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
Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read

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
Book Blast at Cheryl's Book Nook
Book Blast at Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Friday, May 30
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer
Book Blast at Curling Up by the Fire

Saturday, May 31
Book Blast at From L.A. to LA
Book Blast at Gobs and Gobs of Books

Sunday, June 1
Book Blast at Lily Pond Reads
Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, June 2
Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Enthusiast
Book Blast at The Bookworm
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Tuesday, June 3
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Book Blast at West Metro Mommy
Book Blast at bookworm2bookworm's Blog

Wednesday, June 4
Review at The Wormhole
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Book Blast at Kelsey's Book Corner

Thursday, June 5
Book Blast at Books and Benches
Book Blast at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, June 6
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Book Blast at Kincavel Korner
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Saturday, June 7
Book Blast at Royal Reviews
Book Blast at History Undressed

Sunday, June 8
Book Blast at Book Nerd

Monday, June 9
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Book Blast at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Tuesday, June 10
Review at She Reads Novels
Book Blast at Just One More Chapter
Book Blast at History From a Woman's Perspective

Wednesday, June 11
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Book Blast at Books in the Burbs

Thursday, June 12
Book Blast at Big Book, Little Book
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Notebook

Friday, June 13
Review at Susan Heim on Writing
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Saturday, June 14
Book Blast at Hardcover Feedback
Book Blast at One Book at a Time

Sunday, June 15
Book Blast at Passages to the Past

Monday, June 16
Review at Layered Pages
Review at Starting Fresh
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, June 17
Review at The Lit Bitch
Book Blast at Griperang's Bookmarks

Wednesday, June 18
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli

Thursday, June 19
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Little Reader Library
Book Blast at Girl Lost in a Book

Friday, June 20
Review at Broken Teepee
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

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.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Guest Post: David Litwack

Daughter3DThe Daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack has launched! This fabulous title is available now on all online retailers and in your local book stores. You aren't going to want to miss this new literary journey exploring the clash between reason and faith, and the power of hope and love.

The Book

After centuries of religiously motivated war, the world has been split in two. Now the Blessed Lands are ruled by pure faith, while in the Republic, reason is the guiding light—two different realms, kept apart and at peace by a treaty and an ocean. Summary: A mysterious nine-year-old from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a couple in the Republic, claiming to be the Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. Is she a troubled child longing to return home, or a powerful prophet sent to unravel the fabric of the Republic? The answer will change the lives of all she meets… and perhaps their world as well. Author: David Litwack Genre: Fantasy/Speculative Literary Fiction Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Amazon B&N

Guest Post - The Greatest Thing I Learned in School

In the seventh grade, I began a six year college preparatory school, the elite school in the city and accessible only via an entrance exam. Ninety-nine percent of its graduates went on to college, many to Ivy League schools. But only one in three graduated. I felt pretty confident. I had a good education to date and all the skills to succeed. But I had never read for pleasure. The kids in this school were very competitive—what we used to call “grade grubbers”—even at such a young age.

On the first day of English class, our teacher, Dr. McNamara, hit us with a stern warning. We were all failing and would get an ‘F.’ No studying would help, no exam would change it. There was only one way we could improve our grade. Dr. McNamara was a bear of a man, with a big round face, jowls and the almost expected wire-rimmed bifocals. He glared at us through them and drew us all to the edge of our seat. “For each book you read,” he said, “I will raise you one grade. If you read five books in the term, you will get an ‘A.’” Our marking term was one month long. I suspect none of us read that much in six months. But then, like a magic salve to the wound, he handed out “the list.” The list consisted of about three hundred wonderful books, and not the stodgy classics, all of them books to delight the young.

That year I read the complete works of Sherlock Holmes and wanted to be a detective. I read The Saga of Andy Burnett and dreamed of running off to become a mountain man. I read The Lord of the Rings and pictured myself as the ranger, Strider, and someday, if I was worthy, king of the men of Numenor. I was twelve years old. Of course I never become any of these, but I’d been given the lifelong gift of reading and have never stopped. The most important thing I learned? Through books, I could experience other worlds, be in the minds of other people. And though fiction may never translate directly to reality, I learned something even more important—the power of possibility. David Litwack, author of There Comes a Prophet, Along the Watchtower, and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky

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The Tour

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review: Beneath the Abbey Wall by A.D. Scott

Beneath the Abbey Wall (Joanne Ross, Book #3)
by A.D. Scott
Release Date: November 13th, 2012
2012 Atria Books
Softcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6577-2
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6578-9 (ebook)
ASIN: B007EE5622
Genre: Fiction / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

In a small Scottish town, the local newspaper staff doesn't see much excitement. But that all changes when their no-nonsense office manager Mrs. Smart is found murdered one dreary autumn night. For the staff of the "Highland Gazette," the investigation becomes personal when the deputy editor, is accused of the crime.

It's the late 1950s, the decade of rock n' roll and television, and change is coming, but slowly. It's up to budding reporter Joanne Ross to step into Mrs. Smart's shoes and keep the newspaper office running, all while raising two girls alone. But newcomer Neil Stewart proves a major distraction for Joanne.

And what does the tragic tale of children stolen from the Travelling people more than thirty years previously have to do with this murder? In a mystery with twists and turns and no clear-cut solution, the secrets of the past must be unravelled before justice can be found.

My Thoughts
Beneath the Abbey Wall is the third book in the Joanne Ross series, and as I haven't yet read the other two, I can't really compare them at all.  However, I did enjoy this one, but more for the character development rather than the actual mystery which I found rather easy to solve despite the author's attempts at misdirection.

What I did like in this novel is the setting: it contained all of the usual elements that I adore such as the rain, the gothic atmosphere, the Scottish tight-knit community where secrets just abound, the time period where things were very turbulent and constantly changing, and the secrets, secrets, secrets.  I like the appeal of having my characters walk down rainy streets at night, through historical areas where they can be tight and narrow, naturally walking pas a church or cemetery, and the lights are dim or almost non-existent.  Nothing like it to curl the toes or keep the heart pounding.  It's too bad the actual story line didn't take advantage of the setting as the mystery was rather ho-hum and easily solved.

My biggest problem lies with the murdered woman, Mrs. Smart, around whom the story centers.  To be honest, I never felt a shred of sympathy or empathy towards this woman as I never really felt like I got to know anything about her real personality other than she "was a good woman'.  Even learning her story when she was young didn't really endear me to her and my sympathy was rather non-emotional.  It's not that I didn't feel compassion towards her situation, it's just that I couldn't muster up the compassion towards the situation and put it on Mrs. Smart's shoulders and feel compassion for her.  And that's why I couldn't understand McAllister's downturn in his personal life where he let himself go and didn't take care of himself because Mrs. Smart's death affected him so much; I just couldn't make the connection as I just didn't feel it between them.  I did like Joanne's character and the struggles she had with her relationship with the newcomer Neil.  It is the 1950s after all, and a young mother who is not divorced should not be seen around town with another man without destruction to her personal reputation. I really liked the emphasis that the author puts on women's issues and their lack of rights and freedoms during this time period, and how it highlights their plight when they are married to abusive men or when things go badly wrong.  I found Joanne's struggles to be quite interesting, even though I did want to strangle her at times.  Some of this was me though, as an independent women of the new century, it is kind of hard to understand what women struggled with during this time period.  I found Joanne to be the most sympathetic character of the lots and identified with her rather strongly.

Beneath the Abbey Wall is one of those books that I enjoyed for the characters themselves, but found myself turning the pages or becoming bored at times as I was waiting for the mystery to pick up and do something.  I think there is a fine line between character development and plot development, and the author spent too much time on the character side, and while somewhat interesting, lost focus on the mystery aspect to this novel.  I found the descriptions of the setting to be very interesting, loved the atmosphere of this novel, really enjoyed the making of newspapers in the 1950s, but felt the mystery was lacking.  The Low Road has an expected publication date of September 2014, and despite some of the flaws concerning the mystery in Beneath the Abbey Wall, it was interesting enough that I will pick up the new entry to this series when it is published as I am curious enough to find out what is going on with the characters.