Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Casanova's Secret Wife"

Synopsis: Set in eighteenth-century Venice and based on an actual account by Giacomo Casanova—here is a lush tale of desire and risk.

Caterina Capreta was an innocent girl of fourteen when she caught the attention of the world’s most infamous chronicler of seduction: Giacomo Casanova. Intoxicated by a fierce love, she wed Casanova in secret. But his shocking betrayal inspired her to commit an act that would mark her forever …

Now twenty years later on the island of Murano, the woman in possession of Caterina’s most devastating secret has appeared with a request she cannot refuse: to take in a noble-born girl whose scandalous love affair resembles her own. But the girl’s presence stirs up unwelcome memories of Caterina’s turbulent past. Tested like never before, she reveals the story of the man she will never forget.

Bringing to life a fascinating chapter in the history of Venice, Casanova’s Secret Wife is a tour de force that charts one woman’s journey through love and loss to redemption.

My Thoughts: I haven't read too many books set in Italy but after reading Casanova's Secret Wife, I may have to change that.  I loved the descriptions of Venice; the city, the homes, clothes, everything.  Ms. Lynn-Davis' writing was marvelous and she painted a lovely picture of life in Venice during that time period.

While the love affair between Casanova and Caterina was interesting to read about, I was more enamored by the relationship that Caterina built with Leda.  I really enjoyed watching Caterina and Leda pull each other out of their shells and becoming almost like family.  In the beginning of the story, I was worried that Leda was going to cause trouble but she almost became like a daughter to Caterina.  There was just something about their relationship that really struck me.

Marina was a really good, and unexpected, villain.  Villain might be too strong of a word but man, I didn't like her.  She was so manipulative and self-centered despite the fact that she tried to spin her actions as being out of love.  She was very well-written and even though I didn't like her, she was a really strong character.

Casanova's Secret Wife was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I'm so glad I picked this one up! 3 1/2 stars.

About the Author:

Barbara Lynn-Davis graduated from Brown University with a degree in art history. She then worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and later spent a year there while completing her Ph.D. in Renaissance art at Princeton University.

She currently teaches art history and writing at Wellesley College, and lives outside Boston with her family.

For more information please visit Barbara Lynn-Davis’ website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Enter to win a paperback copy of Casanova's Secret Wife here !  

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– 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. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Lilli de Jong" by Janet Benton

Synopsis: A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

My Thoughts:  I've been in a terrible reading rut lately so I was looking forward to picking this book up. I've read a lot of good things about it over the past couple of months and I must say, this book definitely lives up to the hype.  The writing is quite lovely and the story is so very good.

I've never read a story quite like this one.  It is told from the point of view of Lilli who keeps a diary recording her life in a Quaker group and her time in a home for unwed mothers.  She has such a passion for writing and it adds a lot to the story to hear it told in the main character's own words. 

Lilli's story really showcased the struggles unwed mothers faced at the end of the 19th century.    Everything about Lilli's life was precarious, she had to balance finding ways to make sure her daughter was safe while also trying to keep up with her job responsibilities.  I loved her strength and devotion to her daughter.  And really, it seemed like Lilli was one of the lucky ones; other women she knew ended up in some bad situations and their babies didn't stand a chance.  It also told of the limits placed on women and the expectations people had of them based on their situation.  At every turn, the reader was shown how limited a woman's options were. 

Lilli de Jong is an excellent book and I would really recommend it to anyone.  It's definitely a page turner, I couldn't believe how fast I zoomed through it!  4 stars.

About the Author:
 Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– 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.

Enter the giveaway here!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Blast: "The Fortune Teller" by Gwendolyn Womack

The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack

Paperback Publication Date: June 6, 2017


Paperback; 368 Pages

ISBN: 9781250099778

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Mystery


Semele Cavnow appraises antiquities for an exclusive Manhattan auction house, deciphering ancient texts—and when she discovers a manuscript written in the time of Cleopatra, she knows it will be the find of her career. Its author tells the story of a priceless tarot deck, now lost to history, but as Semele delves further, she realizes the manuscript is more than it seems. Both a memoir and a prophecy, it appears to be the work of a powerful seer, describing devastating wars and natural disasters in detail thousands of years before they occurred.

The more she reads, the more the manuscript begins to affect Semele’s life. But what happened to the tarot deck? As the mystery of her connection to its story deepens, Semele can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Only one person can help her make sense of it all: her client, Theo Bossard. Yet Theo is arrogant and elusive, concealing secrets of his own, and there’s more to Semele’s desire to speak with him than she would like to admit. Can Semele even trust him?

The auction date is swiftly approaching, and someone wants to interfere—someone who knows the cards exist, and that the Bossard manuscript is tied to her. Semele realizes it’s up to her to stop them: the manuscript holds the key to a two-thousand-year-old secret, a secret someone will do anything to possess.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Powell's

Praise for The Fortune Teller

"Beginning as a clever mystery based on an ancient manuscript and evolving into a family epic spanning centuries, an international thriller, and a destined romance, The Fortune Teller has something for everyone. Offer it to fans of A.S. Byatt's Possession and Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series."―Booklist

"Womack alternates back and forth between a whirlwind history that spans thousands of years and the suspense of Semele's search...Entertaining."—Kirkus Reviews

"The Fortune Teller is a gripping, twisting tale that spans thousands of years, thousands of miles, and perhaps even crosses over to the 'other side.' A fascinating read that is that unlikely combination of unputdownable and thought-provoking."—B.A. Shapiro, bestselling author of The Art Forger and The Muralist

"There aren't enough words to adequately describe how much I love The Fortune Teller. It is a gripping and masterfully woven combination of history, mystery, fate, adventure, and family ties: a true page-turner that enthralls from the first sentence with unique characters, fascinating settings, and intriguing artifacts. Womack brilliantly illuminates how there is more at play in the world than logic can explain."—Kelli Estes, USA Today bestselling author of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

"The Fortune Teller takes you on an international thrill ride across centuries—with fascinating research and memorable characters—proving once again that Gwendolyn Womack is a magician, keeping readers turning pages with wonder and awe."—M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author

"What a mesmerizing journey. The suspense increases steadily throughout the novel, as Semele realizes her identity is caught up in the mysterious manuscript and that the truth of her own abilities is a secret people will kill for. Readers who enjoy the novels of Katherine Neville, Kate Mosse and Diana Gabaldon will savor this treat."—Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

About the Author

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack studied theater at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She holds an MFA in Directing Theatre, Video, and Cinema from California Institute of the Arts. Her first novel, The Memory Painter, was an RWA PRISM award winner in the Time Travel/Steampunk category and a finalist for Best First Novel. She now resides in Los Angeles with her husband and her son.

For more information please visit Gwendolyn Womack's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, June 6
100 Pages a Day
Literary Chanteuse

Wednesday, June 7
Just One More Chapter
A Dream within a Dream

Thursday, June 8
The Lit Bitch
Trisha Jenn Reads

Friday, June 9
T's Stuff
The Never-Ending Book

Monday, June 12
Persuing Stacie
Books of All Kinds

Tuesday, June 13
Books & Benches
Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, June 14
Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 15
The Paperback Princess

Friday, June 16
A Literary Vacation
Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Monday, June 19
Laura's Interests
History From a Woman's Perspective

Tuesday, June 20
Yelena Casale's Blog

Wednesday, June 21
Creating Herstory
WS Momma Readers Nook

Thursday, June 22
Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Friday, June 23
Book Nerd

Monday, June 26
CelticLady's Reviews

Tuesday, June 27
Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, June 28
A Fold in the Spine

Thursday, June 29
The Book Junkie Reads
So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, June 30
Passages to the Past


During the Book Blast we will be giving away a Tarot Deck & Book Set! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Description: This deck/book set provides everything you need to understand tarot. The full-size deck is a vibrantly recolored version of the classic Rider-Waite deck, updated with subtle shading that gives depth to the familiar tarot scenes. The 272-page, user-friendly handbook with full-color illustrations is perfect for beginners as well as experienced readers who want to refresh their tarot skills.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– 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.

The Fortune Teller Book Blast

Friday, June 23, 2017

Prairie Days!

I may have mentioned that I'm kind of obsessed with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  They are one of my childhood favorites, I've read all the books more times than I can count.  I grew up mostly in Southern California so visiting a Little House museum wasn't really an option.  I know live in the Midwest and all of the museums are within 8 hours (driving distance) from where I live.  
The Little House on the Prairie museum is only 2 1/2 hours from my house and I've been dying to go visit.  Every June they have a festival called 'Prairie Days' and this year we were finally able to go!  I've been reading the 'My First Little House' books with her so she's familiar with Laura and Mary and their stories so she was super excited too.

The property has an old original schoolhouse, an old original post office and a replica of the cabin Pa built in the Little House on the Prairie book.  I wish I had taken pictures of all of these buildings because they were really neat.  While we were there, a teacher gave lessons in the old schoolhouse, slates and all.  We couldn't go in the cabin because it's not in very good shape right now.  They are saving to build a new one because it's been severely damaged by storms and age.  However, we could look inside and it was really neat.  We also got to see the well Pa dug on the property.  Pa's well is actually how they were able to locate the land where the Ingalls family had family had lived in southern Kansas.

The festival was really fun!  They had all kinds of demonstrations and hands on activities for kids.  Julia got to make a rope, pump water and shuck corn.  You could also make corn husk dolls, tiny bales of hay and there was a costume contest and parade.  It was fun and laid back and we had a good time.  Of course, I bought Julia a sunbonnet and she actually enjoyed wearing it. : )

Julia keeps asking when we can go back and visit.  I don't know if we'll make a trip back this year but I would definitely visit again.  We also live about 4 hours from the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Mansfield, MO so we're going to take a long weekend and visit sometime in the fall.  Eventually, I would like to visit all of the museums but the rest of them are little bit farther away.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mini Reviews (20)

This series is great! I want to live in the town of Haven Point and I love getting to know each character and their families.  This book follows Kat Bailey when she returns to Haven Point after living in South America.  She is a great character; she has the patience of a saint and I really liked reading about her relationship with Bowie's autistic brother, Milo.  Bowie and Kat had a great relationship and it was so sweet to watch them deal with their pasts and fall in love.  Kat was a little whiny at times which got annoying after a while but otherwise this was a great story.  If you're looking for a good romance story with a happy ending, this is a good one. 3 1/2 stars.

This was an interesting concept for a story.  I enjoyed reading about the resistance and the different ways the war affected women in Germany.  The story followed three women who had their own unique experiences during the war and it was interesting to see the perspective of those living in Germany.  That being said, I didn't find most of the characters to be very likable.  I think Ania was the only character who I liked.  I was really happy to have Ania's story told in full at the end of the book.  Marianne was so self-righteous and Benita was kind of whiny.  I know they all went through a lot during the war but since most of the story was told from Marianne's point of view, it was all kind of colored by her opinion.  I don't think this was a bad story, it just kind of fell flat for me. 2 1/2 stars

I received both of these books from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Blast: "Traitor's Knot" by Cryssa Bazos

Traitor's Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Publication Date: May 9, 2017

Endeavor Press

eBook; 394 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story.” - Elizabeth St. John, author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” - Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife

Traitor's Knot is available in eBook from Amazon

About the Author

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She blogs about English history and storytelling at her blog, the 17th Century Enthusiast, and is an editor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog site.

Cryssa's debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press.

For more information visit Cryssa's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Wednesday, May 31
Passages to the Past

Thursday, June 1
A Bookaholic Swede

Friday, June 2
The Writing Desk

Monday, June 5
Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, June 6
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, June 8
So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, June 9
I Heart Reading

Monday, June 12
What Is That Book About

Tuesday, June 13
Books, Dreams, Life

Wednesday, June 14
The True Book Addict

Thursday, June 15
A Holland Reads

Sunday, June 18
Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, June 19
Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots (with excerpt)

Tuesday, June 20
A Literary Vacation
To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, June 21
Svetlana's Reads and Views

Thursday, June 22
CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, June 23
Book Nerd

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mini Reviews (19)

I have really enjoyed Ms. Kostova's books in the past so when I saw this one, I knew I had to read it.  I know next to nothing about Bulgaria so I was fascinated by the history and view of the country itself that was relayed in this story.  The story has a variety of very unique characters who somehow all manage to meet up in their efforts to return the ashes to their rightful owners.  The story bounced between the past and present lives of several characters and I liked that the reader got a glimpse of Bulgaria's history from different points of view.  My one complaint about this book was that it was too long.  The story dragged on at times and I think it could have been condensed a bit.  Otherwise, a very enjoyable read.  3 stars.

I have always been intrigued by Anne Boleyn as a historical figure.  She's very complicated and I think that this book made clear how complicated of a person she was.  This book is a very detailed, sweeping view of Anne Boleyn's life from a very young age until her death.  It is clear that Ms. Weir did an extensive amount of research (as she always does) and really tried to provide some balance to Anne's life and personality.  There were points in the story where I really did not like Anne at all and parts where I felt bad for her and the position she was in.  Ms. Weir is very sympathetic to Anne in her portrayal even though Anne is pretty awful in some parts.  I will also add that this is a very long book; it really does go into depth regarding Anne's rise and fall.  Because of this the story did seem to move slowly at times; it definitely seemed like I would never see Anne and Henry get married.  We all know how  Anne's story ends but I think the author took it one step too far and things got kind of weird.  Like really weird.  Beside that, it was a good read for those who are fans of the Tudor era.  I definitely look forward to the next book in the series. 3 stars.
I received both books from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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