Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

On a grey London day in 1867, six unrelated children are inexplicably drawn to one central spot. They do not know each other and come from different backgrounds and social levels. But they have one thing in common. Each has been infiltrated with a kind of spirit. They are still themselves but now possess a higher level of awareness and each will discover that they have a new and interesting power. On that first night, they behold a goddess-like figure who gives them instructions and warns them to watch for a seventh member who will appear to complete their circle of The Guard.

Twenty years later, the children have grown up and fulfilled their roles as guardians of the portal between the worlds. Each and every day, the six of them fight evil and tame restless ghosts that only they can see. Rebecca, gifted with Intuition, is the headmistress of Athens Academy. Alexi Rychman, their leader and most Powerful among them, is the head Professor. Michael, the Heart of the group, is a Priest. Jane is the Healer and the most solitary member. Josephine's gift shines through her paintings, she is the Artist. And Elijah is the Memory, able to wipe all knowledge of any incident from someones mind with a wave of his hand.

The years have been hard on all of them, waiting for their prophetic seventh, but especially on Alexi. On that long ago day, when he laid eyes on the Goddess, he was paralyzed with emotion. He loved her from that moment and has looked for her since, denying himself any relationships outside of the guard. He feels that when the seventh DOES arrive, she will be for him. She will not just complete The Guard, but will complete him as well, and dispel the awful loneliness that he has lived with for so long.

Percy Parker, a new student, arrives at Athens Academy from a convent where she has been hidden away for her first eighteen years. She is very bright and eager to learn but is hampered by her appearance. She has snow white hair and skin, with ice blue eyes. She considers herself a freak, an impression enhanced by the stares she receives from the other students. The fact that she can see and hear ghosts, is able to talk to them like she would to any human, must remain her closest kept secret. People would think her mad if they knew.

Academically, Percy is quite brilliant, except in one subject. Mathematics is completely alien to her and she is dismayed to learn that it must be part of her curriculum. The class is taught by Professor Rychman and Percy feels enchanted by him immediately. Her progress is so poor that he requires her to come to his office for private lessons on a daily basis. At first, she is too distracted by him to learn anything. But for Alexi, something about this girl strikes a chord within him. Bit by bit, he comes to believe that she is the seventh that they have been seeking, though she herself knows nothing about it.

During the time Alexi and Percy are getting to know each other, the ghostly horrors in the city of London are growing at an explosive pace. The Ripper murders are at their height, and all of The Guard are aware that an unnatural force is at work. They have all been devoting their energies to defeating it. When a beautiful dark haired woman stumbles into their midst, everyone in The Guard believes her to be the prophesied seventh.

Everyone, that is, but Alexi.

Their disagreement causes a rift in The Guard that could not have come at a worse time. The fabric between the worlds is being torn apart, The Guard is all that is holding chaos back. Their strength lies in their unity, can they achieve it before it is too late?

This story weaves together the threads and echos of many beloved aspects of English Literature. It is steeped in Shakespeare and Greek Mythology, there are flashes of Poe, Dickens, Stevenson, shades of Gothic ghost stories and Victorian romance. Alexi himself reminded me of Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre, dark and brooding. Very well done, indeed, and filled with eloquent writing, too.

This was a very enjoyable novel for me. It is labeled "historical fantasy" and if you read my blog regularly you will know that is one of my favorite genres! I thought all of the characters were interesting, I loved the setting and the premise is wonderfully eerie. Though I did find myself a bit annoyed with Percy's timidity at times. I had to keep reminding myself that the poor girl was raised in a convent! The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is the first in a planned series. I'm hoping that the rest of members of The Guard will get their tales told in the sequels, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Like ghost stories? Paranormal? Historical Fiction? Fantasy? English Literature? Then you will enjoy The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, I certainly did!

For more about the Leanna Renee Hieber and her Strangely Beautiful books, please visit her website. Be sure to enter my giveaway for a signed copy...and while you are there read Leanna's fabulous guest post!

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is published by Leisure Books, ISBN 978-0-8439-6296-3

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My first published blurb!!!

Wow, this very cool! I was catching up on some blog reading (I'm very behind, as usual) at She is Too Fond of Books and I see that Unbridled Books has released the paperback of In Hovering Flight (I reviewed it in December). They chose blurbs from some blogger reviews to put in the paperback, including She is Too Fond of Books, My Friend Amy, BookingMama, Caribu's Mom! I'm so flattered to be included, Unbridled has been one of most supportive publishers of book bloggers, they are just fantastic to work with. Thank you, Unbridled!

Congratulations, everyone! (And thanks to Dawn for posting about it!) How fun is this?

Off to the bookstore to see the blurbs in person....

The Strangely Beautiful Haunted London Blog Tour day 7 (Plus a Giveaway!)

A big welcome today to Leanna Renee Hieber, author of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Percy Parker!! I just started her book and I already love it. I am thrilled to be included in the Haunted London Blog Tour! London is one of my favorite cities and my husband and I always visit Cleopatra's Needle when we go there! Welcome, Leanna...

From the Back Cover:
"What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…"

Thank you, dear Tome Traveller, for asking me to haunt your blog today, I’m thrilled to be here at such a gorgeous site as this.

Today our Haunted Tour leads us to Cleopatra’s Needle – Victoria Embankment, WC 2

For those of you just joining us, the purpose of this Haunted tour is to celebrate the release of my Gothic Victorian Fantasy Romance debut, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. This Tour will introduce you to some of the real, documented London haunts who “ghost-star” in my book. When Professor Alexi Rychman and his Guard of spectral police make their rounds, it is to any number of London phantasms. Since these characters are familiar to The Guard, I don’t get to tell their full story in the book, but here on the tour I can give them their due. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of the novel, first in the Strangely Beautiful series!

Cleopatra’s Needle at Victoria Embankment, WC2

The obelisk known as “Cleopatra’s Needle” first towered outside the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis, having been erected by Pharaoh Thotmes III in 1450, BC. It was moved to Alexandria in 14 BC, then becoming “Cleopatra’s Needle” as it was brought to London in 1878 where it has stood a tall sentry on the banks of the River Thames. More suicides happen near this obelisk than at any other spot along the river. The dark granite itself seems to moan. Londoners out for a foggy night’s stroll along Embankment have seen shadowy figures hurl themselves towards the river but no sound or splash is heard.

I used the Embankment area in what has now become a deleted scene! This is Exclusive Content!

Deleted scene from The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker:

Later in the evening, Alexi felt far too restless to return to Hampstead, knowing he would only pace about his vast estate. He longed to walk dim city streets instead.

Something dank hung in the air as he made his way towards the Thames; a moisture beyond English climate alone. An elder wetness clung to his fine black clothes and impeded his lungs like a toxicant.

Dread filled him as he passed immaculately coiffed ladies and gentlemen, glittering in finery and laughing lightly as they drifted out of the Savoy, just three blocks from where a small child stood shivering on a church stoop, asking two pence for the dirty handkerchief he held in his dirtier hand. Alexi felt sure the boy was far more attune to what London had become than those who flitted about in their hansom cabs, intentionally ignorant of those who peered out from the shadows…

Those accustomed to the great city’s darknesses, surely, were the people who felt the same ugly wet air that Alexi breathed, the same cloying anxiety that still caused one to glance twice and jump at abrupt noises.

Dark eyes staring out over the water from an Embankment parapet, Alexi watched the countless spirits float over the river that had seen more woe in its days than he cared to imagine. The dim, wavering luminescence of the dead gave the Thames the odd quality of a silent ocean, the dead like lapping whitecaps atop the water. They were all looking at him. They all, perhaps, expected something of him.

The finely tuned instrument inside Alexi’s blood that alerted him to specific spectral disturbance was at a loss. The feeling he’d had of late was an unknown and dangerous variable. A man of order, though The Grand Work defied conventional reason, there was an odd science to it that he relished. But his instrument was clouded by a heavy foreboding, a helpless inevitability that something terrible was coming and he had no way to stop it.

The Professor didn’t need another handkerchief but he bought the sullied one from the disheveled child anyway. Looking down on the boy, framed in the shadows of a gothic arch, guarded by a vacant-faced stone saint who could do nothing at the sign of trouble, Alexi was greatly saddened. There was something in the child’s eyes that knew as well as he did that the nights were ripe for terrors.

I’m indebted to Richard Jones, founder of the fabulous Discovery Walks of London and author of the fantastic compendium “Haunted London” and “Walking Haunted London” published by Barnes & Noble Books, a main resource for my research. Visit him at Come visit me at to find out more about The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and follow along on the rest of the Haunted London Blog tour! I hope you’ll also pick up the book and love it as much as I loved writing it! Be sure to comment to be entered to win a signed copy!

To enter, just leave me a comment here with the title of your favorite classic ghost story. This will be a short giveaway, enter thru midnight eastern time on September 4th (My Mom's birthday, Happy Birthday, Mom!!). Winner will be drawn at random and must have a US mailing address. (FYI-For those of you who read or have read the book, Leanna is hosting a great contest on her website - enter here through Sept. 16). Good luck everyone! And a big thank you to Leanna for stopping by today!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Suggestions: The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge

Synopsis from Amazon:

Spanning three generations, this historical novel tells the tale of Boudicca, the most famous warrior of ancient Britain, and Caradoc, the son of a Celtic king, who sets out to unite the people of the Raven and lead them against Rome. Caradoc's objective is not easily accomplished as the Roman army advances into Britain, raping Celtic women and burning villages to the ground. His efforts are also met with fierce opposition from Aricia, the vain queen of a northern tribe who swears allegiance to the Romans after Caradoc slights her, and from Gladys, Caradoc’s warrior sister who falls in love with her Roman captor. Unfortunately, Caradoc’s endeavors are left unresolved when he is taken prisoner, but Boudicca, a strong-willed woman, ultimately takes up the cause that was Caradoc’s legacy.

The Eagle and the Raven by Canadian author Pauline Gedge was originally published in 1978. I picked it up in the early 1990s and it was one of the books that started my love of historical fiction. The rest of Pauline Gedge's historicals are set in Ancient Egypt and I love those, too (I've mentioned them several times on my blog in the past). But this one was the first and it does hold a special place in my heart. It has been reprinted recently by Chicago Review Press! You can find out more about this book and all of Pauline Gedge's books at her website.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: Highland Rebel: A Tale of a Rebellious Lady and a Traitorous Lord by Judith James

James Sinclair is that most common of English Lords, possessed of titles and land but completely devoid of cash. He desperately needs a rich heiress for a wife and thinks he will earn one in the mercenary service of the Stuarts, though they are making it hard for him. It took a cunning mind to serve both Protestant King Charles II and his successor, the Catholic King James II. But Jamie managed it, though he was required to fight yet another war in the process.

In the bloody aftermath of a battle against Scotland, the mercenary troop has taken a prisoner of war, a boy that they are planning to torture. When his helmet is removed and long hair tumbles out, they realize that they have captured a woman. And they plan to make the most of their prize. Jamie is sickened by their violent intentions and saves the woman from rape and worse the only way he can, by fetching his priest and marrying her on the spot. He is only able to learn her name - Catherine Drummond - before she escapes out the back of the tent and is gone.

Catherine finds her way back to her men and the party make their way to their home in the Highlands of Scotland. Since her father, the Earl of Moray, died, Catherine has been fighting for her place. If she had been male, she would have been his heir. And she is as able as any man, even in combat. But she is a woman and most of her father's people refuse to follow her. They want to marry her off, she is an irritating encumbrance that the current heir would be glad to be rid of. Her battlefield marriage turns out to be a godsend, they can hardly force her to marry when she is already wed.

While Jamie was relieved to have saved Catherine from her fate, she is a hindrance to him and his plans. He sets off to follow her, when he finds her he fully intends to have their marriage annulled so that he can marry his heiress. It proves to be much harder than he thought it would be, Catherine is unlike any woman he has ever met. For her part, Catherine is reluctant to release Jamie, the marriage is all that is protecting her from a distasteful, forced union. And there is the little matter of her family trying to kill him so that she will be a widow and free to marry again. Their journey will be fraught with excitement and danger, there are forces at work that are greater than their own desires.

I don't think the cover does this book justice. I suppose it is a historical romance, but I think it leans more to historical fiction. It even has a very informative "Historical Note" in the back. It is NOT a typical "bodice ripper" romance. (There are no ripping bodices here!) The author is an excellent writer who did extensive research and it shows in the depth of her characters and the liveliness of her settings. Jamie is hard on the outside but on the inside he is a little boy who never had the love or support of a family. He is strong and capable with a caustic sense of humor. Catherine is not a typical heroine and is far from a shrinking violet. She is a revelation to Jamie, independent and courageous, more than a match for him. Their verbal sparring, at turns funny and biting, were my favorite parts of this excellent novel. Add the sweeping vistas of the Highlands and the lush valleys of Ireland and you have a winning combination. If you like historical fiction, you will enjoy Highland Rebel. I know I did!

You can find more information on Judith James and her books at her website. My thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for sending me Highland Rebel for review!!

Highland Rebel is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-2433-1

Giveaway: The Widow's War by Mary Mackey

How about some American historical fiction, for a change? This new novel, set in Kansas during the Civil War, promises to be exciting! Here's the synopsis from the publisher:

Carrie Vinton, a Kentucky native, finds herself alone and pregnant in Rio de Janeiro after her abolitionist fiancee, Dr. William Saylor, disappears. When Carrie receives word of William’s death from his deceitful stepbrother, Deacon Presgrove, the welfare of her unborn child becomes top priority, and thus, she accepts a marriage proposal from Presgrove for her baby’s sake.

After they return to Kansas , Carrie realizes she’s been tricked by Presgrove and his pro-slavery senator father. William is still alive! Their passionate reunion takes place in the midst of a violent civil war that will soon engulf the entire nation, but as abolitionists and proslavers battle to determine whether the Kansas Territory will enter the Union as a free or slave state, fire and fury sweep across the plains threatening to tear Carrie and William apart again, this time forever.

Attacking Carrie’s home, proslavers kidnap William and Carrie’s newborn child. Desperate to fight for what she believes in, to get her child back safely, and to be reunited with the man she loves, Carrie arms a cavalry unit of African-American soldiers and leads them on a rescue mission into the slave state of Missouri . Will Carrie’s determination and burning love be enough to save the two people she cares most about?

For more information about the author and all of her books, please visit her website. And if you are lucky enough to live in the beautiful San Francisco area, you can go to see her at the following upcoming events:

September 1st: at 7:00 p.m. Mary will be reading at Diesel Books, 5433 College Avenue, Oakland (near the Rockridge BART station) Phone: 510-653-9965.

September 3: Time Tested Books, 7:00 pm, 1114 21st Street, Sacramento.

September 11: Mary Mackey will be reading from her new novel "The Widow's War" at Book Passage Bookstore, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA 94925; Phone 415-927-0960. 7:00 p.m.

I have two copies to give away, courtesy of Berkley Books (thanks, Kaitlyn!!) To enter, just leave me a comment here. The winners will be drawn at random and must have a US mailing address. Enter thru midnight eastern on September 12. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Thank you for visiting and entering!!

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 new Feedburner subscribers

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review & Blog Tour: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Twenty five years ago, Darko Dawson's mother left their home in the capitol city of Ghana and went to the small village of Ketanu to visit her sister, who had just had her first child. She never returned. She vanished, seemingly into thin air. No trace of her was ever found, despite a thorough search by a dedicated detective, Daniel Armah.

So Darko, his disabled brother and his volatile father were left alone. Fortunately for Darko he found a mentor and father figure in Detective Armah. As a result of their relationship, Darko decided that he wanted to be a detective, too. He never wavered from his goal and, as the events of this novel begin, Darko is a successful Detective Inspector for Accra CID with a wife and young son.

When a young woman's body is found in the forest east of Ketanu, assistance is requested from Accra and Darko is assigned the case. He hasn't been back to Ketanu since before his mother disappeared. When he arrives, he finds himself stepping on the toes of the local police chief, Inspector Fiti, who was not the one to request outside help. There are several possible suspects but Fiti is focused on the last person who was seen with the young woman.

Grace Mensah was a promising medical student who was trying to educate people in the small villages of the threat of AIDS and HIV. She made some enemies, among them a local traditional priest, Togbe Adzima. She was also seen talking to the local traditional healer, Isaac Kuto. But the last person she was seen with was Samuel Boateng, a young man who was enamoured of Grace. She was not interested in him, though, and Fiti's theory is that Samuel killed her when she rejected him.

Since Fiti seems focused on only one suspect, Darko begins to dig into the lives of the others, looking for a motive for murder. He is anxious to solve the mystery and return home as soon as possible, his wife and son need him there. But he is soon embroiled in the swirling tentacles of the case and can't help but become involved in a tug of war between traditional ways and the modern world. Luckily, he has a secret weapon that helps him when he is interrogating a suspect or witness:

"Darko felt the silken quality and the musical lilt of Auntie's voice. He had always had a peculiarly heightened sensitivity to speech. Not only did he hear it but he often perceived it as if physically touching it. He had on occasion told Cairo or Mama that he could feel 'bumps' in a person's voice, or that it was prickly or wet. They were mystified by this, but Darko could not explain it any better than he could describe the process of sight or smell."

He can hear indications in speech that others would miss, like when someone is lying. The phrases that the author uses when describing how Darko hears people's voices are utterly fascinating and evocative and were one of my favorite things about this wonderful novel.

Wife of the Gods brings Ghana alive for the reader, the old world courtesy of the people, the vast differences of the urban and rural areas, and the difficulties of integrating the traditional ways into the modern world. It is a fascinating mystery, too, I enjoyed it so much and I recommend it! Can't wait for the next book to find out what happens to Darko in his professional and personal life.

Wife of the Gods is published by Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6759-6.
I received this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. Click here for a complete list of all the tour stops. Please visit Kwei Quartey's wonderful website for lots of information about the book, his blog, updates and more!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review: The Diary by Eileen Goudge

While sisters Emily and Sarah are completing the heartbreaking task of emptying out their dying mother's home, they come across an old diary. It was at the bottom of a box, long forgotten in the attic of the house they both grew up in. As they crack it open, they recognize their Mom's handwriting and are astonished by the dates the diary covers, June to November 1951. Just prior to their parents wedding date of December, 1951.

As they begin to read, the women are shocked to realize that the diary reveals their mother Elizabeth's love for another man. She was all set to marry her high school sweetheart, Bob, when a young man she had known since she was five years old came back to town. A.J. is a cartoon artist at the county fair and he certainly is not the type of boy that Elizabeth's mother would approve of. He has no steady job, his parents died when he was nine and he has been abused by the relatives who raised him. He has had a hard life. Of course, Elizabeth falls for him practically on sight.

A.J. and Elizabeth begin to sneak some time together, carefully avoiding the prying eyes of their small town. When a fire erupts near their rendezvous spot, A.J. doesn't hesitate to jump in to help fight the blaze. His quick presence on the scene throws suspicion on him and he is arrested for the crime. Elizabeth has no choice, she admits to Bob that she has been seeing A.J. and then she goes to the police and provides him with the alibi that he needs to prove his innocence.

Emily and Sarah are shocked to their cores as they read the events in the diary. Did they never really know their parents? They had seemed so happy together, so completely content. It is overwhelming to discover this hidden past that they had no idea existed. What happened to A.J.? If Elizabeth loved him enough to ruin her reputation for his sake, why didn't they get married? How could their Dad have forgiven her so completely as to never once hint at what had happened? They can't ask their Mom, she is unconscious and gravely ill. So, they resign themselves to not knowing, to always wondering what happened. Until an unexpected event reveals something wonderful.

This was a joyful book that I read in one sitting, like Emily and Sarah did in the book, because I just had to find out what happened. It is an excellent combination of tender romance and complex emotional drama that I found to be intensely satisfying. Indeed, this book is an eye opening reminder of the stories and history contained in each elderly twinkling eye. Let us not forget the valuable stories, big and small, that our elders have to pass on.

The Diary is published by Vanguard Press. ISBN 978-159315-543-8

This review was originally published at Curled Up With a Good Book.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Suggestions: The Dutchman Series by Maan Meyers

Last week I was reminded of a historical mystery series that I absolutely LOVED in the 1990's that I had completely forgotten about! I happened across a copy of The Organ Grinder by Maan Meyers at a thrift store and snatched it up. I have to tell you, I was really excited. I thought the series was done, no more to be had, I hadn't looked up the author in years. Here's the list of books in the series so you can see why:

1. The Dutchman (1992)
2. The Kingsbridge Plot (1993)
3. The High Constable (1994)
4. The Dutchman's Dilemma (1995)
5. The House on Mulberry Street (1996)
6. The Lucifer Contract (1997)
7. The Organ Grinder (2008)

So, there you go, eleven YEARS between the last wonderful book and this one. But I am not complaining, I am thrilled to have another installment. Too bad I don't have time to go back and re-read the first six. Ah well, maybe someday. In the meantime, let me tell you a bit about this series.
It starts with the book above, The Dutchman , about Pieter Tonneman who is the lawman for the colony of New Amsterdam in 1664 and eventually becomes the first sheriff of New York. His descendants will all be part of the New York police and the books all feature his family. The later books can all stand alone but if you are like me you'll want to read them in order so you know the whole history. The years following the title are when the book takes place:

Highly recommended series, I remember how much I enjoyed them. The authors are the husband and wife writing team of Martin and Annette Meyers, you'll find their website here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wow, yesterday was a great day...

Got notified that my blog was nominated for two BBAW awards: Best General Review Blog and Most Extravagant Giveaways! I am humbled and thrilled to be included with so many wonderful, creative and interesting blogs! Congratulations to all the nominees and a thousand thank yous to those of you who nominated The Tome Traveller's Weblog, you are the best! I love my readers and commenters! Heaps of love to Amy from My Friend Amy, who is the creator and inspiring leader of BBAW, and everyone on the BBAW panels who are devoting their time to this year's awards. Book Blogger Appreciation Week will be September 14-18.

Also yesterday, I finally got high speed Internet installed! May not sound so exciting but to me it was. I'm not sure how I managed to blog all of this time using my poky old dial up connection, but I can tell you that there will be more posts, more reviews, more everything now that I don't have to wait years (well, it FELT like years) for pages to load! I haven't been very good at commenting, either, up til now. Some blogs won't even load on a dial up connection and I would frequently wait ten or fifteen minutes just to make a comment. So, needless to say, I didn't make all that many. I know I'm not the last person in the world to make the switch but sometimes it felt like I was! Now I have zippy zippy zippy service, YAY!

(Edited to add that I was just notified that I was nominated in a third category, Best Blog Name! Thank you all, this is so exciting....)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Here's something new and different!!

I recently received The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis from the publisher. It is a novel about Catherine de Medici and the publisher has created an exclusive mini e-book to accompany the novel. Such a cool and interesting idea! I'm posting it here - enjoy!

"Catherine de Medici has been considered history’s most ruthless and cunning queen. Even today, it is commonly accepted that Catherine resorted to astrology and black magic to keep her family, and herself, in power at all costs. Here, for the first time, bestselling author Jeanne Kalogridis (author of THE DEVIL'S QUEEN) opens the pages of history to reveal some of Catherine’s favorite black magic spells and dark charms in the 'BOOK OF BLACK MAGIC: The Devil’s Queen Grimoire'..."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Giveaway: Sand Sharks by Margaret Maron

I just love it when a great new mystery comes out, especially when it is one in a wonderful series. Just out is Margaret Maron's Sand Sharks and Miriam at Hachette Book Group has provided me with five copies to give away (thank you, Miriam!)! Here's a bit more about the latest in the author's Deborah Knott series--this synopsis is from the publisher:

When Judge Deborah Knott travels to Wrightsville Beach for a summer conference for North Carolina District Court Judges, she stumbles upon the body of one of her colleagues. Meanwhile, Deborah's husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, is in Virginia with his son, tying up loose ends left by the death of his first wife. When another judge is found murdered at the conference, it soon becomes evident that Deborah may be the killer's next target. Her relaxing trip to the seaside soon transforms into a harrowing experience, and she must summon all of her strength and investigative expertise to track down the culprit before she becomes the next victim.

To enter, just leave me a comment here. The winner will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address, no PO Boxes please. Enter thru midnight eastern on September 4. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Thank you for visiting and entering!!

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review & Blog Tour: Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London

Macy Lockhart has been through the ringer. Her beloved husband was killed in Afghanistan while on deployment there with the Army. After two years of trying to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning, she met Wyatt Clark, who pulled her out of her deep grief. She fell in love with him and married him, happy to move on with her life.

She has been married for seven months and is busy preparing for a charity function that she is hosting for a Veterans organization when an Army official walks up the drive. He has news, big news. Macy's first husband, Finn Lockhart, is not dead. He has been a captive of the Taliban for the last three years and has just escaped and made his way back to the Coalition troops. He is coming home!

Macy is elated, as anyone would be. But she knows that things will be difficult, how is she to break the news to Finn that she has remarried? She couldn't be happier that Finn is alive, but she is horribly confused about what she should do next. Once Finn is home, Macy moves out of the house she shared with Wyatt and in with her aunt, to give herself time to think. She has two husbands. She has never stopped loving Finn but she loves Wyatt, too, and can't stand to see either man hurt. Whatever she decides, lives will be changed.

Finn's life blood was always his sprawling ranch, Two Wishes. The land has been in his family for generations. It was never a huge money maker, but he loved the life and they were happy there. When Finn was dead, Macy tried to continue to run the ranch, but she just could not manage it herself. She eventually moved to town and when she met Wyatt, a land developer, she agreed to sell it. When Finn comes back, the land is just days from being sold to a company that will be building a resort.

Will Macy choose Wyatt, who can give her every material thing? Finn is starting over from scratch, the ranch is in disrepair and has no stock. He has no money to start it up again and it will be a lot of hard work to get things off the ground. Is she willing to go back to a life of hard work and struggle? Whatever she decides, hearts will be broken and someone will be unhappy.

This improbable but not impossible scenario makes a wonderful plot for this enchanting romance. The Texas setting comes alive with the author's descriptive prose and the characters seem to spring off of the page. I was rooting for poor Finn from the beginning, but there are a lot of surprises in this story and I enjoyed every twist and turn. A great summer read, take it with you to the beach or on vacation, it is a refreshing contemporary romance.

Summer of Two Wishes is published by Pocket Books. ISBN 978-1-4165-4708-2

My thanks to Sarah at Pocket Books for providing this book! Here are the rest of the blog tour participants:

My Book Views
Book Soulmates
A Journey of Books
Just Jennifer Reading
All About {n}
My Guilty Pleasures
Bookin’ with Bingo
Starting Fresh
Booksie’s Blog
Cheryl’s Book Nook
Bella’s Novella
Frugal Plus
Eclectic Book Lover
One Person’s Journey Through A World Of Books
Foreign Circus Library
My Own Little Corner of the World
Alpha Heroes
Pudgy Penguin Perusals
Seductive Musings
Bibliophiles ‘R Us
Park Avenue Princess
Power in the Blog
Books and Needlepoint

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review and Giveaway: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

In 1464 Elizabeth Woodville is a twenty seven year old widow with two young sons. Her family have been staunch supporters of the Lancastrians and her father and brothers have fought numerous battles in the wars that have raged since the death of Edward III, called the Cousins' War since the rival claimants for the throne are all cousins, descendants of the late King. Elizabeth lost her husband in one of the battles and her lands and income reverted to the ultimate victor, the new York king, Edward IV.

Elizabeth is not a woman to sit by and allow events to happen to her. She knows that she is one of the most beautiful women in the country, so she contrives a meeting with the new King to ask for the return of her lands. He is well known to be swayed by an attractive face, and Elizabeth proves to be no exception. But she has something that others don't, a mind that matches her beauty and intrigues Edward from the moment he meets her. He marries her, despite every single one of his supporters being against the match, despite her family's position against him in the recent wars, despite everything.

Though the time they live in is turbulent and dangerous, they truly love each other and have a fruitful marriage that is blessed with many children. As Queen of England, Elizabeth is in a position of power, she would be less than human if she did not use her position to better the lives of those she loves. Her relatives receive honors and wealth, the family's rise creates ill will and outright enemies. She and her mother are both accused of witchcraft as the tide of opinion swells against them. Though both she and Edward rule in the hope of peace, they are unable to escape the factions that crave power. The Cousins' War is far from over.

This is the Philippa Gregory that we love! It is a fantastic historical novel about that most reviled English Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. I have never read any book, fiction or non, that does not portray her as a scheming bitch. Here, at last, is a balanced look at a woman who rose to the pinnacle of power in her world. Did it take some plotting? Yes, of course it did, no one got anywhere in those days without some scheming. Could she be nasty, petty, ambitious? Yes, to those too. She was envied, she was beautiful, she was fighting for the people she loved: her husband and children. The picture here is of a normal woman, not perfect, not evil. Just doing what she thought she had to do to save her family and ensure their place in the world. There is no question that her reputation was spread by people who hated her. The world will never know the truth, but the great fun of historical fiction is the speculation, and the author does that here, giving us another exceptional story.

This book is the first in a planned trilogy that will revolve around the Cousins' War and relate the events from different points of view. The next book will be The Red Queen and will be the story of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor. I can't wait to read it, I'm excited about it already! One person in history that comes off looking worse than Elizabeth Woodville is definitely Margaret Beaufort! Again, always portrayed as a nasty you-know-what. Writing about the same time period from the points of view of rival factions is just an inspired idea! More, please!!

For more information about the author and all of her books, please visit her website.

The White Queen is published by Touchstone. ISBN 978-1-4165-6368-6

I have one copy to give away! To enter, just leave me a comment here. The winner will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address. Enter thru midnight eastern on September 1. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Thank you for visiting and entering!!

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review and Giveaway: Bloody Good by Georgia Evans

September, 1940. The plucky citizens of rural England have adapted to wartime life. Everyone uses blackout curtains, rides bicycles to save gasoline and takes in children from the cities or families whose homes have been damaged by bombings. Alice Doyle, the local doctor in the town of Brytewood, in Southeast England, administers what aid she can to the residents of her area. After having been up all night delivering twins, she comes across an injured man in Fletcher's Woods. She doesn't hesitate to bring him home with her, so she can care for him at her clinic.

Too bad the man she helps isn't a man at all, but one of four vampires employed by the Nazis and dropped into the English countryside to attack from the inside. When the ambulance that she has called finally arrives, the man has inexplicably disappeared. Alice's sweet Grandmother, who she lives with, invites the ambulance drivers in for a cup of tea. One of them is a nice young man named Peter Watson. Or he seems nice enough, but when Alice finds out that he is a Conscientious Objector she loses all respect for him. A healthy young man like him should be out there fighting, like her brothers are.

The disappearing man was the first odd occurrence, but there are soon more. Alice and her nurse, Gloria, have their hands full and desperately need some assistance. Their prayers are answered when a first aid assistant is assigned to them. It turns out to be none other than Peter Watson. Alice will have to find a way to work with the man, despite her personal feelings.

The vampires have their plans, and soon they are putting them in action. Fortunately for the citizens of Brytewood, there is some truth to the old folklore tales that everyone has been raised on. Magic still exists in England, though it has long since been dressed in a veil of normalcy. Take Alice's Gran, for instance. She is Pixie, a centuries old magical race and Alice is, too, though her rational mind refuses to believe it. And the old Sergeant in the village is a dragon. He rarely uses his dragon shape now, but he is still in command of his powers and is ready and willing to use them in defence of his beloved country.

If the Nazis think they have a monopoly on the supernatural, they are sadly mistaken. The vampires they have recruited are far from the only creatures in this war and they will find that their task is much harder than they had anticipated. The humans have far more help than they ever realized, but they will need every bit of it to defeat the greatest evil that the world has ever known.

This book is a wonderful combination of historical fiction, romance, fantasy and paranormal. I was immediately interested in the World War II setting and I loved the imaginative use of the folklore of England. I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to reading the next two books in the series, Bloody Awful and Bloody Right. The only complaint I have is that the book should have been proofread more carefully. I received a finished copy and found quite a few typos and context errors that would have been caught by a good proofreader. Otherwise a very entertaining, delightful book!

Bloody Good is published by Kensington. ISBN 978-0-7582-3481-0

I have an extra paperback copy to give away! To enter, just leave me a comment here. This contest is open WORLDWIDE! The winner will be drawn at random, enter thru midnight eastern on August 31. Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Thank you for visiting and entering!!

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Thank you!!

Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!

About Me

My photo
New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.