I love a good natural disaster. When I was in college studying to be a broadcaster, I took many meteorology classes because of how fascinating I found hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornados. How they came on so suddenly and the damage left in their wake. When I first read the premise for Promise, I couldn’t wait to read the story.
Author Minrose Gwin grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, the site of an F5 tornado in 1936, one that leveled half the town. It’s on record as the fourth deadliest in the history of the United States. What fascinated me was that even then, they didn’t count African-Americans in the total death or injured count, basically erasing them from history.
While this story is fictional, it’s based in fact and follows two protagonists, Dovey, an African-American great-grandmother and washwoman, and Jo, a white teenage girl trying to find her place in her family. As the tornado destroys their homes, they realize they might be connected by more than just tragedy.
Faced with tremendous loss, both women need to be strong in piecing their lives back together. But racial tension in this town is thick, even after everything that’s happened.
Fans of The Help and Calling Me Home will find much to love in this novel. The writing is beautiful, yet propels the narrative along. Even though the story takes place over a few days, I felt like I had spent years with these families.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
About the author: Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra. She has written three scholarly books, coedited The Literature of the American South, and teaches contemporary fiction at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader. U.S. and Canada only, please. Enter on the Rafflecopter. a Rafflecopter giveaway
When I started this book, I had no information about the famous author, Jack London. He wrote such classics as The Call of the Wild and White Fang. But this book is more the story of Jack told from his wife’s point of view, Charmian. What a fascinating person she was. I believe the word used in the book was “pluck.” Never afraid to speak her mind or
As Jack’s typist and editor, Charmian is at his beck and call whenever the inspiration strikes. His sister runs his estate and employs hundreds of helpers. When the famous couple meet the Houdinis for the first time, Charmian feels an attraction to both the magician and his wife, Bessie, just for a friend to talk to.
I loved reading Houdini’s magic scenes, as I’m such a fan of illusionists, and I felt like I was in the audience watching. The socializing and witty banter when they all got to drinking also propelled the book along. I mean, this husband and wife boxed each other first thing in the morning. With boxing gloves. Can you imagine? And, oh, the scandals! Like reading a soap opera back in the early 1900s.
Rosenberg put a lot of research into this book and it shows. She knows what she’s talking about down to the minute details. Fans of historical fiction or those wanting to learn more about the famous men and their wives will get a kick out of this story. Grab a cocktail and thank me later.
My thanks to the publisher and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.
Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.
After having read and loved Orphan Train, I knew when this book released that I wanted to read it. Unfortunately, life and time got in the way and I didn’t have a chance. So I was thrilled when TLC Book Tours asked if I’d be interested in helping to promote the book for its paperback release.
I had never seen or heard of the painting that is the subject of this novel, Christina’s World, by artist Andrew Wyeth. I’m kind of glad I went into it blind because it provided a unique reading experience in which I learned something new. And I loved the author’s note and acknowledgements because she provided her inspiration for the story after having come across the painting.
From the back cover: To Christina Olson, the entire world is her family farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. The only daughter in a family of sons, Christina is tied to her home by health and circumstance, and seems destined for a small life. Instead, she becomes Andrew Wyeth’s first great inspiration, and the subject of one of the best-known paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World.
This book had so much to offer: family ties, relationships, artistry, exploration, finding a sense of place. But my favorite was reading Christina’s back story, how her childhood and teenage years shaped her. You couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for the way she grew up and all her tribulations, yet she was the victim of her own choices at times. If you are a historical fiction fan, this is a must read.
Even if you’ve already read and enjoyed the hardcover, you’re going to want to get a copy of the paperback not only because the cover is luminescent and colorful but because it contains an exclusive interview with bestselling author Kristin Hannah and a connected stand-alone story that didn’t appear in the original.
My thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Christina Baker Kline is the author of six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train as well as A Piece of the World. She lives outside New York City and spends as much time as possible on the coast of Maine. Learn more about Christina at www.christinabakerkline.com.
It has been such an amazing year for books that I decided to do a little something different this year. Instead of my short list, I am separating my favorites into categories. This way, if you’re looking for a specific type of book or want to give a gift, it’s easier to sort through the choices. I wish I had time to read everything, but these are my favorites from what I did read.
You can click directly on the book images to get to their Amazon page.
LITERATURE & FICTION
MYSTERY & THRILLER
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these if you read them and your favorites of 2017. Leave me a comment. Here’s to a healthy 2018 filled with loads of good reading!
For those of you who enjoy circus stories, there is a large element of that in Bergmann’s debut. Combine that with magic, WWII, and a present day story of a family in crisis, and you have The Trick.
The Great Zabbatini was best known for his illusions and spells. He will be the first to tell you he wasn’t a magician, but rather a mentalist. And that’s just the kind of magic Max Cohn needed to put his family back together. When he sets out to find the man, they are both in for a rude awakening in trying to mesh their personalities. If you remember what a curmudgeon Ove was in Fredrik Backman’s story, A Man Called Ove, you get the idea.
I loved reading the history of Zabbatini’s character, even though it was fictional. It had the feeling of listening to the life story told by a relative. So I can imagine this book would sound great on audio. For Max’s modern day story, I felt the dialogue was a little basic and amateur. I’m not sure if he did that because of the age of the character, but I didn’t think it was necessary. That’s why I loved jumping back into the history. And I always enjoy getting a new perspective on WWII, one I haven’t read before.
Surprisingly, a nice little twist wrapped this book up nicely. If you’re looking for historical fiction with a light touch, try this one out. No heavy duty angst and agony here.
Thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Be sure to follow the tour for more reviews and more chances to win!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader. U.S. or Canada only, please. Enter on the Rafflecopter. a Rafflecopter giveaway
I was delighted to get a chance to read Eden, a story many of my blogger friends were raving about. I didn’t know much before reading, but if you are a fan of the family saga, keep reading.
Eden tells the story of Becca Fitzpatrick, matriarch of her extended family and living in Eden, the beach house her father, Bunny Meister, built at the beginning of the century. Her daughter lives with her currently, along with her granddaughter Sarah who shows up to announce her pregnancy. When Becca finds out her deceased husband has misspent all of their savings, she’s despondent that it might be her last summer at Eden, so she works to get the family together one last time.
The book alternates between the present, leading up to the family weekend, and the past, long before Becca is even born. It is a story of four generations. And while there are lots of family members, it is easy to follow their stories and connections. If you do have trouble, the author included an easy-to-follow family tree in the beginning for reference. I loved traveling back in the past and learning about how Eden came to be along with all the historical events like the Stock Market crash and the 1938 New England hurricane.
There is something about a family saga that is so endearing. You quickly become attached to characters since you follow them throughout their lives. The Meister family experienced many hardships and they all made choices I did not agree with. But I was eager to see how they played out. And I love that the Eden house became its own character in the novel, one that also endured many ups and downs. I look forward to what Jeanne writes next.
My thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
About the author: Jeanne Blasberg is a voracious observer of human nature and has kept a journal since childhood. After graduating from Smith College, she surprised everyone who knew her by embarking on a career in finance, making stops on Wall Street, Macy’s and Harvard Business School, where she wrote case studies and business articles. A firm believer that you are never too old to change course, Jeanne enrolled at Grub Street, one of the country’s pre-eminent creative writing centers, where she turned her attention to memoir and later fiction. Eden is her debut novel. Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. When not writing, she can be found playing squash, skiing, or taking in the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay. For book group questions and to learn more, please visit www.jeanneblasberg.com.
Thanks to the author, I have one signed copy to give away to a lucky reader. U.S. only, please. Enter on the Rafflecopter. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Full disclosure: Devin is a friend of mine. When I found out he was going to have his debut published, I was beyond excited for him. He promised me an early copy, and I was thrilled to receive it. I even got choked up reading the acknowledgements because most were such close friends. But then I had a thought: What if I hated it? How would I tell him? So I left it to sit on my nightstand, where day in and day out I looked at it, afraid to pick it up.
But then my mom asked if she could read it. And my husband. So of course I had to read it before they did, so I finally started, and boy, am I glad I did.
I guarantee this is a WWII story you haven’t read before. It introduces Jacob Koopman, a teenager living in a small Dutch town with his older brother, Edwin, and his parents. His father owns a lightbulb factory and in an attempt to secure more business, he decides (without his wife’s permission) to send the boys to a German youth camp just as Hitler and the Nazis are coming into power. Jacob’s story is followed through the war as he grapples with which side is doing the right thing and how far he will go to protect his loved ones.
It is obvious to see the amount of research that went into this book. I quickly formed an emotional connection with Jacob and could sympathize with his plight. It’s hard enough to be a teenager. But just try to deal with that as war is breaking out. I believe he tried to see the good in everyone, even those who we would now call “enemies” in our history books.
If you ever get the chance to meet Devin, at an event or book signing, please go. Aside from the fact that he’s the nicest person ever, you’ll be fascinated by his family history and his past that all shaped this story.
Thanks to Devin, I have 2 signed copies to give away to lucky readers. U.S. only, please. Enter on the Rafflecopter. a Rafflecopter giveaway
From the Back Cover:
World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful colors—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.
Jeanne Brink and her sister, Peggy, both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer: Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, Peggy now a widowed mother, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town. But despite their gray pasts the sisters strive for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients, with the help of Peggy’s brilliant sketches.
Together they are able to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as Peggy and Jeanne soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.
Here’s an excerpt:
Nancy Cosgrove had seen the gown made up in taffeta in Vogue, and taffeta was what she had to have. Jeanne made a muslin first, at Nancy’s insistence, even though muslin could never stand in for the stiff, slippery hand of the real thing. The muslin’s skirt hung around Nancy’s lumpy hips like wet rags and Jeanne thought she’d finally come to her senses—but Nancy just went home to get her crinoline. It made only a slight improvement: the muslin spread out over the stiff underskirt like leaves floating on a pond. But Nancy took herself across the river to the city, where she found a bolt of emerald green moiré taffeta in a shop at the corner of Fourth and Fulton.
When she brought it back, the bolt of fabric sitting in the passenger seat of her garish two-tone Packard Clipper like a visiting dignitary, it occurred to Jeanne that Nancy might still be trying to one-up her, even after everything that had happened. Never mind that Jeanne slept in the unfinished attic of the narrow row house that she shared with her sister and her niece and Thelma Holliman. She suspected that there was a part of Nancy that was stuck back at Mother of Mercy High School, where Jeanne had sailed like a swan through adolescence, winning top marks and courted by a steady stream of St. Xavier boys. By contrast, poor Nancy had been as awkward as a stump, beloved by no teacher, no suitors, and none of the other girls.
Jeanne tried not to hold this belated vengefulness against Nancy: they badly needed her money. Still, Nancy had no head for sums, and there was not enough fabric on the bolt for the New Look dress she had hired Jeanne to sew for her. Unlike the wide bolt of unbleached muslin that Jeanne kept on a length of baling wire on Thelma’s back porch, the taffeta that Nancy brought back was only forty-eight inches wide—a scant forty-eight inches at that, the selvages taking up the better part of an inch on either side. Jeanne could barely cut a skirt panel from it—even with Nancy’s oddly short, bowed calves—and only by forgoing the deep hem she’d planned in favor of an understitched facing.
Jeanne had been up the night before until nearly three in the morning, hand-tacking that facing with a single strand of superfine Zimmerman and a straw needle. When she finally went to bed, she had an unsettling dream. It had been months since she’d dreamed of Charles, but suddenly there he was, wearing a hat that had hung on a nail in the carriage house of his parents’ estate in Connecticut, a western style of hat that his father had brought back from a trip to Montana.
But in the dream Charles frowned at her from beneath its broad brim, while he pressed his hands to his stomach, trying to stanch the blood pouring from the hole in his side, while all around him in the trenches of Cisterna, his fellow Rangers were felled by the German panzers. Only six of them came home, out of more than seven hundred—but
Jeanne didn’t care about any of them. She would have traded them all to have Charles back.
War had made a monster of her, and there was nothing she could do about it—except to sew. A stitch, another, another. In this way the minutes and hours passed.
It was well past time to turn out the light and get some sleep, but Peggy didn’t set the square black Conté crayon down. She took a dainty sip of the bitter, cold coffee left over from the morning—yesterday morning, to be accurate, since it was nearly one-thirty—and made a bold, broad stroke down a fresh piece of newsprint. The piece of wood she’d rigged as an easel—taken from a cabinet face from a building being torn down around the corner—shifted on the bolster on which Peggy had propped it. Too bad they didn’t know any carpenters who might make her a real easel, Peggy thought grimly. Too bad they didn’t know any useful men at all.
On her little mattress not three feet away, Tommie shifted and rolled, her rosette lips pursed. She was a restless sleeper, as she had been a restless baby—she’d
come into the world uneasy, as though she knew already that she’d be denied a father, denied the perfect charmed life that Peggy had promised her many months earlier, when she’d first made her presence known on a prodigious wave of nausea, harbinger of the difficult pregnancy to come.
No, nothing about Tommie was easy, and sharing a room with her—and yes, Peggy knew she was lucky to have a room at all, with her sister making up a bed each night in the freezing attic—was a daily torment.
Another curving black stroke of the crayon, to meet the first. In those two lines were the suggestion of the back, the shoulders, the curve of the hip. Peggy glanced at the latest issue of Vogue, open to a spread titled “The New Blouse-and-Skirt Formula,” featuring full-circle skirts nipped in tight over balloon-sleeved blouses. The first wave of outrage over Dior’s new look seemed to have abated, silenced, perhaps, by the unstoppable tide of women hungry for a bit of glamour. Peggy could sympathize. The wartime fashions, made severe and scant by textile regulations dictated by the War Production Board—had looked all right on angular, thin women like her sister. But on curvy Peggy, they looked downright ridiculous.
She sketched soft, feathery strokes to suggest a full skirt like the one in the Vogue layout. Underneath the skirt, there would be structured layers of tulle to give it shape, but her drawing would only show the fanciful outline, like a bell, with satin pumps peeping from the bottom. Peggy could wear such a skirt—if she had anywhere to go. She had retained her small waist even after Tommie’s birth, and her bosom remained high and generous. She was still making do with her corset from two years ago, but if she could afford one of the new French-waisted ones, with the tabs that could be cinched tightly . . .
About the author:
Called a “writing machine” by the New York Times and a “master storyteller” by the Midwest Book Review, Sofia Grant has written dozens of novels for adults and teens under the name Sophie Littlefield. She has won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. Her latest novel, THE DRESS IN THE WINDOW (William Morrow, July 2017) explores the lives of three women who break into the fashion industry after the end of WWII. Visit www.sofiagrant.com for more information.
The kind folks at William Morrow have one copy to give away to a lucky reader. U.S. only, please. Enter on the Rafflecopter. a Rafflecopter giveaway
FROM THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF THE MEMORY PAINTER COMES A SWEEPING AND SUSPENSEFUL TALE OF ROMANCE, FATE, AND FORTUNE.
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.
“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.
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 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.
While I love reading historical fiction, often to discover a piece of history I knew nothing about, it’s rare to find those same books action packed. The Alice Network is an exception. The quick pace starts on page 13 and doesn’t let up until we reach the stunning conclusion.
This story is told in duplicate timelines, one in 1947 and the other in 1913. Charlie is 19 in 1947 and also pregnant out of wedlock. She is determined to find out what happened to her missing cousin. After a tip leads her to Eve Gardiner’s door hoping she can help her, the two take off in search of answers. The 1913 story is Eve’s as we learn of her role during WWI and how it ties into Charlie’s missing cousin.
Love James Bond movies? Pick up this book. Any interest in history, especially women’s empowerment? Pick up this book. Need a read to keep you on the edge of your seat? Pick up this book. Even book clubs will find much to discuss and you can find some questions to get you started in the back.
I loved The Alice Network for its glimpse into the life of female spies as well as its ability to keep the story moving, hard to do at almost 500 pages. I would love to see this one turned into a movie.
Some bloggers on tour were able to do a special video chat with Kate. You can view it here.
Kate Quinn is a native of Southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books set in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.