Friday, August 28, 2015

Weekend reads and winding down...

Today is my last day of sabbatical!

I wish I could announce I finished the second draft of my novel, but I didn't; I wish I could brag I read a dozen books, but I think I managed two. Instead, I spent almost all my time with Unabridged Baby, and I'm so grateful for that. I'm going to miss this face when I return to the office on Monday!

I am looking forward to resuming my routines, however. My long commute is great for both reading and knitting, and there's an active craft group at my office -- which means I'll knit over lunch and breaks, too. (This is important as I've got a long queue of things to knit -- holiday presents, more items for the baby before he outgrows them, and a few things for myself!)

I'm still nursing a book hangover from Naomi J. Williams' amazing Landfalls (which I need to review, but for now, just imagine me squee-ing and flailing) but have started Karen Abbott's Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War. I rarely read non-fiction but have had this one on my TBR since its release and I'm very excited to dig in now.

How has your summer gone? What are you reading this weekend?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cover Reveal: America's First Daughter

I'm so excited for this release! Stephanie Dray, one of my favorite authors, has paired up with Laura Kamoie to pen a novel about Thomas Jefferson's daughter Patsy. I'm absolutely on pins-and-needles for this one as I love Colonial/Revolutionary-era historical fiction and I'm so curious to see how Dray and Kamoie deal with Jefferson's complicated legacy. Read on to learn more about the book and the authors, and be sure to enter the giveaway to receive early access to a review copy!

America’s First Daughter
By: Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Releasing March 1st, 2016
William Morrow
In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.
 From her earliest days, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France. And it is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that she learns of her father’s liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age.
Patsy too has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé, William Short, a staunch abolitionist intent on a career in Europe. Heartbroken at having to decide between being William’s wife or a devoted daughter, she returns to Virginia with her father and marries a man of his choosing, raising eleven children of her own. 
Yet as family secrets come to light during her father’s presidency, Patsy must again decide how much she will sacrifice to protect his reputation, in the process defining not just Jefferson’s political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.


Pre-Order Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo


STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling and award-nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. As STEPHANIE DRAVEN, she is a national bestselling author of paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and American-set historical women’s fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation’s capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

LAURA CROGHAN KAMOIE is a historian specializing in colonial and revolutionary America, Virginia history, and the history of slavery. She holds a M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from The College of William and Mary and has published two historical monographs, including Irons in the Fire: The Business History of the Tayloe Family and the Virginia Gentry, 1700-1865 (University Press of Virginia, 2007). Laura is an Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy. In her fourteen years of college teaching, she has taught numerous graduate and undergraduate courses on colonial America, revolutionary America, African-American Slavery, as well as seminars on Thomas Jefferson.

As LAURA KAYE, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen titles in contemporary and paranormal romance. Her books have won numerous industry awards, including the EPIC eBook Award, the Golden Leaf award, the PRISM award, and the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit. She is a frequent panelist at national writing conferences and a frequent instructor of craft and social media workshops. Laura lives just outside the nation’s capital with her husband and two young daughters.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads



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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson

Title: Enchantress of Paris
Author: Marci Jefferson

First line: Footmen threw open the front doors of my casa, my sanctum of peaceful exile in Madrid for nearly a decade, and a whiff of spices and the gleam of moonlight filled my front hall.

Review: I'd been dying to get my hands on this book solely because I adored Jefferson's debut novel, Girl on the Golden Coin. And while I loved that book, I think I might love this one more. It has another charming, convincing heroine whose voice sealed my adoration from the first page, evocative historical details, and a dramatic plot that made me race to the last page.

Set during the reign of the young Louis XIV, the titular enchantress is Marie Mancini, an Italian noblewoman and niece of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin. She and her beautiful sisters are better known as the Mazarinettes for their obedience to their ambitious uncle, who is the close personal adviser to King Louis.

Mazarin has no qualms about throwing his nieces into the king's arms to keep the monarch's attention, and Marie's older sister Olympia is Louis' current mistress. But Marie and Louis have an immediate, intense connection, and Mazarin doesn't hesitate to encourage Marie's relationship with Louis when Olympia becomes pregnant. But Mazarin doesn't count on the true passion between Marie and Louis, nor Marie's intense desire to free the young monarch from her uncle's clutches.

As with Jefferson's debut, it's the heroine that so seduces me, and in this case, Marie -- clever, smitten, and conflicted -- won me immediately. She's from an intensely ambitious family and has no delusions about the expectations of herself and her sisters, yet in Jefferson's hands, Marie manages to hold onto youthful wistfulness, optimism, and naivete.  I was so caught up in Marie's dream that found myself hoping Jefferson managed to change history to give Marie her happy ending.

There's a complicated swirl of plot surrounding Marie and Louis -- war with Spain, the Mancini's family connection to witchcraft and astrology, marriage contracts and other noble concerns -- and Jefferson manages to make these elements effortlessly connect without bogging down the story and narrative flow. And even with the strong romantic thread in the novel, Marie's story is really that of freedom -- from her uncle's tyranny, from imprisonment in a convent or a forced marriage -- and coming-of-age when one's value was assigned, not seen.

This is a Top Ten of 2015 read for me, and cinches my status as a Marci Jefferson fangirl. Francophiles and fans of royal hist fic, get this immediately! For anyone wanting a splashy summer read, enjoy this one on the beach (perhaps with a few macarons!).

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 17th Century / France / Louis XIV / Royalty / Court Intrigue / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Thomas Dunne Books (8/4/2015)
Source: The publisher
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Enchantress of Paris to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only, ends 8/14. See my Giveaway Policy for complete rules.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book Release: Enchantress of Paris

My swoony review for this will come tomorrow but ohemgee, I just loved Marci Jefferson's newest historical novel, Enchantress of Paris. A delicious hist fic featuring a charming, captivating heroine -- Marie Mancini, mistress to the Sun King -- and loaded with fab details and dripping with drama, I hung on every word and prayed that somehow, Jefferson would change Marie's fate, I was that caught up in Marie's story. I'm thrilled to share this book release blast -- read on to learn more about this book and be sure to enter the giveaway!

02_Enchantress of ParisEnchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King's Court
by Marci Jefferson

Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
Hardcover & eBook; 336 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

READ AN EXCERPT.

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Fraught with conspiracy and passion, the Sun King's opulent court is brought to vivid life in this captivating tale about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic.

The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini's birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.

Desperate to avoid her mother's dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie's charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.

Disgusted by Mazarin's ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin's deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis's love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | INDIEBOUND | MACMILLAN

ADVANCE PRAISE
“Told with vivid historical detail and packed with court intrigue, this is sure to please fans of royal fiction.” — Library Journal

03_Marci JeffersonABOUT THE AUTHOR
Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.

For more information visit Marci Jefferson’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

BOOK BLAST SCHEDULE

Tuesday, August 4
Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, August 5
Unshelfish
Beth's Book Nook Blog
Curling up by the Fire

Thursday, August 6
Book Lovers Paradise
History From a Woman's Perspective

Friday, August 7
100 Pages a Day
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Saturday, August 8
Historical Readings & Reviews

Sunday, August 9
Book Nerd

Monday, August 10
Genre Queen

Tuesday, August 11
A Chick Who Reads
To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, August 12
A Literary Vacation
So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, August 13
Broken Teepee
CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, August 14
A Book Geek
The Lit Bitch

Saturday, August 15
The Maiden's Court

Sunday, August 16
Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, August 17
Luxury Reading
Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, August 18
A Bookish Affair

GIVEAWAY

To enter to win a signed copy of Enchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King's Court, please enter via the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 18th. 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.

Enchantress of Paris


04_Enchantress of Paris_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Winners!

Oops, super late with this -- have had a bonkers weekend with a baby that is just flat out refusing to sleep. It's made my wife and I all kinds of sleepy and slow! Without further ado...

The winner of The Visitors is ... Jane S.!

The winner of The Wild Girl is ... Lindsey S.!

Congrats to the winners! Folks have until the end of day Wednesday to respond to my email; after that, I'll draw new winners. Be sure to check out my open giveaway -- more coming!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Weekend reads and enjoying free time...

Somehow, I'm at the end of my second week of sabbatical, and I don't have much to show for it, writing-wise. However, I've enjoyed spending days with Unabridged Baby, doing the things I can't when I'm working and I'm grateful for this time.

I have gotten in scads of reading, though, which is just lovely. Still behind on reviews, but this, as with so much else, is my new normal.

I'm reading Marci Jefferson's Enchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King’s Court, which is just gripping. French court drama, lesser known historical figures, witchcraft, and a not-typically-gorgeous heroine. I'm super in love.

What are you reading this weekend?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

Title: Miss Emily
Author: Nuala O’Connor / Nuala Ní Chonchúir

First line: July and there is crisis.

Review: This lovely, slender novel imagines a friendship between poet Emily Dickinson and their Irish maid Ada Concannon.

I was immediately taken with this book, as both Ada and Emily are charming and captivating. The chapters alternate between their viewpoints, as the story of their friendship and the dramas around them unfold. 

O'Connor's Emily grabbed me immediately, an intellectually curious woman happy to be in her home, moved by the wilds of nature and the passions of the heart. She hovers in the kitchen for sweets and bakes as a way to shower love on those around her; she composes in secret and doles out her poems carefully.

Ada is a willing audience, a teenager fresh from Ireland, bemused by Emily. The Dickinsons are a kind family to work for, and she thrives in their home, yet heartache still hits her. It is Emily who rallies to defend her and who helps her gain some measure of happiness despite tragedy. O'Connor puts away any imaginary idea of Emily Dickinson as a pallid, passive ghost hiding in the rafters; the complicated and curious woman emerges from her pages, immediate and intriguing.

It goes without saying that a novel featuring Emily Dickinson should read poetically; in this case, O'Connor manages lyrical prose that doesn't emulate Dickinson's yet still offers the passion and boldness the poet captured in her spare lines. My copy is heavily dog-eared from the various quotes that caught me up and gave me pause, like
I look at her words, one by one. Love. Thee. Breath. Smiles. Tears. It pleases me that each word is solitary, a loner. Side by side, their staccato nature blends with others, but in the end they stand alone. Each word is a fence post -- upright, demanding, shrill -- but each one holds the fence erect, and as such, is indispensable. (p119)
or
From now on I shall be candle-white. Dove-, bread-, swan-, shroud-, ice-, extraordinary-white. I shall be blanched, bleached and bloodless to look at; my very whiteness will be my mark. But inside, of course, I will roar and soar and flash with color. (p121)

The more I write or talk about this book, the greater my affection for it grows, and it is one of my top ten reads for 2015.

I think this would make a fabulous book club read -- zippy yet bursting with wonderful discussion topics -- as well as those who love historical fiction featuring well-known historical figures. And of course, fans of Irish fiction and Irish authors must get this one!

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / Massachusetts / Irish Immigrants / Emily Dickinson / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Women Writers / Friendship)
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin Books (7/14/15)
Source: The publisher
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Miss Emily to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only, ends 7/31. See my Giveaway Policy for complete rules.