Thursday, September 14, 2017

What I've Been Up To

 Hey!  It's been a ridiculous summer and I haven't been around much.  Since I've been kind of MIA lately, I thought I should update y'all on where I've been.

We celebrated Julia's birthday at the end of June.  She was so excited to turn 4! We celebrated with family and then had a small party with her friends.  This year I made her a Moana cake and am pretty happy with how it turned out.






Right after Julia's birthday party, we had to drive down to Arkansas to see my family.  My step-dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December and had been going through chemo and had multiple surgeries and procedures.  They told us on June 29 that the cancer was everywhere and that he did have much longer to live.  He passed on July 5 but I'm so glad that we got to see him, talk to him and say good-bye.  It was so fast and difficult to process for a bit. We had a lovely memorial to him a week later and while I miss him a lot, I'm really glad he's not in pain anymore.





In the midst of all that, my husband and I bought a house!  We closed on July 10 and moved a few weeks later.  The move was crazy and we moved the majority of our stuff on the hottest day of the summer which was quite the adventure.  It's not super fun to move when it's 106 degrees!  But we got it done and starting to feel somewhat settled.  We still have stuff to go through in our garage and a lot of yard work to do before winter but we're getting there.  I love the house and Julia is so excited to have a big girl bed in her room.  Even though it was a challenging move, it was so worth and I'm very happy here.

August is one of the busiest times at my job.  I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the whole month.  All that to say, reading and especially blogging has gone to the wayside.  I did read 18 books this summer but that didn't make a huge dent in my goal.  Goodreads keeps reminding me how behind I am on my reading goal, I think it's around 12 books now.  I'm hoping to still hit 100 but we'll see.  I want to get all caught up on my review books and then read holiday romance books for the rest of the year.  That sounds like heaven!


All the whining in this post is to say that things are finally getting back on track and I should be back here more often.  I have a lot of reviews to write so there should be some posts coming soon.  I'm slowly getting back in the swing of blogging and excited to be back!

I hope you all are having a great week!






Monday, September 11, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Woman Enters Left" by Jessica Brockmole



Synopsis: A woman sets out on a cross-country road trip, unknowingly tracing in reverse the path her mother traveled thirty years before.

In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

My Thoughts:   I absolutely loved the setting of this book!  I loved reading about 1950s Hollywood and all the stops that Louise made on Route 66.  The author did an amazing job of painting an amazing picture of life during that time: the clothes, the home decorations, the different places and people that Louise encountered.  The 'visuals' she created were my favorite part of the story.

I also really enjoyed the diary parts of the story.  I liked how Ethel tracked what she and Florrie ate and the cost of each ingredient; it was really interesting to see what was 'expensive' in 1926.  I also liked that the diary let you see the events unfolding through both Ethel and Florrie's eyes; it was interesting to see how each one interpreted the same events.  My only complaint about the diary is that at times it took a little bit to figure out whose voice we were hearing.  It was always clear as it jumped back and forth between Ethel and Florrie.

Louise was my favorite character, she just seemed so ahead of her time.  She wasn't portrayed as the typical 1950s woman, she had a complicated life and didn't fit in to the nice little wife stereotype.  I also found her very sympathetic as she dealt with her marriage, the loss of her mother and her dreams of being taken serious as an actress. 

The story did have a lot going on and at times, it seemed very busy. There were a lot of big issues touched on throughout the story and it seemed a little unrealistic that these few people would be dealing with all of that at the same time. 

Overall, I did enjoy the story and I thought the ending was really sweet.  3 stars


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

About the Author:

 
Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

For more information, please visit Jessica Brockmole’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY:

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed copies of Woman Enters Left! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 6th. 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.





Sunday, September 10, 2017

Mailbox Monday (77)

 Hey y'all!  This is my first Mailbox Monday in a while!

It's been quite the summer so I haven't been around much but I thought I would share the books I got last week.  It's been a really relaxing weekend and I'm starting to feel like I might be able to get caught up on my reading.  I have more books than I know what do with right now!

For Review:


 A Crime in the Family by Sacha Batthyany
 I have been wanting to read this for a while so I was very excited to see it on NetGalley.

Empress of the East by Leslie Peirce 
This one was a surprise but I'm looking forward to reading it.  The premise sounds fascinating.

I hope you all have a great week!




Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: "Sarah's Secret" by Beverly Scott






Sarah's Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness by Beverly Scott



Publication Date: January 31, 2017


eBook & Paperback; 306 Pages


Word Project Press




Genre: Fiction/Historical/Western







Follow the paths of Sarah and Will (or Sam) as they tell their stories of trust, secrets, and betrayal on the frontier in the old West. Their pioneer spirit helped to fuel the expansion into the Western territories of the United States. The two are historically on their separate journeys, yet they remain intimately connected. Through the fictionalized Western frontier tale of Sam and Sarah, the author, Beverly Scott, was inspired to reveal rumored secrets from her family history.

In 1878, Will is on the run after killing a man in a barroom gunfight. He escapes the Texas Rangers by joining a cattle drive as a cook headed to Dodge City. He struggles with the dilemma of saving his life or attempting to return to his pregnant wife and five children. Just when he thinks he might be able to return home, he is confronted by a bounty hunter who captures him and plans to return him to Fort Worth, Texas to be hanged.

Although Will changes his name to Sam, he remains an irresponsible, lonely and untrustworthy man on the dodge from the law who abandons the women he loves. He ultimately seeks redemption and marries Sarah.

In 1911, Sarah, a pioneer woman and widow with five children struggles to find the inner strength to overcome betrayal, loneliness, fears, and self-doubt. Her husband, Sam, thirty years her senior, died with a mysterious and defiant declaration, “I won’t answer!”. Despite poverty and a crippling illness, she draws on her pioneer spirit to hold her family together and return to Nebraska to be near her parents and siblings.

When Sarah returns to Nebraska she receives staggering news which complicates her efforts to support her children. She is shocked, angry and emotionally devastated. Since she is attempting to establish herself in the community as a teacher, she believes she must keep her secret even from her own family. Will Sarah find forgiveness in her heart and the resolve to accept her new life alone?


Praise for Sarah's Secret


“In the flash of one moment, the trajectory of a man’s life and of those who loved and depended on him changes forever. The developing plot draws the reader in as we wait to see how this one action reaches into and impacts the lives of future generations. Set against the backdrop of a post-Civil War nation, when thousands headed west to escape their past, disappear into the horizon, and remake themselves, this biography is a rich study of pioneer ethos and the risks faced every day. The women touched by this man, who kept his secrets close, are heroines of courage, steadfastness and goodness. Beverly Scott is an author who has a way of painting word pictures that make you feel like you are a part of the story as it unfolds towards the discovery of his devastating secrets.” -Patricia and Craig Neal, co-founders, Heartland Inc.

“Using the plain spoken language of the women and men who scratched out life on the hard scrabble plains in the early days of this young country Bev Scott crafts a sharp picture of the violence and the love that shaped the middle of this nation. Every river crossing, each spring planting reveals the conflicts inside the characters and their struggle to survive in contested territories.” -Jewell Gomez, Author, The Gilda Stories


Amazon | IndieBound



About the Author


Bev specialized in serving executives and managers as a leadership coach and organizational consultant for over thirty-five years. She taught organization psychology and founded The 3rd Act, a program whose mission supports positive aging. As she grew into her own third act, she started a genealogical journey to uncover the details of her grandparents’ lives. She concluded that the story needed to be told as fiction using the known facts as her framework.

“Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness,” Bev’s debut novel, is the culmination of her long-held desire tell the family story and confirm the whispered story about her grandfather.

Bev previously focused on publishing non-fiction work, including the second edition of “Consulting on the Inside,” which she co-authored with Kim Barnes, published in 2011. She has written numerous professional articles and contributed to “70 Things to Do When You Turn 70,” edited by Ronnie Sellers and Mark Chimsky. Bev blogs on several sites, including her own, “The Writing Life” on www.bevscott.com.

Bev enjoys traveling, visiting with friends, reading and spending time with her grandsons. She lives with her spouse in San Francisco.

You can connect with Bev on Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, and Goodreads.


Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, August 14
Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, August 15
Guest Post at History From a Woman's Perspective
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, August 16
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, August 17
Review at WS Momma Readers Nook

Friday, August 18
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Interview at Dianne Ascroft's Blog

Monday, August 21
Feature at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, August 22
Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, August 24
Review & Interview at T's Stuff
Review & Interview at Books and Benches

Monday, August 28
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, August 29
Review at Book Nerd
Feature at Mello & June, It's a Book Thang!

Wednesday, August 30
Review at Linda's Book Obsession

Friday, September 1
Review at Creating Herstory

Monday, September 4
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views


Giveaway


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Sarah's Secret! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents 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.

Sarah's Secret by Beverly Scott




Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Casanova's Secret Wife"

Synopsis: Set in eighteenth-century Venice and based on an actual account by Giacomo Casanova—here is a lush tale of desire and risk.

Caterina Capreta was an innocent girl of fourteen when she caught the attention of the world’s most infamous chronicler of seduction: Giacomo Casanova. Intoxicated by a fierce love, she wed Casanova in secret. But his shocking betrayal inspired her to commit an act that would mark her forever …

Now twenty years later on the island of Murano, the woman in possession of Caterina’s most devastating secret has appeared with a request she cannot refuse: to take in a noble-born girl whose scandalous love affair resembles her own. But the girl’s presence stirs up unwelcome memories of Caterina’s turbulent past. Tested like never before, she reveals the story of the man she will never forget.

Bringing to life a fascinating chapter in the history of Venice, Casanova’s Secret Wife is a tour de force that charts one woman’s journey through love and loss to redemption.

My Thoughts: I haven't read too many books set in Italy but after reading Casanova's Secret Wife, I may have to change that.  I loved the descriptions of Venice; the city, the homes, clothes, everything.  Ms. Lynn-Davis' writing was marvelous and she painted a lovely picture of life in Venice during that time period.

While the love affair between Casanova and Caterina was interesting to read about, I was more enamored by the relationship that Caterina built with Leda.  I really enjoyed watching Caterina and Leda pull each other out of their shells and becoming almost like family.  In the beginning of the story, I was worried that Leda was going to cause trouble but she almost became like a daughter to Caterina.  There was just something about their relationship that really struck me.

Marina was a really good, and unexpected, villain.  Villain might be too strong of a word but man, I didn't like her.  She was so manipulative and self-centered despite the fact that she tried to spin her actions as being out of love.  She was very well-written and even though I didn't like her, she was a really strong character.

Casanova's Secret Wife was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I'm so glad I picked this one up! 3 1/2 stars.

About the Author:


Barbara Lynn-Davis graduated from Brown University with a degree in art history. She then worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and later spent a year there while completing her Ph.D. in Renaissance art at Princeton University.

She currently teaches art history and writing at Wellesley College, and lives outside Boston with her family.

For more information please visit Barbara Lynn-Davis’ website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads.

 GIVEAWAY:
  
Enter to win a paperback copy of Casanova's Secret Wife here !  

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada 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. 


Friday, July 21, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Lilli de Jong" by Janet Benton

Synopsis: A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

My Thoughts:  I've been in a terrible reading rut lately so I was looking forward to picking this book up. I've read a lot of good things about it over the past couple of months and I must say, this book definitely lives up to the hype.  The writing is quite lovely and the story is so very good.

I've never read a story quite like this one.  It is told from the point of view of Lilli who keeps a diary recording her life in a Quaker group and her time in a home for unwed mothers.  She has such a passion for writing and it adds a lot to the story to hear it told in the main character's own words. 

Lilli's story really showcased the struggles unwed mothers faced at the end of the 19th century.    Everything about Lilli's life was precarious, she had to balance finding ways to make sure her daughter was safe while also trying to keep up with her job responsibilities.  I loved her strength and devotion to her daughter.  And really, it seemed like Lilli was one of the lucky ones; other women she knew ended up in some bad situations and their babies didn't stand a chance.  It also told of the limits placed on women and the expectations people had of them based on their situation.  At every turn, the reader was shown how limited a woman's options were. 

Lilli de Jong is an excellent book and I would really recommend it to anyone.  It's definitely a page turner, I couldn't believe how fast I zoomed through it!  4 stars.

About the Author:
 
 Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. 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.

Enter the giveaway here!
 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Blast: "The Fortune Teller" by Gwendolyn Womack






The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack



Paperback Publication Date: June 6, 2017


Picador


Paperback; 368 Pages


ISBN: 9781250099778




Genre: Fiction/Historical/Mystery






FROM THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF THE MEMORY PAINTER COMES A SWEEPING AND SUSPENSEFUL TALE OF ROMANCE, FATE, AND FORTUNE.

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.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Powell's






Praise for The Fortune Teller


"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


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, Pinterest and Goodreads.


Book Blast Schedule


Tuesday, June 6
100 Pages a Day
Literary Chanteuse

Wednesday, June 7
Just One More Chapter
A Dream within a Dream

Thursday, June 8
The Lit Bitch
Trisha Jenn Reads

Friday, June 9
T's Stuff
The Never-Ending Book

Monday, June 12
Persuing Stacie
Books of All Kinds

Tuesday, June 13
Books & Benches
Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, June 14
Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 15
The Paperback Princess

Friday, June 16
A Literary Vacation
Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Monday, June 19
Laura's Interests
History From a Woman's Perspective

Tuesday, June 20
Yelena Casale's Blog

Wednesday, June 21
Creating Herstory
WS Momma Readers Nook

Thursday, June 22
Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Friday, June 23
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
The Book Junkie Reads
So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, June 30
Passages to the Past


Giveaway


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

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.

The Fortune Teller Book Blast


 
Imagination Designs