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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

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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.