*UPDATE*

I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

Attention Authors! If you arrived here looking for information on the Two Sides to Every Story guest post series, see the tab at the top of the page for more info!


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Friday, November 17, 2017

Voices on the Road: My Favorite Narrators & HUGE Giveaway!!

Blog_LoveAudiobooks_thumb[1]

November and December are months where many travel to see family and friends during the holidays and to celebrate with each other.  Audiobooks are an awesome travel companion when making a lengthy road-trip.  The Audio Publishers Association is hosting a tour this month with blogs featuring their favorite audiobooks or narrators and allowing each blog to host a HUGE giveaway (stay tuned to the end of the post).  I am choosing to share my favorite narrators.

Carly Robins

I have only listened to one work by this narrator (A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt), but it was one of my favorites this year.  Robins was able to relay the author’s pacing well in the narration of the story. There is an interplay between slow or fast reading based on the need of the scene. I appreciated the appropriate pause length between sentences – just the right amount of time. Robins imbues her characters with all their personality quirks. It certainly feels like she spent some time getting to know the characters before recording the passages. There is some voice work to make characters unique, and this is one of the few times I have found myself feeling comfortable with a narration of characters of the opposite sex rom the narrator. An admirable job that never felt jarring or out of place.

A List of Carly Robins Narration (via Audible) 

My Review of A Deadly Affection



Moira Quirk

Moira Quirk is a WONDERFUL narrator that I cannot get enough of!  I have only heard her read The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, but I would pick up anything else she reads.  Quirk doesn’t just read the novel, but imbues the characters with even more life. Quirk brings out their complete nature to where you feel like they are standing in the room next to you. Yes, each character has their own unique voice, but many narrators do that. However, Quirk not only brings a different voice, but you can envision their mannerisms as well just from the way they are speaking. I’m not sure how she does this, but whatever it is, keep doing it! There is quite the range of nationalities and type of personalities in this novel and Quirk makes them all feel truly real, not cookie cutter or stereotyped. And she doesn’t veer away from signing if it is in the novel!

A List of Moira Quick Narration (via Audible)

My Review of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc



Cassandra Campbell

I have listened to Cassandra Campbell read both fiction (My Last Continent) and non-fiction (The Jersey Brothers) and can absolutely see why she is an award winning narrator.  She fills her words with feeling and passion.  She pronounces foreign words beautifully.  I highly recommend you seek out her work.

A List of Cassandra Campbell Narration (via Audible)

My Reviews of The Jersey Brothers and My Last Continent



Scott Brick

Scott Brick is another mega award winning audiobook narrator, lending his voice to works ranging from thrillers to non-fiction.  He happens to be my most widely listened to narrator so that in and of itself should say something.  His narration can make even the driest material feel exciting. 

List of Scott Brick Narration (via Audible)

My Reviews of Devil in the White City, In the Heart of the Sea, and Salt



Davina Porter

Davina Porter is best known for her work with the Outlander series and she is FANTASTIC is that role.  She had the perfect voice for the Scottish and English characters; for me her accents were spot on. Her pacing was perfect – especially considering the length of these books! She put real emotion behind her narration and truly contributed to the feel of this book and bringing the characters to vivid life.  I am thrilled that she narrates most of this series.

List of Davina Porter Narration (via Audible)

My Reviews of Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber



GIVEAWAY!!!

As part of the Voices on the Road tour, the Audio Publishers Association and these publishers (Galaxy Press, Hachette Audio, Harper Audio, High Bridge Audio, Macmillan, Penguin Random House Audio, and Post Hypnotic Press, Scholastic,Simon & Schuster Audio, and Tantor Audio) are sponsoring a HUGE giveaway for 10 titles!  Entries can be made via the Rafflecopter widget below.  Giveaway is open to the USA and Canada only and will run from today through November 25, 2017.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow the Tour

You can check out the other fantastic selections by the other excellent blogs on this tour:

The Geeky Blogger’s Book Blog  – Wednesday, Nov 1

Beth Fish Reads  – Thursday, Nov 2

Reading Books Like a Boss – Friday, Nov 3

Collector of Book Boyfriends  – Monday, Nov 6

Caffeinated Book Reviewer  – Tuesday, Nov 7

Audio Gals  –  Wednesday, Nov 8

Under My Apple Tree  – Thursday, Nov 9

Shelf Addiction  – Friday, Nov 10

To Read or Not To Read  – Monday, Nov 13

Adolescent Audio Adventures  – Tuesday, Nov 14

I Am, Indeed  – Wednesday, Nov 15

Enchantress of Books  – Thursday, Nov 16.

The Maiden’s Court  – Friday, Nov 17

A Bookworm’s World – Monday, Nov 20

Books, Movies Reviews Oh My  – Tuesday, Nov 21

Joyfully Jay   – Wednesday, Nov 22

Carol Baldwin Blog  – Monday, Nov 27

Backwards Compatible Podcast  Tuesday, Nov 28

Audio Gals   – Wednesday, Nov 29

The Book’s the Thing
- Thursday, Nov 30



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Smith by Tanya E. Williams

becoming mrs smith
Becoming Mrs. Smith (Volume 1)
by Tanya E. Williams
ARC, e-Book, 110 pages
Rippling Effects Writing & Photography
October 10, 2017
★★★★ ½☆
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Genre: Historical Fiction, Novella

Source: Received for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Not all of war’s destruction takes place on the battlefield.
Violet’s heart flutters from the scarlet fever she survived as a child, and it beats faster at the sight of John Smith, the man she plans to marry. America is entrenched in WWII, and when John enlists, Violet is certain she won’t ever forgive him for dashing their dreams. As the realities of war slowly overtake her life, Violet's days are filled with uncertainty and grief. She struggles to maintain her faith in John, as the world as she knows it, crumbles.

Becoming Mrs. Smith is the inspiring, and at times, heartbreaking story of a woman’s struggle to reclaim what she lost. War stole the man she loves, and childhood illness weakened her heart—perhaps beyond repair. While guns rage in Europe, the war Violet faces at home may be even more devastating.

For a short novella, Williams covers a lot of ground within those few pages and moves us quickly through the gamut of emotions to include anger, happiness, and sadness. You are rapidly sucked into the action and moved a lot with the events as they unfold. Violet ages from a young girl at home to a woman out in the world, working and falling in love. Each segment jumps oftentimes several months between events and sometimes even years. Whereas this would normally be a potential turnoff as I would feel compelled to ask “what happened in between”, I didn’t find myself having time to ask that as Williams moves us right into the next emotional beat. There was maybe a half a moment, before the last scene, where I felt if it was a novel it would have built up more, however, it was emotionally satisfying just the way it resulted.

This is most definitely a story of those left behind during war. Violet and her friends face the challenges of watching those they care about leave for the front and some not return. This affects them all in different ways and I appreciated seeing how they all reacted to traumatic events. It is not all stiff upper lip and carrying on for those abroad, which made it feel very real.

I was absolutely crying by the end of this novella. I’m not one who typically cries while reading; for that to happen within this short time span is a testament to how quickly Williams’ characters grew on me and how much I cared about their outcomes. If your heart isn’t just a little broken by the end of this I don’t know what will! I look forward to reading the next in this series.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia


Also by Tanya E. Williams:

breathe
Breathe


Find Tanya E. Williams:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog


Tour-Wide Giveaway

During the Blog Tour there is an opportunity to enter a giveaway for an eBook of Becoming Mrs. Smith! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Becoming Mrs. Smith


Follow the Tour!

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HFVBT Website or on Twitter #BecomingMrsSmithBlogTour

Monday, October 30
Feature at View from the Birdhouse
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Tuesday, October 31
Review at Hopewell’s Public Library of Life

Wednesday, November 1
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, November 2
Review at Bookish

Friday, November 3
Feature at Passages to the Past

Monday, November 6
Review at Once Upon A Book

Tuesday, November 7
Feature at The Reading Queen

Wednesday, November 8
Guest Post at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Thursday, November 9
Excerpt at Just One More Chapter

Friday, November 10
Feature at Jenn’s Book Vibes

Monday, November 13
Excerpt at What Cathy Read Next

Tuesday, November 14
Interview & Excerpt at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, November 15
Feature at A Literary Vacation
Review at Singing Librarian Books

Thursday, November 16
Review at The Maiden’s Court

Friday, November 17
Review at Bookramblings
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books
Feature at Broken Teepee



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Series Highlight: The Graham Saga by Anna Belfrage

Graham Series Graphic

About The Graham Saga Series

This is the story of Alex and Matthew, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him.

It all began the day Alex Lind got caught in a thunderstorm. Not your ordinary storm, no this was the mother of all storms, causing a most unusual rift in the fabric of time. Alex was dragged three centuries backwards in time, landing more or less at the feet of a very surprised Matthew Graham.

In a series of books we follow the life and adventures of the expanding Graham family, both in Scotland and in the New World – and let me tell you it is quite an exciting life, at times excessively so in Alex’ opinion.

Sometimes people ask me why Alex had to be born in the twentieth century, why not make her a woman born and bred in the seventeenth century where the story is set? The answer to that is I have no idea. Alex Lind is an insistent, vibrant character that sprung into my head one morning and simply wouldn’t let go.

Seductively she whispered about terrible thunderstorms, about a gorgeous man with magic, hazel eyes, about loss and sorrow, about love – always this love, for her man and her children, for the people she lives with. With a throaty chuckle she shared insights into a life very far removed from mine, now and then stopping to shake her head and tell me that it probably hadn’t been easy for Matthew, to have such an outspoken, strange and independent woman at his side.

At this point Matthew groaned into life. Nay, he sighed, this woman of his was at times far too obstinate, with no notion of how a wife should be, meek and dutiful. But, he added with a laugh, he wouldn’t want her any different, for all that she was half heathen and a right hand-full. No, he said, stretching to his full length, if truth be told not a day went by without him offering fervent thanks for his marvelous wife, a gift from God no less, how else to explain the propitious circumstances that had her landing at his feet that long gone August day?

Still, dear reader, it isn’t always easy. At times Alex thinks he’s an overbearing bastard, at others he’s sorely tempted to belt her. But the moment their fingertips graze against each other, the moment their eyes meet, the electrical current that always buzzes between them peaks and surges, it rushes through their veins, it makes their breathing hitch and … She is his woman, he is her man. That’s how it is, that’s how it always will be.


Titles in The Graham Saga Series

a rip in the veil
Book One: A Rip in the Veil
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A Rip in the Veil is the first book in The Graham Saga, Anna Belfrage's time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

On a muggy August day in 2002 Alexandra Lind is inexplicably thrown several centuries backwards in time to 1658. Life will never be the same for Alex. Alex lands at the feet of Matthew Graham - an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland. She gawks at this tall gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what looks like rags. At first she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises that she is the odd one out, not him. Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her frightening new existence. Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew - a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own, and at times it seems his past will see them killed. How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she want to?

like chaff in the wind
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
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Matthew Graham committed the mistake of his life when he cut off his brother's nose. In revenge, Luke Graham has Matthew abducted and transported to the colony of Virginia to be sold as indentured labour. Matthew arrives in Virginia in May 1661 and any hope he had of finding someone willing to listen to his story of unlawful abduction is quickly extinguished. If anything, Matthew's insistence that he is an innocent man leads him to being singled out for the heaviest tasks. Insufficient food, gruelling days and the humid heat combine to wear him down. With a sinking feeling, he realises no one has ever survived their seven years of service on the plantation Suffolk Rose.

Fortunately for Matthew, he has a remarkable wife. Alex  Graham has no intention of letting her husband suffer and die. So she sets off from Scotland on a perilous journey to bring her husband home. Alex is plagued by nightmares in which Matthew is reduced to a wheezing wreck by his tormentors. Sailing to Virginia, she prays for a miracle to carry her swiftly to his side. But fate has other plans, and what should have been a two month crossing turns into a year long adventure - from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Will Alex find Matthew in time? Will she be able to pay the price of setting him free? Like Chaff in the Wind continues on from The Rip in the Veil, taking Alex and Matthew's love story to a new continent.

the prodigal son
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
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'The Prodigal Son' is the third in The Graham Saga, Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Safely returned from an involuntary stay in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition.

In Ayrshire, people close ranks around their evicted Presbyterian ministers. But disobedience comes at a high price, and Alex becomes increasingly nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden.

Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and ministers before his own safety, he puts their marriage under severe strain.

The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing. Things are brought to a head when Matthew places all their lives in the balance to save his dear preacher from the dragoons.

How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose?

a newfound land
Book Four: A Newfound Land
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It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland. Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland.

Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers enter their lives.

Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all.

Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes.

Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest?

A Newfound Land is the fourth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham

serpents in the garden
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
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'Serpents in the Garden' is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage's time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

After years of hard work, Matthew and Alex Graham have created a thriving home in the Colony of Maryland. About time, in Alex's opinion, after far too many adventures she is really looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet. A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world - especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion. Then there's the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help - no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong - starting with the death of their youngest brother - the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose. Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?

revenge and retribution
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
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Life in the Colony of Maryland is no sinecure - as Alex and Matthew Graham well know. But nothing in their previous life has prepared them for the mayhem that is about to be unleashed upon them. Being labelled a witch is not a good thing in 1684, so it is no wonder Alex Graham is aghast at having such insinuations thrown at her. Even worse, it's Matthew's brother-in-law, Simon Melville, who points finger at her. Not that the ensuing hearing is her main concern, because nowadays Alex's entire life is tainted by the fear of what Philip Burley will do to them once he gets hold of them. On a sunny May afternoon, Philip finally achieves his aim and over the course of the coming days Alex sees her whole life unravelling, leaving her family permanently maimed. As if all this wasn't enough, Alex also has to cope with the loss of one of her sons. Forcibly adopted by the former Susquehannock, Samuel is dragged from Alex's arms to begin a new life in the wilderness. How is Alex to survive all this? And will she be able to put her damaged family back together? 'Revenge and Retribution' was Historical Novel Society (HNS) 2015 Indie Book of the Year. It has been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion and was HNS's Indie Editor's Choice in 2015.

wither thou goest
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
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Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour.

Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds?

So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met.

Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all.

Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

to catch a falling star
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star
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'To Catch a Falling Star' is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham

Some gifts are double-edged swords…

For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.
Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.

While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.

All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.
Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?

there is always a tomorrow
Book Nine: There is Always a Tomorrow
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There is Always a Tomorrow is the ninth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

It is 1692 and the Colony of Maryland is still adapting to the consequences of Coode’s Rebellion some years previously. Religious tolerance in the colony is now a thing of the past, but safe in their home, Alex and Matthew Graham have no reason to suspect they will become embroiled in the ongoing religious conflicts—until one of their sons betrays their friend Carlos Muñoz to the authorities.
Matthew Graham does not leave his friends to rot—not even if they’re papist priests—so soon enough most of the Graham family is involved in a rescue attempt, desperate to save Carlos from a sentence that may well kill him.

Meanwhile, in London little Rachel is going through hell. In a matter of months she loses everything, even her surname, as apparently her father is not Master Cooke but one Jacob Graham. Not that her paternity matters when her entire life implodes.

Will Alex and Matthew be able to help their unknown grandchild? More importantly, will Rachel want their help?

About the Author

03_Anna Belfrage

Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is Anna Belfragehistorical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Find Anna Belfrage: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Tour-Wide Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be a host site for the giveaway of Books #1-8 in paperback to one lucky winner! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.  If you have any questions, please contact the tour coordinator.

Giveaway Rules

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Graham Saga Book Blast


Follow the Tour

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On HFVBT Website or on Twitter #TheGrahamSagaSeriesBookBlast

Monday, November 6
Pursuing Stacie
The Reading Queen
Locks, Hooks and Books

Tuesday, November 7
T’s Stuff
Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, November 8
Bookish
So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, November 9
Let Them Read Books

Friday, November 10
History From a Woman’s Perspective
Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Saturday, November 11
A Holland Reads

Sunday, November 12
A Chick Who Reads

Monday, November 13
CelticLady’s Reviews
What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 14
A Literary Vacation
Historical Fiction with Spirit
Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang!

Wednesday, November 15
The Maiden’s Court
Adventures Thru Wonderland

Thursday, November 16
Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings
Ms. Stuart Requests the Pleasure of Your Company

Friday, November 17
Book Nerd

Saturday, November 18
Passages to the Past
The Book Junkie Reads

Sunday, November 19
Books, Dreams, Life

Monday, November 20
The Lit Bitch
Jorie Loves a Story



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cover Crush: Death of an Unsung Hero

cover crush

We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

death of an unsung hero

I have LOVED Tessa Arlen’s book covers – each one is gorgeous in detail and color and features a gorgeous home, and this is no exception!  Although I am not typically drawn to reds, the house draws in my eye with all the detail.  I almost missed the fact that there is a person in the forefront of the image.  Arlen certainly has a talented cover designer that would make me pick up her book every time!

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: (Updated as they are live). 

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: A Sea of Sorrow by David Blixt, Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Scott Oden, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Russell Whitfield

a sea of sorrow

A Sea of Sorrow by David Blixt, Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Scott Oden, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Russell Whitfield
ARC, e-Book, 524 pages
Knight Media, LLC
October 17, 2017
★★★★☆
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Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Story

Source: Received for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Odysseus, infamous trickster of Troy, vaunted hero of the Greeks, left behind a wake of chaos and despair during his decade long journey home to Ithaca. Lovers and enemies, witches and monsters—no one who tangled with Odysseus emerged unscathed. Some prayed for his return, others, for his destruction. These are their stories…

A beleaguered queen’s gambit for maintaining power unravels as a son plots vengeance.

A tormented siren battles a goddess’s curse and the forces of nature to survive.

An exiled sorceress defies a lustful captain and his greedy crew.

A blinded shepherd swears revenge on the pirate-king who mutilated him.

A beautiful empress binds a shipwrecked sailor to servitude, only to wonder who is serving whom.

A young suitor dreams of love while a returned king conceives a savage retribution.

Six authors bring to life the epic tale of The Odyssey seen through the eyes of its shattered victims—the monsters, witches, lovers, and warriors whose lives were upended by the antics of the “man of many faces.” You may never look upon this timeless epic—and its iconic ancient hero—in quite the same way again.

Having thoroughly enjoyed A Song of War, the prior release from the H Team, I was super excited to see that they were taking on the epic story of The Odyssey. Growing up I had always inhaled the tale of Odysseus and his adventures returning home to his waiting family after ten years of war. I first want to address my thoughts on the individual stories before getting into my overall thoughts.


Song of Sorrow by Vicky Alvear Shecter

It makes complete sense that the collection begins with the story of Penelope and Telemachus and how they deal with the suitors for her hand. Without this story you do not have the emotional reunion when Odysseus does eventually come home. Unfortunately for me, this was always the most boring part of the tale, and not a favorite story here either. Shecter did a great job of giving Penelope and Telemachus depth of character, which did make me care about their evolution at the end. The problem here is that nothing happens in this story and as it is the first in the collection, not grabbing my attention is really an issue.


Xenia in the Court of the Winds by Scott Oden

Wow, can I just say that I missed a lot in this story – namely that Xenia is not a character, which is what I thought the narrators name was for quite some time (for the record, his name is Glaukos and xenia is like the right of offering fellowship to a visitor). So that might have made a tiny bit of difference in my appreciation of this story. I appreciated that Polyphemus comes to this land to tell the story of what Odysseus and his men did, but I wasn’t a fan of the way the tale was told. Glaukos is telling the tale to his grandchild of when he was a little boy and Polyphemus came to his land, in that tale Polyphemus tells the story to Glaukos and the villagers of when Odysseus came to his land. I felt so far removed from these characters because of the way the story was told that I didn’t make any connections to them to care how they were affected. I waited and waited for something to happen, only for it to happen in the last few moments of the story before it ended. It didn’t feel like enough of a payoff to have waited that long for. I loved that Polyphemus has a backstory of being from Egypt and how Oden built the myth of the Kyklops.


Hekate’s Daughter by Libbie Hawker

This story (and the next 3) were where my enjoyment was really situated. Hawker fantastically built a believable story of how a woman could have been believed to be a witch based on circumstances way beyond her control. Circe didn’t want to be married to the man she was wed to by her father. When that inevitably fails and she is sent away to an exile, she finds who she truly is. Once Odysseus and his men showed up on the island I felt like the pacing slowed down and I again lost some interest in the story…until he set sail again.


The Siren’s Song by Amalia Carosella

Easily my FAVORITE story in the collection! What is funny to me is that this is the part of the tale, of those included in this collection, that Odysseus has the least interaction with – actually never directly engaging with the Sirens. This gave Carosella so much latitude to work with, but also really required her to build these shell characters into someone the reader could care about, as if they had read the Odyssey they wouldn’t have already had indepth knowledge of them. This was also the first story that I felt had forward momentum the whole way through with events transpiring throughout. I felt that life or death struggle these women were facing and really cared about their outcome. Excellent contribution to the collection.


Calypso’s Vow by David Blixt

Odysseus easily spends the most time with Calypso of all the people who he encounters in his travels home. I think this story should have had the longest page count because there is so much to tell here. Odysseus really finds himself here. He changes throughout each of his encounters with the people on his journey, but this one really gets him to a place where he feels like he is finally the man to return home to Penelope. I liked that Calypso has a heart and doesn’t want Odysseus to leave, but knows she is not the woman for him and that eventually he must return home. Watching the evolution of the two characters throughout this story was breathtaking.


The King in Waiting by Russell Whitfield

This is where the real action happens and where we get to see Odysseus return home to deal with everything that has happened in his absence. Whitfield has to pull together this Odysseus who has been handled in some way or another by 5 other authors before him and make him one man. He has to bring to the reader than man that you can finally get behind, because Odysseus is really not all that likable when seen through the eyes of the people he has hurt, even here too. While David Blixt began the redemption of Odysseus in the previous story, Whitfield brings it full circle. The scene where the suitors were dealt with was very satisfying, and gruesome.


Epilogue by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Shecter brings us full circle at the end with Penelope trying to understand and take in all that has happened, how Odysseus has changed, and how does she accept a man who has been gone for almost 20 years. It was a very satisfying and sweet closure to the collection.


Overall

I did have some struggles with this collection, which were definitely from personal experience with the source material. When you read The Odyssey, it is obviously a heroic tale of a great man, so to see him in a negative light from the majority of the character narrators here is jarring and difficult to acclimate to. I think that these authors did a fantastic job of seeing the story from the other perspective and getting past that veil of heroism. Odysseus and his men either directly or indirectly caused harm to so many people on their journey home. Having come off of previously reading A Song of War, and a FANTASTIC Odysseus crafted by Shecter in that collection, I was primed to see him as this great man. I also was so looking forward to seeing Shecter’s Odysseus again, although Whitfield did do an excellent job with him as well. Unlike in the other collections where many of the characters often have direct interactions with each other, for most of the narrators the only connection is Odysseus. This is why I was very exited to see the Circe and Sirens stories intertwined; I think this was a fabulous choice and an excellent way to flesh out the story of the Sirens as well. These authors were able to take characters who are traditionally imbued with magic or some otherworldly element and make them into real human beings with flaws or other characteristcs that might lead them to be mislabeled. The magical elements are removed from the story, which could make some of the elements of these tales difficult to root in the real world, but they did it. Whether it was through falsehoods spun on purpose to create fear, not understanding someone who is different in culture, or just the way someone tells a tale to make themselves look better, everything made sense in a real world way. The first two tales were a little boring for me and failed to pull me in, but the collection as a whole was well done.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Also by The H Team:

The H Team is a loose collection of historical fiction authors that unite to write short story collections. Some of the authors previously collaborated for the following books:

day of fire_thumb
A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

By Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter
[My Review]

year of ravens_thumb
A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion

By Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield
[My Review]

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A Song of War by Kate Quinn, Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Russell Whitfield, Stephanie Thornton, and S.J.A Turney
[My Review]


Find The H Team:
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Tour Wide Giveaway!

As part of the tour, a paperback copy of A Sea of Sorrow is up for grabs.  Please enter via the Gleam form below.  Please note, if you have questions to contact the HFVBT coordinator as I am not involved with this giveaway.

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents 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.


A Sea of Sorrow


Follow the Tour!

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On the HFVBT Webpage or on Twitter: #ASeaofSorrowBlogTour

Tuesday, October 17
Review at A Book Drunkard

Wednesday, October 18
Feature at A Holland Reads

Thursday, October 19
Feature at View From the Birdhouse

Friday, October 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, October 23
Review at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 24
Feature at The Reading Queen

Wednesday, October 25
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, October 26
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Friday, October 27
Feature at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, October 30
Review at Creating Herstory

Tuesday, October 31
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Wednesday, November 1
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, November 2
Feature at The Writing Desk

Friday, November 3
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Monday, November 6
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, November 7
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, November 8
Feature at Passages to the Past

Friday, November 10
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 13
Review at Unabridged Chick
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, November 14
Review at Bookramblings
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Thursday, November 16
Feature at I Heart Reading

Friday, November 17
Review at A Book Geek
Review at The True Book Addict


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cover Crush: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

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We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

a conspiracy in belgravia

Unlike many covers that catch my eye in jewel tones, this one is completely different.  I like the muted, foggy grays here – even her dress picks up on that palette.  No frills background due to the fog, but her dress stands out even in the drab colors – all the detailing.  Beautiful in a different way.

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: Flashlight Commentary; A Literary Vacation; A Bookaholic Swede; Of Quills and Vellum; Layered Pages; 2 Kids and Tired Books.   

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New Book Alert: The Painter’s Apprentice by Laura Morelli

02_The Painter%27s Apprentice

The Painter’s Apprentice by Laura Morelli
Book 2 in The Gondola Maker series
e-Book, 482 pages
The Scriptorium
November 15, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Book Blurb:

Star-crossed lovers with a costly secret. As the plague grips Venice, more than a quarantine divides them…

Venice, 1510. Maria Bartolini wants nothing more than to carry on her father’s legacy as a master gilder. Instead, her father has sent her away from the only home she’s ever known to train as an apprentice to Master Trevisan, a renowned painter.

Maria arranges to leave the painter’s workshop to return to her family workshop and to a secret lover waiting for her back home. But the encroaching Black Death foils her plans…

When the painter’s servants uncover the real reason why Maria has been sent away to train with Master Trevisan, they threaten to reveal a secret that could tear down her family and the future of their trade. She is forced to buy the servants’ silence, but as their greed steadily grows, Maria resorts to more desperate measures. She questions whether her heart’s desire is worth risking her family, her trade, and her future, but Maria’s sacrifices may amount to nothing if the plague arrives on her father’s doorstep and steals away everything she’s ever loved…

From the author of the award-winning The Gondola Maker comes a rich tale of Renaissance Venice, a heroine with a lust for life, and love against all odds.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo


Praise for The Gondola Maker

“I’m a big fan of Venice, so I appreciate Laura Morelli’s special knowledge of the city, the period, and the process of gondola-making. An especially compelling story.”
-Frances Mayes, author, Under the Tuscan Sun

“Laura Morelli has done her research, or perhaps she was an Italian carpenter in another life. One can literally smell and feel the grain of finely turned wood in her hands.”
-Pamela Sheldon Johns, author, Italian Food Artisans

“Sixteenth-century Venice is the star of Morelli’s well-crafted historical novel about Luca Vianello, the eldest son of the city’s most renowned gondola builder.”
-Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

“The heir to a gondola empire rejects his birthright but comes full circle in this fascinating glimpse into late-Renaissance Venice by art-historian-turned-novelist Morelli (Made in Italy).”
-Kirkus Indie Book of the Month

“The Gondola Maker is historical fiction at its best.”
-Midwest Book Review

03_Laura Morelli

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, “What’s the difference between art and craft?” was produced and distributed by TED-Ed.

Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy and four years in France.

Laura Morelli is the author of the guidebook series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker, a historical coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her first work of fiction.

Find Laura Morelli: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads  


Follow the Tour!

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On the HFVBT Webpage and on
Twitter #ThePaintersApprenticeBookBlast

Monday, October 23
Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 24
Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 25
The Never-Ending Book
To Read, Or Not to Read

Thursday, October 26
The Reading Queen

Friday, October 27
What Is That Book About

Monday, October 30
Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Tuesday, October 31
WS Momma Readers Nook

Wednesday, November 1
The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, November 3
Broken Teepee
Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 6
Creating Herstory

Tuesday, November 7
Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, November 8
The Maiden's Court

Thursday, November 9
The Lit Bitch

Friday, November 10
CelticLady's Reviews
A Literary Vacation
Romantic Historical Reviews

Saturday, November 11
T's Stuff

Monday, November 13
Let Them Read Books



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, November 3, 2017

Two Sides to Every Story: After the Gunpowder Plot – Terror or Tolerance in 1617?

two sides

Today I have the opportunity to welcome Tony Morgan, back to The Maiden’s Court.  Tony is the author of the previously released  Remember, Remember the 6th of November and the newly released 1617.  Tony stopped by and contributed with a post in this series last year and is back around for round 2!  This time looking at what happened as a result of the Gunpowder Plot.

After the Gunpowder Plot – Terror or Tolerance in 1617?

Last year I wrote my first guest Two Sides to Every Story focused on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. I asked if Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were terrorists or freedom fighters?

That post was born from my fascination with the parallels between the Gunpowder Plot and the modern day - religious tensions, terrorists on the streets of London, concerns over government surveillance and conflict between Britain and Europe. This in turn was the backdrop for my debut novel, Remember, Remember the 6th of November”. The book described a tense race against time to prevent a country’s descent into all out civil war. As the minutes passed by and we reached the 5th and then the 6th of November, we discovered if the plot would succeed or fail…

Of course, we know in reality the Gunpowder Plot didn’t succeed. Parliament wasn’t destroyed. King James I went on to live until 1625. He was succeeded by his son Charles, who eventually led the country into the English Civil War, which also raged across Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Thinking about this, a number of months ago the two classic words “what if” formed in my mind. In particular what if the King had been killed by the Gunpowder Plotters? What would have happened?

Two major possibilities stand out. Firstly, and perhaps most likely, the country would have slipped into reprisals and even civil war fuelled by religious differences. Protestants and Catholics would have fought hand to hand, and door to door. This was already happening and would continue to happen for decades across much of the rest of Europe.

The historical facts of the immediate aftermath are relatively clear. Guy Fawkes was already being tortured in the Tower of London. The leader of the Catholic conspirators, Robert Catesby, and his fellow plotters were grouped together in the English Midlands and being pursued by the authorities. Whether the King was alive or dead, it appears most likely they would have been killed in any case.

Would these reprisals have stopped with the Gunpowder Plotters or extended to attacks on all known Catholics, who in turn would have had little choice to fight back? We know from human history, before and since, that isolated actions of a few can lead to dire consequences for many.

My hope is, even in the circumstances, those who filled the political void left by the destruction of the King, his sons and most of his government in Parliament would have recognized the benefits of restraint. After all who would have benefited from a bloody civil war, other than the French or Spanish eyeing up the potential of another invasion attempt from across the Channel?

If this had happened, protectors would have been needed for the royal princesses. King James’ elder daughter Princess Elizabeth would have become Queen but she was only nine. Interim leaders would be needed to make decisions on her behalf until she could properly hold the reins of power.

Elizabeth was being raised a Protestant like her father. If her advisors recognized the importance of unity to avoid civil war and prevent invasion, perhaps they would have introduced a policy of religious tolerance, where the official Church of England remained Protestant but the people were free to worship in the church of their choice, even if it was of a Catholic denomination?

If all this had happened, the young Queen Elizabeth II would not have been safe. Extremists of both religions and enemy nations would have wished to undermine any policies of tolerance and unseat her from the throne, which would have inevitably led to her death. In parallel, scheming politicians, princes and kings would have sought her hand in marriage to gain control of the country.

In addition, Elizabeth would have to face up to the troubles in Ireland. After decades of war and enmity, it was unlikely short-term policies of tolerance would easily have made it across the Irish Sea. How could she preach tolerance if it was not even practiced in one of her own kingdoms?

From all this, I devised the world, plot and characters for my second novel 1617”. Queen Elizabeth selects Sir Everard Digby as her peace envoy for Ireland but he’s a man with a secret past linked to his role in the Gunpowder Plot which she mustn’t discover. Digby travels to Ireland and faces shipwreck, attack from both sides and the attentions of a Puritan assassin. A plot is hatched against the Queen by Protestant Puritans and Catholic Jesuits manipulated by a French female spymistress who wishes to see Digby dead.

Can the twenty-one-year old Queen Elizabeth II and her policies religious tolerance survive? Find out in 1617”.

Tony Radio Interview

Tony Morgan lives in Yorkshire in the UK, close to the birthplace of Guy Fawkes. His books have been described as a perfect read for lovers of the works of C.J. Sansom and S. J. Parris and anyone interested in how historic events have shaped our own times.

All profits for both his books in 2017 are being shared to York Teaching Hospital Charity which supports patients with conditions such as dementia stroke and those receiving chemotherapy.

Find Tony Morgan: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Final Book Cover 1617

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Book Blurb:

1617 is the exciting sequel to Remember, Remember the 6th of November - a thrilling alternate history filled with secrets, treachery and intrigue. Queen Elizabeth has transformed England into a centre for religious tolerance but conflict is brewing across Europe and there are continued troubles in Ireland. A peace envoy is needed. Sir Everard Digby appears the perfect choice but he’s a man with a secret past which the Queen must never discover…


All profits for both his books in 2017 are being shared to York Teaching Hospital Charity which supports patients with conditions such as dementia stroke and those receiving chemotherapy.  Please spread the word!


Remember, Remember the 6th of November

Book Cover Remember Remember

Amazon UK
Amazon US

1617

Final Book Cover 1617

Amazon UK
Amazon US



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court