HFVBT Book Review: Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Released: March 18, 2014

Format: Kindle

Pages:  320

Source:  HFVBT & Publisher


Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

My Review:

Two words: BLOWN AWAY!  First of all, I absolutely love the book cover.  It is the perfect illustration of Mary and Queen Elizabeth’s relationship: Mary was often in her shadow, as she should be, however the heart always has another direction it wants to go!

Before I started the story, the author writes a little bit of a prologue. I am in awe of Anne’s courage, fighting spirit as she battled cancer, and that she was able to write this book in the midst of her own struggle.  Also, she is a descendent from Queen Elizabeth’s lineage, which makes this story even more fascinating for the readers, as I am sure it was for her when she researched the people in her book.

While I have read a lot of historical fiction novels about Queen Elizabeth I, and even saw the movies, this book sheds light on another side to the Queen.  In this book, readers will see a vulnerability that other books may not show.  While she is Queen of England and being courted by suitors, she manages to make time for her beloved Mary.  Queen Elizabeth also experiences the heartache of loving her “Sweet Robin”, Robert Dudley, who she can never marry.  Robin is also like a father or dear uncle to Mary, who she looks to for guidance and favor with the Queen during a moment most needed.

Mary is a young woman, who is quite similar to Queen Elizabeth.  Unlike the other maidens, she maintains her “virtue” with the other courtiers and does believe in love, rather than fortune.  She has an opportunity to marry for fortune, but chooses not to marry the Earl of Oxford, which Queen Elizabeth supports.

Throughout the story, readers see what court is like, how Queen Elizabeth handles issues with other countries, Catholics vs. Protestants, as well as the Queen Mary of Scots and the Duke of Norfolk.  It was quite interesting to see how Queen Elizabeth handled all these pressures, dealt with the people in her court, and maintain the relationships she had with her maidens.

Mary has her own challenges of falling in love with a Catholic widowed father of 5 and pleasing the Queen.  I was stunned…just stunned with the way the events unfolded at the end and saddened by Mary’s relationship with Sir John and how their story ends.

This is an incredible book, one that many will love! If you love historical fiction, Tudor history, interested in another aspect of Queen Elizabeth’s history, young love, and just want a great read-then this book is it!  Anne does a remarkable job with keeping the book focused more on the characters and their struggles, rather than just get bogged down with historical facts.  It’s a beautiful story and one that is now an absolute favorite of mine!

*A huge thanks to HFVBT for allowing me the opportunity to join this tour!

About the AuthorAnne Clinard Barnhill

Anne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants. Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity. She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.

For more information, please visit Anne Clinard Barnhill’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, March 10
Review at Words and Peace
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, March 12
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, March 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, March 14
Review at The Lit Bitch

Monday, March 17
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 18
Spotlight & Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, March 19
Review at One Book at a Time

Thursday, March 20
Review at Book-alicious Mama

Friday, March 21
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, March 24
Review at She is Too Fond of Books

Tuesday, March 25
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, March 26
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 27
Review at Book of Secrets

Friday, March 28
Review at Scandalous Women

Monday, March 31
Review at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?

Tuesday, April 1
Interview at HF Book Muse – News

Thursday, April 3
Review at Books in the Burbs

Friday, April 4
Review at The True Book Addict
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Monday, April 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 8
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, April 9
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, April 10
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Friday, April 11
Review at Silver’s Reviews
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR






Fiction Addiction Book Tours Review: Mary Bennet by Kate Allan

No one who has ever seen me would suppose me a heroine. My situation in life, the character of my father and mother, indeed my own person and disposition are all against me.


Mrs Bennet is determined that all five of her daughters must marry. Mary overhears a conversation between her parents that shatters her already fragile sense of self-worth. She knows she is the least attractive of the sisters but to hear that her attempts to overcome this by being intelligent and accomplished are laughable sends her into a deep depression.

Mary and her her sister Kitty are sent to Derbyshire so that their elder sister, Mrs Darcy, can introduce them to suitable young gentlemen. Mary is satisfied to remain a spinster and is shy with gentleman. But she does decide she should try and improve herself.On the way to Derbyshire she meets a strange gentleman who she considers ill mannered. However she is intrigued by his knowledgeable conversation about old buildings.

On arrival at Pemberley, the home of the Darcy’s, Mary discovers that the stranger is a Mr Sharnbrook of Kent and also a house guest. Mr Sharnbrook is an amateur archaeologist and has come to Pemberley to excavate possible burial mounds as part of his studies. Mary is interested in his work and offers to help him sort out his notes. Engrossed in the work, her spirits begin to lift.

A continuation of Pride and Prejudice beginning eight months after the end of Jane Austen’s novel, Mary Bennet tells the story of how the Bennet’s neglected middle daughter tries to overcome the disadvantages of her character and find happiness.

My Review:

I have read, and re-read, Pride and Prejudice, many times. It is my favorite book that Jane Austen wrote, although I am a huge fan of all of her work.  In this book, Mary Bennet, Kate Allan uses much of the same pattern, experiences, and characters that Jane Austen created in Pride and Prejudice.  It helped create a natural extension of Jane Austen’s book, and was crafted in a way, that the characters in Mary Bennet stayed true to their characters, first revealed in P&P.

Mary is the middle child, the forgotten one (so it seems), and she is quite content to be so.  Why? Because she has already decided that fate has determined she will be a spinster and will not marry.  While it is difficult for her parents to accept, Mary is content reading, singing, and enjoying the activities that are limited to her male counterparts.  However, rather than feel comfortable doing so, her parents and family want her to “change” and be more “girl-like” with dancing and entertaining, so that she may find someone to marry.  Kitty is quite different- not only in her personality, but she has a strong desire to marry.  While she wants love, more than anything, she wants security, wrapped up in a very handsome man.

I loved the storyline, especially the relationship between Mary and Mr. Nick Sharnbrook.  As in P&P, Mary also is in a bit of a triangle with Mr. Sharnbrook and Mr. Collins, and Kitty quickly becomes a little like Lydia, in attitude and choices-although not quite ( I won’t divulge).  I enjoyed reading about the research that Nick and Mary collaborate on together.  It was amazing to be reminded again, how limited resources were back in those days, and how they excavated and recorded their findings.  Those little tidbits were what made this book fascinating.  It was also quite natural how the relationship between Mary and Nick (Mr. Sharnbrook) evolves over time.

Fans of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth will absolutely love how their relationship evolves and the new adventures they embark on.  With so many cameos from the P&P cast, readers will enjoy learning more about their journey, relationships, and little adventures along the way.  More than anything, I appreciated Kate’s desire to show how Mary is accepted for who she is, and is able to find love with someone who appreciates those qualities in her.

About the Author

Kate lives in the Bedfordshire countryside, England, close to the Chiltern Hills. She developed plans to be a novelist at the age of seven after reading about the career of prolific children’s author Enid Blyton, whose adventure and mystery story books she read avidly. She taught herself to use her mother’s typewriter to try and make her stories look like “proper books”. Endlessly fascinated by “the past”, Kate took a degree in History before starting a commercial career.

She began seriously writing in 2001, taking a notebook with her on the train to make best use of her commute to work. She wrote two historical novel manuscripts before receiving an offer of publication for the second – a short novel – in 2004 from DC Thomson. Fateful Deception is a romantic adventure set in the early 19th century and was shortlisted for the 2005 RNA New Writers Award.

2006 saw the publication of Perfidy and Perfection, Kate’s romantic comedy set in Jane Austen’s England, and the publication of two short novels: Fateful Deception and The Restless Heart.

Kate also writes in partnership with author Michelle Styles under the name Jennifer Lindsay. Jennifer Lindsay’s first novel, The Lady Soldier, is a romantic adventure about a lady who disguises herself as a man in order to join Wellington’s army. It was published in 2005.

The kind of stories Kate writes are those that she would like to read, and she hopes that others will find them enjoyable and entertaining too.

Kate is member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.

Author Links



Twitter @kate_allan


Follow the Tour Here!


Tour Information

17th March Books in the Burbs
18th March The Most Happy Reader
19th March Cosmochicklitan
20th March Review hosted on Shaz’s Book Blog @jaustenrulesok
21st March A Novel Thought
24th March Books with Bree
25th March Book Hoarder
26th March Rachel Brimble Romance
27th March Compelling Reads
28th March Deal Sharing Aunt
31st March Bookish
1st April DizzyC’s Little Book Blog
2nd April Bookalicious Travel Addict
3rd April BleachHouseLibrary
4th April Brook Cottage Books

Book Review: While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

ISBN: 9780399166235
Pages: 432
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: NetGalley& Publisher


A beautiful princess lies in a sleep so deep it is close to death. Was Sleeping Beauty revived by a prince’s kiss? What really happened in that tower so long ago?

While Beauty Slept re-imagines the legend through the lens of historical fiction, telling the story as if it really happened. A Gothic tale of suspense and ambition, love and loss, it interweaves the story of a royal family and the servants who see behind the glamorous facade, following the journey of a young woman as she lives out a destiny that leads her to the brink of death.

My Review:

Out of all the Disney princess movies, Sleeping Beauty, was one of my least favorites.  So, I really had no idea what to expect from this book, but I am glad did read it!

I love the way Elizabeth Blackwell takes a treasured children’s story, and expands on it in such a creative and genius way!  Even if you have not read Sleeping Beauty or seen the movie, like me, you will understand this story and appreciate the direction that Elizabeth takes this book.

With Elise’s point of view, readers gain an insider’s view to the Queen, Maleficent, and even Princess Aurora.  The story truly reads as if it is based on an actual historical event, or at least a real place, which is what makes this book so special.  Regardless of a “fantasy” place, readers will genuinely love the relationship Elise develops with different palace workers, the Queen, and her own love story, that is weaved in.  Overall, a beautiful story and one that will delight readers!

*This book was provided by NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


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She Reads February Book Club Review: The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Publisher/Publication Date: Doubleday (1/14/2014)

Source:  She Reads Book Club

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

My Review:

One word: WOW!  This novel has so many twists and turns, debauchery, infidelity, infertility, mistresses, maids with a little too much information, and a corrupt system.  I love books that mix fact with fiction, weaved together by one creative mind: Ariel Lawhon’s!

This is not a quick read, by any means, as there are a lot of characters important to the storyline-that you will want to know.  I did find myself getting confused with the year/dates, as the story does jump back to before Crater’s disappearance, to after his disappearance, and then later in life.  Based on the real life mystery surrounding Joseph Crater’s disappearance, there are 3 women, who Ariel shines light on.  While there are creative liberties used to fill in the gap of information not know, Ariel’s writing is seamless and the story flows like a true crime novel should.

I absolutely loved the characters Ariel creates to help make the story well rounded (won’t reveal who…you have to read it!), and the characters she expounds on-who were quite interesting and fascinating to read about.  This is a fantastic story, with everyone being a suspect…even the police. Set in the 1930′s, Ariel captures the glamour, the seediness of the club-limited to showgirls, corrupt politicians, and mobsters, corrupt political systems and the impact it has on an affluent family, murder suspicion, three women who are connected in one way or another, which just kept me fully engaged the whole time.

I am blown away by this fantastic historical fiction novel, written by a first time author, who read a lot of conspiracy theories, novels, newspaper clippings, and somewhere in all of that research material-she brings forth this incredible novel!! An excellent novel for book club discussions, for anyone that loves political/true unsolved crime novels, and historical fiction.

*Thanks to She Reads Book Club for providing this book as our February Book Club Pick!


Ariel LawhonAriel Lawhon is the co-founder of the popular online book club She Reads (www.shereads.org). A novelist, blogger, and life-long reader, she lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart. THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, just released this month from Doubleday.

Follow Ariel Lawhon!

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Quick Reads-Short Reviews!

Don’t you just love reading books that are so easy to read, quite engaging, and is the kind of book that you can get lost in?  These are those kind of books!  So good, that you are finished before you know it, and miss the characters once you’ve turned to the last page.

Release Date: January 21, 2014
Pages: 320
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: NetGalley

Synopsis: from Goodreads:

Molly is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family’s Long Island upholstery business.  For the past four years Molly’s been on staff at Eye Spy, covering all the wacky assignments.  She’s snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.

Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-year-old chiropractor.  He’s comfortable, but safe.  When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance “in the style of Nora Ephron,” she flunks out big time.  Clearly she can’t recognize romance.  And in her own life, she can’t recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man whogets her.  Mainly because he’s a well-known player.

But, with help from Nora Ephron’s movies, Molly learns to open her heart, suppress her cynicism, and find her very own fairytale ending.  Linda Yellin’s “What Nora Knew” will captivate readers with its charm and humor.

My Review:

I must admit, I’ve not read any Nora Roberts’ books, but have seen her books-turned-movies:  When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.  While I don’t know Nora’s writing (other than in movies), I absolutely loved Linda’s book!  It has everything a great book should have:  romance, crazy job, great friends, and moments of self-reflection for the characters.

Molly has a great job (even though she has quite a bit of Bridget Jones’ Diary moments), and a boyfriend, who is a little too eager to hand out his business card.  Molly goes to the Hamptons for her yearly vacation getaway at her friend’s house.  While there, she meets Cameron, who is quite the player and has an eye for her.  While the book is predictable, it is entertaining, fun, a feel-good kind of book, that everyone needs from time to time!  Even if you aren’t a Nora Ephron fan or read her books, like me, you will love it!  If you are a Nora Ephron fan and have read her books- you will love all the references made to her books and characters!It’s a book that had me smiling as I read certain scenes and was a story that I am sure many readers will enjoy talking about!



Release Date:  February 4, 2014

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers

Pages: 384

Genre:  Christian Romance, Mystery fiction

Source:  NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Allie Kirkland has never been one to take wild risks. But when she’s offered a costuming assistant’s job on a docudrama in the hills near Moses Lake, she jumps at the chance. She’s always dreamed of following in her director-father’s footsteps, and the reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step. The family expectations will have to wait.

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delevan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the folk songs of Chinquapin Peaks. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.
When strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, everyone in Wildwood, including Allie’s handsome neighbor on the film set, Blake Fulton, seems to be hiding secrets, and Allie doesn’t know who she can trust. If she can’t find the answers in time, history may repeat itself . . . with the most unthinkable results.
My Review:
This is a book that anyone could read, not just those who love Christian fiction, but mystery novels in general.  I was quite fascinated with Bonnie Rose and her sister, even though her big secret is never shared, it seems like it was some form of sexual abuse.  Told in alternating viewpoints: past/present, Allie/Bonnie Rose, the story goes pretty smoothly.  It was interesting to have a book set along the phase reality tv has in today’s world, and how much can be learned from living in the old days.  As Allie shared her stories of becoming acclimated to living in old Texas, where women had to cook, make their clothes, heat the stove, and learn to be independent in a male dominated world, she also begins to feel that she is being watched and starts to feel the same way Bonnie Rose did: unsafe.  The storyline moves slow in the beginning, as we read Allie preparing for moving to the makeshift old Texas site: Woodland Creek, and as Bonnie Rose tries to adjust to her life with her little sister.  It starts to move quite quickly and become rather interesting when Allie finds herself underground and time starts to tick away, as she realizes her life is really threatened!  The epilogue was interesting, a little too nicely wrapped, but overall was a great book!
*A HUGE thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers!

HFVBT Book Tour: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

Book Information:

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Author:  Heather Webb

Publication Date: December 31, 2013

Publisher:  Plume Books/Penguin

Pages: Paperback; 320p

ISBN-10: 0142180653

Source:  HFVBT & Publisher




Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

My Review:

I cannot believe this is Heather Webb’s first published book! I loved the flow of the story, the way the story unfolded, and the trials Josephine encounters in her life.  I would liked to have read more about her youth, simply because she was so fascinating to read, however, it works for the book.  The storyline is many, however it ebbs and flows in a way that doesn’t make it seem too busy, bogged down, or overwhelming with historical facts.  Josephine was a multi-facted woman for sure, and this story reflects that.  In my opinion, this book will either have you love or hate Josephine…there is just no in-between.  Personally, I loved her, because she was a woman impacted and shaped by her circumstances in youth, her first marriage, and motherhood.  Regardless of how she took care of herself, she was a smart woman, playing in a man’s world.  It was a quick read for me, because of how it flowed so well, and is a book I highly recommend to those who want to tiptoe into the world of Historical Fiction, want to know who Josephine is and how she shaped Napoleon and France, and for those who simply want a great read.

*A thank you to HFVBT and the publisher for giving me an opportunity to participate in the book tour!

About the AuthorHeather Webb

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

For more information please visit Heather’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Wednesday, January 1 Review & Interview at HF Book Muse-News Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, January 2 Review at Let Them Read Books Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?

Friday, January 3 Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Monday, January 6 Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, January 7 Review & Giveaway at Scandalous Women

Wednesday, January 8 Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, January 9 Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Friday, January 10 Review at Turning the Pages

Monday, January 13 Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, January 14 Review at Unabridged Chick Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, January 15 Review at Book Lovers Paradise Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, January 16 Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 20 Review at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, January 21 Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, January 22 Review at A Book Geek Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, January 23 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Saturday, January 25 Review at Book-alicious Mama

Monday, January 27 Interview at Erika Mailman Blog Review & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, January 28 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, January 29 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, January 30 Interview at HF Connection

Friday, January 31 Review at Books in the Burbs

Monday, February 3 Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 4 Review at A Muse in the Fog

Wednesday, February 5 Review at A Bookish Libraria Interview at A Muse in the Fog

Friday, February 7 Review at Silver’s Reviews

Praise for Becoming Josephine

“Heather Webb’s epic novel captivates from its opening in a turbulent plantation society in the Caribbean, to the dramatic rise of one of France’s most fascinating women: Josephine Bonaparte. Perfectly balancing history and story, character and setting, detail and pathos, Becoming Josephine marks a debut as bewitching as its protagonist.” –Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“With vivid characters and rich historical detail, Heather Webb has portrayed in Josephine a true heroine of great heart, admirable strength, and inspiring courage whose quest is that of women everywhere: to find, and claim, oneself.” –Sherry Jones, bestselling author of The Jewel of the Medina

“A fast-paced, riveting journey, Becoming Josephine captures the volatile mood of one of the most intense periods of history—libertine France, Caribbean slave revolts, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars—from the point of a view of one of its key witnesses, Josephine Bonaparte.” –Dana Gynther, author of Crossing on the Paris

“Vivid and passionate, Becoming Josephine captures the fiery spirit of the woman who stole Napoleon’s heart and enchanted an empire. –Susan Spann, author of The Shinobi Mysteries

“Spellbinding . . . Heather Webb’s novel takes us behind the mask of the Josephine we thought we knew.” –Christy English, author of How to Tame a Willful Wife and To Be Queen

“Enchanting prose takes the reader on an unforgettable journey . . . Captivating young Rose springs from the lush beauty of her family’s sugar plantation in Martinique to shine in the eighteenth century elegance of Parisian salon society. When France is torn by revolution, not even the blood-bathed terror of imprisonment can break her spirit.” –Marci Jefferson, author of Girl on the Gold Coin (Thomas Dunne Books, 2014)


HFVBT Review: Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester


The book follows the story of three generation of women from 1900 through 1970, seven decades of wars and hardship. At the turn of the century, an era of strict moral codes, Angela falls in love with a priest who abandons her and her unborn child. She overcomes rejection and misfortunes, including losing her right hand, and brings up her daughter, exuberant, stubborn Ilonka. In spite of the stigma of her illegitimate birth, the girl finds happiness in love and marriage, raising five children, among them Sarika, independent and high-spirited, much like herself. With the outbreak of WWII, however, their lives change drastically, followed by equally hard times as the country falls under Soviet-style dictatorship. When an attempt to free the country in 1956 fails and people start to flee retributions, Sarika and her brothers join the exodus to the West. With her family torn apart Ilonka never recovers her strength.

Years of fear and political pressures hasten her descend into depression, and when she loses her husband too, she finally gives up. Alone and completely on her own, Sarika finds her way to America, and begins a new life full of opportunities and most importantly, free of fear.

My Review:

This is a story that spans many decades, and is full of rich content regarding the history of Hungary and it’s people.  Specifically, the Zachar family.  This is a 600 page book, so it is not a fast read, nor is it one that you will want to glance through pretty quick.  Filled with characters, each related in some way to one another, it can at times be difficult to figure out who they are, and how they are interrelated.  My suggestion is to read this book, don’t get bogged down with the character’s names, and who they exactly are.  While it may seem a slow read, it’s a book that has so much information, that is would be difficult take one piece of information out-as it all ties in together.

With the political tragedies that happen in Hungary and how it is impacted, Shari focuses on one family-hers.  Told in wonderful, vivid detail, there is a lot of history about Hungary, and the impact WWI and WWII had in this country.  There is a love story, that at times felt it was intruded with the wars going on, however I imagine that is how it is-when war happens, everything you do is in some way impacted by that.

Go easy with this book.  It’s a love story, wrapped up in a lot of history, with a lot of complicated family issues.  Any of the love stories/tragic romances could have been a stand alone, and the history of Hungary could have been a non-fiction.  However, Shari tosses it all in for us-and wow!  It’s an impactful book, for sure!

*A huge thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for always bringing us fantastic books to read! This one was no exception.  It was provided in exchange for an honest review.


About the AuthorS

As a young woman, author Shari Vester fled her native Hungary in 1956 after the defeat of a patriotic uprising against the country’s Soviet-dictated regime. She was granted asylum in the United States to begin a new life. After a year living in New York she moved to Los Angeles, married, and worked as an insurance account manager. Recently retired, she and her husband relocated in the Palm Spring area, where she finally found time to write. Her debut novel, Degrees of Courage, is a historical fiction drawn on her family history. It paints a sharp contrast between life as we know it in America, versus a time and place where today’s “Let it be” mentality was simply impossible.

For more information please visit Shari’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, January 13 Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, January 14 Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, January 15 Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection

Thursday, January 16 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, January 17 Review at Closed the Cover

Monday, January 20 Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Tuesday, January 21 Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, January 22 Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Thursday, January 23 Review at From L.A. to LA

Friday, January 24 Review at Silver’s Reviews Review at Books in the Burbs

HFVBT Review- The God’s of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Paperback Publication: January 13, 2014

Publisher:  W.W. Norton & Company

Pages:  400

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Source:  HFVBT & Publisher


One summer night in prewar Japan, eleven-year-old Billy Reynolds  takes snapshots at his parent’s dinner party. That same evening his  father Anton–a prominent American architect–begins a torrid affair with  the wife of his master carpenter. A world away in New York, Cameron  Richards rides a Ferris Wheel with his sweetheart and dreams about  flying a plane. Though seemingly disparate moments, they will all draw  together to shape the fate of a young girl caught in the midst of one of WWII’s most horrific events–the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo.

Exquisitely-rendered, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the  stories of families on both sides of the Pacific: their loves and  infidelities, their dreams and losses–and their shared connection to one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

My Review:

This is a story that will bring to light so much that as American students, we didn’t know as much detail about: the 1945 bombing in Tokyo, the Americans who were pretty much sent on suicide missions because they didn’t have enough gas fuel to bring them to safety, and the horrible camps that the surviving pilots had to endure.

1962.  Having never been to Tokyo before, it was quite detailing and horrific, that it made me feel as if I was there alongside the author and her characters.

What I loved most, was that in the midst of such turmoil, tragedy, and destruction, that love and hope prevails.  Both sides of the war are shown: the lives of those in America (past and present day), and those in Tokyo (past and present).  The story does fluctuate between past/present, lapsed years, and the lives of Americans and Japanese characters in the storylines.  It is interesting to see how they all become connected and that hope is what brings people together, weaving through the lives of others.

It’s a very slow book, with many characters and events, but the author does this in a way that  helps the reader understand what’s going on, despite that.  It’s a great read for those who love war history, historical fiction, relationships about love and resiliency, and even to just read a story of a war, with a different point of view.

*This book was provided by HFVBT and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.



About the Author

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly  Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai.  She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street  Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan  and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two  daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

Visit Jennifer Cody Epstein

website /blog /Facebook / Twitter.

The Tour Schedule:

Monday, January 6 Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, January 7 Review & Giveaway at Found Between the Covers

Wednesday, January 8 Review at Lit Nerd

Thursday, January 9 Review at From L.A. to LA

Friday, January 10 Review & Giveaway at Drey’s Library Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Monday, January 13 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Review at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 14 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, January 15 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews Review at Cozy Up with a Good Read

Thursday, January 16 Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, January 17 Review at Doing Dewey Review at Reading the Ages

Monday, January 20 Review at bookramblings Review at Carpe Librum Interview & Giveaway at Doing Dewey

Tuesday, January 21 Review at Books in the Burbs

Praise for The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

“Epstein’s second novel (after The Painter from Shanghai) is bursting with characters and locales. Yet painful, authentic (Epstein has lived  and worked in Asia), and exquisite portraits emerge of the personal  impact of national conflicts—and how sometimes those conflicts can be  bridged by human connections.” (Publishers Weekly)

“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a page-turner thanks to its  high-stakes adventure, torrid love affairs and characters so real they  seem to follow you around. And in the end, this gripping novel asks us  not just to consider a lost chapter of a famous war but also to explore  what it means to be lucky—and what it means to be loved.” (Amy Shearn,  Oprah.com)

“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment showcases war’s bitter ironies…as well as its romantic serendipities.” (Megan O’Grady, Vogue)

“With stunning clarity, Epstein has re-created Tokyo both before and  after the bombing in a novel that raises still-unanswered questions  about the horrors of war, the cruelty associated with it and the lasting impression it can make on a person, a people or a place.”  (Shelf-Awareness.com)

“An epic novel about a young Japanese girl during World War II  underscores the far-reaching impact that the decisions of others can  have.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Sweeping….[A] harrowing novel of destruction and creation that will  appeal to fans of historical fiction” (Library Journal—starred review)

Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway!!

Review: The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen by Lindsay Ashford


When Jane Austen dies at the age of just 41, Anne, governess to her brother, Edward Austen, is devastated and begins to suspect that someone might have wanted her out of the way. Now, 20 years on, she hopes that medical science might have progressed sufficiently to assess the one piece of evidence she has – a tainted lock of Jane’s hair. Natural causes or murder? Even 20 years down the line, Anne is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of the acclaimed Miss Austen.


My most favorite author of all time is Jane Austen.  I chose this book as my first read for January 2014, because of my love for anything Austen, the cover is stunning, the title grabbed my attention, and the first few pages grabbed my attention!!

Lindsay Ashford is a phenomenal writer, and the storyline is weaved with fiction and fact, that it’s quite difficult to separate the two.  Jane Austen befriends a governess, Anne, and through the years, Anne watches Jane’s writing evolve. The questions and  conclusions that Anne comes to regarding the living arrangements, relationships between Jane and her siblings, and raises interesting questions regarding the death of Jane Austen.

If you love a great mystery, love Jane Austen, or just want a great read-then pick up this book! It’s by far one of the best books I’ve read about Jane Austen’s life!!

Have you entered the book giveaway, yet?

TLC Book Tour-The Kept by James Scott


In the winter of 1897, Elspeth Howell treks across miles of snow and  ice to the isolated farmstead in upstate New York where she and her  husband have raised their five children. Her midwife’s salary is tucked  into the toes of her boots, and her pack is full of gifts for her  family. But as she crests the final hill, and sees her darkened house  and a smokeless chimney, immediately she knows that an unthinkable crime has destroyed the life she so carefully built.

Her lone comfort is her twelve-year-old son, Caleb, who joins her in  mourning the tragedy and planning its reprisal. Their long journey leads them to a rough-hewn lake town, defined by the violence both of its  landscape and of its inhabitants. There Caleb is forced into a brutal  adulthood, as he slowly discovers truths about his family he never  suspected, and Elspeth must confront the terrible urges and unceasing  temptations that have haunted her for years. Throughout it all, the love between mother and son serves as the only shield against a merciless  world.

A scorching portrait of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and  retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal  adolescence, The Kept is told with deep compassion and startling originality, and introduces James Scott as a major new literary voice.

My Review:

Look at the book cover very closely.  See the house burning, slowly?? Almost smoldering?  With all that white snow around and barren trees? Well, there is a story inside with lots of secrets that won’t be revealed until you are ready to take steps toward that fire.

This story is absolutely fantastic, brilliantly written, and is not meant for the faint at heart or the rushed reader.  It’s a like a stew, the longer it simmers, the better it tastes.  Only, this book doesn’t taste good…the secrets are quite shocking, revealing, and show why these characters worked so hard at hiding in their home, away from everyone.

As you read this story, remind yourself: this is 1897.  Long before the Women’s Suffrage Movement, long before the civil movement, and long before there were telephones, internet, and social media.  So, it’s quite interesting to see how stories never die, scars never truly heal, and the lengths people will go to keep the harshest of secrets hidden.

Elspeth is a mid-wife, a mother and wife, who often leaves her family for long bouts of time, before returning with money (hidden in the tips her feet).  She comes home to find her family brutally murdered, and it is only when she slowly overcomes her shock, does she find herself staring at the end of a barrel.  Her only remaining child lives, Caleb, who is quite innocent, ignorant, and is unprepared for the dangers outside their home.

Told in alternating voices-Elspeth and Caleb, it is quite interesting to read as Elspeth reflects back on her life and the choices made.  Elspeth and Caleb, mother and child, must try to build a relationship with one another and redeem their family by hunting for the family’s killers.  Along the way, Caleb and Elspeth encounter new adventures, however James Scott never truly lets us (nor Elspeth) forget what led to that fateful day.

This is not an easy book to digest. It won’t be read in a night or two, nor will it be something you will truly appreciate and understand, until you become as invested in Elspeth and Caleb, as they do in their own relationship.  It’s a fantastic book, one that would bring vivid conversations in a book club or group setting, and will certainly have you looking at things differently, as you realize that nothing is ever as it seems.

* A huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me the book, in exchange for an honest review.

About James Scott

James Scott was born in Boston and grew up in upstate New York. He holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA from Emerson College. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and other publications. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and dog. The Kept is his first novel.

Find out more about James at his website.

James’ Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 7th: Drey’s Library

Wednesday, January 8th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, January 9th: Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, January 13th: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, January 16th: Broken Teepee

Monday, January 20th: Tina’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 21st: The Reader’s Hollow

Wednesday, January 22nd: Man of La Book

Thursday, January 23rd: Bibliophiliac

Tuesday, January 28th: she treads softly

Thursday, January 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, February 3rd: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, February 4th: Giraffe Days

Wednesday, February 5th: Ace and Hoser Blook

Thursday, February 6th: Ageless Pages Reviews