Thursday, February 11, 2016

Blog Tour: Jane and the Waterloo Map and a Grand Giveaway!

I am very excited to be a part of the Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour today. Amateur sleuth Jane Austen returns in Jane and the Waterloo Map, the thirteenth novel in Stephanie Barron’s delightful Regency-era mystery series. A fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of Ms. Barron’s book and other Jane Austen-themed items, will be open to those who join the festivities.   

Today I am sharing an excerpt from the novel. I love all things Jane Austen, so I can't wait to check this book out. 

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 5: In which Jane walks into Town from Knightsbridge, and discovers an acquaintance at Hatchard’s Book Shop.
"I wasted an hour over my needlework in Henry’s parlour, in dutiful expectation of a messenger bearing typeset pages of Emma from Mr. Murray’s establishment.  None appeared.  As it must be impossible to publish a novel that has not been proofed by the authoress, and as one cannot proof what is never delivered, I suffered extremes of vexation.  I intend to quit London for my home in Hampshire in early December, and it seems unlikely that the printer’s work—which I had hoped would be finished—will be even half done.
I set aside my needle and wools, and determined to walk out in the watery sunshine.  I was desperate for intelligence of the sort only London could provide.  I collected a cloak and my reticule, adjusted my serviceable bonnet in the looking glass, and drew on my warmest gloves.  It is no small matter to walk into London from Hans Place, and I meant to go as far as Hatchard’s Book Shop in Piccadilly.
It is less than a mile from Henry’s house to the little village of Knightsbridge, with its cavalry barracks and inns, its watchhouse and pens for straying livestock.  Not quite the bustle of Town, but not entirely rural, either—London continues to encroach on the fields all about.  A fine square is being laid out, and is to be called Cadogan Place, with a terrace of houses to rival Bath’s Royal Crescent along one side. 
I hurried a little as I walked up Sloane Street, anxious that I should not encounter our neighbour from Hans Place, Mrs. Tilson.  She is the wife of Henry’s partner, James Tilson, and the mother of a numerous family; a rather tiresome creature in her Evangelical fervour—and unlikely to approve of a gentlewoman on errands abroad without her maid.  I had torn Manon from Henry’s care yesterday, however, in undertaking to visit Carlton House; and I did not wish to deprive my brother of his cosseter this morning as well.  The opinions of a Mrs. Tilson must be as nothing to me.  That my sister Cassandra should probably have shared them, I did not allow myself to acknowledge.  There was little to remark, of course, in a stroll to Knightsbridge—but the evils of taverns and militiamen from thence to Hyde Park Gate could not be ignored.  I trusted to my advancing age to preserve me from insult.
Knightsbridge was charming at this hour of the morning—a little before noon--with a single forlorn cow lowing despondently in the village enclosure.  The smell of warm bread drifted from a baker’s oven.
I turned right along the Brompton Road, my head down to avoid any impertinent or roving eyes; but none were abroad today, and a quarter-hour’s brisk effort brought me safely to Hyde Park tollgate, sitting atop its rise, with a weighing house to one side and a watch house on the other.  I nearly bounded up the gravel incline—being by then thoroughly warm and contented, flushed with exercise.  
Passing through the gate, I was treated to the usual lively London scene: Gentlemen swaggering around Grosvenor Square en route to Tattersall’s, where the most beautiful and spirited horseflesh is at auction; poor souls hastening into St. George’s Hospital to visit the sick; and all of Piccadilly, with its crush of carriages and mounted horsemen, stretching in a mud-churned expanse before one’s feet.
   Hatchard’s Book Shop sits on the right-hand side of Piccadilly, at No. 187, just beyond the lengthy enclosure of Green Park; and it being the finest establishment of its kind in England, a veritable Heaven for any lover of books, I was frequently unequal to the temptation to browse among its wares.  In truth, I visited it nearly every day that weather permitted.  I was not yet so far sunk in depravity as to actually purchase many volumes, being a firm friend of the Circulating Library; but I dearly loved to caress the boards of fresh publications, feel the weight of their paper and the elegance of their type, and I frequently consulted the newspapers Hatchard’s so obligingly made available to the publick for a trifling fee.
After a buffeting and determined journey along the paving—the crowds of London never cease to amaze—I achieved Hatchard’s. I opened the shop door and made my way through the displays—glorious scent of ink and new leather!—to the pleasant room beyond, where easy chairs and tables were set about the racks holding the latest editions of London papers.  I did not trifle with the weekly journals, or the Sunday Observer; The Morning Chronicle and The Morning Post were my objects, as they were every other person’s in the room, save for a gentleman engrossed in a sporting journal and a pair of young ladies turning over the leaves of La Belle AssemblĂ©e.  I observed the latter to be whispering over the plate of an impossibly tall nymph in swansdown, with rubies to her headdress.  They had no notion, of course, what such a costume cost—and if the men in their lives were suitably up to snuff, should never be required to know.  Ladies who ordered their clothes for themselves were wiser and thriftier, however.
A copy of the Chronicle slid across the polished reading table, discarded.  I snatched it up.  The paper was of a notably Whiggish turn.  In the past this might have meant a protective tone regarding the Prince and his Set; but of late His Royal Highness had forgot his old friends in the Opposition, and had embraced the current Tory Government as preservers of Royalty, and thus more likely to pay his bills.  
I searched the columns with a swift eye.  It would be a brief notice, in the section reserved for departures, arrivals, births, engagements and deaths.  Not to mention scandals.  Elopements did a brisk trade in the Morning Chronicle, while rumours of indecency of every kind were vaguely suggested with elisions and initials.  
We are grieved to report that Lady R. V. has quitted her husband and all her friends for a dubious venture in the Barbadoes, where the Rum Trade has lately secured her Interest...A certain Duke’s Fast Frigate made safe harbour with a precious Cargo, of which she was delivered this morning...Viscount W., a familiar of Watier’s Club, was seen to disembark in Calais yesterday morning, having lost thousands in playing at macao... 
“Has any new work by the author of Mansfield Park lately appeared?”
I turned, startled, but the question was not directed to me.  A gentleman stood by the clerk’s counter, and as he leaned forward in expectation of his answer, I knew his profile: high forehead, blade of a nose, the eyes deeply set.  My heart beat erratically and I almost fled Hatchard’s—but Mr. Raphael West stood between me and the safety of Piccadilly.
“I am afraid you will have to wait a few months longer, sir, for the enjoyment of that lady’s wit,” I said smoothly as I walked toward him.  “I have it on excellent authority that the printers are sadly behindhand, and publication delayed.”
“Do you know...”  He broke off at the sight of my face.  “Jane.  Miss Austen!  I had no notion you were in London.  I--”
“Mr. West.”  I curtseyed.

He bowed.  His countenance had flushed to the roots of his dark hair.  He did not meet me with indifference, then.  Or was this merely embarrassment at being discovered in the solicitation of a novel?  He had not disguised his appreciation for my pen when we first scraped acquaintance, last Christmas at The Vyne."

Wow! I love the sound of this! To learn more about the book, check out the description below along with links to buy the book. 

Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful Regency-era mystery

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.


Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Don't forget to visit each tour stop on the JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP BLOG TOUR.  Here's the schedule:

February 02 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 03 Laura's Reviews (Excerpt)
February 04 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 05 The Calico Critic (Review)
February 06 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
February 07 Reflections of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
February 08 Mimi Matthews Blog (Guest Blog)
February 09 Jane Austen’s World (Interview) 
February 10 Just Jane 1813 (Review)
February 11 Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)
February 12 History of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Guest Blog)
February 13 My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
February 14 Living Read Girl (Review)
February 14 Austenprose (Review)
February 15 Mystery Fanfare (Guest Blog)
February 16 Laura's Reviews (Review)
February 17 Jane Austen in Vermont (Excerpt)
February 18 From Pemberley to Milton (Interview)
February 19 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
February 20 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
February 22 Diary of an Eccentric (Review) 

Grand Giveaway Contest: Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!  

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: When We Collided

This is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  "Waiting on Wednesday" spotlights upcoming releases that I'm eagerly anticipating.

When We Collided by Emery Lord
Pub. Date: April 5, 2016

Goodreads says, "Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them. Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him. Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Jandy Nelson, When We Collided is a powerful story of two teens whose love is put to the test by forces beyond their control."

Emery Lord is quickly becoming one of my favorite young adult authors. I absolutely loved Open Road Summer and The Start of Me and You, so I am excited to get my hands on a copy of this book.  What do you guys think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Greatest Love Declarations in Literature

For this Top Ten Tuesday, I am sharing the greatest love declarations in literature in honor of Valentine's Day.  Well, I can't promise you that these are the greatest, but here are some of my absolute favorites:

1.  “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”  ― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

2.  “I'm in love with you," he said quietly. "Augustus," I said. "I am," he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.”  ― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

3.  “For the two of us, home isn't a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.”  ― Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss

4.  “Gilbert, I'm afraid I'm scandalously in love with you.” ― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Windy Poplars

5.  “I love Conrad and I probably always would. I would spend my whole life loving him one way or another. Maybe I would get married, maybe I would have a family, but it wouldn’t matter, because a piece of my heart, the piece where summer lived, would always be Conrad’s”  ― Jenny HanThe Summer I Turned Pretty

6.  "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope...I have loved none but you.” ― Jane AustenPersuasion

7.  "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'' - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

8.  “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”  ― Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever

9.  “I will find you," he whispered in my ear. "I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you - then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest." His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me. Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”  ― Diana GabaldonDragonfly in Amber

10.  “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough..”  ― Nicholas SparksThe Notebook

So, what are some of your favorite love declarations? Let me know in the comments below! This meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 400
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Out of the Easy
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war. As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. Yet not all promises can be kept. Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope."

The year is 1945 and many refugees are hoping to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that will evacuate them from the advancing Soviets.  Readers meet four characters all desperate for one thing: freedom.  There's Joana, a Lithuanian nurse, who helps so many people along the way, but harbors a dark secret.  Florian, a German, but he doesn't let the others truly know who he is.  There's also Emilia, a young Polish teenager, who is in her last month of pregnancy and Alfred, a Nazi sailor, who is deeply troubled.  Emilia, Florian, Joana, and many other refugees must make the freezing cold trek across Prussia with the hopes to board the ship Wilhelm Gustloff.  But things don't come easy for these four very different people and they all must face many hardships.  Ruta Sepetys' Salt to the Sea is one of the best books I've read in a long time.  It broke my heart over and over again, but it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Sepetys switches the points of view between all four characters expertly; however, I felt the best connection with Joana. I admired her skills as a nurse and her moxie.  Emilia's situation is also heartbreaking. I couldn't imagine being pregnant as a refugee during WWII.  She has so much to face on her own and has been through so much since her parents sent her to East Prussia to work on a farm.  Her difficult situation tugged on my heartstrings.  I knew Florian was hiding some kind of secret and Sepetys did a great job slowly letting his secret unfold as he became more and more comfortable with Joana and the rest of the refugees.  My least favorite character was Alfred, the Nazi soldier, but I think it was smart for Sepetys to share his point of view as it gives us a more well-balanced novel. Alfred is deeply troubled and readers mostly get to know him through the letters he writes to his girlfriend back home. All in all, the characters are really well developed (even the secondary characters) in Salt to the Sea despite the fact that the narration is shared between all four.

Let's talk about how Salt to the Sea gutted me. Seriously. How on Earth did I not know about the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy? Why isn't it talked about more? I was completely blown away and I'm so thankful to Sepetys for bringing this to my attention.  To remember is to honor and that is essentially what Sepetys is doing here.  The time period of WWII has always been very fascinating to me and Sepetys brings to life this tragedy so well that I won't easily forget this novel.  

Salt to the Sea is really powerful; it's an important novel and one that will make you think.  It wasn't easy to read in certain parts, because it was so heart-wrenching, but I think that is what make it so unforgettable. It's mind-boggling that this tragedy occurred and that people's lives were cut short from this senseless tragedy. I thank Ruta Sepetys a million times over for writing Salt to the Sea and I know that I, for one, will not forget what happened to the many children and refugees aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stacking the Shelves (96) and Giveaway Winners

Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon - Thanks to Atria and Edelweiss
Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase -  Thanks to Putnam and NetGalley

How to Mend a Heart by -- Sara Gillingham - Thanks to Random House

Congrats to the following winners! I hope you enjoy your books.
ARC of Seven Ways We Lie and an ARC of Pearl - Gabbi C.
ARC of The Forgetting Time and The Other Me - Susan L.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty 

So what do you guys think? Have you read any of these books or are they on your TBR list? Let me know! This meme is hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

Friday, February 5, 2016

If You Love Romance...

It's that time of year again...Valentine's Day. That has me thinking about my favorite "romance" novels, but you see, I don't like traditional romance novels. I find most of them pretty cheesy, but I do love a great believable romance. So, if you are like me and you enjoy romance and swoon-worthy moments without it being overly cheesy or too much like a romance novel, then check out some of my favorites:

1.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - The best couple hands down. Who doesn't love Mr. Darcy?

2.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Hazel and Augustus still tug on my heartstrings. 

3.  The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks - Ok, so Sparks can be a little too much at times, but this story is pretty darn romantic.

4.  The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (and the rest of the series!) - This is my favorite young adult series and even though there's a sort of love triangle at times, it's done really well.  Plus, it's very realistic.

5.  The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani - This sweeping tale is includes star-crossed lovers at their best.

6.  Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Swoon.  That's all I'll say. One of my favorite YA contemporary novels for sure.

7.  The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen - This is my favorite of Dessens and I love the characters of Macy and Wes.  You can't go wrong with this book.

8.  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - Jamie Fraser. There's no need to say anything else. 

9.  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - I love the complicated relationship between Scarlett and Rhett. They are both so stubborn and sometimes I'm in the mood for an angsty-type of love story.

10.  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (and the rest of the series!) - Gilbert Blythe stole my heart back in the 80s. He still has it.

11.  Persuasion by Jane Austen - Oftentimes people over look this book, but I love the relationship between Captain Wentworth and Anne. This Austen novel shouldn't be missed.

12.  Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead - So, sometimes this series can be cheesy, but what is never cheesy is the relationship between Dimitri and Rose. Love it!

What are some of your favorite romances? Let me know in the comments below.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Review: Banished by Kimberley G. Little

Pages: 416
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Forbidden
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "She thought she’d lost everything . . . After spending months traveling the harsh, unforgiving Mesopotamian desert, Jayden reunites with a broken, injured Kadesh. Although everyone was convinced the violent and unpredictable Horeb, Jayden’s betrothed, killed the handsome prince, Jayden knew in her heart that her love was alive and safe. But their reunion is short-lived, as they learn Horeb is on their trail and determined to take back the girl he has claimed. Soon, the two star-crossed lovers are on the run toward Sariba, Kadesh’s homeland, where, as heir to the Kingdom, he plans to make Jayden his princess. But the trek to Sariba is fraught with heartache and danger. After narrowly escaping being stoned to death for a crime she didn’t commit, and learning that her sister has disappeared, Jayden’s only solace is her love for Kadesh. But even he is keeping secrets from her . . . secrets that will change everything. This gorgeous and enchanting sequel to Forbidden, is full of love, danger, and heated passion that will leave readers breathless."

Banished picks up where Forbidden left off and we are reunited with Jayden who has decided to search for Kadesh.  There are rumors that he may not have survived the attack from Horeb, but she comes to find him after a long trek and he is indeed injured and scarred.  Jayden hoped that they would be reunited and this would fix all of her problems, but Horeb is still on her trail and doesn't plan on giving up anytime soon.  Kadesh and Jayden's only option is to return to Sariba, where Kadesh is from, and then hopefully they can be together. But Kadesh knows that Horeb is not likely to give up and is recruiting a large army; war is immenent.  To complicate matters further, Jayden experiences many troubles in this sequel to Forbidden. She is dealing with trying to find her missing father, there's also her aging grandmother's welfare, her sister's involvement with the Temple of Ashtoreth, and ultimately, there are many secrets that Kadesh is hiding from her.  Kimberley G. Little's second installment in the Forbidden series is a breathtaking adventure through the Mesopotamian desert; there's romance, danger, a lot of action, and historical details that all added to my enjoyment.

I really liked Jayden in Forbidden and I continued to do so in Banished. She's a tough girl and one that often deals with a myriad of problems. She really couldn't catch a break in Banished, but that definitely added to the book's suspense.  As in the first book, I continued to love her relationship with her grandmother as well as her father; the politics of her tribe also interested me.  

Unfortunately, Horeb, her betrothed and also a dangerous killer, is hot on her trail and just won't give up.  Although we don't see too much of him in Banished, his ominous presence is always felt as Kadesh, Jayden and company are always trying to be one step ahead of him.

The romance between Kadesh and Jayden was also well done in Banished. However, the course of true love never ran smoothly, right? There's some secrets about Kadesh that are going to come to the surface and Jayden will have to deal with the many different things thrown her way once she is in his homeland.

The historical details are fantastic in this novel. I'm not sure they are entirely accurate, but I loved the enchanting, yet dangerous world of the Bronze Age and the desert.  The role that females played in this society was a tough pill to swallow, but that made me root for Jayden even more.

So, if you enjoy historical fiction and you want something new and fresh with a unique setting, I urge you to check out Little's Forbidden series.  I haven't been disappointed yet!

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