Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty

The Bone Church
by Victoria Dougherty
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
2014 Pier's Court Press
Ebook Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0615980522
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Virtual Book Tour

3.5 / 5 Stars

In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels. But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions. 

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

My Thoughts
The Bone Church is one of those novels where I really struggled over how to write this review.  It's one of those novels that I really wanted to love, but the fact is, I didn't.  It's not that I didn't like, as there were many elements in it that I thoroughly enjoyed, but overall, when I liked at how it pieced itself together, I just couldn't admit to myself that I was satisfied with it.

There were a lot of great elements to The Bone Church though.  This is an area I know very well as I teach it in secondary school so I was quite happy to immerse myself in the historical details and the atmosphere of the times and just let the novel take me where it was going to take me.  The novel was well-written and it definitely gave the reader a good sense of the oppression the Czechoslovakian people faced both during and after World War II, by differing countries.  I liked the innuendos made by the author to the Resistance groups that existed and to the illegal trade markets that were happening as well as to the sneaky way she had of mentioning these things.  I'm not sure if someone who was unfamiliar with this time period though, would have picked up on these double entendres and innuendos as someone who is very familiar them.  The author did have a tendency to assume that the reader was well-versed with certain aspects of the time period as well as with a lot of Catholic traditions, both of which I am, but I'm not sure someone without that knowledge would have understood some of it.  On the other hand, coming right out and talking about it would have taken away from the atmosphere of the times; the fear of betrayal, the oppression, the fear of one's neighbour, and so on.  Just the downright fear that existed during this time period.  

The story did move rather quickly, and there was a lot of action, both of which had their good points and their not so good points.  I did find the beginning rather confusing and I had to re-read the first two chapters in order to get a sense of the style of writing before continuing on with the novel.  After that it was fine, and the two differing story lines, at differing times, didn't bother me too much. It was pretty clear when and where things were happening.  What I did find confusing was the why.  So much was going on, and although I grasped the main reason for all of this, I kept thinking there was going to be some major twist somewhere as to the real reason all of this action was happening and it never did.  And I felt somewhat let down.  And while I felt emotionally invested in the characters during the World War II part of the novel, I didn't feel the same way about them later so their later problems didn't affect me the same way and I was kind of indifferent to the resolution of the novel, which I thought was a let down anyways.  And I have to admit that the supernatural element was never really explained and just didn't belong in this novel, or if it was because of what I think it should have been (spoiler if I talk about it), there definitely should have been more build up of that aspect of the Catholic church and the role it plays in the Czechoslovakian people's life.  I'll leave it at that.  

The Bone Church was a decent novel about the Czechoslovakian people during World War II and the after-effects when the Russians moved in to take control.  I thought the descriptions of the time period and the atmosphere were very well-researched and were great, showing an oppressed and desperate people hiding a lively, fighting spirit.  I did feel that some of the innuendos behind some of the things were too much for people not familiar with the time period, especially those to do with the Infant Jesus of Prague (Church of Our Lady of Victory), where thousands come every year for hope and healing.  I did feel somewhat cheated as I felt liked the novel came up short in some areas; for example, I would have liked to have learned more about the lives of Felix and Magdalena after they were separated and how they came to be where they were and doing what they were doing.  Only little hints and vague remarks were given.  I did feel like there were major gaps and I really wanted to know what was going on.  However, that being said, I would definitely read another novel by this author as I enjoyed the characters, and her descriptions were very well done.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane (Life in Icicle Falls #5)
by Sheila Roberts
Release Date: June 24th, 2014
2014 Harlequin Mira
Paperback Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778316183
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from Pump up Your Book

3.5 / 5 Stars

When it comes to men, sisters don't share!

After a fake food poisoning incident in L.A., Bailey Sterling's dreams of becoming a caterer to the stars collapse faster than a soufflé. Now Bailey's face is in all the gossip rags and her business is in ruins. But the Sterling women close ranks and bring her back to Icicle Falls, where she'll stay with her sister Cecily.

All goes well between the sisters until Bailey comes up with a new business idea—a tea shop on a charming street called Lavender Lane. She's going into partnership with Todd Black, who—it turns out—is the man Cecily's started dating. It looks to Cecily as if there's more than tea brewing in that cute little shop. And she's not pleased.

Wait! Isn't Cecily seeing Luke Goodman? He's a widower with an adorable little girl, and yes, Cecily does care about him. But Todd's the one who sends her zing-o-meter off the charts. So now what? Should you have to choose between your sister and the man you love (or think you love)?

My Thoughts
The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane is one of those books that I enjoyed because it was fun and entertaining, but didn't really have a lot of depth to it.  The atmosphere and setting of a small town reminds me of when I lived in a small town when I was in my teens, a place where everybody knows everybody and everybody's business; they also tend to remember everything you did when you were young, including all the memorable ones that you would rather forget.  I've always thought of Sheila Roberts book in the same vein as Heather Graham, ones that I come back to time and again just for the sheer enjoyment of them, but definitely not because I am looking for anything complex or in-depth, and that's okay.  

I rather enjoyed the first half of this novel much more than the second half as I liked Cecily's dilemma and rather slow romance with Todd Black.  The chemistry was quite believable and I liked the interplay between them very much - to the point where I was quite hoping they would end up together in the end.  When Bailey comes back to Icicle Falls, under circumstances that I didn't quite buy into but decided not to question too much - isn't the United States known for their lawsuits? are you kidding me? a woman fakes a poisoning and you just sit back and take it and let it ruin your business? - and decided to enjoy the ride.  To be honest, I didn't enjoy this half of the novel quite as much.  Bailey was rather annoying as a character, a bit whiny and the klutziness kind of drove me batty as it just seemed so fabricated.  And up to this point, where I was really enjoying Cecily's character the most, she turned into this annoying person who began doing the whole-world-is-against-me thing and I found it annoying too.  Sisters argue, yes - I have two of them so I do know a bit about that - and I know that a lot of things that happened during childhood doesn't necessarily mend itself during adulthood, and I did find that part rather interesting.  Aren't throwbacks during an argument fun?  I also liked how Cecily and Bailey had different viewpoints about their life growing up; for example, Bailey loved sharing a room with Cecily and didn't see a problem with it while Cecily felt that her space was constantly being violated by her younger sister but refrained from saying anything, even as an adult.  Fun stuff!!  What I did like in this novel is the author's portrayal of family and the characters' loyalty to each other.  There was a lot of support for other family members, respect, and love, and I really loved how the girls were treated by mom - so funny to know that mom can still rule to roost even when the girls have fled.  

I did have a problem with the love stories though.  I had a difficult time making the transition from Cecily and Todd to Bailey and Todd and then trying to buy into Cecily and Luke.  It just didn't work for me, and I wasn't overly crazy about the ending.  I would have liked to see Bailey with somebody else.  I think things just happened too quickly over such a short time, especially when there was such a nice development between Todd and Cecily.  Or I could be completed biased and just didn't like where the author wanted me to go.  I understood Cecily's behaviour, even though I thought she was acting childish, and thought the other family members could have been a bit more understanding of her situation.  

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane is one of those books that I read because I love the people in Icicle Falls and going there is like visiting old friends.  And while I didn't really like the second half of this novel very much, I did like the characters and thought they were quite developed; it's the love stories I didn't like and didn't overly much enjoy.  The tea shop is one I would visit myself and I am planning on trying the scones this weekend on my friends to see what they think (love those recipes at the back of the book).  Now with all that being said, the next book in this series, The Lodge on Holly Road, comes out in October, and I will definitely be reading that one.  Who can resist Christmas at the Lodge?

About the Author

Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. She's happily married and has three children.  

Writing since 1989, Sheila’s books have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed books. Her best-selling novel ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network, and her novel THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS has just been optioned for film and is slated to be a Hallmark movie later this year. Her novel ANGEL LANE was named one of Amazon’s Top Ten Romances for 2009.
When she's not making public appearances or playing with her friends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women's hearts: family, friends, and chocolate. You can visit Sheila at her website,

Her latest book is the women’s fiction/romance, The Teashop on Lavendar Lane.

For More Information

Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

House of Ivy & Sorrow 
by Natalie Whipple
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
2014 HarperTeen
Softcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 9780062120182

Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

My Thoughts
House of Ivy & Sorrow is one of those books that had a really good premise, and I was a bit excited to delve into because I thought it would be interesting and fun.  And while I enjoyed the ride, and thought it entertaining, I felt it didn't quite live up to its hype or its premise.

I really liked the humour and the relationship between the three friends, Jo, Kat, and, Gwen. The novel did tend towards the silly at times, but once I got over my initial shock that the novel wasn't going to be the deep, gothic type of reading that I was expecting, and was being advertised, I enjoyed the humour between the characters and liked the silliness.  I also thought the premise was interesting and thought the sacrificial part of being a witch was a nice touch as it really made you think about the kinds of things a witch should be doing with her magic.  If every time you brew a potion you have to sacrifice something of yourself, you might think twice about what you are about to do as you can die if you have to give too much of yourself.  

I thought Jo was an interesting enough character, but to be honest, there was nothing really memorable about her, other than the many references to how much prettier she's gotten over the years.  Really?  That's important?  Jo and her friends were nice and friendly, but there was nothing edgy about them, nothing about their personalities that would make them want to take risks or go on serious adventures.  They were just your typical down-to-earth girls and while I liked the relationship between them, I was a bit disappointed by the character development and the lack of 'oomph' that would make them stand out as characters.  A month from now, I would probably go, "Jo?"  "From Little Women?"  Forgotten about, not memorable.  It's too bad really, as there was definitely a lot of potential in this novel for something really exciting to happen, and I kept waiting for it, only to be disappointed.  

I mentioned that I liked the witchy aspect, and I definitely enjoyed some of the more unique aspects to witch lore that were in this novel.  I wish they had been developed a bit more as I felt they were simplified too much and were for much younger readers.  I get that this is a YA novel, but it was too simple, even for a YA novel.  My eleven year-old daughter really enjoyed this book, but my soon to be fourteen year-old didn't so I'm wondering if it might be more appropriate for the twelve and younger age group rather than a teen novel.  I just felt that things moved along very slowly, and then all of sudden, we've got all of this action packed into the last third of the novel, but things are too easily solved and too pat to be quite believable.

House of Ivy & Sorrow had a lot of potential, but didn't quite live up to it from what I could see.  There were interesting characters, but not a lot of development; the plot was too simple and things were concluded in a way that didn't quite seem believable, at least to me; and lastly, I just felt that it was too simple to classified as a YA novel.  There were a couple of scenes that could questionable for a younger reader, but I'm sure a few of you are familiar with Goosebumps and Darren Shan too, both of whom are listed as children's horror writers, and I don't think this novel compares with some of those books.  What bothered me more about the scenes was the lack of seriousness involved, and the joking that took place while it was going on, something I had to discuss with my own child, so this has me concerned more than the actual content.  Would I read another book by this author? Yes, I think so, but I would like to see something darker and more serious from her when it comes to something like this as I think the potential for a lot more depth is evident in the parts that were well-done. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

If You Were Here
by Alafair Burke
Release Date: June 4th 2013
2013 Harper
Hardcover Edition;
ISBN: 9780062208354
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Magazine journalist McKenna Wright is chasing the latest urban folktale-the story of an unidentified woman who heroically pulled a teenaged boy from the subway tracks, seconds before an oncoming train. When McKenna locates a short video snippet that purportedly captures part of the incident, she thinks she has an edge on the competition scrambling to identify the mystery heroine.

She is shocked to discover that the woman in the video bears a strong resemblance to Susan Hauptmann, a close friend who disappeared without a trace a decade earlier. What would have been a short-lived metro story sends McKenna on a dangerous search for the missing woman, a twisting journey through New York City that will force her to unearth long-buried truths much closer to home-to her own husband, who seems to know much more about Susan than McKenna could have ever imagined...

My Thoughts
If You Were Here is one of those novels where I thought the writing was good, but the plot sort of fell flat for me.  I have read many of this author's previous novels and to be perfectly honest, I kind of feel the same thing about all of her books, the best being All Day and A Night (review forthcoming). They tend to be very plot-driven, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when the character development gets left behind, it can leave a novel feeling flat which has little effect on the reader.

The central character in this one is McKenna Jordan, a former District Attorney who left her job for exposing a corrupt police officer and who is now working as a journalist, who discovers a picture of a friend who went missing over ten years ago while perusing a video of young kid saved during a subway incident.  The plot centers around this woman, Susan, and the ongoing investigation of tracking her whereabouts after she disappears off the grid ten years earlier.  To be honest, the more I learned about Susan, the more I was willing to leave her alone as I didn't really empathize a whole lot with her situation and her problems.  This I blame on the writing as constant repetitions and various ambiguities kind of turned me off of Susan and her issues throughout the novel and I found myself in a position where I didn't really care too much if they found her.  I also found the situation between Patrick, McKenna's husband, and Susan to be slightly ridiculous, and found myself shaking my head.  I think the author was trying to make the novel too convoluted and didn't know what to do with some of the threads once they were spun, making some aspects of the novel a bit silly.  

If You Were Here is one of those novels I'm not sure I would recommend to other readers.  I would suggest reading some of her Ellie Hatcher novels first and then maybe tackle this one as you may not be willing to read another novel by Burke again.  I thought the plot was somewhat silly, although the writing was good, and I liked some of the introspections McKenna allowed herself as she came to some deep realizations about herself, her relationship with Patrick, and her relationship with some of the police officers and lawyers she had to work with.  I did feel some aspects of the novel were too drawn out, and I thought the ending went on forever.  Would I read another novel by this author?  I already did, so look for my review of All Day and a Night, coming soon.  It's just not necessarily this one I would recommend.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Murder by Misrule by Anna Castle

Murder by Misrule
by Anna Castle
Release Date: June 8th, 2014
2014 by Anna Castle
Ebook Edition; 350 Pages
ISBN: 978-0991602506
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray's Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon's powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the murdered man's legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

My Thoughts
Murder by Misrule looks to be the first book in a new series featuring Francis Bacon, an influential philosopher, statesman, and author.  I have long been a fan of Bacon, who is known for his empirical method and his planned procedures for investigations.  I was drawn to this book as I was curious to see what an author would do with a character such as Bacon.

To begin with, I found the descriptions of this time period to be quite vivid and interesting.  I was drawn into the story immediately and felt a keen sympathy for Bacon right from the beginning.  The author definitely has a soft spot for this character and you can tell in her writing, something which makes the reader feel sympathy and empathy for him as well.  He can be arrogant though, and he definitely possesses a bit of that spoiled attitude we tend to see in the nobility, that whininess that comes when you are not immediately served or have to wait for something.  I found it intriguing as I liked how Ms. Castle tended to portray the lives of the nobility and I found her descriptions at court quite perceptive.  

The other characters were interesting as well; I took a particular liking to Trumpet and I found out why towards the end.  I am hoping Tom Clarady will grow into his character in the next book as he was rather annoying; there were times when I wished that Ms. Castle had actually written the book without him in it.  And the constant bickering between spoiled Stephen and Tom began to get on my nerves, so enough already.  I'm sure Stephen has his reasons for suddenly behaving the way that he did, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why in this novel, and it definitely wasn't explained.  A rather little annoying side-story that either could have been eliminated or develops so we know what is going on.  I understand the element of the prickly dynamic that exists between two people who are from different social classes, and the conflicts that may erupt between them as they try to figure out their roles within those social classes, but it just seemed like it didn't quite fit into the story very well.  And having Francis watching it all with those knowing eyes kind of convoluted everything.  Don't get me wrong, some of it was fun, but some of it was eye-rolling too.  Bacon wasn't exactly at the top of the accepted list during this time either, having been banned from court for his philosophical views, and investigating crimes wasn't exactly the way back to the Queen's heart, but who was he to refuse a direct order?  Francis' contemplations about his problems, and whether anyone else was paying attention to him, was probably at the heart of the book for me.

Having stumbled across a dead body on Queen's Day came as a complete shock to Bacon, and he was tasked with finding the killer of the lawyer by none other than his uncle Lord Burghley.  He recruits the boys to help him with tasks that he has difficulty performing and the boys' antics add a liveliness to the storyline.  I've already mentioned that I wasn't overly crazy over Tom, and his constant romantic outpourings over a woman he met once, and who was a witness to the murder, were rather annoying.  I'm not even sure that Clara had more sense than Tom, but she did tend to resist him for a while longer, even being dragged into the whole sordid mess herself.  I don't think the mystery was that challenging, and I did figure it out, although I did change my mind once or twice before coming to the conclusion I did.  I did appreciate Bacon's inductive method of investigation though, especially as it's what he's historically known for; it lends a rather nice touch.

Murder by Misrule was an interesting foray into the life of Francis Bacon, one which I enjoyed quite a bit.  I liked the various characters and thought they were quite fun, each adding their own touch to the story.  I did have problems accepting Tom, but I'm hoping his character will develop and mature in upcoming books as he could be rather annoying.  I liked the dynamics at Gray's Inn as well as the interactions between the characters, including the political dynamics, and liked learning more about the court of law during this time period.  The jabs and humour were fun and made the various characters come alive.  I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Death by Disputation, when it is released later this year.   

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: Death on Blackheath by Anne Perry

Death on Blackheath (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt, Book #29)
by Anne Perry
Release Date: March 25th, 2014
2014 Ballantine Books
Hardcover Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0345548382
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

As commander of the powerful Special Branch, Thomas Pitt has the job of keeping Britain safe from spies and traitors. So there’s no obvious reason why he is suddenly ordered to investigate two minor incidents: the blood, hair, and shards of glass discovered outside the home of naval weapons expert Dudley Kynaston, and the simultaneous disappearance of Mrs. Kynaston’s beautiful lady’s maid.

But weeks later, when the mutilated body of an unidentified young woman is found near Kynaston’s home, Pitt realizes that this is no ordinary police investigation. Far from it. Is Kynaston—one of Britain’s most valuable scientists—leading a double life? Is Pitt saddled with a conspiracy so devilishly clever that it will ruin him?

My Thoughts
Death on Blackheath is the latest in the long-running series featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt.  I have been of Anne Perry for a very long time now, and have read every single book that she has written.  The Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series and the William Monk series feature some of my favourite books and I have enjoyed immersing myself in the time periods that she writes with such flair.  And while I definitely enjoyed this latest offering featuring Charlotte and Thomas, and was very interested in the issues that developed throughout the novel, it is not my favourite one of the series as I found the mystery portion to be lacking in development and a bit boring.

As always, Ms. Perry seems to understand the world in which Charlotte and Thomas live and her research comes through very well in the triumphs and frustrations of her characters.  This has always been one of the things that has drawn me to these novels over and over again; Ms. Perry is able to highlight many of the issues of the Victorian Era so well and things haven't always gone well for the various characters over the years.  Lately, she has been focusing on the women and their frustrations to the limitations imposed on them; in this one we see a bored and frustrated Emily trying to be more and do more than just be an ornament on her husband's arm, we learn more about how frustrated even Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould has been over the years through different discussions, and even Charlotte is getting bored as she can't help Thomas with his 'secret' cases any more.  And what happens to a woman whose beauty is beginning to fade in society's eyes and is looking to be a more meaningful contributor?  And what happens to a woman who is searching for her identity?  All of these questions and more were discussed and tossed about and I found them fascinating, especially as no real answers were forthcoming.  What I found particularly interesting was Lady Vespasia's discussion on owning real-estate (even though I already know about it), but it was her take on the matter I found fascinating; it is not too often we see her frustrated at society and its limitations as with her great wealth and influence she has had it better than most women.  The discussions over women and how they can contribute to society, despite the limitations, was definitely a highlight for me.  Even Thomas had a contribution to the discussion as he often found himself reminiscing over his daughter and how she would fit into a society that doesn't really appreciate women the same way as men, and how he could help her grow into a confident woman, with more options available to her.  

So, where did I have difficulty with this novel?  The mystery, of course.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between the characters, and the difficulties each character was experiencing in their personal and professional lives, this is a mystery novel, and this is where it fell flat for me.  To be thoroughly honest, I actually thought the premise was a bit absurd, and how it would involve Pitt, as head of Special Branch, I didn't really buy it.  It just felt like the author was asking too much of her authors to forgive her for involving Pitt in the way that she did, and swallow up the reasons as nonsensical.  Not me.  What I did find interesting is the political convolutions and games that are being played out on the big boys' floor; in particular, how Pitt was being given information on a need to know basis and how frustrating this would be for someone in charge of defence of one's country.  We are at that point in time when the whole Arms Race is happening, leading to World War I in roughly twenty years, and there was a lot of stuff happening around the world, and you would think that your head of Special Branch would be let in on a few things.  I get that some things should not be revealed to the public at that time due to panic, but I thought it was just a bit too much in this novel.  The mystery was not such a great mystery in my eyes, although if you are not a history afficionado, and don't know anything about the arms race, and about the political situation in the United Kingdom during this time period, you might miss it.  

Death on Blackheath is the latest entry in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series.  While not my favourite of the series, there are some interesting social elements to it, as there are to any of Ms. Perry's novels.  Although I did enjoy the interactions between the various recurring characters and their problems, I wasn't overly keen on the mystery and Pitt's involvement with the issue, especially in the beginning.  It's only inevitable that characters change and develop, so I am curious as to where and what Ms. Perry intends to do next with this series, especially as the ending was a bit different than usual, so I will more than likely pick up the next entry in this series.  Will we see more international involvement and bigger things?  I certainly hope so.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Blast: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

Please join author Jenny Barden as she tours the blogopsphere for The Lost Duchess from May 26-June 20.

The Lost Duchess
Paperback Publication Date: June 5, 2014
Ebury Press
Paperback; 448p

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An epic Elizabethan adventure with a thriller pace and a high tension love story that moves from the palaces of England to the savage wilderness of the New World.

Emme Fifield has fallen about as far as a gentlewoman can.

Once a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, her only hope of surviving the scandal that threatens to engulf her is to escape England for a fresh start in the new America where nobody has ever heard of the Duchess of Somerset.

Emme joins Kit Doonan's rag-tag band of idealists, desperados and misfits bound for Virginia. But such a voyage will be far from easy and Emme finds her attraction to the mysterious Doonan inconvenient to say the least.

As for Kit, the handsome mariner has spent years imprisoned by the Spanish, and living as an outlaw with a band of escaped slaves; he has his own inner demons to confront, and his own dark secrets to keep...

Ever since Sir Walter Raleigh's settlement in Virginia was abandoned in 1587 its fate has remained a mystery; 'The Lost Duchess' explores what might have happened to the ill-starred 'Lost Colony' of Roanoke.

Buy the Book

Amazon (AUS)
Amazon (UK)
Book Depository

About the Author

I've had a love of history and adventure ever since an encounter in infancy with a suit of armour at Tamworth Castle. Training as an artist, followed by a career as a city Jenny (Portrait 2)solicitor, did little to help displace my early dream of becoming a knight. A fascination with the Age of Discovery led to travels in South and Central America, and much of the inspiration for my debut came from retracing the footsteps of Francis Drake in Panama. The sequel centres on the first Elizabethan 'lost colony' of early Virginia. I am currently working on an epic adventure during the threat of invasion by the Spanish Armada.

My work has appeared in short story collections and anthologies and I've written for non-fiction publications including the Historical Novels Review. I am active in many organisations, having run the 'Get Writing' conferences for several years, and undertaken the co-ordination of the Historical Novel Society’s London Conference 2012. I am a member of that organisation as well as the Historical Writers' Association, the Romantic Nevelists' Association and the Society of Authors. I'll be co-ordinating the RNA's annual conference in 2014.

I have four children and now live on a farm in Dorset with my long suffering husband and an ever increasing assortment of animals.

I love travelling, art, reading and scrambling up hills and mountains (though I'm not so keen on coming down!).

Author Links

Jenny Barden's Blog
English Historical Fiction Authors Blog

Also by Jenny Barden

Mistress of the Sea
Publication Date: June 20, 2013
Ebury Press
Formats: Paperback, Ebook

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Mistress Cooksley may be a wealthy merchant's daughter, but she blushes at my words and meets my eyes look for look. Yet I cannot hope to court her without fortune, and a dalliance with a pretty maid will not hinder me from my path.

Captain Drake's endeavour might bring me gold, but I, Will Doonan, will have my revenge.

The Spaniards captured my brother and have likely tortured and killed him. For God and St George, we'll strike at the dogs and see justice done.

I thought I'd left Mistress Cooksley behind to gamble everything and follow Drake, and here she is playing the boy at the ends of the world. She's a fool with a heart as brave as any man's. Yet her presence here could be the ruin of us all...

Virtual Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, May 26
Book Blast at Reading the Ages
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse
Book Blast at Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, May 27
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews
Book Blast at Flashlight Commentary
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Wednesday, May 28
Review at Carole's Ramblings and Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Thursday, May 29
Book Blast at The Maiden's Court
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Friday, May 30
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
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Saturday, May 31
Book Blast at From L.A. to LA
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Sunday, June 1
Book Blast at Lily Pond Reads
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Monday, June 2
Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Enthusiast
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Tuesday, June 3
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
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Wednesday, June 4
Review at The Wormhole
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Thursday, June 5
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Friday, June 6
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog
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Saturday, June 7
Book Blast at Royal Reviews
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Sunday, June 8
Book Blast at Book Nerd

Monday, June 9
Review at A Chick Who Reads
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Tuesday, June 10
Review at She Reads Novels
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Wednesday, June 11
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
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Thursday, June 12
Book Blast at Big Book, Little Book
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Friday, June 13
Review at Susan Heim on Writing
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Book Blast at Hardcover Feedback
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Sunday, June 15
Book Blast at Passages to the Past

Monday, June 16
Review at Layered Pages
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Tuesday, June 17
Review at The Lit Bitch
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Wednesday, June 18
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
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Thursday, June 19
Review at A Bookish Affair
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Friday, June 20
Review at Broken Teepee
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Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry

The Lincoln Myth (Cotton Malone, Book #9)
by Steve Berry
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
2014 Ballantine Books
Hardcover Edition; 448 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-345-52657-1
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

In Utah, the fabled remains of Mormon pioneers whose nineteenth-century expedition across the desert met with a murderous end have been uncovered. In Washington, D.C., the official investigation of an international entrepreneur, an elder in the Mormon church, has sparked a political battle between the White House and a powerful United States senator. In Denmark, a Justice Department agent, missing in action, has fallen into the hands of a dangerous zealot—a man driven by divine visions to make a prophet’s words reality. And in a matter of a few short hours, Cotton Malone has gone from quietly selling books at his shop in Denmark to dodging bullets in a high-speed boat chase.

From the streets of Copenhagen to the catacombs of Salzburg to the rugged mountains of Utah, the grim specter of the Civil War looms as a dangerous conspiracy gathers power. Malone risks life, liberty, and his greatest love in a race for the truth about Abraham Lincoln—while the fate of the United States of America hangs in the balance.

My Thoughts
The Lincoln Myth is the ninth book in the Cotton Malone series, and this one focuses on Abraham Lincoln and the exploration of ideas behind the truth to the Civil War and the Mormons.  I have been following this author since his first novel, The Templar Legacy, was published, and it has been a true pleasure getting to know Malone and the variety of characters involved in the various novels.  I was definitely looking forward to this latest installment, wondering how a retired Cotton was going to get involved in yet another international incident.  Despite the enjoyable writing style and the historical lessons I received from this one, I have to admit that it was my least favourite of the novels in the series thus far.  

What I have always like about Steve Berry's books are the historical puzzles.  I have been fascinated by how he manages to put together complex ideas and uses them to create new thought patterns that make you think, So it could have played out this way, or, I never thought about it that way.  And naturally, as I've said so many times before, I love secrets.  Throw that word around in a blurb and combine it with the word 'historical' or 'ancient' and you've got me hooked.  And these books are always about the secrets that have been kept hidden for however many centuries. In this one, I learned quite a bit of history about the Mormons, an area of history with which I am not very familiar, and I am ashamed to admit I have been to Utah without realizing this historical significance, and I like to learn.  After visiting Gettysberg, I have also developed a fascination for anything to do with Abraham Lincoln, so I did find the information in this novel quite interesting.  As a Canadian, we don't learn a lot about the Constitution in our history classes, so I liked reading about a lot of this.  I did wonder though, if the book would have had a similar impact on someone who was American, and already familiar with the history, and if it would be rather boring to them.  Not sure what to think about that.

As always, I enjoy Cotton and his quick switches from easy-going bookseller to deadly hitman.  Although retired, he seems to spend an awful lot of time helping out the Justice Department and it makes me wonder how long Steve Berry can come up with plausible excuses to use a retired person to do a job that I'm sure active agents can do as well.  That being said, I've always found Malone's world to be rather engrossing, and downright believable, and this novel was no different.  My problem had to do with Cassiopeia Vitt.  She has been featured in several previous novels so I had been familiar with her personality and in this one, she was...different.  I can't quite put my finger on it but I didn't particularly like her very much.  You just don't change that drastically from one book to another and I couldn't quite buy into it, which soured the plot for me somewhat.  I am wondering if the author just couldn't figure out how to create some drama in the novel and this was the best he could come up with, but I didn't like it and I didn't like how things ended either.  And it doesn't have anything to do with cliffhangers or other such things, it just rang false in my eyes.  

One of the interesting things that did cross my mind, and wouldn't quite leave it after finishing the novel, is the whole concept of secession.  I know this idea has caused a furor in the United States with regards to Texas and some comments made by Rick Perry.  And I know there are some issues in Northern California with a couple of counties wanting to form a 51st state.  The big argument in this novel is whether the Founding Fathers included a 'perpetual union' at the signing of the Constitution that prevents any state from seceding from the union.  Historians have debated this issue for many years, and I understand that the author does take some historical freedoms when creating the novel, but the idea is to force the reader to think about the possibilities about what could happen if secession actually occurred.  In Canada, this is a concept that does come up quite regularly with the Quebec separatist issue so it was interesting to read about the American side of things.

The Lincoln Myth was an interesting novel in terms of historical facts and puzzles.  I enjoyed learning more about Abraham Lincoln and some of the reasons for the Civil War.  As always, the story flowed along nicely, with an interesting plot line that definitely has relevance to many issues  we are facing.  I did have issues with some of characters, and there were times when I felt the plot dragged on, as interesting as it was.  It was not your typical Malone novel in that the usual pile up of dead bodies, the escapes, and daring rescues were not evident in this novel, almost to the point where there was too much talk and not enough action.  I also felt like the closure was somewhat lacking.  Even with all of these issues, I am still curious enough about Malone and what trouble he could possibly get himself into next to want to read the next book in this series.  Hopefully, Cassiopeia will hit her head or something and go back to normal as the one in this novel, I didn't particularly like, and I want her back.