiny of the Heart (Romancing the Pirate) by Jennifer Bray-Weber
Carina Press, June 23, 2014
ebook/75,000 words/216 pages/9781426898525
Review Copy provided via publisher for review in Library Journal Xpress
Navigating the high seas as the female captain of a pirate ship means always being on your guard—especially when one takes a temptingly handsome slave on board.

Captain Joelle Quint believes the slave claiming to be a cartographer can help her decipher the map her father left her when she was a child. She's spent years trying to unlock its truths, hoping that it holds the answers to a dark family secret.
Sloan Ricker has no intention of remaining captive. When the fiery, red-headed captain offers him his freedom in exchange for solving her map, what begins as an opportunity to escape becomes a struggle to make the beautiful, intriguing Joelle his mistress in more ways than one.

Amidst a battle with the Royal Navy and a first mate's jealousy, Joelle also fights her growing lust. And as much as he'd like to deny it, Ricker's desire for Joelle has overcome his initial disdain. To get the answers, independence and love that they both long f
or, Joelle and Ricker must relinquish control to each other…or die trying.

This suspenseful romance brings us to the Caribbean waters full of pirates, battles and lusty encounters. Where other novels would have a helpless woman aboard a ship as a passenger, the twist offered with Mutiny of the Heart is the fact that the very capable captain of the Rissa is a very capable female who also has a sexual relationship with a crew member. Joelle is the strong-willed female who has earned herself honors along the privateers due to her skill and charm but she has one mission in life: to find the answers hidden in the map her father left behind. The waters get muddy when she hires a handsome map reader to help her and wild abandon threatens to take over..mutiny style. While the love triangle is the major thrust (pun intended) there is a subplot of intrigue and mystery that speeds us along as the characters are enjoyable and well defined.

Erotically told but not quite over the top, the novel offers themes of independence, willpower and choosing love over pride. The writing style succeeded in keeping my interest, where some may blush at the detailed sexual encounters it seems to fit together perfectly to form the perfect beach read.

Jul 14, 2014

Somerset by Leila Meacham

epic soap opery saga kleenex material

Somerset by Leila Meacham
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing
Burton Book Review Rating:

Disclosure: I requested this title on NetGalley but it took several weeks for them to get around to responding to the request, so I finally decided to just read the hardcopy when it was provided by a friend; I then waited till I was ready to get around to it myself. And voila, here is the review.


One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.

Read my review of Roses
Read my review of Tumbleweeds

Several years back I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Leila Meacham during her book tour for Roses and I waxed not so eloquently about it here on the blog. It was then that she said she didn't want to be at the beck and call of a publisher's schedule, so I cried inside as I knew I would want more of her stories from her graceful pen.

Luckily her husband gave her the idea to tell the story of the how Roses came to be, which brings us to Somerset, the story of the ancestors of the characters in Roses, which I enjoyed immensely. 'Generations' would be an apt subtitle for Somerset, as it completes much of the family history of several generations of the Warwicks, Tolivers and DuMonts. And if you haven't read Roses yet, that's okay. You'll want to when you finish Somerset.

Somerset begins before the Civil War between the States, and it carries us all the way through to the 1900's where inventions and progress have come to the founding families of Howbukter, Texas. Although a fictional story, the author does a very good job at imparting historical tidbits about the life and times of our American pioneers as they leave South Carolina and head straight for Texas where war is brewing between early settlers, Mexico and Indians. The Tolivers focus on cotton, Warwicks on lumber, and the DuMonts have a very special department store.  These families are made of something special, and each with a special characteristic to make them unique to the story. Slaves and their treatment are a bit part of the novel, and
I can appreciate the special attention to the abolitionist cause as well as the view from a Southerner's point of view.  Readers of Roses will remember the curse the Tolivers had to deal with, and the origin comes to play in Somerset, which means no one is safe from death's cruel hand. Have your tissues handy for there is love found and lost, grief and happiness all flowing from page to page of Somerset.

Roses was compared to Gone With the Wind due to it's same style of drama and similar era, and that is same with Somerset. Nothing can compare to that classic blockbuster, but Meacham gives us good storytelling told with heart, and the main characters of Silas and Jessica Toliver really stand out. Their friends and their family all form the patchwork that is the story of Somerset, and I'm itching to re-read Roses now. A really good sink your teeth into type of novel, Somerset is a fantastic chunkster that really makes it worthwhile if you are in the mood for a soap-opera style generational novel.

I will say that those readers looking for the "wars of the roses" link will be disappointed that it is just a small thread. Don't expect a miraculous connection to British royalty in the novel as it is simply a symbolic gesture to remembering heritage. Those readers who are interested in what it may have been like living in America during its earlier years will feel more in tune with America's early progress after reading Meacham's expansive novel.

Jul 3, 2014

Stormbird: Wars of the Roses book one by Conn Iggulden

Fantastic storytelling

Stormbird: Wars of the Roses book one by Conn Iggulden
US edition July 8, 2014 from Putnam Adult
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:GREAT STUFF!


The first book in #1 New York Times bestselling author Conn Iggulden’s brilliant new historical series about two families who plunged England into a devastating, decades-long civil war.

In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named "The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it not only opportunity in the monarch, but also their patriotic duty in ousting an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?


This was a fantastic novel on one of my favorite historical eras. I was really expecting something less exciting, -more profane perhaps- as I am prejudiced against male authors after coming across a few novels in my earlier years that turned me away from male authors. So I have to really be intrigued by the subject matter in order to want to read a male author and yet again I have proven myself wrong in my prejudice (this time!).

The fact that I zipped through this novel doesn't make it any less worthy, it just made it a page turner. Instead of focusing on just one particular facet during the reign of the feeble Henry VI, the novel takes on a panoramic and expansive view as it jumps effortlessly from one character to the other. We get the bad guys, and the good guys, the political heavy-weights, the nobles, some peasants, and some of the Royal family. It really gets going quickly as the pacing of the story made it hard to put down. After reading quite a few Wars of the Roses novels I was thoroughly impressed with how I felt I learned something new, and in an enjoyable way. As usual, my only complaint is that I'll have to wait forever to read the next book in the series, (hoping I can snag it from a UK seller this fall) and I despise reading works so far apart from each other.

The author's note at the end explains some of the fictionalized events of the novel and yet I didn't feel as I was reading it that things were out of place. I enjoyed some of the characters that were entirely fictitious as well as the way the author portrayed the well-known figures of the era. Richard of York was so easy to despise with his arrogant ways! And Margaret of Anjou was so easy to like with her quick intelligence! Poor Henry VI, you can't really change his character too much, as yet again he was a bit of a zombie during the novel. (Oh, no please don't do a zombie mashup novel!)

There was a lot of suspense as the rebellions grew and with the fate of Master Brewer, the fictional character, which put a nice spin on to the tale. I am pleased to report that there were not any male chauvinistic tendencies nor were there very much crude language if at all. Stormbird is an excellent slice of the big pie of the Wars of the Roses epic saga, and I cannot wait to dig into more from the author.


Jul 1, 2014

Petals On The Wind by V.C. Andrews (and the next two in the series)

Pocket Books May 2014 reissue
Petals On the Wind was sent to me free for a review, thank you. While I hesitate to call this a review as it stands, I wanted to give you that disclosure. If you are sensing deja-vu, I did a quick spotlight post here.

On the heels of the successful Lifetime TV version of Flowers in the Attic comes the TV movie tie-in edition of Petals On the Wind, the second book in the captivating Dollanganger saga.
Forbidden love comes into full bloom. For three years they were kept hidden in the eaves of Foxworth Hall, their existence all but denied by a mother who schemed to inherit a fortune. For three years their fate was in the hands of their righteous, merciless grandmother. They had to stay strong…but in their hopeless world, Cathy and her brother Christopher discovered blossoming desires that tumbled into a powerful obsession. Now, with their frail sister, Carrie, they have broken free and scraped enough together for three bus tickets and a chance at a new life. The horrors of the attic are behind them…but they will carry its legacy of dark secrets forever.


Yeah I know you are like "I caught you!" since here I am reading V.C. Andrews - again - twenty something years later. Am I twisted, or what?

Yes, I DID read this new edition of Petals On The Wind, the second installment of the super freaky and creepy Dollanganger series. And YES I did love the guilty pleasure SO MUCH that I sprinted for the first time in about five years to get through the library doors a minute before they closed so that I could borrow the next two books in the series.

Lifetime Movie Network had shown a Flowers In The Attic made for TV movie, and that was a hit so they also aired Petals On The Wind in late May. I watched them both on live TV, no DVR'ing for this girl. This is great stuff. My husband attempted to watch Petals with me and he was like "He's her brother!!!" and thus I was ashamed ;) and he promptly left the room.

Yes, it's crazy material that no one can really describe.. but for some reason I still loved the whole sick thing decades later. Spine tingling tension, characters that creep you out but you're totally sorry for their predicament. One thing I was concerned with was after watching the TV movie, would that make the book crappy or redundant for me a few weeks later? Nope. The movie was a tad different, and the book, you guessed it: WAS BETTER!

Cathy Cathy Cathy Cathy... Damn her vindictive little mind. Carrie Carrie Carrie.. take some vitamins! Chris Chris Chris.. Keep your raging hormones to yourself! UGH! And then Cathy meets Dr. Paul Sheffield and things should be peachy keen, but nope Dr. Paul adds a whole new layer of something creepy/ominous. And then boom! Cathy decides to be a sex kitten/ballerina. I would never be able to explain the plot without giving away spoilers and sounding like a bit of a nut job myself so suffice it to say the Dollangangers make excellent summer reading. Even the second time around. Even if I wanted to knock some sense into Cathy.

So there I went and careened into the library to pick up this hot chunk of a book:
"Out of the ashes of evil Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for their splendid children..."
This snazzy edition published in 2010 has both book three and book four. Book three being If There Be Thorns (first published 1981) and book four being Seeds of Yesterday.

I would have preferred reading the original editions with the cool cut-out covers, but this is all my library had, and it was water damaged at that. I can imagine many a teen-aged girl poring over these 816 pages for quite some time, so this book has gotten a thorough workout. I will say that there were several typos in this edition, which is totally uncool. Had they really fired all the editors at Simon Schuster?

In book three, we are introduced to the next generation as we watch the sins of the parents affect the young ones. As secrets start to come out, the family is facing many a psychological and crucially disgusting fact about Cathy and Chris. This is how the kids deal with revelations and scandal while they create a bit of their own. I read this book in about five days, and it did actually drag a bit in the Seeds of Yesterday. But then it picked up the pace and I couldn't put it down.

So as you can see, life is a like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. One day I'll be reading the bible, and then crazy stuff like V.C. Andrews. Or of course, my standard historical piece.
If you need a bit of a pick-yourself-up-away-from-the-hell-that-is-your-life, well, check out this series. It all began with Flowers In The Attic....

Dollanganger #5 is Garden of Shadows. I will keep my eyes open for that one as it is really a prequel. I hate prequels. But I'll still keep me eyes open for it just in case I need that pick-me-up. Not everything requires a tense literary thought provoking masterpiece, sometimes you just gotta let your hair down and read some entertaining stuff. So this is like the second or third time I've read Young Adult in five years, and I can't say it's that bad.


Jun 16, 2014

Giveaway! The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick finally releases in USA!


Last summer I scoured the internet in search of the newest Elizabeth Chadwick historical novel, as she is by far my absolute favorite author in the genre.

If you weren't as lucky as I was to find the UK title, here are some links to get your shopping done easier:
Follow Elizabeth Chadwick's site: http://elizabethchadwick.com/ and Twitter: @Chadwickauthor - https://twitter.com/Chadwickauthor




I know I am not alone with the sentiment that Chadwick is a fantastic writer, so I jumped at the chance offered by the USA publisher Sourcebooks to give away their upcoming July release of The Summer Queen! See the end of the post for the details on the giveaway, but for now I would like to whet your whistle with a re-post of the review I posted last summer.

Book summary
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a 12th century icon who has fascinated readers for 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive.

This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Barely out of childhood, this gives an entirely new slant to how Eleanor is treated bv those around her. She was often the victim and her first marriage was horribly abusive.

Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor's legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition . . . 


Once upon a time there lived an amazing woman who was destined to be ruler of Aquitaine. Her heart and soul was with Aquitaine and the heritage that she was born with. In a time where women were considered frail or used as chattel, Eleanor of Aquitaine rises up and becomes Queen of France, then dumps her husband and that title only to soon become Queen of England.

After many reads based on Eleanor's life, one would think I've had enough. But then here comes Elizabeth Chadwick writing a novel that she has wanted to write for a very long time. Her previous historicals on William Marshal were based during Eleanor's time, and Eleanor would beckon to the author to write Eleanor's story.

And that she did. With typical Chadwick flair, we have a start to what will prove to be an amazing trilogy on Eleanor, except our main protagonist is now called Alienor. My first inclination was to shy from this twist on the anglicized name of Eleanor, but Chadwick's skillful writing set me at ease with this proper spelling of Eleanor right away. Among other things, I loved how she portrayed Louis; my feelings about him changed as his character changed.. and she made him more interesting than he probably was! What a sack of uselessness he seemed to be.

Alienor's story is familiar to most of us medieval fiction lovers, but as always Chadwick tells it beautifully and with deft writing skill. She does not inundate us with endless facts and names, she simply draws us into Alienor's world from the time she was a child to the time she finally meets Henry, her second husband. It is a poignant tale as we ache for Alienor during her loveless marriage to the weak and overly pious King of France even though we know eventually she will break free. But Chadwick gives us the full story, the full measure of Alienor so that we live and breathe in Alienor's world unlike any other novel on the woman.

We root for Alienor as she faces obstacle after obstacle (and goes on a crusade!) and we still manage to learn a bit more of the story behind the well-known history of the era. Her sister Petronella shows us a new side of a scandalous story, and Alienor herself proves she is not all ice as one would believe. The supporting characters all add to the nuances of the drama, and there were some characters who get to stay around longer than others as the author saw fit. Fans of both Chadwick and the love and hate story between Eleanor and Henry will love this telling, but will be sad when the novel is over because there is still so much left to be told. I am impatiently waiting for the author to write the next installment, The Winter Crown, which we hope will be available by the fall of 2014.

As I stated in my final reading status update on Goodreads, "Chadwick writes so well I am annoyed I've finished the book." There is no need for me to repeat how awesome and vivid of a story that Elizabeth Chadwick writes, she is the ultimate contemporary expert of medieval historical fiction in my humble opinion. Yet I will never get tired of complimenting Elizabeth Chadwick's writing as long as she promises to write more, more, more, more, and more!!! Come on, 2014!

A problem that I'll have to debate during my wait for her next novel is trying to decide which is my favorite Chadwick novel of the eight that I've read. I've read three Chadwick's this year but 2011's Lady of the English still sticks in my mind. Perhaps I'll have to have a Chadwick Re-Read Marathon to see which is the cream that rises to the top. Of those that I've read, Shadows and Strongholds, Lady of the English, and now The Summer Queen will be battling for that position. Which novel was your favorite Chadwick thus far?



GIVEAWAY DEETS!
Open to USA and Canada addresses only and ends 6/21/2014. 
Whatever Email address you use to log in to rafflecopter is the address that will be used to notify the winner;  I will expect a reply to my email within 24 hours or another winner will be chosen.

Bonus for my current email subscribers! Watch for the extra special exclusive entry feature!
Good luck!

Jun 14, 2014

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

A simply wonderful story to enjoy


Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok
Riverhead Publishing June 2014
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

Read my review of Girl In Translation, also by Jean Kwok

From the bestselling author of Girl in Translation, a novel about a young woman torn between her family duties in Chinatown and her escape into the world of ballroom dancing.

Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Wong grew up in New York’s Chinatown, the older daughter of a Beijing ballerina and a noodle maker. Though an ABC (America-born Chinese), Charlie’s entire world has been limited to this small area. Now grown, she lives in the same tiny apartment with her widower father and her eleven-year-old sister, and works—miserably—as a dishwasher.

But when she lands a job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio, Charlie gains access to a world she hardly knew existed, and everything she once took to be certain turns upside down. Gradually, at the dance studio, awkward Charlie’s natural talents begin to emerge. With them, her perspective, expectations, and sense of self are transformed—something she must take great pains to hide from her father and his suspicion of all things Western. As Charlie blossoms, though, her sister becomes chronically ill. As Pa insists on treating his ailing child exclusively with Eastern practices to no avail, Charlie is forced to try to reconcile her two selves and her two worlds—Eastern and Western, old world and new—to rescue her little sister without sacrificing her newfound confidence and identity.
There is something in Jean Kwok's writing that sinks under your skin and takes shape as it blooms into something unexplainably beautiful. Even though that's not a great sentence, it evokes the nuance of what I want to say, though the author of Mambo In Chinatown does not have any problems with getting her words out. The author has a unique voice with her story telling as she pulls from her own experiences and transports us to a place of completeness and unity with her characters. Her main character of Charlie is a clumsy dishwasher with callouses, yet she becomes an irresistible young woman when allowed to break out of her family's close inner shell.

Charlie's family life is a huge dynamic in the story, as we learn through Charlie's daily tasks the way it is for a family of Chinese immigrants and their offspring assimilating into the scheme of their new world. While Chinese customs may feel strange when I would think about them offhandedly, they are neatly told with a solid purpose and reason throughout the novel and are very intriguing. This is how we become immersed with Charlie and her growing struggles while accepting her intolerant father and her naive sister. As Charlie learns how to become independent, she needs to find a way to do it without alienating all those that she loves, adding to the fact she doesn't have a selfish bone in her body making her a very likable character.

And while the story is definitely character focused, the events of Charlie's life seem a bit like a Cinderella story with a very modern (and Chinese) slant. Following in her mother's footsteps, she learns things about herself she never thought possible, and she even falls in love. As the nobody-dishwasher turns into someone that turns heads, the fabulous writing pulls us into this coming-of-age story and doesn't let go. Once you do get going and begin to feel like Charlie is your new best friend, you won't want to put this book down.

Much like her debut novel, Girl In Translation, Jean Kwok gives us a unique look at a topic I never thought I would be interested in regarding the Chinese culture, and this novel features an added facet of the elite world of ballroom dancing. Once again the author has added her book to my favorites list. I sincerely hope I do not have to wait another four years for another Jean Kwok novel!

Jun 10, 2014

Silenced by Dani Pettrey


Suspense and romance makes this a page turner!

Bethany House, May 6 2014
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:


Jake Knew Something Was Wrong.But He Never Guessed How Wrong. 
A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna's route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake's past now revealed, he's ready to use his talent for investigation again--but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him.
Kayden's climbing expertise soon leads her and Jake to the realization that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is onto them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine. 

Reading several of Dani Pettrey's previous novels in the series, I could not wait to see how Kayden's  story turns out! She was always the strong-willed character, the tough to crack girl who was stubborn and slightly untouchable. This time around Kayden and Jake (who she just started to trust in the last novel) are working together to fend off a killer. It took a little while for me to get back into the groove of the family dynamics, so if you haven't read the previous books it may not come together as clear as it should. The family of siblings is a major theme in the stories that is not as explanatory in this novel since it is book four, so it is perfect for those familiar with the series

This novel is full-force suspense and action that features mostly Kayden and Jake's relationship with the rest of the siblings as bit parts to fill in the scenes and help hunt for the killer. The mystery part slowly comes together but seems like it flows well from the last one even though I hadn't had the time to read that one. I missed an entire book on Jake's past and I would definitely rather have read that first however.

As Pettrey's fans know, she packs a lot of thrill into her Christian themed romances, and this was no different. It was page turning suspense for me and I enjoyed revisiting the McKenna family. I also love that this is a series of books that I can save for my young adult daughter, as the christian theme is never over done and won't bore her as it is packed with a thrilling storyline and the romance is always G-rated.

Next one will probably feature Reef, the original bad boy turned good, and I want to read that also!

Jun 8, 2014

Sincerely Yours: A Novella Collection by Ann Shorey, Laurie Alice Eakes, Amanda Cabot, Jane Kirkpatrick

Four unique stories each with four unique women..



Sincerely Yours:  A Novella Collection 
by Ann Shorey, Laurie Alice Eakes, Amanda Cabot & Jane Kirkpatrick
Revell, April 2014
eGalley provided in exchange for this review

Book synopsis:

Four unexpected letters. Four intrepid women. Four lives changed forever.
Spanning a century and a continent, these romantic novellas will lead you on a journey through the landscape of love. Four young women find their lives altered after each receives a letter that sets her on a new path. From a Hudson River steamboat to a lush drawing room, from a carousel carver's workshop to a remote hospital, you'll be swept into the lives of women who are making their way in the world and finding love where they least expect it.

Moonlight Promise by Laurie Alice Eakes
Camilla Renfrew is a highborn English lady fleeing false accusations when she runs smack into love on a steamboat bound for the new Erie Canal. But can this unexpected attraction survive the treacherous journey?

Lessons in Love by Ann Shorey
Marigold Montgomery Bentley writes marriage advice for Kipler's Home Weekly even though she is single. Everyone assumes from the initials that "M. M." is a man. When the editor asks to meet Mr. Bentley, can Merrie come up with a ruse to keep her writing job?

One Little Word by Amanda Cabot
Lorraine Caldwell will lose her family fortune to a reckless cousin if she doesn't marry quickly. When she learns her long-lost brother is alive, she hopes she's found the answer to her problems. What she finds instead is a mysterious carousel carver who turns her life upside down.

A Saving Grace by Jane KirkpatrickGrace Hathaway must rescue a dear friend from a remote and notorious clinic that promises healing but delivers only heartache. In a place laced with deceit, where lives hang in the balance, whom can she trust to help her?

With this talented group of Christian fiction writers behind this book it is four times as nice! Although the stories are not related to each other, they are all memorable and heartwarming and complement each other nicely. Each story was enjoyable but if asked to pick a favorite it would be tough! There was a different style to each one, but the most daring storyline came with the last novella in A Saving Grace by Jane Kirkpatrick which features a twisted doctor helping mentally unstable patients and Grace must find a way to rescue her friend from the hands of evil. 
One Little Word by Amanda Cabot packs a bit more punch than the small description allows, and will touch your heart with its whimsical carousel carver and his intriguing character. Lessons In Love by Ann Shorey is written with a feminist bent that features a strong willed young lady determined to become a writer, and finds love along the way. 
The novella collection starts with Moonlight Promise by Laurie Alice Eakes which takes a little bit to get off the ground as the past of Miss Renfrew slowly unfurls, but the ending is satisfying. In all this was a great venture for the authors, and I would definitely read more novella collections from these writers. They each impart a bit of inspirational themes with the historical content that seamlessly blends into a wonderful novella collection.

May 28, 2014

Scandal At Almack's by Gloria Gay


Scandal At Almack's (A Regency Romance Novella) by Gloria Gay
Boroughs Publishing Group, April 25, 2014
36,000 words ebk. 978-1-941260-15-9 
Regency/Historical Romance
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for Library Journal Xpress review

Her uncle's timely offer of a London social season leads Jenny Longtree out of a forced marriage but into a scandalous dance--one that will not only save her family from destitution but deliver all of her heart's desires.THE WALTZGenevieve Longtree finally understood why, for years after it was introduced, this particular dance was considered immoral in England and forbidden in most ballrooms: It was dangerous. The moment Lord Corville placed his left hand on the small of her back she felt something ignite in her body. They two might just as well have been dancing naked, for that was how Jenny felt in his arms. What happened next was even more scandalous. It would call into question the wisdom of her mother for allowing her a London season despite her penurious circumstances, the last-minute choice of Almack’s Patronesses, the loyalty of her few friends, and the belief of Jenny herself that Lord Corville was the answer to all her dreams and prayers.- See more at: http://boroughspublishinggroup.com/books/scandal-almacks#sthash.W4pMJMsz.dpuf

Settle in for a charming rags to riches novella generously infused with true tones of the Regency era. Jenny Longtree travels to London for an unexpected treat to a season of balls sponsored by her uncle (in spite of the miserly aunt's misgivings). Upon meeting the dashing Lord Corville at the exclusive Almack's establishment, Jenny's otherwise dim future immediately brightens - if only she can wiggle her way out of another's grasp.

As a novella, the story is forced to cut corners such as possible romance scenes, but this helps the charm of the novella as well. The intriguing characters combined with a witty writing style make up for a somewhat predictable plot, while the historical setting portrayed itself very well. I would have enjoyed these characters in a full length novel with some added romantic nuances, but overall Scandal At Almack's is a novella that could easily be recommended to Regency lovers.