Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known. (publisher)

An injured man appears in a tavern carrying a girl who seems to be dead. But suddenly she isn’t dead. No one knows who the man or the child is. But soon numerous people came and try to claim the child as theirs.

This is the first book I’ve read by the author, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Most of the book I wasn’t sure if this was set in a real Victorian era or in some fairy-tale world and it kind of bothered me. The book started good but in the middle, it slowed down a bit. I think that while it could have been shorter, it was well written.

There are many characters in the book and at times I had trouble remembering who was who and how were they connected.

I’m not sure how I feel about this book. While I enjoyed it, I wasn’t as thrilled by it as I expected to be. But it was different from what I usually read so it’s certainly well remembered.

3/5

Published: Atria Books (December 4, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Publisher

Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea by Eileen Stephenson

Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea by Eileen Stephenson

At the center of Byzantine society, fifteen-year old orphaned Anna Dalassena lives with her grandparents among the most powerful men and women in Constantinople. But the cutthroat politics of the Great Palace sends the family into exile in a distant corner of the mepire. Her bleak situation finally turns promising after meeing a handsome young soldier, John Comnenus, and his brother Isaac, before the are finally permitted to return home.

The vicious power struggles, uprisings, and betrayals at the highest levels of the empire push Anna and John unwillingly into its center as they struggle to deal with their own tragedies. When rebellion puts her life and those of everyone she loves at risk, is the reward a throne for her family – too big a gamble?

I’m not very familiar with Byzantine so this was an interesting read. At times it was rather difficult trying to keep the characters in order since everyone seems to be named either Anna or Michael…

We see the young orphaned girl grow into a confident and strong woman. Her family is connected enough to the rulers to be caught up in the power struggles. The book covers Anna’s life from a teenager until her brother-in-law Isaac Comnenus’ coronation. Last year I read a book about Anna Dalassena’s granddaughter, also called Anna, and it was interesting to learn more about her younger years.

This was my first book from the author and I’m looking forward to reading more.

3,5/5

Published: Blachernae Books (April 24, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but after a peripatetic childhood ended up in the Washington, DC area, where I attended college, married, worked a day job in finance, and raised three children.

My first book, Tales of Byzantium, contains short stories taking place in the middle years of the Byzantine Empire. My second book and first novel, Imperial Passions – The Porta Aurea, introduces Anna Dalassena, the extraordinary mother of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus, and an unstoppable force in her time.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 19
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 21
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 22
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, November 23
Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 26
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 27
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, November 28
Excerpt at Tea Book Blanket

Thursday, November 29
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, December 3
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, December 4
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, December 6
Excerpt at Introvert Booklover

Friday, December 7
Feature at Jathan & Heather
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, December 10
Review at Bookramblings

The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell

The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell

Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

Barling and Stanton are sent to Fairmore Abbey, an isolated Cistercian Abbey cut off from world, to investigate a series of murders that happened there. While summoned by the Abbott, they’re not taken in with enthusiasm and the monks are reluctant to have an outsider to help them.

This is a second book in a series but works well as a standalone.
Barling and Stanton are learning to work together and starting to trust each other better. Their too different personalities still cause friction between them at times but they’re getting to know each other better. We also learn more about Barling’s past when he tells Stanton how he knows the Abbott from his youth in Paris.

Great addition to the series and I’m looking forward to reading their next mystery.

4,5/5

Published: Thomas & Mercer (September 27, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 22
Feature at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, October 24
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Saturday, October 27
Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Monday, October 29
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, October 30
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, November 5
Excerpt at T’s Stuff
Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Friday, November 9
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Thursday, November 15
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Monday, November 19
Guest Post at Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, November 21
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Thursday, November 22
Review at Jaffa Reads Too

Monday, November 26
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Wednesday, November 28
Review at Rachael’s Ramblings

Thursday, November 29
Review at Impressions In Ink

Friday, November 30
Review at A Darn Good Read

Monday, December 3
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Review at Maiden of the Pages

Tuesday, December 4
Review at A Book Geek

Wednesday, December 5
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, December 6
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, December 7
Review at Bookramblings 

 

Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Two brothers, only one survives.

As Europe is torn apart by war, two brothers fight very different battles, and both could lose everything…

While George has always been the brother to rush towards the action, fast becoming a boy-soldier when war breaks out, Joe thinks differently. Refusing to fight, Joe stays behind as a conscientious objector battling against the propaganda.

On the Western front, George soon discovers that war is not the great adventure he was led to believe. Surrounded by mud, blood and horror his mindset begins to shift as he questions everything he was once sure of.

At home in Liverpool, Joe has his own war to win. Judged and imprisoned for his cowardice, he is determined to stand by his convictions, no matter the cost.

By the end of The Great War only one brother will survive, but which? (publisher)

George and Joe are brothers who at the break of World War I make very different decisions. George can’t wait to go to war and has a bit romanticized view of the war. Joe, on the other hand, is a pacifist who refuses to raise a hand to kill others. Their father is a Boer War veteran who doesn’t take Joe’s beliefs kindly.

Both brothers admit that they’re never been close and don’t have much in common, but they are concerned for each other’s well-being during the war which was great to see.

It was interesting to read about Joe’s time at home because I haven’t read much about the men who refused to go to war or the people’s treatment of conscientious objectors. He was branded as a coward, but I admire him for standing up to something he believed in.

It was a great debut book from the author and I really enjoyed reading it.

3/5

Published: HQ Digital (October 12, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

Stealing Mr. Smith by Tanya E. Williams

Stealing Mr. Smith by Tanya E. Williams

“I’ve always deserved better. Nobody ever told me so. It is simply a fact I’ve always known to be true.”

After surviving the loss of both her parents – one to illness and the other to abandonment – Bernice Rosin finds herself at a South Dakota orphanage that will never feel like home. Longing for a life free of poverty and misfortune, she takes matters into her own hands, determined to secure her own happily ever after no matter the cost.

In 1948, a relocation west promises a life rich with upper-class pleasantries until a naive mistake shatters both Bernice’s pride and her heart. Convinced she can still rise above her allotted station, she returns to South Dakota to calculate her options.

Desperate for a hero all her own, she singles out John Smith, a simple man with a kind heart and a gentle smile. John appears to be the perfect escape from a life fraught with disappointment. The fact that he comes with the baggage of two children and a past he seldom speaks of, has little bearing on her new obsession. Caught unprepared for such cleverness and deception, John falls right into the path of Bernice’s affection as she has set her sights on changing her last name to Smith, even if she has to steal it. (Goodreads)

Bernice Rosin’s mother dies when she is young and because her father is unable to care for his children, she is sent with her sister Patty into an orphanage. She can’t wait to leave the place as soon as possible and to get the life she thinks she deserves. Eventually, she meets John Smith from the first book and sets her mind to get a husband.

Bernice is the very opposite of Violet, Smith’s first wife, and that alone would have made me dislike her, but she was so selfish, manipulative and rude that I didn’t like her at all. I had just begun to think better of her and then the ending just made me hate her…
It was interesting to see that while Bernice and Patty had the same beginning, they both have very different attitudes to life.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out between them and if they can make a life together.

3,5 /5

Published: Rippling Effects (September 25, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Author

A Black Matter for the King by Matthew Willis & J.A. Ironside

A Black Matter for the King (Oath and Crown 2) by Matthew Willis & J.A. Ironside

TWO POWERFUL RIVALS — ONE DECISIVE BATTLE

Now a political hostage in Falaise, ∆lfgifa forms an unlikely friendship with William, Duke of Normandy. William has been swift to recognize her skills and exploit them to his advantage. However, unbeknownst to the duke, Gifa is acting as a spy for her brother, Harold Godwinson, a possible rival for the English throne currently in the failing grip of Edward the Confessor. Homesick and alienated by the Norman court, Gifa is torn between the Duke’s trust and the duty she owes her family.

William has subdued his dissenting nobles, and a united Normandy is within his grasp. But the tides of power and influence are rarely still. As Williamís stature grows, the circle of those he can trust shrinks. Beyond the English Channel, William has received news of Edward’s astonishing decree regarding the succession. ∆lfgifa returns to an England where an undercurrent of discontent bubbles beneath the surface. An England that may soon erupt in conflict as one king dies and another is chosen.

The ambitions of two powerful men will decide the fates of rival cultures in a single battle at Hastings that will change England, Europe, and the world in this compelling conclusion to the Oath & Crown series on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

A Black Matter for the King is a second book in “Oath and Crown” series and is told by William’s and Ælfgifa’s point of view. Like in the first book, I enjoyed Gifa’s chapters more but I do like that we get both sides of the story. I’ve never been a fan of William and these books haven’t made me like him any more than before…

The book was fast paced and quite a quick read. One thing that bothered me was that it’s not clearly told in what time were in. Sometimes it’s been months and sometimes years between chapters and it took me some time to understand how much time has passed. I don’t remember if this was an issue in the previous book…

But otherwise, I liked the book, it was well written with interesting characters.

3,5

Published: Penmore Press LLC (September 7, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Authors

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesnít get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and itís a rare story if there isnít a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, September 5
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Friday, September 7
Feature at The Writing Desk

Monday, September 10
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, September 14
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, September 20
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Friday, September 21
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Saturday, September 22
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Sunday, September 23
Review at Bookramblings
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

Compared to Outlander and The Mists of Avalon, this thrilling first novel of a debut trilogy reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin.

I write because I have seen the darkness that will come. Already there are those who seek to tell a new history…

In a land of mountains and mist, tradition and superstition, Languoreth and her brother Lailoken are raised in the Old Way of their ancestors. But in Scotland, a new religion is rising, one that brings disruption, bloodshed, and riot. And even as her family faces the burgeoning forces of Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons, bent on colonization, are encroaching from the east. When conflict brings the hero Emrys Pendragon to her father’s door, Languoreth finds love with one of his warriors. Her deep connection to Maelgwn is forged by enchantment, but she is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of a Christian king. As Languoreth is catapulted into a world of violence and political intrigue, she must learn to adapt. Together with her brother—a warrior and druid known to history as Myrddin—Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way and the survival of her kingdom, or risk the loss of them both forever.

Based on new scholarship, this tale of bravery and conflicted love brings a lost queen back to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of one of the most enduring legends of all time. (publisher)

I haven’t read that many books based on King Arthur so I was curious enough to try this and there aren’t too many books set in sixth-century Scotland either.

Languoreth is a twin of Lailoken who will be known as Merlin. Growing up Languoreth wants to become a Wisdom Keeper, a druid, like her brother and hates the fact that her fate lies in marriage. She is wed to Rhydderch, son of a Christian High King, but she has fallen in love with Maelgwn, one of Pendragon’s man.

Languoreth is an easy character to like. Strong and fearless who soon learns the ways of the court intrigues. Her marriage to Rhydderch doesn’t start in a promising way but in time they develop mutual respect for each other.

It was interesting to see the coming of Christianity and slowly losing the Old Ways. Anglo-Saxons are coming and there are wars and bloodshed. The book is from Languoreth’s point of view and I think it kind of restricts the story. It would have been nice to see what happens elsewhere, like in battles and such.

One real complaint from me is that Languoreth and Maelgwyn’s romance was a bit too instalove for me. They meet and in a manner of days, they’re so in love with each other that they’ll pine for each other for nearly 20 years.

The start dragged a bit but once things start to happen it flows nicely. In the end, I just wanted to know what happens next. All in all, I think this was an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to the next book.

3,5/5

Published: Touchstone (September 4, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Publisher

Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

New York, 1924. Twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall.

But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson.

As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her.

Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.

Jenny Bell is a burgeoning artist with a past she’s trying to hide. We learn more about her past little by little as we get to know her. She and her friend Minx get the chance to study at Laurelton Institute where Jenny gets to meet her idol Mr. Tiffany and his grandson Oliver.

I’ve loved everything I have read from the author and this doesn’t make an exception. It has less mystical elements in it than the other books I’ve read but the writing is great as always.

Jenny has trouble forgetting the horrible stuff that happened in her past, but it was nice to see how she learns to open up and grow. She learns to use colors in her art, something she has refused to do in the past and a lot of that has to do with Oliver. I loved seeing how their romance grew and he helps Jenny find some confidence in her art.

Another great book by Rose and she always has amazing covers in her books!

4/5

Published: Atria Books (August 7, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author

New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.

Rose’s work has appeared in many magazines including Oprah Magazine and she has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, WSJ, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com

Her most recent novel THE LIBRARY OF LIGHT AND SHADOW (Atria/S&S) was chosen as an Indie Next Pick.

The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Reincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield.

For more information, please visit her website and her blog, Museum of Mysteries. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 6
Excerpt at Passages to the Past
Feature at Naomi Finley

Tuesday, August 7
Feature at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, August 8
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, August 9
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Friday, August 10
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Sunday, August 12
Review at Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings

Monday, August 13
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, August 14
Feature at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Wednesday, August 15
Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Thursday, August 16
Review at The Lit Bitch

Monday, August 20
Review at The Book Mind
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, August 21
Feature at Maiden of the Pages

Wednesday, August 22
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, August 24
Feature at I’m Shelf-ish

Monday, August 27
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, August 28
Feature at A Holland Reads

Wednesday, August 29
Review at Bookish
Review at Library of Clean Reads

Thursday, August 30
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, August 31
Interview at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Saturday, September 1
Review at A Darn Good Read

Monday, September 3
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, September 5
Review at Laura’s Interests

Thursday, September 6
Review & Interview at Clarissa Reads it All

Friday, September 7
Review at Bookramblings

She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell

She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell

For Rose Enright, enrolling in a prestigious New England boarding school is the opportunity of a lifetime. But for Rose’s vulnerable twin sister Bel, Odell Academy is a place of temptation and danger. When Bel falls in with a crowd of wild rich kids who pressure her into hazing Rose, the sisters’ relationship is shattered. Rose turns to her dorm mother, Sarah Donovan, for advice. But Bel turns to Sarah’s husband Heath, a charismatic and ambitious teacher. Is Heath trying to help Bel or take advantage of her? In a world of privilege, seduction, and manipulation, only one sister will live to tell the truth.

In a novel full of twists, turns, and dark secrets, Michele Campbell once again proves her skill at crafting intricately spun and completely compelling plots. (publisher)

When their mother dies, twins Rose and Bel move in with their grandmother who they barely know. They are sent to The Odell Academy, a boarding school for the rich kids, where the academic Rose fits right in, but the wilder Bel becomes friends with the popular kids, but the friendship comes with a price. Bel has a crush on Heath Donovan, an ambitious teacher, which sets her against the older popular kids.

The book has some Gossip Girl vibes and I have to say that I hated all the characters. I wanted to know what happens but didn’t feel much sympathy for any of the people.

The book starts with a murder, but we don’t know who died or who did it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too difficult to guess who it was, but it takes the cops waay to much time to get it or understand at all what goes on in the school. So much eye-rolling here…

It was a solid read, but I had higher hopes for this one.

3/5

Published: St. Martin’s Press (July 31, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley