Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Blogging -- It's a Wrap!

There's something satisfying about looking over my accomplishments for the year... finding some great new books to add to my list of favorites, expanding my library, and discovering new authors.  I'll never accomplish all the reading that I hope to get to in a year, but that's ok....I just keep adding to the TBR pile and hope for the best next year. I've already posted about my top reads for 2012 (The Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens), but here are a few honorable mentions for 2012 that deserve to be spotlighted and then it's a wrap on the blog until 2013. :)

Best "New-to-Me Author" goes to......Karen White

Best "Blast From the Past" Novel goes to.....The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf

                                                         Added to my favorites list!

Best "Smokin' Hot Romance" Award goes to.....Defiant by Pamela Clare

                                                     Love those McKinnon brothers!

The "Scared the Bejeezus Out of Me" Award goes to.....The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
                                                        Crows give me the creeps!

"Prettiest Cover" Award goes to......A Lasting Impression by Tamara Alexander

Best "Time Travel" Novel goes to.....11/22/63  by Stephen King

                             Stephen King is outside of my comfort zone, but this one was great!                        

The "It's About Time I Got This One Off The TBR Shelf" Award goes to.....Here be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman

The "Well, They Liked it over at Goodreads" Award goes to......Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson 

                                                                      Just "meh."

Best "Damn! There's a Yankee in the Parlor!" award goes to.....Carrie Kingston by Betty Layman Receveur

                                                           Love those southern romances!

"Most Highly Anticipated Release in 2012" Award goes to.......The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

                                       Not her best, but it's always a treat to read her lovely writing.

And I think that just about wraps it up for 2012 on my book blog!

 I have had a great time reflecting on books and sharing my passion for reading with you. Visiting your blogs is a great experience and I am looking forward to seeing what 2013 will bring.
Wishing you all good things in the new year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop - Winner Announced!

A big thank you to all who  participated in the first annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop hosted by the fabulous Amy at Passages to the Past!

Thank you, also, to all of the new followers and visitors to Books, Belles, and Beaux.....I have enjoyed following your links to your blogs and visiting you.

And now for the winner of A Place Beyond Courage, The Shadowy Horses, and The Mischief of the Mistletoe..........

                                            LARA N. of Virginia!!!!!!!!!!!

Congratulations, Lara, and I hope you enjoy your prize package of amazing historical fiction books!

I would also like to take this time to wish everyone a blessed, peaceful, love-filled Christmas and a very happy new year.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop Giveaway! (US)

                   ************THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED********************
Welcome to the 1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop hosted by Passages to the Past!

Visitors to the participating blogs have an opportunity to win some awesome prizes, and the Grand Prize Winners at Passages to the Past have chances of winning gift cards and four amazing historical fiction prize packages! Be sure to visit Passages to the Past for all the details and participating blogs!


Books, Belles and Beaux is happy to offer a prize package which includes some of my favorite authors.
One winner (US entries only, please) will receive a copy of the fabulous Elizabeth Chadwick's A Place Beyond Courage, Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe  ( includes a bookplate signed by Lauren Willig!), and Susanna Kearsley's The Shadowy Horses. (Note: Already have one of these? No problem...if you are chosen as a winner, I'll be happy to discuss a substitute.)



To enter my giveaway, simply leave a comment with a name and e-mail for contact
information, (One entry per person.)

 Contest is open to US entries -- you do not need to be a follower of this blog, but new friends are always welcome! I will be visiting you blog if you've left a link. :)

 The contest runs from Monday, December 10, 2012 through December 17, 2012. One winner will be randomly selected and contacted by e-mail.

Good luck, and Happy Holidays!

Be sure to check out some of the other wonderful blogs and giveaways in the Historical Holiday Blog Hop listed below:

****************THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED 12/18/12***************************

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rising Tides by Emilie Richards

About the Book:

"Nine people have gathered for the reading of Aurore Gerritsen's will. Some are family, others are strangers. But all will have their futures changed forever when a lifetime of secrets is finally revealed.
Aurore Gerritsen left clear instructions: her will is to be read over a four-day period at her summer cottage on a small Louisiana island. Those who don't stay will forfeit their inheritance. With the vast fortune of Gulf Coast Shipping at stake, no one will take that risk.
Tensions rise as Aurore's lawyer dispenses small bequests, each designed to expose the matriarch's well-kept secrets. Longtime loyalties are jeopardized and shocking new alliances are formed as the family feels the sands of belief shifting beneath their feet.
As a hurricane approaches and survival itself is threatened, the fourth day dawns and everyone waits for the final truth to be revealed."
(from Goodreads)

My thoughts:

Having just completed Iron Lace which left me wondering about the loose threads, I just had to move on to the sequel, Rising Tides to find out the fate of the Gerritsen heirs.

Not quite as compelling as the first installment, it was still very intriguing the way the author structured the story of the reading of the will.....gradually, over a period of four days with an approaching hurricane, the tempestuous lives, loves and secrets of those gathered to hear the reading of the will are exposed for all to see, some with devastating results (the evil you send out into the world will come back to you), while a few experience healing and hope. The downside is that I found it to be overlong in some areas and a bit far-fetched at some of the coincidences and chance meetings that happened halfway across the globe.

Richards once again wove very accurate and interesting historical details of southeastern Louisiana during the civil rights movement and the tensions during desegregation efforts into the plot and created very sensitive and deeply moving storylines involving the issue of race, relationships, and love.

3/5 stars

Author: Emilie Richards
Title: Rising Tides
genre: southern fiction

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Favorite Reads 2012 - Nonfiction

Continuing with My Favorite Reads 2012, I'm spotlighting two favorite nonfiction selections, both which fed my addiction to the PBS series, Downton Abbey. 

To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl  was a fun pictorial/anecdotal history of the wealthy young American women who traveled abroad to find love and marriage among European aristocrats. A scrapbook-styled book filled with tidbits of trivia involving fashion, etiquette, entertaining, correspondence, courting, and other interesting topics related to the Victorian and Edwardian periods.


Continuing to add to my growing collection of all things Downton Abbey, The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes is sitting on my coffee table as we speak. I've flipped through it again in anticipation of the Season 3 in 2013.

And speaking of Season 3, here's the trailer for the new season (January 6, 2013) of Downton Abbey! Are you a fan of the show? 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Favorite Reads 2012 - Paranormal

It's hard to believe we're nearing the end of 2012 already....and another year of great reads and book blogging!

One of my favorite things to do as we enter December is to look back at the books I completed this year and select a handful that qualify as outstanding reads. These books most likely have landed on my "favorites" shelf at Goodreads and Librarything and are definite keepers.

For my first end-of-year favorites post I have chosen the Paranormal category:

 Hands down, Amanda Stevens' The Graveyard Queen series tops my list of amazing reads in 2012! And I am thrilled that not only does the author have future books planned...... it seems that NBC has plans to develop a TV series based on the books!

The series is based on Amelia Gray, a young woman who has seen ghosts since her childhood. She's lived by a strict set of rules which includes never interacting with the spirits. But circumstances force her to break the rules which opens the door for danger and terror to enter Amelia's world. Set in sultry Charleston, South Carolina, these novels are delightfully spooky and creepy with a dash of sexy -- a perfect mix of mystery, romance, and ghosts in a southern gothic setting. I want to read them all over again to enjoy the lush imagery and writing!                                      

Did you read an outstanding paranormal novel that you would recommend? Please let me know! I love recommendations.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013

It's that time of year again!

It's time to start thinking about 2013 reading challenges, and while I'm usually low key about joining challenges, I do enjoy some of the creative themes and concepts some bloggers design.

The one challenge I know I'm up for is one that includes my favorite genre, historical fiction. Historical Tapestry is once again hosting the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2013, a gathering place for all historical fiction enthusiasts to link their reviews and learn about other great HF novels. Click here for information on signing up for this challenge.

I've alread started planning for 2013 by adding all of the books that I am looking forward to reading as they are released in the new year. I'm signing up for the 25+ level (Ancient History Level):

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013:

1. The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James (Jan.)
2  The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
3. A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn
4. The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
5. The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
6. Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
7. Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith
8. When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
9.  Jean Plaidy*
10. Helen Hollick*
11. Georgette Heyer*
12. Ken Follett*
13. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles*
14. Barbara Erskine*
15. Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron (Jan.)
16. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon (Jan.)
17. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell (Jan.)

*From my TBR pile

Are you in? What new releases in 2013 are you looking forward to reading?

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Last year I had the pleasure of going to New York and attending a book signing at the RWA Conference. I had he opportunity to meet  many terrific authors (Robyn Carr, Susanna Kearsley, Deanna Raybourn, Lauren Willig, Colleen Gleason, Kristin Higgins, just to name a few). I've never read Robyn Carr's popular Virgin River series, but I've seen a few blogging friends have reviewed or added a Robyn Carr book on their blog or on Goodreads. It reminded me of this video I had stumbled across when searching for interviews with Carr a while back.

For those of you who read romance novels (either contemporary or historical), I thought you  might like (and have a few laughs at) the following video where some good-natured romance authors poke fun at themselves and each others books and the titles......but be warned! ** There are a few parts that are not appropriate for little ears or for listening to in the work place, just so you know. **


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Iron Lace by Emilie Richards

About the Book:

"When Aurore Gerritsen watched her lover kill her father, it was just one act of violence in a long chain of dramatic events.Years later, behind the iron lace gates of wealthy New Orleans, beneath the veneer of her society name, linger secrets that Aurore Gerritsen has hidden for a lifetime, and truths that threaten to change forever the lives of her unsuspecting family. Now, as Aurore faces her own mortality, she needs to reveal those secrets that have haunted her for so many years.

Aurore seeks out Phillip Benedict and asks him to tell her story. He's intrigued, but wonders why the matriarch of a prominent white family would choose to confess her sins to an outspoken black journalist.

Finally Phillip agrees, but though he thinks he's ready for anything she might say, the truth is that nothing can prepare him for the impact of Aurore's shocking revelations."
(from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Iron Lace is a gripping, heartbreaking story of a forbidden love from the past in Old Louisiana.

As the story begins in New Orleans in the racially turbulent 1960's, an ailing matriarch of an aristocratic family wishes to have her memoirs written, and her unusual choice for a journalist to write her life story will come as a surprise.  As Aurore begins recounting the memories of her life, old secrets unfold, tragedies and prejudices of the past are revealed, and the destruction of long-held hate and revenge play out across generations.  From the 1890's to the 1960's, Aurore's life story and the choices she made changed the course of many of her family's lives, and the revelation of these past secrets will have shocking repercussions.  It is a very emotional and intense read.

Great storytelling with spot-on historical accuracy wins high marks from me. The author captured the authentic colors, flavors, and essence of the history of southern Louisiana without being cliche. 

 My only minor quibble with the book is that there is not complete closure at the book's end...there are obvious loose threads that will be picked up in the sequel, Rising Tides, which I have already added to my kindle. I must find out more about the unforgettable characters in Iron Lace (a reference to the beautiful decorative ironwork on the balconies of southern mansions).

***A note about book covers: The cover pictured above is the new cover for the rereleased paperback version and the kindle edition. I'm not a fan of the cover as when I look at it, I think "women's fiction" or a contemporary romance.

The older covers do a better job of conveying an "old south" feel which is the heart of this story:

My paperback cover:

The hardback cover:

My rating:

4/5 stars

Title: Iron Lace
Author: Emilie Richards
genre: southern historical fiction/romance

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop!

How would you like to visit some awesome book blogs, take chances to win some great historical/historical fiction books and prizes, and meet some terrific book bloggers?

The wonderful Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting her first annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop from December 10 - 17th.  Stay tuned for more details, and hop on over to Passages to the Past if you'd like to participate!

(I'll be giving away a package of historical fiction books open to US entries.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Susanna Kearsley News: A Desperate Fortune

As if it isn't exciting enough waiting for Susanna Kearsley's latest release in 2013, The Firebird, she has recently revealed some new information about her latest work in progress.

From Susanna Kearlsey's blog:

"I’m calling it A Desperate Fortune (since that phrase has now leapt out at me twice from documents I’m reading for the research), and it has a twin-stranded storyline that involves modern-day codebreakers, Jacobite cyphers, real history, a road trip, a sharpshooting bodyguard, Paris and Rome."

I'm sure Kearsley will do a wonderful job of creating a sense of time and place in the beautiful settings of Paris and Rome; she has a real gift for recreating locations.

 Exciting news!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks....

Lots of good things going on around Books, Belles, and Beaux.......and the day has just begun.

Son off to golf practice. (check)
Daughter busy with friends. (check)
Husband running errands. (check)
Fireplace and candle glowing. (check)
New books ready to explore. (check)
Delicious smells in the kitchen. (check)

After a busy morning of preparing some side dishes for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner, I'm ready to put my feet up. I'm not usually enthusiastic about cooking, but I do love the holidays and hosting family here at my home so Thanksgiving is when I pull out all the stops. I've made a delicious autumn cornbread dressing with Italian sausage, ham, cranberries, pecans, and of course, a Louisiana Creole blend of onions, celery, garlic, and parsley, with a bit of fresh sage and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg for good measure.

I also have my favorite Thanksgiving dish, candied sweet potatoes, all prepared and ready to go. My secret ingredient in the brown sugar and pecan sauce is a New Orleans must-have ingredient: Jack Daniels! Yum!

I'm letting Copeland's Restaurant do the fried turkey and the oven roasted turkey for me. :)

Besides Thanksgiving, November is also my anniversary and this year, since it is my daughter's last year at home, we decided to celebrate with our kids. They took me to one of my favorite places, the Windsor Court Hotel, for tea. Now, if you know anything about my husband (he's a big, ex-defensive tackle football player), you'd know that the sight of him sitting in these dainty chairs sipping tea from tea cups and eating cucumber finger sandwiches is really funny.....and very sweet of him to do this just for me. My daughter loves tea and had a wonderful time......doesn't my son look happy to be here?

In more calorie-counting news, we decided to extend our anniversary celebration and do something just the two of us......dinner at Antoine's with a whole baked Alaska dessert split between us. (You could feed an army with one.)

I'm also thankful for the wonderful book bloggers.....I visit your blog daily seeing what's new and interesting and enjoying each person's unique style and book choices. I also appreciate more than you know those who drop by and leave comments or make recommendations. This is such a fun hobby and I consider this a very important part of my life. 

Thank you for visiting, and I hope the upcoming weeks are filled with wonderful holiday celebrating, and of course, a little time for reading some great books!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander

About the Book:

A Lady Emily Mystery (#7)

"Years ago, Emily's childhood nemesis, Emma Callum, scandalized polite society when she eloped to Venice with an Italian count. But now her father-in-law lies murdered, and her husband has vanished. There's no one Emma can turn to for help but Emily, who leaves at once with her husband, the dashing Colin Hargreaves, for Venice. There, her investigations take her from opulent palazzi to slums, libraries, and bordellos. Emily soon realizes that to solve the present day crime, she must first unravel a centuries old puzzle. But the past does not give up its secrets easily, especially when these revelations might threaten the interests of some very powerful people."

(from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Absolutely enchanting!  

Death in the Floating City is one of the best in the Lady Emily mystery series and has the same beautiful and elegant writing that first captured my attention in And Only to Deceive. 

The Victorian-era Venetian setting is rich and beautifully depicted, and the mystery is truly intriguing involving poetry, art, illuminated manuscripts, and ancient Venetian noble families. When Lady Emily and Colin are summoned to Venice to begin a murder investigation,  their  detective work unveils a tragic tale of 15th-century lovers.  The star-crossed couple were cruelly denied their  happiness as their respective families were involved in an ancient blood feud and refused to allow them to marry.  Their ill-fated love story broke my heart and reading of their lifelong pain and longing was very touching.  Tasha Alexander wrote their story with such depth and sensitivity that I was brought to tears. How this love story is connected to the murder is a puzzle, and Lady Emily and Colin must piece together ancient clues and clues left at the present-day crime scene to determine the culprit and the motive for murder.

But have no fear, it's not all a tale of woe, and this latest installment has me already anticipating the next book and all of its wonderful possibilities. I hope she's busy writing it!

 An absolute must-read for fans of Lady Emily and Colin!

4.5/5 stars

Title: Death in the Floating City
Author: Tasha Alexander
St. Martin's Press
308 pages
genre: historical mystery

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

About the Book:

"1961 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world."

(from Goodreads)

My thoughts:

This is going to be a challenging review to write as this was a highly anticipated book for me this year, and I've loved all of Kate Morton's previous books.  The Secret Keeper promised to be another multi-layered mystery of murder, secrets, and deceptions, and if you've read a Kate Morton book in the past, you know her stories are structured as if you are opening an elaborately wrapped present....only to find another carefully wrapped present inside.....and another....and another.....and another.....until finally you are  getting so close to the last box that holds the gift......and by this time you are full of anticipation and excitement and hoping that all of this layer upon layer of work will be worth the effort when you at last find the real present.

I'll be honest and say that it took me almost three-quarters of the book to really feel invested in the characters and in the story. At one point, I almost considered putting the book aside to read at another time.....perhaps I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for it or had my expectations too high. But I forged ahead, and once I got hooked, I was hooked. I finished the last part of the book in breathless wonder and turned the final pages in a flood of tears (in a good way). The ending was nothing short of spectacular, and I loved it -- bravo! Will it be a favorite Kate Morton book? No -- I missed the gothic overtones of her previous books and it took me much too long to feel connected -- but I certainly remain a solid fan of Kate Morton's style of storytelling.

4/5 stars

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November? November!!

It's hard to believe we're in the month of November.....the pumpkins and witches are now a thing of the past and I'm pulling out my turkey platters and planning ahead for our family Thanksgiving feast.

 I know these recent weeks have been difficult for parts of the US that were hit hard by the hurricane, and all I can say is that I know from experience that somehow you find the strength to do what is necessary to pick up the pieces and move on. My thoughts are with those families who have lost so much.

On the brighter side of things,  I have been enjoying collecting and reading so many anticipated titles that have recently been released......

I just finished Deanna Raybourn's Christmas e-novella, Silent Night, and, as always, enjoyed the spark and spice in the relationship of Lady Julia and her beloved Brisbane.  It's a light, quick read that will take you back to Bellmont Abbey at Christmastime with all the sensory experiences of the season....and, of course, a very light mystery.

The latest installment of Tasha Alexander's historical mystery series featuring Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves, Death in the Floating City, is recently released and on my shelf.  While I think the first three books in the series are the strongest and most compelling, I'm still impressed with Tasha Alexander's very elegant writing style and interested in following the sleuthing couple to their next adventure in Venice.


Also new on my shelf (and I can't wait to get lost in the pages) is the re-release of Judith Merkle Riley's The Oracle Glass, a novel set is 17th century France. "For a handful of gold, Madame de Morville will read your future in a glass of swirling water. You'll believe her, because you know she's more than 150 years old and a witch, and she has all of Paris in the palm of her hand....."  

 I love stories set in the Old South and this one came to me from a friend's recommendation: Iron Lace by Emilie Richards.

"When Aurore Gerritsen watched her lover kill her father, it was just one act of violence in a long chain of dramatic events.
Years later, behind the iron lace gates of wealthy New Orleans, beneath the veneer of her society name, linger secrets that Aurore Gerritsen has hidden for a lifetime, and truths that threaten to change forever the lives of her unsuspecting family. Now, as Aurore faces her own mortality, she needs to reveal those secrets that have haunted her for so many years.
Aurore seeks out Phillip Benedict and asks him to tell her story. He's intrigued, but wonders why the matriarch of a prominent white family would choose to confess her sins to an outspoken black journalist.
Finally Phillip agrees, but though he thinks he's ready for anything she might say, the truth is that nothing can prepare him for the impact of Aurore's shocking revelations."
(from Goodreads)

 My daughter and I are going into town today for an afternoon performance of  Les Miserables at the theatre, and hopefully I will spend the evening settling back into Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

About the Book:

At a Hallowe'en party, Joyce -- a hostile thirteen-year-old--boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.

That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the "evil presence." But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double murderer....

My thoughts:

It's been a while since I've dusted off an Agatha Christie mystery, so in the spirit of all things spooky and creepy, I picked up one of her later Hercule Poirot mysteries featuring a horrible murder at a Halloween party. Who could do such a hideous thing, despite the fact that this child had a bothersome reputation for being a liar and a braggart?

Typical Christie plot with enough red herrings that you're literally tripping over them while you're wading through a slew of suspects and possible motives. While I zeroed in on the murderer fairly early on, it was for all the wrong reasons. You can't out-smart or out-think Agatha Christie (at least I can't), so it's always fun to sit back and just enjoy the journey and marvel at  how this master of mystery ties all the threads together.

Just for fun, I've been watching episodes of the Masterpiece Mystery version of Hallowe'en Party which is quite good. Here's part 1 if you'd like to take a look. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

3/5 stars

Title: Hallowe'en Party
Author: Agatha Christie
Harper Collins
259 pages
genre: mystery

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kindle Deal on To Marry an English Lord

Thanks to a "heads up" from Misfit at Goodreads, it looks like Amazon is offfering the beautiful kindle edition of To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl for only $1.99 today. I'm not sure how long this price will last, but it's a deal if you've had your eye on this book -- just sayin'.

I wrote a post spotlighting this nonfiction compendium as a very entertaining look at  Edwardian and Victorian society for Downton Abbey fans and you can see my previous post here. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf

About the Book:

Shimmering with pageantry, emotion, and the court's passionate intrigues, here is the epic story of Arthur--the conqueror, the once and future king who vanquished the Saxons and loved but one woman, the beautiful Morgan of Avalon. She was the lover his country forbade him to wed but could never keep him from desiring. Held captive by deep feelings, the two dream of one future together...until fate sweeps them into a world where love is balanced on the knife's edge of danger. Never before has the telling of the story of Arthur made the drama of this charismatic king more real or more moving. Here a legend and a tale so vigorous with heroic deed and conflict, so glowing with wondrous love, are brought close enough for us to experience all the unforgettable emotions of Avalon...and all the magical moments of Camelot.

My thoughts:

The Road to Avalon is a beautifully written version of the legendary Arthur and his journey from boyhood to king. It is a tale of love and loss, courage, sacrifice, and secrets .....heartbreaking at times as the young man Arthur struggles with his deep love for a woman he can never have and the weight of his destiny.

"Be the king you were born to be...."

Loved this book -- a true gem from the past!  Joan Wolf is an author that I'll be searching for in used book sales as some of her books are out of print. I recently reviewed Born of the Sun, another enjoyable love story within a rich historical context.  Highly recommend!

I also have Helen Hollick's Pendragon series on my TBR shelf, so I'll be interested in reading another interpretation of the Arthurian legend.

  5/5 stars

Title: The Road to Avalon
Author: Joan Wolf
New American Library
422 pages
genre: historical fiction

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine

About the Book:

"Across the peninsula the mist rolled in, its icy fingers curling up the cliffs. Inside their houses, people stirred in their sleep and children cried in the dark.

The parish of Manningtree and Mistley has a dark history. In 1644, Cromwell's Witchfinder General tortured scores of women there, including Liza, the herbalist, whose cottage still stands, and Sarah, the daughter of the manor. And the spirits of his victims haunt the old shop in the High Street, they say.

Emma Dickson gave up her high-flying career to live in Liza's cottage, but now, as Halloween approaches, she is being driven half-mad by visions of the terrible past.  In despair, Emma turns to the local rector for help, but he, too, is in the grip of something inexplicable and dangerous....."
(from the publisher)

My thoughts:

Classic Erskine as she weaves a tale where the past and the present collide. She's someone I turn to when I want to hunker down on a quiet evening (if it's raining or cold, even better) to get whisked away to another time and place and enjoy a good thriller.

Hiding from the Light begins with a terrifying piece of seventeenth-century history. Historical figure Matthew Hopkins, known as the Witchfinder General, has waged a war against "witches" and followers of Satan by torturing his female victims (many innocent healers/midwives/herbalists). Horrifying practices of pricking the women with a needle until they begged for mercy, "floating" the accused in a lake, and other cruel and horrifying practices struck fear in the hearts of the women of Essex. However, in the present-day village of Manningtree, his evil spirit is beginning to manifest itself as a dark and insidious mist in the quaint English countryside. Ghostly images of the witch hunter are seen in a local store, and several inhabitants of the town are possessed with the spirits of his victims now trying to seek their revenge.

I loved this atmospheric ghost/witch story, and of course, knowing that parts of the historical plot were based on fact made it absolutely chilling. Another fabulous suspenseful and spooky read by Barbara Erskine! Perfect for a Halloween read.

Matthew Hopkins, Cromwell's Witchfinder General.

4/5 stars

Title: Hiding from the Light
Author: Barbara Erskine
Harper Collins
505 pages
genre: historical fiction/suspense/supernatural

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Witch by Barbara Michaels

About the book:

"For Ellen March, the secluded old house nestled in the pine woods is more than the dream home she's long been searching for. It's an escape, a chance to start over, to forget the pain of her failed marriage and enjoy the restful pace of small-town living. Here, too, is a golden opportunity to get to know Norman McKay, her handsome and worldly new neighbor. But after dark in Ellen's "perfect" house, strange visions invade her restless mind: silent strangers moving through the twilight shadows, the ghostly figure of a woman and a spectral white cat. Ellen came here hoping to bury the past, but something terrifying has taken its place. Her safe haven has become her prison . . . and there is "no" escape."
(from Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I am smitten with Barbara Michaels (also known as Barbara Mertz as well as Elizabeth Peters of the Amelia Peabody series). Her books are so very readable -- she has a breezy style with lots of atmosphere and a touch of wry humor that sucks you right in from the first page. The perfect kind of reading for this time of year -- mystery, suspense, a bit of paranormal, and always a surprise twist. Fun! I have a stack of her books (including more of her Amelia Peabody series) to look forward to -- my collection is definitely growing.

On a fun note, Barbara Michaels, known for her love of Egypt (she earned a Ph.D in Egyptology before turning to writing fiction years ago), recently celebrated her 85th birthday in grand style. Complete with camels, belly dancers, and her hookah, I can only imagine that all who were invited to party with her had a blast! Click here to read an article from The Washington Post  about this fascinating author's birthday bash.

Happy 85th to a favorite author!

3.5/5 stars

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Ahhhh, fall........spicy pumpkins, crunchy apples, woodsmoke, swirling leaves, and harvest moons.......are you as much of a fan of autumn as I am?

 Unfortunately, there has not been very much evidence of fall where I live yet, so I'm cautiously optimistic now that we're in October that I'll begin to feel those crisp evening breezes that make me want to snuggle under a blanket and read a wonderfully spooky mystery.

These past few weeks have found me incredibly busy putting my house back in order (thank you, Hurricane Isaac).  To shrug off the stress of mess, I've been decorating (another favorite hobby of mine besides reading and memory keeping). I wish I could invite all of you to my home for a cup of coffee (or glass of wine, whichever you prefer), and engage in some great discussions about what you're reading. Since you can't come such distances, here's the next best thing as I welcome you in to a little peek of my ode to autumn.

A fresh bowl of cinnamon potpourri in the kitchen that makes it "seem" like something wonderful is baking -- not!

A fresh wreath on every door to welcome visitors....this one is by the kitchen where we come in and out all day.

A nature-based centerpiece on the kitchen table for ambiance while eating dinner.

New pillows and crackle glass candle holder in the den from Pier that store!

My fall reading bookshelf is small but should be satisfying. Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper and Tasha Alexander's Death in the Floating City are coming out this month so I'm looking forward to those new releases. In the Halloween/spooky area, I'm currently reading Barbara Erskine's Hiding from the Light and it's definitely not one I can read when I'm home alone. She's the queen of blending the present with the past with some things that go bump in the night that makes me look over my shoulder at shadows. I also have a few Barbara Michaels mysteries (aka Elizabeth Peters) in my book pile. They are quick, light mysteries that are perfect for October reading. For October I'm hoping to review  Witch.

And speaking of witches...... I recently went to a Stevie Nicks concert -- gotta give it to her, she's in her 60's and still a rock goddess! Here's a pic I snapped of her singing, Rhiannon (my all-time favorite about the Welsh witch). Anyone else old enough to remember the Rumours album (yes, album)? Fleetwood Mac is the soundtrack of my college years!

I obviously did not record this (it's from youtube), but shows how cool she still is at over 60!

Happy fall -- and thanks for visiting!

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 »