Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catching Up On A Sunday ~ September Update






I had high hopes of blogging more this summer while I had more free time. Life got in the way and blogging had to be put aside. Instead, my summer was focused on family crises and health issues. My mother in law had a heart attack and fortunately she got to the hospital in the last window of opportunity as it could have turned fatal. That was frightening to even think about and hard to write about. She was a bit stubborn and ignored the symptoms, as the pain moved around and she didn't realize how serious it was. She is 81 and in fairly good health, living independently with my father in law in their own home. She did have two blocked arteries and had stents put in. She then was in and out of the hospital due to blood clots in her legs. We were on pins and needles for weeks. It's one of those moments in time that made my husband and I realize how we are one of the few to have both of our parents still living at this stage of our lives. 

My son started his freshman year of high school last month. It's amazing how fast time flies. Everyone reminds you of this when your children are babies but when it comes to fruition it makes you stop and pause. He is active in the orchestra and plays the Bass. This year, will be more challenging as there are more concerts and a competition. He's already learning life lessons after his required >$100 graphing calculator (that is supposed to last through all 4 years of high school and college) was stolen or lost. I've heard from other parents that sadly, this is an issue that kids are stealing other kids calculators. The theory one parent shared is that either kids have lost their own calculator and are fearful of telling their parents so they steal another student's calculator or,  they are selling them. 

I have been reading although I am very behind in sharing reviews here on my blog. I plan to do that as I have several wonderful books to share with you. I'd like to get back to blogging and book reviews as well as visiting other blogs. I'm working on how to do that with the balance of life, family and work. How is everyone able to do that? Whether you are a blogger or not, how are you finding that balance for all that you need and want to do?! 






 © Copyright 2013- All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn



A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn
Publication Date: April 2013
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: France Book Tours/Author 



              A Spear of Summer Grass Synopsis

Paris, 1923

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even among Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather's savanna manor house until gossip subsides.

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming—yet fleeting and often cheap.

Amidst the wonders—and dangers—of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for—and what she can no longer live without. [sex and violence present but not graphic]


A Spear of Summer Grass is set in the 1920's where scandal can easily have a woman sent away due to the embarrassment to herself and her family. Delilah falls into this situation through her impulsive, selfish and immoral choices deemed unacceptable for a woman during this time period. Delilah is not a likeable character initially her experiences change her and allow her heart to be opened as she forced to face her fears. She is sent to Africa, which is nothing like the posh surroundings she is used to in Paris or England. She is a glamorous and beautiful woman who brings her finery with her to a country full of danger, culture and politics. She finds new social connections with expats whom she knows some of them and creates her own lifestyle without fear of repercussions.  She experiences the beauty of the land, the people, the tribes and the animals and learns to appreciate the amazing landscape full of wild animals and folklore. She continues to be wild and carefree and morally her choices continue to put her in trouble. She learns through the danger and fear that she can open her heart to Africa and the love she feels she does not deserve. 

This is the first book that I've read by Deanna Raybourn who has a gift for writing about complex characters, surroundings and the setting in Africa was stunning. Highly recommended. 


Author bio:

As a sixth-generation native Texan, I grew up in San Antonio, where I met my college sweetheart. I married him on graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation when I was twenty-three, I wrote my first novel. After three years as a teacher, I left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.
Fourteen years and many, many rejections after my first novel, I signed two three-book deals with MIRA Books.

"Sex, lies and awesome clothing descriptions" is how one reader described my debut novel, Silent in the Grave,published in 2007. The first in the Silent series, the book follows Lady Julia Grey as she investigates the mysterious death of her husband with the help of the enigmatic private enquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. From the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to a Gypsy camp on Hampstead Heath, Silent in the Grave was my love letter to Victorian London.
The series continues with the second book, Silent in the Sanctuary (2008), a classic English country house murder mystery with a few twists and turns for Brisbane and Lady Julia along the way, while the third book, Silent on the Moor (2009), is set in a grim manor house on the Yorkshire moors. My favorite part of writing Moor was getting to spend time in Yorkshire, one of the most wildly beautiful places I have ever been.

March 2010 saw a departure from the series with the release of The Dead Travel Fast, a mid-Victorian Gothic thriller that chronicles the adventures of novelist Theodora Lestrange as she leaves the safety and security of her Edinburgh home for the dark woods and haunted castles of Transylvania. I returned to Lady Julia and her companions with Dark Road to Darjeeling (October 2010), this time delving into my most exotic setting yet in the foothills of the Himalayas. The fifth series book, New York Times bes
tseller The Dark Enquiry (July 2011) saw Lady Julia back in her beloved London again, while a digital holiday novella, Silent Night (November 2012) highlighted the March family festivities at Bellmont Abbey.

But 2013 introduces a new setting to my work—1920s British East Africa. In A Spear of Summer Grass (May 2013), disgraced flapper Delilah Drummond is sent to Africa to weather the storm of her latest scandal. There she meets Ryder White, a local legend for more reasons than one—and the perfect man to teach her about the continent he loves. Ryder was introduced to readers in the digital prequel novella Far in the Wilds (March 2013).

 I am thrilled that 2014 will see another 1920s release, City of Jasmine (May 2014), and I am hard at work on my next project in my little pink study in Virginia with a doodle draped over my feet as I write.

You can find me blogging a few days a week at http://deannaraybourn.com/blog/. Be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter, check out my contests and book trailer videos, and find me on Twitter and Facebook


Check out the tour schedule for A Spear of Summer Grass through France Book Tours and enter the giveaways to win a copy of the book. 





© Copyright 2013- All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands & Amazon Gift Card Giveaway



The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: Ebook/Kindle 457 pages
Source: France Book Tours/Author



The Promise of Provence Synopsis
June in Provence is full of promise when Katherine arrives from Canada, eager to feel renewed by her surroundings. Endless rows of lavender prepare to burst into pink and purple blooms. Fields of sunflowers flow in golden waves among vineyards and olive groves overlooked by ancient hilltop villages. It’s the postcard setting she envisioned, but is that all she needs?

After a year of heartbreak, Katherine has impulsively agreed to a home exchange in the south of France. Colorful locals, a yellow lab named Picasso, and the inspiring beauty of the countryside breathe new life into her days.

Seeking to shed the pain of betrayal and loss, she struggles to recapture her joie de vivre and searches for the answer to a haunting question: is it too late to begin again?





The Promise of Provence takes the reader through a myriad of emotions and experiences and visual and sensory experiences as we travel from Canada to France. Katherine has had a major life changing experience in her mid fifties and her world has literally shifted after her husband shocks her with news of wanting a divorce. Katherine's life appeared happy and perfect to her at home and at work.  In time, with the help of her family and friends, Katherine is able to make positive life changing decisions that bring about experiences in her life that are ever changing. 

As a reader, the strongest parts of the book are the travels Katherine takes  through Provence and other parts of France. As Katherine faces her deepest fears of being alone she finds she is truly not alone and the world opens up to her. The scenes of the fields of Provence, the villages, vineyards, markets and coastal towns made me want to be right there alongside Katherine. As a reader, these scenes were the strongest for me as I could imagine them and visualize them in my mind as I read. I have not been to Provence, although I yearn to go there now! I have been to Paris and have beautiful memories and would love to go back. 

Katherine learns to love, experience life and open herself up to the beauty surrounding her in the world. She must take chances as she chooses to use a home exchange program to live in Provence which opens up another opportunity for another home exchange in France. She has to face loss, learn to be independent, and to trust again. 

This is truly a beautiful novel with the settings in France and travels that we are taken through as a reader. I highly recommend The Promise of Provence for those who like to travel, or armchair travel as I did. I also recommend this book for those who enjoy a strong story about a woman finding herself and her independence as well as friendships and a touch of romance! 

The author, has a surprise at the end for readers to be personally involved in finding out more about Katherine this fall. I found this a very fun & unique idea and was excited to participate in the experience...we do have to wait until fall but it will be worth the wait!! 




Author bio:
Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else. An admitted travel fanatic, she can pack a bag in a flash and be ready to go anywhere … particularly the south of France. With a focus on women’s issues and ageing, her stories celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. Encouraging women of all ages to stare down the fear factor and embrace change, she has heard from readers ages 20 to 83. 
Her award-winning debut novel The Bridge Club was published in 2010.

Her second novel, The Promise of Provence is an Amazon Hot New Release as of April 2013.

Pop in to visit her at:



GIVEAWAY: Complements of France Book Tours, I have a gift to share for one lucky winner to win a $10 Gift Card to Amazon. You can easily purchase The Promise of Provence and The Bridge Club or whatever you choose!




Please leave a comment below to be entered and make sure to leave your email address so that I can contact the winner.

Giveaway ends July 15, 2013






 © Copyright 2013- All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley



The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks
June 2013
Format: Ebook/Kindle or paperback 544 pages
Source: Publisher, Netgalley


About The Firebird from Sourcebooks:

Two Women.
One Mysterious Relic.
Separated By Centuries.
Nicola Marter was born with a gift so rare and dangerous, she kept it buried deep. When she encounters a desperate woman trying to sell a small wooden carving called "The Firebird," claiming it belonged to Russia's Empress Catherine, it's a problem. There's no proof.
But Nicola's held the object. She knows the woman is telling the truth.


The She Reads July Book Club Selection is The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley. This is my first month participating in the She Reads book club and what a great start it has been with the July selection of The Firebird. I had not read Susanna Kearsley's work before this, although I do have several books in my kindle library and a few on my bookshelf waiting to be read. The July book club pick gave me a chance to read my first book by Kearsley. I did know that The Firebird had characters from other books by Kearsley and that The Firebird is the second book in The Slains series with The Winter Sea being the first book. For me, this did not detract from the novel and it was easily read as a stand alone book. I loved her style of writing with authentic historical fiction and a touch of paranormal, romance and gothic added to the mix.

The Firebird weaves a story between past and present and takes the reader on a journey between current day and the 18th century Russian historical time period. I enjoyed how the author linked the present story line through the modern  story with Nicola and Rob who are old friends and have unresolved romantic feelings from the past and are connected by their psychometric abilities. They are able to learn about an objects past by touching it and then can visually travel back in time to learn more. This is how Nicola and Rob trace back in time the history and story behind the firebird. Nicola seeks out Rob, to help her find the truth behind the firebird and they also have to deal with their feelings for each other. In the past, historical part of the novel we learn about Anna and her story as she travels as a young girl with uncertain family ties through Scotland, Ireland and then to Russia. Anna and Rob follow her travels through these times in hopes of revealing the mystery surrounding the firebird. There were a few nice twists at the end of the book with Anna's part of the story. I had suspected them in the back of my mind but had pushed them away as unlikely. It was nice to see some parts of the story wrapped up and others left to the imagination. 

As a reader, I appreciated learning that The Firebird was based on real life characters that Kearsley had researched. I found this part of the book most interesting as at the end of the book, Kearsley writes about the real life characters and the historical connections written about in The Firebird. 

I would highly recommend The Firebird if you are looking for a historical fiction novel written with a beautiful story and strong characters. The Firebird will sweep you up in time, and as a reader, you will travel from past to present in settings such as England, Scotland, Ireland and Russia.  I definitely plan to read more of Kearsley's books and am fortunate to have several to choose from. 

You can read more about the author, read the first chapter and sample the audiobook of The Firebird on Susanna Kearsley's website



The July Book Club Selection & Giveaway from She Reads 
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Make sure to check out the She Reads website and enter the giveaway  courtesy of Sourcebooks. They are giving away copies of The Firebird. One of the lucky winners will also win four other Susanna Kearsley novels.    Go to the She Reads website and leave a comment for your chance to win! 





 © Copyright 2013- All Rights Reserved

Google Reader Gone...Bloglovin or Feedly?


For some reason, I thought that Google Reader would not be gone until later in July. I had signed up with Feedly and transferred my Google reader there but there were issues and now it seems that all my information from Google reader is gone. I just signed up with Bloglovin and have to figure things out. I sure wish that Google Reader had stuck around and made life easier! I may have lost a lot of information on blogs that I was following and may need to start over.  

Follow my blog with Bloglovin




Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Intros~ The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley





Every Tuesday Diane @ Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph where we share the first paragraph or two of a book we are reading or thinking about reading soon.  Feel free to grab the image and participate.







My Tuesday Intro pick is from The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley I just started this book and it's my first book by Susanna Kearsley. It's hooked me already and I read on the author's website that it's considered "a companion book to The Winter Seaso it looks like I will need to read that soon! 









Here is the first paragraph from the publisher website (click on the link to read more)
He sent his mind in search of me that morning.

I was on the Tube, half a minute out of Holland Park and in

that muzzy not-awake-yet state that always bridged the time between

my breakfast cup of coffee and the one that I’d have shortly at my

desk. I nearly didn’t notice when his thoughts touched mine. It was a

rare thing these days; rarer still that I would let him in, but my own

thoughts were drifting and I knew that his were, too. In fact, from

what I saw of where he was—the angle of the ceiling and the dimly

shadowed walls—I guessed that he was likely still in bed, just waking

up himself.


What do you think? Would you keep on reading 
or move on to something else?



Monday, June 10, 2013

Looking for Me: Q&A with Author Beth Hoffman and Giveaway





Yesterday, I shared my review of Beth Hoffman's newest book Looking For Me. Today, I am thrilled to share a wonderful Q & A with Beth Hoffman below and a giveaway to win a copy of the book, complements of Penguin Books.


Q & A  WITH BETH HOFFMAN


1.) After the success of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, how did you come up with the idea for LOOKING FOR ME?

When I finished touring with CeeCee, I had no idea what I would write. The characters had become so real to me that I felt guilty abandoning them to craft a different story. I especially had a hard time not continuing on with Oletta. For several months I shut down all thoughts about writing.

One day I sat at my desk and began going through stacks of old photographs. The more I sorted, the more I thought about my family and my childhood on the farm—how simple and uncomplicated life was, how much I missed the big old barn and the woodlands that backed up to the fields. I stared out the window and spent a good deal of time reliving those days, and while I was caught up in the nostalgia, something flashed in my periphery. I turned to see a red-tailed hawk land on a tree branch. I watched the morning light glaze across his pale chest, and how, just before he settled, he spread his rusty-red tail feathers to reveal the full spectrum of his regalia. I got a bit teary at the beauty of him, and then …WHAM! I had the beginning of my story.

2.) You always write so beautifully about your novels’ settings, making the reader feel like they’re being transported to another place. With LOOKING FOR ME, did you decide on the location of the novel—Charleston—first, or did that come later? Did you spend a lot of time there?

I write about places I love, places to which I feel a deep connection. I wanted would write about a farm family, and when the character of Teddi took form and she fell in love with the process of antique restoration, I knew Charleston was where she would ultimately end up. I’ve spent a great deal of time in Charleston and feel incredibly comfortable there. In many ways it’s like a second home to me. Plus, with Charleston’s history of antiques shops and gorgeous architecture, it was the ideal juxtaposition to Teddi’s life on the farm.

3.) You write very personally about the novel’s other main setting, the Overman farm in Kentucky. Being a Kentuckian yourself, do you have a strong connection to Red River Gorge?

The Overman farm comes from my roots and my heart. Nothing makes me happier or causes a flood of memories like setting my feet on farmland. I chose the location of Red River Gorge as the backdrop to the farm for many reasons—its mystery and power are palpable, and it’s so stunning that no matter how many times I’m there, I’m always awestruck. Known for its incredible rock formations, dense forests, waterfalls and wildlife, Red River Gorge was the perfect place for the character of Josh to be swept into the romance of the wild. Paleo-Indians thrived there, and it holds a treasure trove of petroglyphs. Every time I ride the gondola up to Natural Bridge and stand on that massive, nine hundred ton sandstone bridge, I feel connected to something far beyond my comprehension. Over 70 million years of changing weather has sculpted Red River Gorge into a place as magical as it is eerie.

4.) LOOKING FOR ME touches on the power of objects—through them we remember our past and face our future—what are some objects that have held meaning for you in your own life? Do you think it’s important to hold onto the things of our past?

By nature I’m a neat-nut and about as opposite to a hoarder as anyone could be, so I’m not inclined to keep things unless they truly have strong meaning to me. I do think it’s wise to keep things that hold memories like family heirlooms, books, photographs and letters, but there’s a fine line between keeping what is precious or sentimental, and overloading my basement and attic with stuff.

5.) The characters in LOOKING FOR ME seem as real as neighbors that live next door—what do you draw on when writing characters? How much do you borrow from real life? Do you model your characters on people you know?

The characters in my novels arrive in my imagination fully realized. Not only do I see them and hear them, but I also get a strong sense of their spirit. While a few characters might have small similarities to people I’ve known, the majority of them have come to me as the story unfolds. More often than not, I meet them just as my readers meet them. It’s a fascinating process.

6.) Birds and feathers play an important role in this story—where did your interest in birds come from, and what do they symbolize in your work?

Nature, animals and birds have enthralled me for all my life. My parents and grandparents had a deep respect for nature and all her creatures, and from a very early age I was taught to be gentle and kind. One of my first memories is of standing in the vegetable garden with my grandma and having her show me how to gently lift a toad and move him out of the way of the strawberry wagon. By the time I was five, I could name nearly every bird that visited our farm, not only by sight, but also by their songs. I viewed birds as beautiful messengers, and as a teen, I loved reading Native American folklore, which is rich with stories about birds and their spirits.

7.) This is your second novel—what advice do you have for writers and novelists just starting out? How did you find your own voice as a novelist?

Captivating storytelling is a gift—good writing is an art. By understanding how to combine those elements, a writer can save themselves from a whole lot of headaches. There are many books that can help a writer hone their talent, but voice comes from a deep place and cannot be discovered without having an inner ear. I say inner ear because writers must hear their voice come alive and rise from the page, and it must always ring true. Being a good listener helps a writer find his/her voice. By tuning our inner ear to catch voice inflections, mood, and the many subtleties of dialect, our own writing voice is strengthened. I believe the best way for a writer to know if they’ve found their unique voice is for them read aloud something they've written. Voice is a complex thing to achieve, but once a writer hears it, they’ll know that they've just captured the most illusive butterfly of all.


Giveaway: LOOKING FOR ME BY BETH HOFFMAN

Compliments of Penguin Books
(US Addresses ONLY, per publisher request)



To Enter:

Leave a comment with something that you read above from the Q&A with Beth Hoffman that makes you want to read the book and make sure to leave your email address so that I can contact the winner.  If you don't leave your email, I will be unable to contact you and will have to pick another winner.   

ENDS: JUNE 23, 2013 (ET)


Mailbox Monday





Mailbox Monday is a place for readers to share what books came into their house last week and explore great blogs!

(June Host is Dolce Bellezza)


Here is what arrived in my mailbox the past couple of weeks:



A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn from the author for a book tour with France Book Tours 




The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands ebook from the author for a book tour with France Book Tours 



A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams from Putnam/Riverhead Books











Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman





I have had the honor to meet author Beth Hoffman on both of her book tours. For her first book Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and for her recent book Looking For Me. Not only do I adore Beth's books but I adore Beth as a person. She is authentic, kind and connects to her readers on a level that is very personal. I don't know how she does it all, she's truly an amazing woman!

I saw Beth last week at a local book signing and I posted about it here on my blog. I finished Looking For Me a few days ago. I savored the book and read it slowly not wanting the story to end. For those fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt which is full of such heart, I found Looking For Me was a much different story full of heart & soul, bringing a richness and depth that had much meaning. It is a book that will stay with you after you turn the last page.

About Looking For Me from the publisher:
Teddi Overman leaves her hardscrabble Kentucky farm life behind at the age of eighteen, running away in the middle of the night and leaving only a letter for each member of her family. In Charleston, South Carolina, Teddi builds a new life for herself as an antiques dealer with the help of a quirky group of new friends. But each time Teddi, now thirty-six years old, leaves her antiques shop and visits the farm of her youth, she’s drawn to the mysterious beauty of Red River Gorge, where her brother went missing at the age of seventeen. Though long believed to be dead, signs of Josh begin appearing in the woods near the family farm, drawing Teddi back home again.

Looking For Me is the heartfelt story of Teddi's journey from growing up on a Kentucky farm to her professional life in the world of Charleston antique shops and new found friendships and connections.  On the farm, Teddi is surrounded by nature and learns to appreciate the forest, the animals and their unique gifts. Teddi's younger brother Josh has an innate affinity for birds, Red Tailed Hawks and nature. Teddi finds her connection to the stories of cast aside antiques and develops a love and talent in restoring furniture. 

As I read this  book, even from the first chapter, I felt a connection to Teddi. As a character, she exposes her heart and soul, her kindness and compassion that goes beyond her family, her friends and coworkers but even to those innocent souls. She cares deeply and does not give up on finding the truth, whatever that may reveal as to the journey and whereabouts of her brother Josh. I enjoyed learning about nature, the Red River Gorge, birds and their feathers and native american history that was interspersed beautifully throughout the story. I enjoyed learning about antiques and furniture restoration and the process of how a damaged piece of furniture can be transformed. I loved the setting of Charleston, the southern flare and architecture, the people and Teddi's love and care for her grandmother. I loved the quotes and words of wisdom woven through the pages that filled it with such charm. 

Looking For Me is a treasure, pure and simple, it's a novel that will grab your heart and touch your soul. It did that for me and that is why I did not want the book to end. I loved this book, and cannot recommend it highly enough. It's my favorite book that I've read this year and it will definitely be placed alongside Saving CeeCee Honeycutt on my favorites bookshelf! It's a perfect summer must-read book, one that you can sink into while sitting in a favorite chair with a cup of coffee or sweet tea and immerse yourself into a wonderful story! So, grab a copy of this book and enjoy the journey!

I'd like to thank Beth for providing me with an advanced reader copy of Looking For Me. I was thrilled that I was able to get my copy personally autographed by her last week at the book signing. 

Check out a wonderful Q&A with Beth Hoffman and a giveaway for a copy of Looking For Me, compliments of the publisher Penguin Books. GO HERE to enter, or click on the link to the giveaway in the right sidebar, ends June 23, 2013



 © Copyright 2013- All Rights Reserved