Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel, Book Two) by Angela Hunt: A Book Review

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel, Book Two)
Author: Angela Hunt
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: One of Ancient Israel's Most Famous Women-- As You've Never Looked at Her Before

     One of the Bible's most misunderstood and misjudged women, Bathsheba comes to life in this new biblical reimagining from Angela Hunt. Combining historical facts with detailed fiction, this is an eye-opening portrait that will have you reconsidering everything you thought you knew about her. 

     After receiving God's promise of a lifelong reign and an eternal dynasty, King David forces himself on Bathsheba, a loyal soldier's wife. When her resulting pregnancy forces the king to murder her husband and add her to his harem, Bathsheba struggles to protect her son while dealing with the effects of a dark prophecy and deadly curse on the king's household. 

     My Review: Most everyone knows about the story of Bathsheba and David. It is one of the most scandalous moments in the reign of King David. Yet, it is also a story of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. It is a story that shows God’s love for us. Yet there has been a controversy as to whether Bathsheba was a willing participant or a victim. In this retelling, Bathsheba is a victim, and it is a journey of forgiveness.

     Bathsheba did not have it easy in this novel. It was prophesied in the beginning that she would give birth to a great son who would rule the Israelite land. Yet, she does not know how the prophecy will be fulfilled. She marries Uriah, and the marriage is happy until David spots her. Because he is the king, Bathsheba is forced to do David’s bidding. This has traumatized her and when she is found pregnant, she knows that she is doomed. She hates David for what he has done to her. Over the course of the novel, she goes on a quest to forgive him.

     David in this novel is guilty for what he has done. He knows that he has to kill Bathsheba’s husband to protect her reputation. He makes her his wife and decides to make Solomon his heir out of guilt. His guilt becomes love. Throughout the novel, he is not only seeking forgiveness from God, but also from Bathsheba. Therefore, he is on a quest to redeem himself.

     Overall, this novel is about repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and love. The message of the story is there is always hope and redemption. The story is told in first person from Bathsheba and Nathan, the prophet. I did feel that this story was slow moving. There were some unnecessary details that did not contribute to the plot or to the characters and should have been left out. I also felt like there should have more character-development, especially with Nathan. Still, this book is very meticulously-researched and well-written. I recommend this to anyone, not only interested in Christian and biblical fiction, but also to those who want to read a unique retelling about the legend of King David and Bathsheba.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn: A Book Review

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

     London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

     But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth. 

     My Review: After the death of her aunt, Veronica is almost abducted. She is aided by a German baron, who warns that she is in danger. He enlists his reclusive friend, Stoker, to ensure her protection. Shortly afterwards, they learn that the baron is dead under mysterious circumstances. This forces them to go run and hide. While they are suspicious of each other, they must work together to uncover the truth about the baron’s death.

      Veronica is a lepidopterist, who is interested in the natural history of moths and butterflies. She is independent for a woman of her age and does not like to conform to the norms of Victorian society. She is very intelligent and is observant. She pays a lot of attention to the little details to others. However, she can be a bit judgmental. She shoots down other people’s ideas if they do not correlate with her own. This sometimes makes her arrogant. 

     I did find her partner Stoker to be more interesting than Veronica. While he seems to be temperamental, it is obvious there is more to him than what he seems. He is a man who has faced many tragedies, and it is because of his past that he is hardened. It is hard for him to trust others and is suspicious of them. Yet, he is a good partner for Veronica. He knows many things and is also intelligent. Unlike Veronica, who is judgmental, he is very open-minded and sees things differently than she does. Without Stoker, Veronica would have lasted long in this novel, and she definitely would not have solved the mystery.

     Overall, this novel is about two people coming to terms with their past. This book is pretty slow. There is more dialogue in this book than action. The mystery is mostly in the background until over halfway through the novel, and I found it very predictable with no suspense and loose ends. While this is not Deanna Raybourn’s best work that I have read, nevertheless, it was still a light, entertaining read. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I recommend this book to anyone interested in mysteries set in the Victorian era.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint (Women in Antiquity) by David Potter: A Book Review

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint (Women in Antiquity)
Author: David Potter
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: November 4, 2015
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Two of the most famous mosaics from the ancient world, in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, depict the sixth-century emperor Justinian and, on the wall facing him, his wife, Theodora (497-548). This majestic portrait gives no inkling of Theodora's very humble beginnings or her improbable rise to fame and power. Raised in a family of circus performers near Constantinople's Hippodrome, she abandoned a successful acting career in her late teens to follow a lover whom she was legally forbidden to marry. When he left her, she was a single mother who built a new life for herself as a secret agent, in which role she met the heir to the throne. To the shock of the ruling elite, the two were married, and when Justinian assumed power in 527, they ruled the Eastern Roman Empire together. 

     Their reign was the most celebrated in Byzantine history, bringing wealth, prestige, and even Rome itself back to the Empire. Theodora was one of the dominant political figures of her era, helping shape imperial foreign and domestic policy and twice saving her husband from threatened deposition. She played a central role trying to solve the religious disputes of her era and proactively assisted women who were being trafficked. An extraordinarily able politician, she excited admiration and hatred from those around her. Enemies wrote extensively and imaginatively about her presumed early career as a prostitute, while supporters elevated her, quite literally, to sainthood.

     Theodora's is a tale of a woman of exceptional talent who overcame immense obstacles to achieve incredible power, which she exercised without ever forgetting where she had come from. In Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint, David Potter penetrates the highly biased accounts of her found in the writings of her contemporaries and takes advantage of the latest research on early Byzantium to craft a modern, well-rounded, and engaging narrative of Theodora's life. This fascinating portrait will intrigue all readers with an interest in ancient and women's history.

     My Review: Empress Theodora was one of the most powerful women in the Byzantine Empire. However, history has not been favourable to her because she has garnered much negative criticism because of Procopius, a writer writing works about his times. Procopius is the only primary source about Theodora. In this biography of Theodora, the biographer sheds some light on his subject focusing on her positive aspects. While she does have some faults, Empress Theodora did have some accomplishments.

     Empress Theodora is a remarkable woman. Unlike many royalty in her day, she actually had to work herself up the ropes to become Empress. She was the daughter of a bear trainer and she became an actress. However, it was because she was of lowly birth that she was able to emphasize with the lower social class. She made many friends who were of her social status, and when she became empress she helped them. She also helped many women in the lower social class.

     Theodora was loyal to all those around her. It was her loyalty to her husband Justinian that they worked together to rule their empire. While both of them had completely different personalities and disagreed on different issues, they still had deep respect for one another. While their relationship was not based on romantic love, they still loved each other intellectually as equals. Together they helped make decisions in their empire and would often listen to each other’s viewpoints on issues.

     Overall, this was a very compelling biography about Empress Theodora. It is clear that the biographer admires his subject because he chooses to highlight her accomplishments. In a man’s world, Theodora was tough and hardworking. She, not Justinian, who wanted to run away, saved her throne. I also thought that the author does a good job in portraying the politics and the social aspects of the time. This biography is very engaging and comprehensive, and I liked how the author shows us how Theodora is portrayed in popular culture. This is a good portrait to those who want to see Empress Theodora in a positive light. This biography is an excellent tribute to a powerful empress who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most powerful women of her age.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Blog Tour: Lost Princess (Kingdom of Cymmera Trilogy Book 2) by Dani-Lyn Alexander: A Book Review

Lost Princess (Kingdom of Cymmera Trilogy Book 2)
by Dani-Lyn Alexander
Release Date: 10/13/15 Lyrical Press 
Synopsis: Ryleigh Donnovan’s life changed forever the day she met Jackson Maynard, a Death Dealer, and followed him home to the kingdom of Cymmera. Now she is trying to care for her sister while saving a realm she knows nothing about...

     Jackson has reluctantly accepted the throne of Cymmera, in place of his father. But his world is in turmoil, the kingdom under constant threat of attack. Worse still, Jackson suspects there is a traitor among his court. A powerful prophet has suggested a way to protect the realm, but that solution may drive Jackson and Ryleigh apart forever... 

     When a magic relic goes missing, Ryleigh has no choice but to journey in search of it. When Jackson discovers Ryleigh is missing, he must make a choice that will either claim their destiny, or bring an end to the only home he’s ever known.

     My Review: Lost Princess is the sequel to Reluctant Prince. Jackson is now King of Cymmera, and Ryleigh is his future prospective queen. Yet, not all is happily ever-after because there is still danger. It is suspected that within his court is a traitor.  In order to protect their realm Ryleigh agrees to go on a mission to recover a magic relic, keeping her mission secret from Jackson. When Jackson discovers her gone, he goes in pursuit to find her.

     Because I was disappointed in the first book, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Lost Princess. This is because the author seemed to fix her mistakes in the first novel. There is more character development to both the characters, Ryleigh and Jackson. Ryleigh grows in this book. She is strong, determined, and must rely on herself. She is also more mature. Jackson is insecure because he feels that he does not live up to his father. He is also trying to come to terms with his fate.

    Overall, this book is about friendship, love, courage, and family. There were a lot of cool scenes in this book, my favorite being Ryleigh riding a dragon. I absolutely adored the cliffhanger ending, and I love Ryleigh’s last line in the novel. This ending is setting up for the final trilogy. If that is the case, then Ryleigh is definitely a woman you would not like to mess with. I loved the expanding world-building of Cymmera. The characters are fleshed out, and I felt that there is more build-up to their romance. There is a lot of tension between Ryleigh and Jackson in that they do have their rough moments, but eventually they make up for it. The book did start out slowly, but it picks up when Ryleigh goes on her mission. Lost Princess is definitely better than Reluctant Prince, and the author has shown massive improvement in her works. Because of Lost Princess, I am looking forward to reading the last book in the trilogy. I recommend this book to anyone interested in epic fantasy with dragons, perilous quests, royalty, and magic.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Buy Links: 

Amazon, Nook, iBooks

Excerpt:

     The soft brush of something against the carpet outside Ryleigh’s bedroom door intruded on her restless sleep. Her eyes shot open. Her heart drummed wildly in her chest. Blood rushing in her ears drowned out whatever sound had woken her. With the Kingdom of Cymmera at war, even though she was in her own realm, human traitors or monsters could attack from anywhere at any moment. Goose bumps rushed across her skin, prickling her nerves. The memory of savages invading her home taunted her.  

     Wait. There it was again. The slightest whisper of something brushing against... something. She slid quietly from the bed, got caught up in the blankets, and almost lost her footing. She bit back a curse, untangled her foot, and grabbed the baseball bat from beneath the bed. Although she had her choice of weapons now—sword, bow and arrow, flail, axe— the bat still felt the most comfortable in her hand, the most familiar. She switched off the small bedside lamp. No sense backlighting herself when she opened the door. She’d be an easy enough target if something waited out there.  

     She tiptoed across the bedroom, pressed her ear against the door, and held her breath. The rhythmic pounding of her heart slamming against her ribs masked any sound that might come from the hallway. She blew her breath out slowly, careful not to make any noise, and gripped the doorknob. 

     No good. Her hand was too slippery. She wiped her sweaty palm on her pajama pants and tried again. Turning the knob as soundlessly as possible, bat held at the ready, she eased the door open, just a crack at first, and peered into the dark hallway. 

Book Trailer:





About the Author:




      Dani-Lyn Alexander lives on Long Island with her husband, three kids and three dogs. She loves spending time with her family, at the beach, the playground, or just about anywhere. In her spare time, which is rare, she enjoys reading and shopping--especially in book stores. Some of her favorite things include; Bernese Mountain Dogs, musicals, bubble baths and soft blankets. She's an incurable insomniac and has an addiction to chocolate. Visit her website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

Giveaway:





Reluctant Prince (Kingdom of Cymmera Trilogy Book 1) by Dani-Lyn Alexander: A Book Review

Reluctant Prince (Kingdom of Cymmera Trilogy Book 1) 
Author: Dani-Lyn Alexander
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 212
Source: This book was given to me by YA Bound Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Betrayal lies cloaked in shadow.

     Seventeen year old Ryleigh Donnovan is certain her life is cursed. Nothing ever goes smoothly, and her first job interview is no exception. An earthquake rocks the building, sending Ryleigh on a frantic search for her younger sister, a search which lands her in the hospital. Terrified they’ll push her for answers she can’t afford to give, Ryleigh flees with a mysterious stranger.


     Jackson Maynard is about to be ordained as a Death Dealer, a warrior for the Kingdom of Cymmera, but first he must pass one more test. When he fails to acquire the human girl the prophet has chosen, he’s forced to stand trial for treason. Banished from his realm, he seeks out the girl from the vision, Ryleigh Donnovan, and together they embark on a journey to save his dying kingdom.


     My Review: In Cymmera, there has been an ongoing war for a hundred years. In order to end the war, it is prophesied that a girl from the human world will save their kingdom. Jackson, a warrior and a prince, is about to be a Death Dealer. In order for him to do so, he must get the girl that has been prophesied. When he crosses over he meets Ryleigh, who has been ordained as Cymmera’s chosen. Ryleigh does not want to leave her fourteen-year old sister behind. Through a series of dangers, both Ryleigh, Mia, and Jackson are in Cymmera. Ryleigh must embark on a quest to save the kingdom.

     I really did not care for Ryleigh. There was not really any character development to her. I felt that she was perfect. She did not have any flaws. She did love her sister and wanted to take care of her, which was perfectly commendable. However, there was very little evidence of flaws or inner conflict that made her really human. I found her a bit whiny throughout the story. Other than that, she was not a character that stood out.

     Overall, this book is about family, love, and courage. I felt that this book needed more work. I did not feel anything for the characters. I also thought how Mia is portrayed in this book to be weird. She is fourteen, yet everyone treats her like she is five. Indeed had the author not told us in the beginning her age, I would have thought of her as a young child. I did not really like the instant love in this book. There was  really not any development to Ryleighs and Jackson’s relationship, and the characters are also flat. Still, I did like the world-building of Cymmera, an alternate medieval fantasy world, and the story was light and entertaining. However, there was really little substance to it. This book was slow getting started but picked up halfway. I also did not think that the cliffhanger was needed, and it should have been resolved differently. After reading Reluctant Prince, I am reluctant to read the sequel, Lost Princess. Yet, nevertheless I’ll read it, and hope that it is better. Reluctant Prince is a trifle fantasy read that will keep you entertained for a few hours, but with glaring problems and forgettable characters, it will not whet your appetite.

Rating: 2 ½ stars out of 5 stars

This is the official book trailer for Reluctant Prince:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Blog Tour: Aurelia (Roma Nova #4) by Alison Morton: A Book Review

02_Aurelia_CoverAurelia (Roma Nova, #4) by Alison Morton

Publication Date: May 5, 2015 SilverWood Books Paperback & eBook; 270 Pages Genre: Alternative Historical Fiction

Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book tours in exchange for an honest review.

  Add to GR Button           

    Synopsis: Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 21st century. Aurelia Mitela is alone – her partner gone, her child sickly and her mother dead. Forced in her mid-twenties to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer, she is struggling to manage an extended family tribe, businesses and senatorial political life.

     But her country needs her unique skills. Somebody is smuggling silver – Roma Nova’s lifeblood – on an industrial scale. Sent to Berlin to investigate, she encounters the mysterious and attractive Miklós, a suspected smuggler, and Caius Tellus, a Roma Novan she has despised, and feared, since childhood.

     Aurelia suspects that the silver smuggling hides a deeper conspiracy and follows a lead into the Berlin criminal underworld. Barely escaping a trap set by a gang boss intent on terminating her, she realises that her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles and pursues him back home to Roma Nova…

     My Review: Aurelia is the first of the prequel series to the Roma Nova series that is set in the late 1960s. It is about the grandmother to the protagonist Carina. In this series, Aurelia is a high-ranking noblewoman and a Praetorian officer. When she finds out that someone is smuggling silver, she is sent to Berlin to investigate. There she finds that her nemesis, Caius Tellus, is involved in this plot. Aurelia then goes on her quest to pursue him and to capture him.

     I felt sorry for Aurelia. This woman did not have it easy. She had lost many people whom she loved. The only person that is still living is her child, but she is sickly. because she is emotionally distraught she has given up her job. However, no matter how deep in mourning she is in, she must go back to work. I like how she is curious, for she has a lot of questions that she wants answers to. However, while I did like her character, I thought she was too perfect for my taste. She is a Mary Sue. She does not really have any faults. She is intelligent, strong, and good at fighting.I wish there was more development to her character.

     Overall, this is about family, friendship, and love. The story is fast-paced and action-packed. It is a page turner that will keep you entertained throughout the book. However, there were some sad scenes that I did not like, and I really did not like her love interest. Even though the ending was a setup for the next book, I do wish that it ended differently. Still, I found the world-building to be very interesting and complex, and it gave us a lot of detail to the world that she created. I felt like I was a visitor to her alternative world. Because this book is a prequel, you do not have to read the Roma Nova series to enjoy this book. I recommend this book to those interested in science fiction, action thrillers, and anyone who like to think about the “what ifs” of famous historical figures and how the world would be different if their lives had been different.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | KOBO


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


03_Alison Morton_Author


     Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe.

     So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…

     But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

     Now, she lives in France and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines:

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series

– shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

PERFIDITAS, second in series

– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

SUCCESSIO, third in series

– Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– Editor’s choice, The Bookseller’s inaugural Indie Preview, December 2014

Fact file

Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History
Memberships: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors
Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.


WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS | AMAZON UK AUTHOR PAGE | AMAZON US AUTHOR PAGE


GIVEAWAY


To win a signed paperback of Aurelia by Alison Morton please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 



04_Aurelia_Blog Tour #2 Banner_FINAL 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Meyer: A Book Review

Last Song Before Night
Author: Ilana C. Meyer
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Pages: 416
Source: This book was given to me by Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A high fantasy following a young woman's defiance of her culture as she undertakes a dangerous quest to restore her world's lost magic in Ilana C. Myer's Last Song Before Night.

     Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings-a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.

     On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression-from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar's connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.

     The Red Death's return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld-a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

     My Review: Once in the land of Eivar, there was magic everywhere. Poets could use enchantments through their music and songs. However, it all changed when  people conducted dark experiments that consisted of blood divination and unleashed a harsh plague. Soon Eivar’s connection to the Otherworld, which was the source of the magic, was broken. Lin, a female musician and poet, where women are forbidden to these arts, embarks with several others on a quest to reopen the Otherworld to bring magic back to the land. Little does she know that this perilous quest will change her land forever.

     While this story is told from a variety of characters, the central character in this story is Lin. She disguises herself as a boy, though everyone recognizes her immediately upon seeing her as a girl. She competes in a contest at the capital of Tamyrlin, where she sings and plays her harp. Eventually she voluntarily accompanies Darien, another poet, on a quest to accompany the underworld.

      It is through their journey that reveals the pieces of Lin’s past. Even though she is the daughter of one of Eivar’s wealthiest families, she has a cruel past. She is actually in hiding and trying to conceal her identity from her cruel brother. Lin is a sympathetic character. Yet, she is also a very strong character. She is very selfless and does not think of herself. She is also an emotionally distraught character. She is very vulnerable and is also distant from other characters. Slowly, she does open herself up to a few of them.

     Overall, this book is about friendship, sacrifice, redemption, choices, love, and acceptance. It is a quest about a woman finding her identity. The message of the book is to live your life to the fullest. While the story is slow-paced and the quest starts halfway into the book, I found it a great character-driven story. I loved all the characters, including the villains for they were very complex and interesting. I also loved how the women in this book were strong and formidable. The world of Eivar is well-developed and very enchanting. Last Song Before Night is haunting, lyrical, and poetic. I look forward to the sequel so that I can enter the world of Eivar again. I recommend this to anyone who loves high epic fantasy, music and poetry, and strong female characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wendy Darling: Stars Volume One by Colleen Oakes: A Book Review

Wendy Darling: Stars Volume One
Author: Colleen Oakes
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: SparkPress
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Pages: 324
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Wendy Darling has a perfectly agreeable life with her parents and brothers in wealthy London, as well as a budding romance with Booth, the neighborhood bookseller's son. But one night, while their parents are at a ball, the charmingly beautiful Peter Pan comes to the Darling children's nursery, and—dazzled by this flying boy with god-like powers—they follow him out of the window and straight on to morning into Neverland, an intoxicating island of freedom.

     As time passes in Neverland, Wendy realizes that this Lost Boy's paradise of turquoise seas, mermaids, and pirates holds terrible secrets rooted in blood and greed. As Peter's grasp on her heart tightens, she struggles to remember where she came from—and begins to suspect that this island of dreams, and the boy who desires her, have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare.

      My Review: Peter Pan has been one of my favorite childhood stories. It is a timeless coming-of-age story that all kids can identify with about growing up and becoming adults. In this retelling of Peter Pan, it takes all the fun out of mermaids, fairies, Indians, pirates, and above all the most fascinating character and hero in Neverland, the boy who never wants to grow up. Instead it is a more mature and darker setting with a cunning and manipulative Peter Pan.

     The hero of this story is Wendy Darling. She is a teenager who must deal with issues of society. She wants to marry a boy beneath her status. Her parents and her family disapprove of him, and she must never see him again. She also does not get along with her brother, John, whom she fights with often. One day a teenage boy shows up at her nursery. He is Peter Pan, and he fascinates the Darling children with his ability to fly. He then takes them to Neverland, but all is not as it seems because Peter Pan has a plan for Wendy.

     I found Wendy to be a mature character. She is very responsible. Even though she in love with a boy beneath her status, she must make tough choices that are good for society and her family. It is her maturity that makes her a strong heroine. She is not a damsel in distress, and she has the ability to save those she loves. She is very intelligent, inquisitive, and observant. She sees the danger, the treachery, and the harsh reality of Neverland that others do not so she does not last easily fall under the spell of the magical land.

     Overall, this book is about family, sacrifices, and choices. While I find Wendy to be a round character, I found most of the characters to be very one-dimensional, especially her brother John. John is a very annoying character. Yet, I found the most interesting character in the story to be Peter Pan himself. He is a complex and mysterious character. This story is very enthralling and beautifully written. I loved the flight scene and the magic surrounding Neverland. This novel ended in a cliffhanger, and I look forward to reading the sequel. Maybe in the sequel, the characters will be more fleshed out and there will be more detail about Neverland and Peter Pan. I recommend this to anyone who wants to read a unique take on the tale of Peter Pan.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Monday, October 19, 2015

Marie Von Clausewitz: The Woman Behind The Making Of On War by Vanya Eftimova Bellinger: A Book Review

Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman Behind the Making of On War
Author: Vanya Eftimova Bellinger
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: October 1st, 2015
Pages: 312
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The marriage between Carl von Clausewitz and Countess Marie von Brühl was a remarkable intellectual partnership. Many historians have noted the instrumental role Marie played in the creation, development, and particularly in the posthumous editing and publishing of Clausewitz's opus, On War, which remains the seminal text on military theory and strategic thinking. Highly intelligent and politically engaged, Marie was also deeply involved in her husband's military career and advancement, and in the nationalist politics of 19th-century Prussia. Yet apart from peripheral consideration of her obvious influence on Clausewitz and on the preservation of his legacy, very little has been written about Marie herself.


In Marie von Clausewitz, Vanya Eftimova Bellinger proposes to address this oversight, capitalizing on the recent discovery of a vast archive of material―including hundreds of previously unknown letters between Marie and Clausewitz―to produce the first complete biography of this understudied figure. Delving into the private correspondence between the two, Bellinger shows how Marie, a highly educated woman of Prussia's upper echelon, broadened Clausewitz's understanding of the cultural and political processes of the time; provided him with insights into the practical side of daily politics; sharpened his writing style; and served as the catalyst for his ideas. The depth of her influence on and contribution to Clausewitz's theoretical writings, Bellinger argues, is greater than historians have previously suggested. Bellinger also establishes Marie as an impressive figure in her own right, both politically outspoken and socially adept at moving among the ranks of Prussian nobility. The marriage between Marie, an intimate of the royal family, and Clausewitz, an obscure young lieutenant with dubious claims to nobility, allows Bellinger to engage in a broader discussion of gender and class relations in 19th-century Europe; and her study of their epistolary debates also sheds light on the political climate of the time, particularly incipient German nationalist fervor.

My Review: Carl von Clausewitz was a Prussian general known for his unfinished work On War. It was his wife Marie von Clausewitz who edited his works and had them published. Yet despite this fact, Marie von Clausewitz’s accomplishments had on this has been glimpsed over and her influence has been greatly undermined. In this first biography of Marie von Clausewitz, Marie has been given the spotlight. This book not only discusses her accomplishments but it also showed how she has helped influenced Carl’s work, On War.


Marie von Clausewitz was the daughter of a nobleman and was a member of the royal court where she served as lady-in-waiting. When Marie married Carl von Clausewitz, she had actually married down. Carl was not of noble blood and he was an officer in the Prussian army. Yet after two years of flirtation and after much time of consideration, Marie agreed to marry him. It would be years until they finally married, but when they did it was a happy one. The reason that Marie chose to marry him was because he treated her as an equal intellectually. He let her be actively involved in politics. Marie was an intellectual and was very much allowed to  share her views of politics. She also accompanied her husband to the battlefield. It was through these ideas and experiences that helped influence Carl’s unfinished work, On War.


Overall, this biography gives us a different perspective of Marie von Clausewitz, who has often been in the background to many historians. In fact I did not really know much about Marie, I have only heard of Carl von Clausewitz and his classic work, On War. Reading this biography was an eye-opener. It showed us how influential Marie was on his works and her accomplishments. It also showed us the deep respect Marie and Carl had for each other. They loved each other's intellect, and even discussed political views they had at the time. This book is not only a good biography, but I also thought it gave a comprehensive look at the politics and social issues of Germany during their era. While this book is comprehensive to the average reader, it is very dry. I found the book writing style to be dull at times, so occasionally I stopped reading this biography and started reading another book and then come back to it later on. Still, I find this book to be a great tribute to a fascinating woman, and I hope that there will be more biographies of this subject. Marie von Clausewitz is just as important as Carl von Clausewitz, and hopefully history will give her the credit she deserves.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Blog Tour: The Lake House by Kate Morton: A Book Review

02_The Lake HouseThe Lake House by Kate Morton

Publication Date: October 20, 2015 Atria Books Hardcover & eBook; 512 Pages Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

  Add to GR Button    

     From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heart-stopping suspense and uncovered secrets.

     Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

     One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

     Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

     A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.


     My Review: In 1933, on the night of a party, the son of the Edevanes disappears to never show up. The family abandons their glistening house and move to London. Seventy years later in 2003, the cold case is again being investigated when a detective, Sadie, while on holiday stumbles upon the abandoned building. She immediately senses that something terrible had happened here and her curiosity leads to the case of the missing boy. She becomes intrigued by the case and embarks upon a quest to discover what happened that night. The case leads to Alice, the missing boy’s sister, who is a successful mystery writer. The two not only become intertwined, but it also opens up secrets of the past that were never meant to be revealed.

     The two women are very interesting heroines. I found them very relatable. I was curious as Sadie was to discover what had happened to the missing boy, and I was invested in her solving the case. Yet, I found her to be an intriguing character. She too has an interesting past that needed to be revealed, and I was interested in peeling back her layers as the novel progresses. I also loved Alice. She was a haunting character with a sad past. While she is a successful mystery novelist, she too has ghosts from her past and secrets that need to be revealed. She too becomes curious about what happened that night and seeks Sadie’s help.

     Overall, this book is about two women trying to come to terms with their past. This novel was very suspenseful that kept me on the edge of my seat reading what happens next. This novel is beautifully written, haunting, and lyrical. The mystery is intricate, well-thought out, and atmospheric. I didn’t want this novel to end so deeply immersed I was in the story. With complex characters and an addictive page-turner The Lake House is a read that will thrill you and seduce you into the story from the very first page. This is not only a must-read, but this is also a novel I will definitely re-read. Kate Morton has become an author that I will read anything she writes. I recommend this to anyone that loves mysteries, historical fiction, and interesting and complex heroines.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | GOOGLE PLAY | ITUNES | INDIEBOUND | POWELL'S


49290-The-Lake-House-Tour-Graphic


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


03_Kate Morton


Kate Morton grew up in the mountains of south-east Queensland and lives now with her husband and young sons in Brisbane. She has degrees in dramatic art and English literature, specializing in nineteenth-century tragedy and contemporary Gothic novels. Kate Morton has sold over 7.5 million copies in 26 languages, across 38 countries. Her novels include The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, and The Secret Keeper. You can find more information about Kate Morton and her books at www.katemorton.com or www.facebook.com/KateMortonAuthor


04_The Lake House_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Michelle Saftich: Port of No Return

     Today's guest author is Michelle Saftich. She is the author of Port of No Return. It is a touching story of a family who have been separated after World War II and are on a search to find each other. In this guest post, she has given information to what inspired her novel, Port of No Return. I have recently read and enjoyed her novel. I hope this insight gives you insight into her work. Thank you, Mrs. Saftich.




Port of No Return

     When I was a child, in Brisbane, Australia, I asked my father where he was born.

     Because I was only six years old, he told me he was born in Trieste, Italy. So I happily went off to school and proudly told my friends. But three years later, my father revised his answer. “Actually, I was born in Fiume, Italy, but it is no longer called Fiume and it is no longer in Italy.”

     Being a sensitive child, I noticed that telling the truth had pained him and had not been easy to divulge. He also instructed that I should keep it secret. Now, I was intrigued.

     That year, he took our family to Rijeka, Yugoslavia, formerly Fiume. I was moved by his simple reaction. “It doesn’t feel like Italy,” he said.

     I then learned that at the end of World War II, Yugoslav Partisans had come down the hills of Fiume to take the portside city. My grandparents, with their four children, had to flee. While my father shared some memories of living in displaced camps in Europe, I didn’t know much more.

     I was a writer. I had written several fiction manuscripts and worked as a journalist. Aged in my forties and looking for a new writing project, I thought: “Why not tell my father’s story? Why not find out more about Fiume?” I sensed there was much more to the story and my early research revealed many shocking truths.

     All the questions I had pondered since childhood, I now put to my father. Where there were gaps in his memories, research and fictitious licence took over. I was writing a fiction, though my father’s story was certainly my inspiration. I interviewed other Italians, older Italians, who could remember Fiume before the war...

     Still, I was an Australian woman, telling an Italian war story, mostly through the eyes of male characters. Surely it would present challenges...?

     Empathy helped, not to mention my overactive imagination! I found that I could step into their shoes, to see, feel and imagine what it must have been like to have everything taken away; everything, that was, except for the love of family and the hope to resettle.

     So from my childhood curiosity, I have come to write about this little known war, not only for my father, but for the thousands of displaced Italians who fled. Fiume’s Italians and their descendents are spread around the world, residing in countries such as Australia, America and Canada, but through stories, such as this one, they, and their place of birth, will hopefully not be forgotten.

About The Author:

     Michelle Saftich is a first-time author who resides in Brisbane, Australia.  She holds a Bachelor of Business/Communications Degree, majoring in journalism, from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

     For the past 20 years, she has worked in communications, including print journalism, sub-editing, communications management and media relations. She is married with two children.

Giveaway:


Win 1 of 5 copies of Port of No Return & 1 $30 Amazon gift card
(open internationally)



Also check out my review of her novel:

Port of No Return




Blog Tour: Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich: A Book Review

Port of No Return
Author: Michelle Saftich
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Release Date: July 31, 2015
Source: This book was given to me by Italy Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy. By the end of the day, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be. 

     As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself running for his life, knowing that neither side is forgiving of those who have assisted the enemy. His wife and children must also flee the meagre life their town can offer, searching for a better life as displaced persons. 


     Ettore and Contessa’s battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a devastating war, provide a rich and varied account of Italian migration to Australia after World War II. 


     What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter -- a journey you will want to see through to the very end. 


     My Review: Contessa and Ettore Saforo are a happily married couple with a large family, nice home, and a business. However one day that all changed. During the war, their town is bombed and while they survived the bombing through their refuge of shelter, they find their house in ruins and with nothing but the clothes on their back. They stay with their friend, who greatly welcomes them in. Their happiness is short-lived for it is revealed that Etorre has worked for the Germans causing him to run for life. This fact also causes Contessa and his children to be known as Displaced Persons and they must also leave the home and comfort of their friend’s assistance. Both Contessa and Etorre are on a quest to find each other throughout the years as they face hardships.

     I felt sorry for both Contessa and Etorre. It begins with them being happy together until Etorre is being hunted down for working with the Germans and he must flee. Then for most of the novel, they are separate and alternately the chapters tell their side of the story. I loved both of them. Both of them are strong. I loved the struggles and hardships they faced, especially Contessa who has to look out for her children. Yet, they never gave up searching for each other. I found their love really touching as they endured many obstacles.

     Overall, this story is about friendship, family, love, choices, survival, and hope. I found this story an emotional read that I could not put down. This is a story that will linger with you even after you read the last page. This is a heart-wrenching tale of a family that had to give up everything they had to be with each other, including their homeland. The message of the book is to never give up. I felt the book to be meticulously-researched for the setting of the aftermath of World War II. The characters were likable and realistic. The story was very fast-paced, and it had plenty of action. I recommend this story to anyone interested in the aftermath of World War II, stories about people searching for their loved ones, and in heroines who find strength throughout hardships.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Buy The Book:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapter/Indigo

About The Author:




     Michelle Saftich is a first-time author who resides in Brisbane, Australia.  She holds a Bachelor of Business/Communications Degree, majoring in journalism, from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

     For the past 20 years, she has worked in communications, including print journalism, sub-editing, communications management and media relations. She is married with two children. Visit her on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Giveaway:

Win 1 of 5 copies of Port of No Return & 1 $30 Amazon gift card (open internationally)