Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

"Julia Beckett believes in destiny. When she moves into Greywethers, a beautiful sixteenth-century farmhouse, she suspects that more than coincidence has brought her there. The locals are warm and welcoming, especially the eligible squire of Crofton Hall, yet beneath the ordinariness, Julia senses a haunting sadness about her new home. Then she learns of Mariana, a beautiful young woman who lived there three hundred years ago. It seems history has been waiting for Julia....."


This is the gorgeous new cover for Sourcebook's April 2012 release of Mariana, one of my very favorite books by Susanna Kearsley. Haunting, romantic, with time travel and history, this book blew me away when I first read it in 2010 and started me on a search for every book I could get my hands on by Susanna Kearsley!

Here is my review of Mariana from 2010 and the beautiful book trailer.....hope you enjoy this wonderful book! If you enjoyed The Winter Sea, and The Rose Garden, you must put Mariana on your TBR list and grab it when it is released in April!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris

"In London, 1811, a young woman is brutally raped and murdered, her body left on the altar steps of an ancient church. The prime suspect: Sebastian St. Cyr, a brilliant young nobleman still haunted by his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars. Now he is running for his life, desperate to catch the killer and prove his innocence. Moving from Mayfair's glittering ballrooms to St. Giles's fetid back alleys, Sebastian is assisted by a band of unlikely allies and pursued by a Machiavellian powerbroker with ties to the Prince Regent himself. What Angels Fear seamlessly weaves an intimate knowledge of the period with a multi-layered and compelling story, and is the first of a series of novels featuring these characters."
(from Goodreads)

my thoughts:

A very well-written historical mystery featuring the handsome Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, being accused of a heinous crime. Evidence at the scene of the rape/murder of a beautiful young actress implicates him as the culprit. During his arrest, he escapes and becomes a fugitive of the law while donning several disguises to disappear into the seedy underworld of Regency-era London searching for the real killer. Aided by a young street-wise pickpocketer, the duo set out to prove Sebastian's innocence and uncover a sinister plot of blackmail, love affairs, political intrigue, and spies. So impressed were the magistrates with Sebastian's investigative skills that they recruit him to assist them (unofficially, of course) in future cases!

I enjoyed this fast-moving plot as it kept me guessing how it would all play out. Some graphic descriptions of the murder and sex crime may be a bit much for some readers, so be forewarned. I'm definitely interested in continuing the series as there are several intriguing layers to Sebastian's character that should have interesting possibilities. In the author's note, Harris describes a condition (later called Bithil Syndrome) which gives Sebastian an abnormally keen eyesight and hearing, even the ability to have "night vision," as well as unusually quick reflexes. Pretty good qualities to have if you are an investigator!


Title: What Angels Fear (#1 Sebastian St. Cyr)
Author: C. S. Harris
genre: Regency-era historical mystery
kindle edition

Friday, January 20, 2012

To Marry An English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace

"In 1895, nine American girls, including a Vanderbilt (railroads), LaRoche (pharmaceuticals), Rogers (oil) and Whitney (New York trolleys), married peers of the British new money, among them, a duke, an earl, three barons and a knight. It was the peak year of a social phenomenon that began when the entrenched members of old New York snubbed these "new money" families after the Civil War, sending them off to England in quest of class and bequeathing to us Anglomania, Preppy, the Jet Set, and even Princess Di.

Here is the American Heiress's story. Filled with tales of wealth and marriage, sex and snobbery -- and 100-year-old gossip that's still scorching -- To Marry an English Lord is a heavily illustrated and energetically presented popular history. A rich tapestry of essays, sidebars, fact-filled boxes, and lively anecdotes combined with a wealth of portraits, drawings, photographs, and other rare Victoriana -- it chronicles the era of Mrs. Astor, Edith Wharton, King Edward VII, and the Marlborough House Set. Over 100 heiresses swapped dollars for titles. To Marry an English Lord is the only book to tell how they did it."
(from goodreads)


Today I am spotlighting a book for Downton Abbey fans that might be worthwhile trying to locate in your library for a look-see. I read in The World of Downtown Abbey that Julian Fellowes was inspired to create the character of Cora after reading To Marry an English Lord. It's more of a pictorial and anecdotal book so it looks like an enjoyable way to learn about this period in history.

I've been reading many posts around the blogosphere with requests for books that might be similar to the Downton Abbey plot, and I'm also on the lookout for similar books. I've ordered a used copy, so I'm looking forward to receiving it. (Especially since someone in my household removed the season 2 episodes from the DVR lineup in order to make room for American Idol and House of Anubis! grrr! I have plotted my revenge......tonight I am steaming broccoli and clauliflower for dinner --they will be clutching their throats and begging for mercy! That will teach them to muck with mom's Downton Abbey episodes!!!!!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday - Books I Would Recommend for Readers Who Don't Read Romance

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

The topic today is: Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't Read _______
(fill in the blank with any genre)

Today's topic was too fun to pass up, so I'm joining in with other bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish to make up my list of books for non-romance readers.

I read quite a large number of great books that fall more into the romance category, particularly the historical romance genre, that are very well-written and enjoyable. Here's my Top 10 list of great books and authors for the non-romance readers with a link to my review:

l. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (She's a top favorite of mine.)

2. Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught (She has a great list - try any one of them!)

3. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

4. My Love, My Enemy by Jan Cox Speas

5. Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald

6. Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware

7. Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

8. The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

9. Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louise

10. Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

All are wonderful books with a romance at the heart of the story with an equally compelling plot. I hope one of these titles will tempt you to give something in the historical romance genre a try!

When My Baby Dreams by Adele Enersen

From the brilliant mind of new mother Adele Enersen comes this imaginative journey through the irresistible dreamscapes of a newborn. A love letter to babies everywhere.

"Sometimes, Mila dreams she’s a butterfly . . . .

Sometimes, she’s a bookworm . . .

Or a surfer girl , or even an astronaut.

When Mila dreams, she can be anything."


my thoughts:

I made a rule when I began my blog that I wouldn't include children's literature or young adult titles as I was pretty burned out on that topic being a reading specialist for almost fifteen years.....but today I have to make an exception. (Just this once!) I saw this creative mom and her new book featured on the Today show this morning and instantly fell in love with this storybook!

Is there anything more sweet and peaceful looking as a sleeping baby? If you are a mom, have you ever wondered what visions may be floating through your baby's mind as he or she is napping? Well, this inventive mom created adorable vignettes to illustrate images of what her baby girl, Mila, might be imagining as she sleeps. Utterly charming! I wish I knew someone who was expecting (or a new mom) so I could give it as a baby gift!

For information about the author, visit milasdaydreams.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Drawn in by the gorgeous cover, I thought everything about Rules of Civility sounded fascinating. Elegant couples, jazzy 1930's parties and nightclubs, and the world of high society in New York appealed to me. While all of these elements were a part of the story, it didn't quite all come together to make it a great read.

The backdrop of Jazz Age music, fashion, night life, and NY attractions were the highlights of the book, while it seemed liked plot was secondary. Other than a handful of events, nothing much happens except for a whole lot of shots of gin, bar hopping and cigarette smoking, and jumping in a cab from one party to the next. A tragedy early in the story shapes one of the major story lines and I thought, finally, now we're getting somewhere with a real conflict; however, I disliked the way things developed (and stayed that way for most of the book!) so the book went downhill from there. It was one of those novels that I thought had much promise and could have been really great, but it just didn't quite meet my expectations.

A+ for style and setting, (definitely a nod to all that was fun and exciting about New York in the 30's), but just a "meh" on characters and plot.


Title: Rules of Civility
Author: Amor Towles
kindle edition

Friday, January 13, 2012

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

A lavish look at the real world--both the secret history and the behind-the-scenes drama--of the spellbinding Emmy Award-winning Masterpiece TV series Downton Abbey

"April 1912. The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear that it seems as if the way it represents will last for another thousand years. It won't."

Millions of American viewers were enthralled by the world of Downton Abbey, the mesmerizing TV drama of the aristocratic Crawley family--and their servants--on the verge of dramatic change. On the eve of Season 2 of the TV presentation, this gorgeous book--illustrated with sketches and research from the production team, as well as on-set photographs from both seasons--takes us even deeper into that world, with fresh insights into the story and characters as well as the social history.
(from Amazon)

my thoughts:

Are you a fan of Masterpiece Theatre's Downton Abbey? Are you enthralled with all things related to the upstairs/downstairs world of the characters and their secrets and heartaches? Then this delightful and beautiful hardbound edition, The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, is for you!

For the ultimate Downton Abbey fan, there is glorious photography with text on the following chapters:

Family Life
Life in Service
House and Estate
Behind the Scenes

It also includes suggestions for further reading on related topics which is very helpful.

The inside photographs and text are copyrighted material so I am not able to illustrate the content here, but click here to go to to view examples of the photography and content. My copy is staying on my coffee table for constant enjoyment! I love it!

Title: The World of Downton Abbey: The Official Companion to Seasons 1 and 2
Author: Jessica Fellowes
December 2011
St. Martin's Press
304 pages

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan

"From an obscure country parsonage came three extraordinary sisters who defied the outward bleakness of their lives to create the most brilliant literary works of their time. Now, in an astonishingly daring novel by the acclaimed Jude Morgan, the genius of the haunted Brontes is revealed an the sisters are brought to full, resplendent life: Emily, who turned from the world to the greater temptations of the imagination; gentle Anne, who suffered the harshest perception of the stifling life forced upon her; and the brilliant, uncompromising, and tormented Charlotte, who longed for both love and independence, and earned their ultimate price."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I approach every book I read with an open mind and with great anticipation. With my passion for all things related to the Brontes and their works, I chose Jude Morgan's Charlotte and Emily for the Victorian Reading Challenge as the publisher's blurb seemed quite promising. Unfortunately, after a few chapters in, I was ready to call it quits.

I've read quite a few biographies and Bronte-inspired novels, so I wasn't really expecting to find any new revelations...there just wasn't any depth to any aspect of the story. I found that Morgan's characters were not fully formed (each sister had such unique personalities and characteristics) and they came across as flat paper-dolls. In my opinion, the life of the Brontes, while tragic and bleak, had great passion and genius and the whole effort to tell this story just fell flat. I had to force myself to finish this novel.

I'm in the minority here -- mostly glowing 4 and 5 star ratings by other readers so many people found it to be a very satisfying read. I guess this just goes to show that "no two people read the same book."

2/5 stars

Title: Charlotte and Emily
Author: Jude Morgan
St. Martin's Press
373 pages
genre: historical fiction

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

"My name is Amelia Gray. I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman's brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I've been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims—lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I've vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next."

(from Goodreads)

my thoughts:

What a terrific paranormal story and a very promising beginning to the Graveyard Queen trilogy! The Kingdom, book 2, and The Prophet, book 3, are to be published this year.

Lots of thrills and chills with southern gothic elements of crumbling cemeteries, ghostly apparitions, murder, and ancient secret societies set in sultry Charleston, South Carolina. Add in a spunky taphophile (graveyard restorer) who sees ghosts and a dark, attractive, enigmatic police detective with a tragic past and you've got a great sensual thriller/murder mystery. If you are a fan of Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, you'll likely enjoy The Restorer as it had that same kind of dark, sexy vibe with a spirit world intermingling with the main players.

I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this read, and I'm so glad I won't have long to wait for the continuation!

4.5/5 stars

Title: The Restorer (Graveyard Queen #1)
Author: Amanda Stevens
paranormal/southern gothic
kindle edition

Friday, January 6, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

"November 22nd, 1963 was a rapid-fire sequence of indelible moments: Shots ring out; a president slumped over; a race to the Dallas hospital; an announcement, blood still fresh on the First Lady's dress. But what if President John F. Kennedy didn't have to die; if somehow his assassin could have been thwarted? For Maine schoolteacher Jake Epping, those hypothetical what if's become real possibilities when he walks through a portal to the past. Without special skills and still unfamiliar with his new/old surroundings, he struggles to discover a way to change the history he left. Like its Under the Dome predecessor, Stephen King's 960-page novel shows that this master of suspense is back at the top of his game."
(from Goodreads)

my thoughts:

I really stepped outside of my comfort zone on this one! I'm not usually one to pick up a Stephen King novel, but I'm always on the hunt for a great time-travel story and this one came highly recommended...and I have to say that everyone who said "go for it" was right.

How many times have we watched with horror the famous Zapruder film footage of JFK's limousine ride past the Texas Book Depository that fateful day in Dallas and wished fervently....please, God, PLEASE! Don't let this tragedy happen!

In this thrilling novel of suspense, Stephen King takes us on a journey back in time to the late 1950's and early 60's to explore the possibility of changing the course of history.

Armed with the knowledge of the assassination, Jake Epping steps through a strange portal in time to the year 1958 to attempt to find out the truth about JFK's assassination. Was Lee Harvey Oswald the lone shooter? Did he have an accomplice? He soon finds that there are forces working against him....ominous forces as we learn that "the past is obdurate." It doesn't want to change. And for every change that is put in motion, there is a "butterfly effect." Ripples of change occur...but is it for the best?

At times humorous and nostalgic with Americana in the late 50's, and other times chilling and suspenseful, this ride through time has many threads of story that intersect -- I found it got a bit tedious and rambled overmuch! I just wanted to get to the day of the assassination to see how it would all play out. But King's storytelling kept me glued to the pages and I felt like I had a front row seat to watch the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife, Marina, as the fateful date of November 22, 1963 drew closer and closer.....and the obdurate past fought back. Will he succeed in thwarting the assassination?

Gotta read it yourself to find out.

4/5 stars

Title: 11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
kindle edition

Monday, January 2, 2012

Victorian Challenge 2012

Welcome to another year of book blogging! I hope your holidays were filled with good times and good memories! I have enjoyed visiting my favorite blogs and reading about your goals and proposed challenges for 2012, and I'm ready to join you on your reading journey in 2012.

My goal in creating this blog has always been to use Books, Belles, and Beaux as a way to share my thoughts on the books I read, learn about new authors, and connect with other readers. I like to keep the number of challenges to a minimum, and this year I have chosen to participate in just one challenge. Laura at Laura's Reviews has enticed me with the Victorian Challenge she will be hosting in 2012. Here are the details from her blog:

"For the Victorian Challenge, we will focus on the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. We will count books that were written by Victorian authors during this time period, books set during the Victorian age, or books about a Victorian author, history, manners, architecture, Queen Victoria etc... Also besides reading books, short stories, audiobooks and movies will also be accepted. The sky is the limit; I would love to make this a true celebration of all things Victorian.

Challenge Details

1. The Victorian Challenge 2012 will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2012. You can post a review before this date if you wish.

2. You can read a book, watch a movie, or listen to an audiobook, anything Victorian related that you would like. Reading, watching, or listening to a favorite Victorian related item again for the second, third, or more times is also allowed. You can also share items with other challenges.

3. The goal will be to read, watch, listen, to 2 to 6 (or beyond) Victorian items."

My first book selected for this challenge is:

Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan

Good luck in your challenges!

Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »