Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

From the Back Cover:

Greenland, AD 1000

More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband.

New Hampshire, 2016

Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.

In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight.

My Thoughts:

Two women, similar struggles, one thousand years apart.

Freydis, only daughter of Erik the Red, is faced with a decision: marry a man she doesn't love or respect in the hopes of one day commanding her own sailing ship, or face an uncertain future under her brother's thumb in a land rapidly converting to Christianity and abandoning the faith and traditions that are so important to her. Against counsel, she chooses marriage and discovers that it still isn't enough to grant her her heart's desire, or to protect her right to worship her gods, particularly Thor, in whom she places her utmost trust and faith. So when a stranger appears offering her physical and spiritual comfort and promising her the life of her dreams if she only stays true to her faith, she accepts and determines to forge her own destiny, though she will have a difficult journey ahead of her.

In the twenty-first century, congressman's daughter Emma Moretti struggles to reconcile her departure from Catholicism with her place in her community and in her own family. But the middle of her father's brutal reelection campaign isn't exactly the best time to announce that she's a Heathen, and her excitement at teaching Norse history at the local college is quickly dampened when her views are challenged in the classroom. To make things worse, a reporter has gotten hold of information about her faith that gives her father's opponent ammunition to take him down right before the election, and Emma has to decide if standing up for her beliefs will cost her more than she's willing to lose.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

From the Back Cover:

A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.

In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.

Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.

When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes the books that move me the most are the hardest to review. It can be hard to put thoughts into words when a book so completely absorbs me, chews me up, and spits me out. I'm sure there are other novels out there focusing specifically on nurses in World War II, but this is the first one I've read, and though it's only February, I can already say this is one of the best books I'll read all year. It may end up being THE best. It's going to be hard to beat. The back cover copy does a great job of telling you everything you need to know about the plot, so I will forego a recap and just tell you why you should read this book.

War is hell. And even when it's over, when the fighting and killing and pain and suffering and heartbreak give way to elation and hopefulness, everyone is fundamentally changed by what they had to do to survive. Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching this book, and boy does it show. The descriptions of the effects of war on the human soul are breathtaking. The depictions of what these nurses endured, their courage, their determination, are astounding. This book may be the ultimate tribute to the thousands of nurses whose valiant efforts still remain in the shadows of the men whose lives they fought so hard to save. I had never heard of the Malinta Tunnel, Santo Tomas, or the Angels of Bataan before reading this book, and I studied history in college with a concentration on US military history. We covered Bataan and Corregidor, but we never talked about these nurses. Messineo's debut novel finally brings these women into the light. Though this is by no means a light read. I cried many times over the course of this novel as Jo and Kay fought to save their patients--and themselves--while remembering events that made them into the nurses they are in their quieter moments, when there was nothing to do but think and pray. After four years of war, they have a lot of painful memories with the bright moments far too few in number. And their struggles in the immediate aftermath of the war to reclaim their souls and find a place in a world so changed were just as emotional and illuminating. As a hopeless romantic, I so badly wanted a happy ending for both women, though happy endings in war often have to be redefined.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blog Tour Excerpt: Lord of the Privateers by Stephanie Laurens

Lord of the Privateers
by Stephanie Laurens

Series: Adventurers Quartet
Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: MIRA (December 27, 2016)

The eldest of the Frobisher brothers and widely known as the lord of the privateers, Royd Frobisher expects to execute the final leg of the rescue mission his brothers have been pursuing. What he does not expect is to be pressured into taking his emotional nemesis, childhood sweetheart, ex-handfasted bride, and current business partner, Isobel Carmichael, with him. But is it Isobel doing the pressuring, or his own restless unfulfilled psyche?

Resolute, determined, and an all but unstoppable force of nature, Isobel has a mission of her own—find her cousin Katherine and bring her safely home. And if, along the way, she can rid herself of the lingering dreams of a life with Royd that still haunt her, well and good.

Neither expects the shock that awaits them as they set sail aboard Royd’s ship, much less the new horizons that open before them as they call into London, then, armed with the necessary orders and all arrangements in place, embark on a full-scale rescue-assault on the mining compound buried in the jungle.

Yet even with the support of his brothers and their ladies and, once rescued, all the ex-captives, Royd and Isobel discover that freeing the captives is only half the battle. In order to identify and convict the backers behind the illicit enterprise—and protect the government from catastrophic destabilization—they must return to the ballrooms of the haut ton, and with the help of a small army of supporters, hunt the villains on their home ground.

But having found each other again, having glimpsed the heaven that could be theirs again, how much are they willing to risk in the name of duty?

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As he followed her down the steps and into the corridor leading to their cabins, he wondered in which direction her recent thoughts had taken her.

He was tempted to ask, but they’d reached the doors to their cabins, hers dead ahead, his to the right.
Her fingers closed about her doorknob; she released the latch and turned to face him.

Instead of the simple “good night” he’d expected, that he’d planned on deflecting long enough to steal another kiss, she studied him for a heartbeat, then said, “There’s an issue we need to address.”

They were standing mere inches apart; the unique perfume he associated with her—a combination of the herbs in her soap and the elemental scent of woman—was wreathing around his brain. With his senses and a good portion of his wits already distracted, he tried but couldn’t imagine what she meant. He arched a brow. “What issue?”

Her dark eyes locked with his. “This.”

She closed the distance between them, slid a hand behind his nape, drew his head down, and pressed her lips to his.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: The Worthington Wife by Sharon Page

From the Back Cover:

Sharon Page sparkles in this poignant and irresistibly entertaining follow-up to her breakout novel, An American Duchess.

Lady Julia Hazelton is the most dazzling among 1920s England’s bright young things. But rather than choosing the thrill of wanton adventure like so many of her contemporaries, Julia shocks society with her bold business aspirations. Determined to usher the cursed Worthington estate into a prosperous, modern new era, and thus preserve her beloved late fiancé’s legacy, the willful Julia tackles her wildest, most unexpected adventure in Cal Carstairs, the reluctant new Earl of Worthington.

The unconventional American artist threatens everything Julia seeks to protect while stirring desires she thought had died in the war. For reasons of his own, Cal has designed the ultimate revenge. Rather than see the estate prosper, he intends to destroy it. But their impulsive marriage—one that secures Julia’s plans as well as Cal’s secrets—proves that passion is ambition’s greatest rival. Unless Cal ends his quest to satisfy his darkest vendetta, he stands to ruin his Worthington wife and all her glittering dreams.

My Thoughts:

Lady Julia Hazelton is feeling somewhat adrift. Having lost her first love to the Great War and her second love to the chasm between their social standings, she needs a sense of purpose. Her family is pressuring her to marry, but she's seen what a marriage without love can do to people, and she's vowed to marry for love or not at all. So she throws herself into a startup charity to help destitute war widows and their children. She also spends much of her time tending to the tenants on her family's estate and on the neighboring estate, Worthington, which she would have been mistress of had her fiance not been killed in the war. But Worthington is in a state of chaos. The new heir to the estate is a long-lost relative, a bohemian American whose arrival disrupts the staid order of English nobility. With her best friend, Diana, in the scandalous position of being pregnant with a married man's child, and terrified that the new earl is going to throw them all out on the street, Julia vows to do all she can to see the estate maintained. Getting close to the new earl is no hardship--he's gorgeous, progressive, and enigmatic--but getting to the heart of him and convincing him he has a place in her world is going to take some work.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jenny Q's Best Books of 2016

Happy New Year, my reading friends!
It's time for my annual list of the best books I read last year.

2016 could probably be called The Year of Books That Disappointed Me. This was one of my worst reading years, not only because I had far less time to read (only finishing 74 books out of my goal of 100), but also in terms of the lack of books that blew me away. My average rating was 3.6. Several sequels and final books in series I adored did not live up to my expectations, and the overwhelming majority of the books I took on for review ended up as 3-star reads. Not to mention all the books I DNFed, which I did not rate, nor did I count toward my reading goal.

Only eight books scored 4.5 or 5 stars for me last year, and here they are with  five 4-star honorable mentions and one indie standout, in no particular order:
(Click the pics for my reviews.)

Historical Fiction:

     

Honorable Mentions:

     

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: A Minor Deception by Nupur Tustin

Please join me in welcoming Nupur Tustin to Let Them Read Books! Nupur is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical novel, A Minor Deception, first book in the Joseph Haydn Mystery series, and I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about how Haydn became a sleuth for his very own mystery series and how she tackles combining fact with fiction. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of A Minor Deception!

When his newly hired violinist disappears just weeks before the Empress’s visit, Haydn is forced to confront a disturbing truth...

Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn would like nothing better than to show his principal violinist, Bartó Daboczi, the door. But with the Empress Maria Theresa’s visit scheduled in three weeks, Haydn can ill-afford to lose his surly virtuoso.

But when Bartó disappears—along with all the music composed for the imperial visit—the Kapellmeister is forced to don the role of Kapell-detective, or risk losing his job.

Before long Haydn’s search uncovers pieces of a disturbing puzzle. Bartó, it appears, is more than just a petty thief—and more dangerous. And what seemed like a minor musical mishap could modulate into a major political catastrophe unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.


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From Kapellmeister to Kapell-detective
by Nupur Tustin

The Chicken Or Egg Question

Which comes first: the character of a series or the genre? Michael Brown who wrote the delightful Paddington Brown books said he discovered the character first. After that, the bear's adventures pretty much wrote themselves.

Read the books, and the first thing you'll notice is that things don't happen to Paddington so much as Paddington happens to them. This fits the mold of general fiction quite well, but mysteries are different.

In mysteries, as in life, we don't always control what happens to us. Watch any true crime program, and you'll realize just how tragically true this is. Mysteries, like life, are an interaction between character and events, or plot. Oftentimes, plot happens first, and we're left, belatedly, to respond to the awful incident. How we respond depends, of course, on our character.

Mystery writers most often choose their genre, and even their sub-genre, well before the task of researching the novel begins. In order to write a good puzzle-plot mystery, we need to be in control of our plots, and we need a character who'll work with us rather than against us. By this I mean that when I've concocted a crime, I've already determined that it can and will be solved.

I knew I was going to write a historical mystery series. I also knew I wanted to write a biographical mystery. I didn't want to focus on England. Several excellent writers have already done that: Charles Todd, Margaret Frazer, Susan Wittig Albert/Robin Paige, to name just a few.

Some have chosen to write about other writers: Stephanie Barron with her Jane Austen series and Laura Joh Rowland with her Charlotte Brontë series. I wanted to do something different.

So, I turned to my other passion: music. After that it was merely a question of finding the composer with the right personality. I knew Beethoven and Mozart with their prima donna personalities wouldn't do. I needed someone who was approachable and responsible, tactful and discreet.

I found all this and more in Haydn. A personable, warm-hearted, witty individual, he quickly captured my heart.