Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Blog Tour: Wildfire (Everealm #2) by J.D.W.: A Book Review

Wildfire (Everealm #2)
by J.D.W.
Release Date: 9/1/15
Source: This book was given by me by YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Summary from Goodreads:

The journey through Everealm continues as new evil arrives, casting mayhem about the realm. While war and wildfire are causing disorder, Bree and Rowan find that assistance from the fairies isn't what they imagined. As Dagan and Sidonie seek answers to uncover the truth about her family and her magic, they are plagued with even more mystery to unveil. As the wildfire burns, who will be left standing in the ashes?
Everealm (Everealm #1)

     My Review: Wildfire picks up where the first novel left off. Even though they had gotten rid of the evil villain in the first series, there are new villains that threaten their peace. This time Bree and Rowan must turn to other magical creatures that may help them, the fairies. The wizard couple Dagan and Sidonie are also looking for answers to family secrets. Can they be able to save their kingdom again?

     I feel that Wildfire has greatly expanded from Everealm. There are some surprising secrets that are in store. I liked how the fairies that were mentioned a little in the Everealm novel play a bigger part in this novel. All of the characters seem to be more mature and have definitely grown from the first. There is also newer characters that are just as interesting as the returning characters. Therefore, I felt that Wildfire gives us a clear path to the plot and its characters and where the story is going.

     Bree is again a practical ruler. Yet, while I thought that I knew her in Everealm, she has surprised me by revealing a secret. I liked the continuation of the love story between her and Rowan, for there are new problems that lay before them. I also felt that Sidione has been more fleshed out. She has an important role in this series. I like how she is coming to terms with who she is and her magic. This story is also her journey of acceptance and answers.

Overall, this story is about friendship, family, and love. It is also a quest about a girl finding her own identity. This story is more fast-paced than Everealm. I like how there are secrets, magic, adventure, and action. I definitely like the ending. It ended with a BANG because it is such a surprising twist. The world-building is more clearer. This story has gotten me more excited for the next book in the series, and I am definitely going to read it. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in a light-hearted epic fantasy series with a sweet love story.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



Buy Links: AmazonKobo BooksSmashwords

About the Author:



     Writing has always been a hobby of mine, beginning as a young child. It was a way to cope with losing my father at seven years of age. I started with poetry and was featured several times on the amazing poetry blog, Autumn Leaves, by Sondra Ball. My love for poetry soon led to writing songs in middle school and beyond, which I still do occasionally. Music has always been an important part of my existence, so writing songs came naturally to me. In high school, I started my own novel, however, life got in the way and I never finished it.

     Fast forward many years later and I find myself married with three children, absorbed in my busy life with commitments to my family, work, school, church, and charities, among other things. One day I came across my old binder, with notes from my first novel, and it was with those notes that I conjured up the elusive Everealm.

     I write to please readers such as myself, who have a love for fantasy and romance, but like a little danger and sex in their reading. I wrote the book with a mature audience in mind, who can appreciate a hearty imaginary world with magic and the unknown, but want more than fluffy love stories with wizards in them. They want the romance, magic, and danger, all wrapped into one.

Author Links:



GIVEAWAY:





















Monday, September 21, 2015

Everealm (Everealm #1) by J.D.W.: A Book Review

Everealm (Everealm #1)
Author: J.D.W.
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 284
Source: This book was given to me by YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Breestlin cannot escape her destiny to become ruler of her father's kingdom, but she never planned to become queen at twenty-three years of age. Upon the return of her first love, Rowan, Bree must quickly learn how to adapt to both her new responsibilities as a ruler and her inability to suppress her feelings for Rowan. To make matters more difficult, her outcast uncle, Silas, will stop at nothing to get what he desires, putting lives and the kingdom in danger. Bree must seek the assistance of the wizard, Dagan, who in a twist of fate discovers much more about his family (and himself) than he could ever imagine in this steamy love story, full of mystery and romance... 

     Danger awaits, as we journey through Everealm, the first book of the Everealm Series

     My Review: Bree has been in love with Rowan since she was a child. However because she was heir to her kingdom, Rowan was an unsuitable groom for the princess. Her parents separated them apart. On the day of her coronation, Bree sees Rowan for the first time. As she tries to suppress her love for Rowan, she finds out that her kingdom is in danger. Her uncle, Silas, eyes her throne. She realizes that having a wizard to aid her will prevent the problem. Can Bree save her kingdom and find a way to for her and Rowan to be together?

     Bree’s heart has always been loyal to Rowan. She has turned down every suitor who has asked for her hand. However, she knows that as queen, she has a duty to be responsible. This whole book is about how Bree handles her first few days as queen. Yet, I felt that she was a strong ruler because not only was she practical, but she had strong people by her side. She has a powerful wizard, Dagan, Rowan, a powerful fighter as her personal guard, Sidonie, her friend who has magic, and her mother. It is the people around her that help her to succeed as a queen.

     Overall, this story is about friendship, family, and love. Everealm is full of magic, action, court intrigue, and danger. I did  find some parts of this story to be slow. I also felt that the world-building needs to be more developed. Also, I felt the ending to be rushed, for I was surprised that it ended so soon. I felt that the ending should have been resolved a bit better. Still, this was an easy and quick read. It has likable characters and an interesting plot.. I feel that this story was a good introduction into the series, and I look forward to reading the next one. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a light-hearted fantasy with a sweet love story.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Here is the official book trailer for Everealm:

Blog Tour: Quest of a Scottish Warrior: The MacLomain Series: Later Years Book 1 by Sky Purington: A Book Review

Quest of a Scottish Warrior
The MacLomain Series: Later Years 
Book 1
Sky Purington

Genre:  Time-travel Fantasy Romance

Date of Publication:  September 8, 2015

ASIN:  B010EKKQUE

Number of pages:  257
Word Count:  82,800

Cover Artist:  Tamra Westberry

Source: This book was given to me by Bewitching Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Book Description:

     Historian and ancestry website owner, Cassie first became interested in her long lost Broun clan when she realized life was about to change forever. Faced with possible blindness, she seeks out her Scottish bloodline only to discover there is so much more to it than she could have anticipated. Not only will she find answers to her questions but a doorway into the distant past via a Claddagh ring.

     Betrothed since birth to a lass he has never met, Chieftain Logan MacLomain thought the unending tie between his clan and the Brouns was long past. Never was he more wrong. When Cassie appears in a skirmish on the border of his clan’s land, all his noble intentions are put to the test. To desire her is wrong but still he seeks her out every chance he gets. Just a glimpse of her passing smile brightens the honorable yet lonely path he must see through.

     Everything changes for Cassie and Logan the day war ravages a nearby village and a young king’s fate is put at risk. Scotland’s future hangs in the balance as denied love blossoms and four MacLomain warriors band together to save all that might soon be lost. Set to avenge the harm done, Logan embarks on a quest with Cassie that will take them both down a road fraught with risk, heartache and the beginning of an end they never saw coming.

     My Review: Cassie was researching the family history of her long lost Broun clan. Her research leads to a trip and a meeting with her other family members. Little does she know that her family holds many surprises and secrets. She finds out that she is a witch and is given a magic ring. The magic enables her to travel back in time to the thirteenth century of medieval Scotland. There she meets Logan MacLomain, a chieftain, and realizes that his clan of the MacLomains are tied to her Broun family. She is instantly attracted to him, but he is unavailable because he is already betrothed. As she adjusted to life in medieval Scotland, she gets visions of a young boy in trouble. She finds out that this young boy is Robert the Bruce, the future king of Scotland. To protect Scotland’s future, she and Logan embark on a quest to rescue the young boy who will be king.

     Cassie is a likable heroine. She is a woman of the twenty-first century. She has some geekiness, for when she first meets Logan, she compares him to Legolas from Lord of The Rings. However, she is going through some difficulties for she is struggling with blindness. Yet, she has a the gift of sight. I liked how a modern girl gets to see life in medieval Scotland. She is astounded by their customs. I found her to be very bold for she is not afraid to voice her opinions. She is also brave and courageous for she is willing to rescue Robert the Bruce, even though she knows the situation is dangerous.

     Overall, this book is about love, friendship, and acceptance. The message of the book is that everything has a reason. I have always been interested in time-travel stories because I have wondered if a modern person went back in time, could that person survive life in the past.This time-traveling story not only explores the topic, but it also has other fantasy elements that involves magic like witches and wizards, shapeshifting, and a mention of a dragon. This book is fast-paced with action and adventure. There was not a dull moment in this book. One thing I liked about this series is that the protagonists are struggling with their disabilities, and are trying to come to terms to love themselves. This makes a unique and interesting heroine. Cassie struggles with going blind. The whole story is about her coming to terms with her disability. The next heroine in the series, Nicole, struggles with going deaf. Therefore, I look forward to reading the next book to find out what happens next. I recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, fantasy, and interesting heroines.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Amazon  itunes  Kobo  Barnes and Nobles 

Excerpt: 

Cassie nodded and as they’d done the past couple of nights, they settled into comfortable conversation. She was a pleasure to chat with. Though humble, she possessed a sharp wit. He suspected had she pursued any of her college majors, she would have excelled.

Yet the more he got to know her the more he sensed she lived her life a certain way…as if she knew its outcome already. Almost like someone planning to move to another country and preparing themselves for a different language and customs. Eventually, he intended to find out exactly what she was getting ready for. Whatever it was, it had her purposely changing subjects on a somewhat regular basis.

As he figured she would, Cassie eventually said, “Why are we eating separately from everyone tonight?”

Though tempted to say it was unintentional, he would be lying. The truth was he wanted her all to himself. “‘Twas a trying experience earlier. I thought you might want some privacy to relax.”

She arched her brow and offered a lopsided grin. “Yet you’re here.”

“Well, you cannae be alone in these woods, lass.” He polished off his meat and leaned back on his hands so that his shoulder was almost against hers. Voice lowered, he said, “And I’ll admit to wanting to spend some time alone with you. ‘Tis a luxury I rarely get.”

 “Ah.” This time he didn’t have to touch her to enjoy her becoming blush. His eyes dropped to her mouth when she licked her lips. He had never wanted to taste a lass so much in his life. When she cleared her throat, his eyes slowly returned to hers. 

“You should probably stop looking at me like that,” she said.

“Like what?”

“Like we’re here alone for another reason altogether.”

“Aye,” he murmured, caught by how the firelight reflecting off the shrubbery behind her seemed to magnify the pale green in her eyes. Unable to stop himself, he brushed his thumb down her delicate jawline, eager for far more contact. “May I kiss you, lass.”

Her eyes widened slightly. “W-what?”

“Kiss you.” He ran the pad of his thumb over her lower lip and leaned even closer. “I’ve wanted to do it since I pulled you onto my horse that first day.” 

“Oh,” she whispered, not shying away.

Wrapping his hand in her hair, he didn’t kiss her right away but brought his lips close to her ear and murmured, “I’ve never seen such a bonnie lass.” He flicked his tongue beneath her dainty earlobe, relishing her quiver. “I’ve never wanted to touch and taste a lass so much that I cannae think straight.”

“Oh,” she whispered again, her head tilting to give him more access. God, she tasted warm and sweet and so bloody soft. He gently peppered kisses along her jaw, desperate to reach her lips but equally eager to sample everything along the way. Sharp arousal speared him when her breath hitched and she squeezed her thighs together. Hell, he had known the lass less than a week and he’d already imagined a hundred different ways he wanted to make love to her.

At last, his lips hovered over hers, savoring the heat of her breath, the ravenous anticipation before he finally…

“Och, m’laird, ye should have gotten to that sooner,” Machara quipped as she came around the corner.

Cassie pulled back sharply and Logan scowled as he redirected his attention to his intrusive cousin. “What is it?”

About the Author: 


     Sky Purington is the best-selling author of seventeen novels and several novellas. A New Englander born and bred, Sky was raised hearing stories of folklore, myth and legend. When combined with a love for nature, romance and time-travel, elements from the stories of her youth found release in her books. 

     Purington loves to hear from readers and can be contacted at Sky@SkyPurington.com. Interested in keeping up with Sky's latest news and releases? Visit Sky's website, blog, to download her free App on iTunes and Android or sign up for her quarterly newsletter. Love social networking? Find Sky on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tour giveaway: 

1$50 gift card to winner’s choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble



Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Banished of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood #1) by Jeff Wheeler: A Book Review

The Banished of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood #1)
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Pages: 357
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: In a world full of magic and mystery, eighteen-year-old Maia is the exiled princess of Comoros and rightful heir to the throne. Forced to live as a servant in her enemy’s home, Maia flees her captors and begins a perilous quest to save her people. To survive, she must use magic she has learned in secret—despite the fact that women are forbidden to control it. Hunted by enemies at every turn, Maia realizes that danger lurks within her, too. Her powers threaten to steal not only her consciousness but also her sense of right and wrong. Can she set herself free and save the realm she loves—even if her people have forgotten her? In bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s fantasy epic, the answer may be only the beginning to Maia’s journey throughout the mystical land of Muirwood.

     My Review: Maia was once the rightful heir of Comoros. However, her father, who fears for the safety of the kingdom, decides to divorce his wife, strip away Maia’s title, and find a new wife who will give him a son. Maia’s father then banishes and exiles her. Because her kingdom is in danger, Maia goes on a journey to save her kingdom with magic as her aid. She finds the way to be perilous and soon she is later on accompanied by men who are hired to kill her. Will Maia be able to save her kingdom?

     Maia is a strong heroine. She has a rough past that traumatizes her. However, she is very intelligent, for she makes practical choices and is observant. She understands the situations and the people around her. I also like how she is comfortable to trust her magic, even when the situation seems impossible. Through all the obstacles and pain that she faces, she becomes a stronger and more mature person. I felt sorry for Maia, and I could not help but root for her along her journey. She is also an unconventional heroine. She is a woman who can read, in a world where women reading was forbidden. Because of this, she is a threat to her world of male dominance.

     Overall, this story is about forgiveness, redemption, love, and acceptance. It is the self-journey of a woman trying to find her identity. The message of the book is that there is always hope. Even though there is darkness, there is light.The story is fast-paced and is full of action and adventure. The characters are fully developed. However, I did find the alternating chapters of Maia’s past and present to be confusing, and when they switched to her past, I had to re-read it to understand the time jump. I wish that this was done better to let the reader know that it was going to switch from past and present that way I would not be confused. Also, I found the world-building complex and there was little explanation of the world. It is obvious that the author assumes that the reader has already been introduced into his world. This is because he wrote other books about Muirwood. Even though this is the first in the trilogy with new characters and a new story, I advise you to read the previous Muirwood novels, so you can get a sense of world-building. I am sure that I will too read his previous novels. Still, this book is very well-written, and the adventure and twists and turns kept me glued to my seat as I read, it kept wondering what happens next. Because of this, I am definitely interested in reading the next book in the trilogy. I recommend this book to fans of high epic fantasy and strong heroines.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 18, 2015

Blog Tour: The Sisters of Versailles (Mistresses of Versailles, Book One) by Sally Christie: A Book Review

01_The Sisters of VersaillesThe Sisters of Versailles (Mistresses of Versailles, Book One) by Sally Christie

Publication Date: September 1, 2015 Publisher: Atria Books/Simon & Schuster Formats: Ebook, Paperback Pages: 432 ISBN-10: 1501102966 Genre: Historical Fiction READ AN EXCERPT.

Add to GR Button     
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

     Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.


     Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.


     Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot – and women – forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.


     In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.


     My Review: The Sisters of Versailles takes place in the early reign of Louis XV. It chronicles the lives of the Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne. Four of the sisters became mistresses to Louis XV one right after the other (Hortense by choice decided not to be the king’s mistress). These four sisters compete with one another as they yearn for the king’s attention and power. Set in the rich glittering court of Versailles, this tells us the story not only of the four sisters, but the decadence and lavishness of the French court that leaves a foreshadowing of the French Revolution that takes place decades later.

     The problem that I had with this book is that none of the characters are likable. Each of the chapters is told in first person by the five sisters with a lot of epistolary sections with the sisters writing to each other. I found all the sisters to be selfish. I did not really see them to have a sisterly bond with one another. They were mostly thinking about themselves and often used each other to get what they want. It was really hard to root for them. However, while these sisters had their flaws, it is obvious that they are powerful. They had the ability to choose a life for themselves. They were behind the scenes manipulating the king and the French court. They were able to dictate powerful advance marriages and to have the choice to be the king’s mistress. Therefore, these sisters were strong and powerful within the court.

     Because it was told from the sisters point of view, it was hard to know who Louis XV truly was. Even though the sisters try to compete for the king’s attention, Louis XV seems to be a pawn for their ambitions. It is hard to determine the human aspect of the king because he remains elusive. He seems distant and unapproachable to the reader. Therefore, there needs to be more character development on him so the readers can get a glimpse of the true king, rather than a puppet whom the sisters use to get what they want.

     Overall, this is a feminist retelling about the splendid court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XV. Because I have read many books about Marie Antoinette that feature Louis XV as old and fat, it is refreshing to see him as a young, energetic, handsome young man. This novel is a juicy read that is filled with court intrigue, drama, scandal, betrayal, and rivalry. This novel gives us lavish details about the everyday life within Versailles. There is a trilogy that tells us about the other lives of Louis XV’s mistresses, some that are more famous than others. I feel like this series is a great introduction to life in Versailles before Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. I recommend this novel to fans of Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot, Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones, The Marie Antoinette trilogy by Juliet Grey, and Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

ADVANCE PRAISE


"A stunning breadth of period detail, offered in a fresh, contemporary voice."-Juliet Grey, author of the acclaimed Marie Antoinette trilogy

"Sally Christie's The Sisters of Versailles is an intriguing romp through Louis XV's France. Filled with lush backdrops, rich detail, and colorful characters, fans of historical fiction will enjoy this glimpse into the lost golden era of the French monarchy." -Allison Pataki, author of The Accidental Empress


AMAZON US | AMAZON CAN | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | CHAPTERS | ITUNES | INDIEBOUND | KOBO


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


04_Sally Christie_Author


     I'm a life-long history buff - and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser's masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I'd been writing ("writing") ever since I was able to hold a pencil. If you'd told my 12-year old self that I'd not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I've finally come full circle to where I think I should be. I currently live in Toronto and when I'm not writing, I'm playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang). For more information please visit Sally Christie's website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Pinterest.


BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, September 14
Review at Reading the Past

Tuesday, September 15

Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Interview & Giveaway at Mina's Bookshelf

Wednesday, September 16
 Review at Bookish

Thursday, September 17

 Review at The Book Binder's Daughter

Friday, September 18

Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Saturday, September 19

Spotlight at Romantic Historical Reviews

Monday, September 21

Review at Leeanna.me

Tuesday, September 22

Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, September 23

Review & Giveaway at History Undressed

Thursday, September 24

Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, September 25

Spotlight at Historical Readings & Views

Monday, September 28
Review & Giveaway at View From the Birdhouse


Tuesday, September 29
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time


Thursday, October 1 
Review at Genre Queen 
Review at bookramblings 

Friday, October 2 
Review at Curling Up By the Fire 

Monday, October 5 
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews 

Tuesday, October 6 
Review at Just One More Chapter 

Wednesday, October 7 
Review at The Lit Bitch 

Thursday, October 8 
Interview & Giveaway at Reading Lark 

Friday, October 9 
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession

05_The Sisters of Versailles_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki: A Book Review

The Accidental Empress
Author: Allison Pataki
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Howard Books
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 512
Source:This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

     The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

     Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead. 

     Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

     With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”

     My Review: The Accidental Empress chronicles the life of Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, from the time she first travels to the Habsburg court to her coronation as Queen of Hungary. Elizabeth was never meant to be queen. It was her sister, Helene, who was first betrothed to the Emperor Franz Joseph.  However, when Helene, Elizabeth, and their mother, travel to the Habsburg court to meet the emperor for the first time, Elizabeth’s beauty captured the attention of the Austrian court and the attention of the Austrian emperor. Franz Joseph immediately falls in love with her and decides to make her his wife instead.

     This story is essentially a fairy-tale gone wrong. The story has a tragic tone. For when Elizabeth and Franz Joseph first meet, they seem to have a fairy-tale romance. They seem to have a lot in common. They both are educated, have ambitious mothers, and a love for horseback riding. The young couple were happy and had a lot of hope of happiness in the future. However, happily ever-after was not meant to be, for there were three people in the marriage. Sophie, Franz Joseph’s mother, was overbearing and controlling. She felt that Elizabeth was not fit for the role of queen. She had too much power, and was not willing to let Elizabeth take any. She took Elizabeth’s children away from her, so they would never really get to know their mother. Because of Sophie’s dominance within her marriage and her life, Elizabeth feels alone and powerless. Franz Joseph also neglects Elizabeth as he has to focus on the state affairs, politics, and war within his empire. Therefore, Elizabeth desires to leave the pressure of the royal court, and to find happiness.

     This story made me feel sorry for Empress Elizabeth. She was definitely not prepared to be queen. She was so feisty and free-spirited that it was hard for her to be contained to the oppressive Austrian court. Her personality did not fit the role she was meant to play for she desired freedom. However she chose to be queen because she truly loved Franz Joseph and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, but love proved not to be enough. Elizabeth does mature and her feistiness seems to die over time as she becomes depressed due to the weight of the obstacles that she cannot fix. Eventually she finds it, but at what cost?

     Overall, this is about a woman who is searching for a home and a place of belonging. This story has the makings of a Shakespearean tragedy. The atmosphere is sad. This story sort of reminds me of Marie Antoinette’s early years when she first arrived at court. It also reminded me of Evita. Indeed, as I read the part of Elizabeth’s first week of marriage to Franz Joseph, I could just imagine Che in the background, as the newly wedded couple are dancing, singing “High Flying, Adored” to Elizabeth as he warns her that being queen isn’t all it's cracked up to be. This novel is very well-written, and it is meticulously researched. The characters were complex. I also liked the setting of the facade of the glittering court. This novel is full of political intrigue, betrayal,  drama, and scandal. The Accidental Empress reads like a soap opera for there is a lot of fighting between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law as they fight for power and Franz Joseph’s attention, backstabbing, and love triangles. After reading this book, it seems like there is going to be a sequel to this novel, and I will definitely read it. The Accidental Empress is a feast for lovers of historical fiction and is perfect for fans of C.W. Gortner, Juliet Grey, Michelle Moran, and Philippa Gregory.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the official book trailer for The Accidental Empress:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Blog Tour: Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart: A Book Review

02_Girl Waits With GunGirl Wait With Gun by Amy Stewart
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: Ebook, Hardcover
Pages:416
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Add to GR Button      

Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling debut novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

     Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.

     My Review: Some facts are stranger than fiction, and Girl Waits With a Gun proves just that. This novel tells the unbelievable but true tale of Constance Kopp, who was one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs. One day, Mr. Kaufman, a silk factory owner, runs down the Kopp sisters' buggy and refuses to pay fifty dollars for the damage. Constance and her sisters are determined to make Mr. Kaufman pay for it. However, the dispute over the damage soon turns into a feud. Mr. Kaufman has his own gang, and he has chosen the Kopp sisters as his target. In order to protect her family and to bring Mr. Kaufman to justice, Constance turns to the police. Little does she know that these events soon lead to her becoming the first female deputy sheriff.

     This story is told from Constance’s perspective. It is Constance’s voice that makes this story fresh, lively, and witty. Constance is a tough and likable heroine. She is headstrong, brave, persistent, and determined. She is also very practical because she makes smart decisions. She is not afraid to stand up for what is right. I also love her relationship with her sisters. They are each other’s support especially when they are facing tough times. It is Constance’s love for her sisters that help make Constance strong.

     Overall, this book is about family. The message of this book is to do what is right. For while these sisters did have flaws, they ultimately did the right thing. While the story started out slow, it eventually picked up halfway through the novel. This book is a lighthearted mystery that is filled with action, suspense, and humor. I found Constance Kopp’s tale so fascinating and intriguing that it is hard to believe that it was actually a true story. I enjoyed this story, and I hope that the author will write more stories about her in the future. And with a name like Kopp, she has the perfect surname for law enforcement! I recommend this novel to anyone interested in historical fiction, mystery, and anyone who wants to learn about one of America’s first deputy sheriffs. Girl Waits With a Gun will also appeal to fans of the Jacqueline Winspear, Kerry Greenwood, and Deanna Raybourn.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


PRAISE

“A sheer delight to read and based on actual events, this debut historical mystery packs the unexpected, the unconventional, and a serendipitous humor into every chapter. Details from the historical record are accurately portrayed by villains and good guys alike, and readers will cross their fingers for the further adventures of Constance and Sheriff Heath. For fans of the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, and the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Laurie R. King.”—Booklist, starred

“Stewart crafts a solid, absorbing novel based on real-life events—though they’re unusual enough to seem invented. Stewart deftly tangles and then unwinds a complicated plot with nice period detail…More adventures involving gutsy Constance, quietly determined Sheriff Heath, and a lively cast of supporting characters would be most welcome.”—Kirkus, starred

“In her engaging first novel, Stewart (The Drunken Botanist) draws from the true story of the Kopp sisters (Constance became one of the country’s first female deputy sheriffs) and creates a welcome addition to the genre of the unconventional female sleuth. Colorful, well-drawn characters come to life on the page, and historical details are woven tightly into the narrative. The satisfying conclusion sets up an opening for future Constance Kopp novels. VERDICT: Historical fiction fans and followers of Rhys Bowen’s ‘Molly Murphy’ mysteries and Victoria Thompson’s ‘Gaslight Mystery’ series will delight in the eccentric and feisty Kopp women.”—Library Journal, starred

“A smart, romping adventure, featuring some of the most memorable and powerful female characters I’ve seen in print for a long time. I loved every page as I followed the Kopp sisters through a too-good-to-be-true (but mostly true!) tale of violence, courage, stubbornness, and resourcefulness.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

“How could you not fall in love with a book about one of the first female deputy sheriffs and her sisters–especially when it’s written by the enthralling Amy Stewart? Full of long-held secrets, kicked-up dust, simmering danger, and oh yes, that gun—this gritty romp illuminates one of history’s strongest women with a hold-your-breath panache.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“Girl Waits With Gun makes excellent use of history to put a fresh spin on classic cop-and-crook types. Amy Stewart’s true-life protagonist is a ‘rough and tumble’ version of the early 20th century’s New Woman. She is witty, sharply-drawn, and suffers no fools!”—Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist

“Yowza! Amy Stewart’s debut boasts pomaded gangsters, pistol-packin’ dames, kidnappings, shots in the dark, and everything from Girls Gone Wrong to carrier pigeons finding their way home. You might want to stay up all night reading, you might want to lie down on your fainting couch with a cool cloth on your forehead. Either way, you’ll have the time of your life.” —Robert Goolrick, New York Times bestselling author of A Reliable Wife

“Girl Waits with Gun is fresh, funny and utterly compelling– and Constance Kopp and her sisters are not just great investigators, but completely original women. It was a blast from start to finish and I can’t wait to see what Deputy Kopp gets up to next.”— Lisa Lutz, author of The Spellman Files, How to Start a Fire, and others

“Amy Stewart has crafted the best kind of historical novel; she uncovers an intriguing, all-but-forgotten historical nugget and spins it into a wildly entertaining tale with an engaging, tough-minded heroine. Girl Waits With Gun hits the bulls-eye.”—Daniel Stashower, author of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War

“Amy Stewart’s debut novel Girl Waits With Gun is an irresistible and thoroughly enjoyable book, a suspenseful historical mystery spiced with marvelous characters, wit, and humor. Is it too soon to beg for a sequel?” —Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule

“Engaging, lively, and substantive, Girl Waits with Gun is a perfect mystery, and the Kopp sisters are my new best friends. Amy Stewart writes about crime as well as she writes about plants and poisons. I loved this book, and will be first in line for the next installment.”—Sara Gran, author of Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway


AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND | POWELL'S


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


03_Amy Stewart


     Amy Stewart is the author of seven books. Her latest, Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story. She has also written six nonfiction books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers: The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential. She lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown, who is a rare book dealer. They own a bookstore called Eureka Books. The store is housed in a classic nineteenth-century Victorian building that Amy very much hopes is haunted. Stewart has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers and magazines, and has appeared frequently on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and--just once--on TLC's Cake Boss. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society's Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. For more information visit Amy Stewart's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


04_Girl Waits With Gun_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Avelynn by Marissa Campbell: A Book Review

Avelynn
Author: Marissa Campbell
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: One extraordinary Saxon noblewoman and one fearless Viking warrior find passion and danger in this dazzling and sensuous debut

     Marissa Campbell's debut novel is a winning combination of romance, history, and adventure sure to appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon.


     It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn't yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.


     Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it's more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart.


     As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?


     My Review: Avelynn has been the jewel of the Earl of Somerset. Suitors come to seek her aid, but she was given the choice to refuse them. However, when rumors about war from the Vikings seem to come true, her father decides to protect her into an arranged marriage to Demas. She finds out that Demas is not the gentle suitor he seems to be, but rather a dark man filled with ambition and with a desire to control her. Because she is doomed to marry this man, she turns to her faith as a pagan. During one of her pagan rituals, she meets Alrik, a Viking and her enemy. However, with her impending marriage and with war with the Vikings, she finds her star-crossed love with Alrik to be doomed.

     Avelynn is a strong heroine, and very admirable. She is headstrong and tries to live her own life. She is disappointed when her father chooses her bridegroom for her, but she is not complacent. Instead, she tries her best to fight her marriage. I also found her to be a good ruler. When her father is absent, she becomes regent for her father. I thought she was practical and made good decisions. Another thing is that she can fight. She is not afraid to take up arms to fight for those she loves. Therefore, Avelynn was feisty and spirited, and she made a fun heroine. She is also human, and makes mistakes. However, she learns from them. She eventually understands that the choices she makes could have consequences.

     Overall, this book is about friendship, family, love, choices, and responsibility. It is about a woman’s quest of finding her own happiness and to fulfill her role that is passed down to her. I liked how this story has a King Arthur reference, and this story has a little bit of fantasy. This story reminds me of The Mists of Avalon. I did feel that the love story was not fleshed out, and I felt that it was an instant infatuation. This is because Alrik is absent for most of the story, and I would have liked a little more appearance of Alrik so that I could enjoy the love story more. Still, I found the storyline to be very interesting, and I liked how it is set in Anglo-Saxon times. This novel is very meticulously researched and the writing is very beautiful. I will definitely read this next book in the Avelynn series. This book is not only perfect for fans of historical fiction, but  to fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


The Lady Agnès Mystery - Volume 2: The Divine Blood and Combat of Shadows by Andrea Japp: A Book Review

The Lady Agnès Mystery - Volume 2:  The Divine Blood and Combat of Shadows
Author: Andrea Japp
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Gallic Books
Release Date: August 17, 2015
Pages: 624
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Agnès de Souarcy has survived the medieval Inquisition, but remains in grave danger. Her protectors must battle with powerful enemies.

     "Five women, in the centre the sixth" are the enigmatic words foretelling Agnès's destiny. But will she fulfill the role that has been prophesied?

     My Review: This story picks up where the first novel left off. Lady Agnes has escaped the French Inquisition, however she finds out that she is still in danger. Due to the prophecy that involves her, her enemies seek to get rid of her. Her allies who seek to protect her are determined to find out who wants to harm her at all cost. In order to protect all she holds dear, Agnes must figure out how to play her role in the prophecy.

     Even though Lady Agnes has survived the Inquisition, she still has scars that she is trying to heal. When she tries to start her life anew, she learns that there is still trouble amidst.  I find Lady Agnes to be a very strong person. She seeks to find happiness and love. She is also not afraid of fighting like a man to save those she loves. Because of this, she is a strong heroine. However, I also pitied her because of the sadness she experienced in the first book. I wanted Lady Agnes to find her happy ending.

     Overall, this book is a fast-paced action thriller. It is an historical epic with a complex plot and a large cast of characters that reminds me a little bit of the Game of Thrones series. This book does resolve the mystery in the first novel. There are more secrets in this book that are revealed. The novel ends in a cliffhanger, and I am pretty certain that there will be at least one more book in this series. I did feel that there were times that this story was drawn out. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novel, and I am interested in reading the next book in this series. Even though this novel can be read as a standalone, I suggest that you read the first book first so you can have an emotional attachment to the characters. I recommend this series to those who love mysteries and historical epics. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars