*UPDATE*

I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

I am no longer an Amazon Associate. I am currently working on updating my posts with links to various locations to buy books. One of the links I am including is to RJ Julia - this is my favorite local independent book store. You can shop their store online and have access to pretty much anything you are looking for. I do not have any affiliation with any of these sites - just looking to support my local indie book store.

Anyone looking for a new feed reader? My recommendation is Bloglovin'. I made the switch and love the layout, plus there is now an app for my phone. If you use Bloglovin' or have made the switch to another feed reader, please make sure you are following me on it so you miss none of the content here!

Here is a quick sticky link to my Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge and Read-a-Thon.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bookish Secret Santa 2014

secretsanta

This year I participated in a Secret Santa exchange that is primarily comprised of book bloggers and book lovers.  I have participated in various ones over the last few years and have always had a lot of fun.  The one that I participated in this year was coordinated by Michelle at The True Book Addict and I have to commend her for doing a great job of pairing people up and coordinating everything through the Facebook group.  I hope you plan on doing this again next year because it seems like everyone is having a great time and the conversation is wonderful, as is meeting new people!

I was so excited to find out my package had arrived on this past Saturday - but was delivered to our leasing office so I had to wait until Monday after work to pick it up - and the suspense was killing me!  Who was assigned to me?  Do I know them or will I make a new friend?  What did they send?  And let me tell you, I was SO excited when I finally did get my package and open it!

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Eeek!!! Grand Central!!! I have only had this one my wish list since before it was released!  I'm so excited to dig into it.  And I love the cover and the deckle edge!  Thank you so much to Lucy Pollard-Gott for my wonderful gift.  If you get the chance, stop on by and check out Lucy's blog site, Northern Lights Reading Project

As my Santee has already received her gift I can reveal it here too.  The person I was assigned for gift for was Kristin M. from We Be Reading (check out her blog too!).  

 

I hope everyone has a great rest of December getting ready for their respective holidays.  I am luckily all done with my Christmas shopping and everything is decorated already.  Just have to finalize my dinner plans for Christmas (my husband is working all day and on call, so I will make us something special) and for our parents when they come to dinner on the 28th. 

 

Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mailbox Monday #183

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Ok, well, Mailbox Monday this week is going to be broken into two different posts - one devoted to the regular books that came in the mail and those that were obtained for school (and there were quite a few of those).  This is also a couple weeks worth of books, everything received since November 17th, because I haven't been able to get it together enough to make the weekly posts.

a christmas reuniona grand teton sleigh ridean apple for christmaschristmas lessonschristmas mail order brideDaughter of the Skyfor the love of hadeshandcrafted christmasmail order christmas brides boxed setmedusa a love storymississippi bridesnutcracker christmasrevenge and retributionsadies giftthe christmas mail order bridethe christmas star bridethe christmas tree bridethe festive bridethe fruitcake challengethe nativity bridethe snowbound bridethe twelfth night wagerwillow creek brides

I went a little crazy the last couple weeks with Christmas short stories and historical romance novels - if you couldn't tell!  And for once, none of them are for review - can you believe that!  It actually makes me a little nauseated looking at them all...

Christmas Stories: (All purchased by me for my Kindle)

 

Other Books: (All purchased by me for my Kindle unless otherwise noted)

 

Do you know any of these authors?  Most of them are new to me, except Anna Belfrage, whose other books I have enjoyed.

What did you receive this week?

 

Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: The Advent Bride by Mary Connealy (12 Brides of Christmas)

the advent bride

The Advent Bride by Mary Connealy
Book 1 in the 12 Brides of Christmas series
Kindle e-Book, 51 pages
Shiloh Run Studios
October 6, 2014
★★★★☆

 

Genre: Christmas, Historical Romance, Christian Fiction, Western, Short Story/Novella

Source: Purchased from Amazon for Kindle

“Melanie Douglas is alone on the Nebraska plains, teaching school to get by. She finds a unique box with hidden drawers to use over the advent season to engage a young boy in his schooling. When Henry O’Keeffe sees a positive change in his son, he has to see for himself what this new teacher is doing.”

The Advent Bride is the first book in the 12 Brides of Christmas series, but they are not connected to each other except in theme, so you can read them in any order you choose (me being me, I have to read them in order). This series of short story/novellas features the stories of love/courtship/marriage for one woman during the Christmas season. From what I have read so far (4 books) they appear to all be sent in the American western frontier in the late 1800s – a relatively new setting for me, and an entirely welcome change. As the description implies, they are historical romances and Christian fiction as well – however they all feature a different depth to the religion.

The Advent Bride is one of those stories that uses religion as another angle for character development and identity. She will occasionally pray for something or look for strength to get through some event that is happening. This felt right for the character. I know some people get turned off by Christian fiction, but this is one that I feel used just the right amount. I loved how the tradition of Advent was built into the story. Instead of teaching the story of Christmas, it was utilized as a way to bring family/people together and to spend quality time together. I thought this was a very different way to look at the tradition, but was certainly necessary for the characters.

Most stories that you read set in the American west are stories of westward travel and the hard scrabble efforts to put together homes, towns, and create a livelihood out of nothing. It was refreshing to see set amongst these fledgling towns, a Christmas story. It is easy to forget that they had times of celebration as well as times of struggle and hard work.

In the short length of time, the author was able to build solid characters. I understood all of their motivations – even some of the more periphery characters. I’m not sure that I was exactly rooting for the couple in this story, but I understand what pulled them together and that was really strong.

Overall, this was a very sweet story of the Christmas season and I could see it being a chapter of a much longer story arc.

Author Mary Connealy also has written many other novels including: Out of Control, Over the Edge, and In Too Deep. You can visit Connealy’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to know more about The Advent Bride or the 12 Brides of Christmas series, follow the links.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

12 brides

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon and B&N.

 

Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Interview with Marie Savage

Hello everyone!  Hope you are having a good week so far.  Today I would like your help in welcoming author Marie Savage to The Maiden's Court!  Take a moment to read the interview where we discuss her new release Oracles of Delphi, her writing process, and what we might be able to expect next.

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What led you to write a mystery novel?  Have you an avid mystery reader?

Oracles of Delphi was actually inspired by something my sister, who is a nurse, said to me. We were standing at the top of the Delphi site at the stadion looking out across the valley below us and she turned to me and said something like, “Imagine you are a young woman living in Delphi and there is a murder. Because you are a healer with an inquisitive streak, you know something about the body and you think that if only you could examine it, you could maybe find out who was the murderer. But because you’re a woman, no one will listen to you, no one will take you seriously.”


And so we as we walked back down the path, we began playing with story ideas and I spent much of the time on the flight back home jotting down ideas. The story changed dramatically since that day, but that’s how it got started.


I come from a family of avid readers and will read anything with words on it. I love mysteries, but I also love thrillers and literary fiction and sci-fi and have published a YA/scifi trilogy with my daughters. The first two in the Seeds Trilogy are already out--The Sowing and The Reaping as well as The Prelude, and a novella about one of the fan-favorite characters—and we’re working on The Harvest now.

You have traveled to Greece while writing your novel.  How did this contribute to your writing?  What was your favorite place to visit and why?

I’ve been to Greece a number of times because my mother-in-law is Greek. On her father’s side, the family is from a village in the mountains near Olympia and on her mother’s side, the family is from around Gythio, which is the historical port of the Spartans down in the Mani. There’s a tiny island, now connected to the mainland, which you can see from our porch and which is, legend has it, where Helen and Paris spent their first night together after fleeing Menelaus.


Greece is so beautiful I would be hard pressed to name a favorite place. I haven’t spent much time in the islands, but I would have to say that Delphi and the little village of Arachova, which is a ski resort, are definite favorites. Of course, I love spending time in Athens, but “home” is in the Mani and I love the rugged countryside and my daughters love the idea that their heritage could be Spartan. Of course, the family is more likely to have been helots, or Spartan serfs, but one can dream, right? The Menelaion is a particular spot that I love that is hidden away on a hilltop outside Sparta and that offers an expansive view of the valley below.

When you are supposed to be writing or otherwise working on your novel, what is the biggest distraction for you?

As an editor and publisher running a traditional press as well as helping authors self-publish through my company Treehouse Author Services and working on the Seeds Trilogy with my daughters, there is always something else that needs to get done. I do all the editing for Blank Slate Press as well as all the cover design and interior layout and so I’m always putting my own writing last.

What has the publishing process been like for you?  Have you found anything particularly challenging or surprisingly easy?

It is terribly hard for me to actually get started writing and then when I do, I have to force myself to not edit as I go. If left to my own devices, I could rewrite a single sentence a thousand times before moving on to the next. That’s no way to get to “The End.” As for the challenges, I have one word: PROOFREADING. I am a terrible proofreader and value those who can see the minutiae instead of getting caught up in the story. That said, I don’t think I can remember the last time I read a book in which I didn’t find at least one error.

Was there a historical tidbit that you had to cut from your novel that you could share with us?

Ah…so much! Oracles takes place at a time of great change—Althaia is about the same age as Alexander of Macedon so Athen’s days are behind her and Macedon is growing in power. There were so many great philosophical debates going on that I could have had my characters arguing religion and politics until my readers went to sleep.

Are you working on any new projects that you can share?

I’ve outlined the next mystery for Althaia and her crew to tackle and it takes place back in Athens and centers on all that political intrigue and debate about whether or not to make peace with Philip of Macedon. And, my daughters and I are planning on getting the third in our Seeds trilogy out early in 2016. Plus, I’m working with wonderful and amazing authors and have two historical fiction novels coming out in the spring—one a post-World War II mystery set in the South and the other a rich and amazing tale that is the first in the Odd Tangle-Hair Saga featuring a wonderful Icelandic young man who becomes tangled up in political intrigue from Norway to Istanbul. Oooooh! I can’t wait for everyone to read these two!

02_Marie Savage_Author Photo

 

Marie Savage is the pen name of Kristina Marie Blank Makansi who always wanted to be a Savage (her grandmother’s maiden name) rather than a Blank. She is co-founder and publisher of Blank Slate Press, an award-winning small press in St. Louis, and founder of Treehouse Author Services. Books she has published and/or edited have been recognized by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), the Beverly Hills Book Awards, the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction, the British Kitchie awards, and others. She serves on the board of the Missouri Center for the Book and the Missouri Writers Guild. Along with her two daughters, she has authored The Sowing and The Reaping (Oct. 2014), the first two books of a young adult, science fiction trilogy. Oracles of Delphi, is her first solo novel.

For more information visit Kristina Makansi’s website and the Blank Slate Press website. You can also followKrisina Makansi and Blank Slate Press on Twitter.

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

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Book Blurb:

"All Althaia wants on her trip to Delphi is to fulfill her father’s last wish. Finding the body of a woman in the Sacred Precinct is not in her plans. Neither is getting involved in the search for the killer, falling for the son of a famous priestess, or getting pulled into the ancient struggle for control of the two most powerful oracles in the world. But that’s what happens when Theron, Althaia’s tutor and a man with a reputation for finding the truth, is asked to investigate. When a priest hints that Theron himself may be involved, Althaia is certain the old man is crazy — until Nikos, son of a famous priestess, arrives with an urgent message. Theron’s past, greedy priests, paranoid priestesses, prophecies, and stolen treasures complicate the investigation, and as Althaia falls for Nikos, whose dangerous secrets hold the key to the young woman’s death, she discovers that love often comes at a high price and that the true meaning of family is more than a bond of blood."

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You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtags: #OraclesofDelphiBlogTour or #AlthaiaofAthensMystery.

 

Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, December 8, 2014

Interview with Davina Blake

Today I have a slightly delayed interview with author Davina Blake to share with you all.  I hope you enjoy getting to know her!

02_Past Encounters

Past Encounters takes place from the 1940’s-1950’s, relatively recent history.  How has the experience of researching/writing about this time period been different than writing about the 17th century (as you do under the Deborah Swift pen name)?

It was a completely different process. Because the book is set just within living memory, I could do a lot of live interviews, and also use recordings from archives such as The BBC People's War Series. There was also much, much more material - an overwhelming amount. Researching Prisoners of War at Lamsdorf in Germany, I had so many written accounts that I didn't know when enough research was enough! I kept thinking, the next transcript might show me something vital I had missed. So it was very time-consuming. I also became aware of the limitations of first hand interviews, because often conversations often do not yield the level of detail a novelist needs to bring the past to life. In conversation, people are apt to say things like, 'It was a cold winter', and you really have to push to find out exactly how cold. People do not talk the way a novelist would like, eg 'the icicles on the eaves were three feet long, and we had to break the ice on the milk jug in the morning.' I enjoyed getting out and about to meet people though, and was frequently humbled by their wartime experiences.

Writing the seventeenth century novels has different challenges, including reading documents written in archaic English, and even the difficulty of finding enough documentation. There are fewer sources the further back you go, although there were a number of diarists (eg Pepys and Evelyn) who give wonderful detail about the period.

What was the inspiration behind Past Encounters?

I wanted to have a break from writing about the seventeenth century and write something more modern. Not because I don't love writing in the 17th Century, but because I did not want to get stale and relished the idea of trying something new. I was inspired to write the novel by the film 'Brief Encounter', the iconic English film about a married couple's illicit love affair, and by the stories of Prisoners of War, who were often ignored and made to feel ashamed of their experiences and contribution to the war effort. Past Encounters is set at the end of the war, where Peter has been in a Prisoner of War camp for five years, and Rhoda, his fiancée, has changed and grown in the time when he was away. When she falls for Matthew Baxter, the location assistant on the film, a classic love triangle ensues. This is a quieter book than my seventeenth century books, because despite the war, the twentieth century is a quieter time. People no longer settled their disputes through a duel, people were generally more law-abiding and battles were much more likely to be using words as weapon than physical violence. This is the paradox of modern living - in a sense we have become both more civilized on a small scale, and less civilized on a larger scale, now that bombs and missiles can kill large numbers and hand to hand combat has gone.

What was one of the more challenging aspects of writing this novel?  What was something that was easier or different than you expected?

I think that it was difficult for me to get across the horror of what the English bombers did to Dresden. The photographs are there on the internet for anyone to see, and they say so much more than I can. Nevertheless, I tried to bring it home through the effect on the two men in the book. What was easier than I expected was the dialogue, because I have memories of my grandparents and their way of speaking, their habitual expressions - these would be considered hopelessly old-fashioned now, but were perfect for the book. Things like, 'Right-O' meaning 'ok.'

How do you like to approach history in your novels – more as background information or something that you feature prominently?

The history for me is embedded in the characters and their attitude to life. In this novel for example, Peter's parents think Rhoda not good enough for their son because she is only a railwayman's daughter. Modern readers may find their views unsympathetic, but in fact they were perfectly normal for the time. England was still very class-ridden until after the war. For me the history can never be background, because the period affects everything about the characters' actions. Having said that, I have a particular penchant for the smaller events of history, what went on in ordinary people's houses. Some readers may find that their personal view of history is to look only at the main events, and therefore if they are not included in a novel they may feel the writer is not doing justice to the history. So I suppose the answer for me is that history must be prominent in my novels, but not necessarily the history you expect.

Do you have any other writing projects in the works?  Anything you can share?  Do you plan to stay within the 20th century?

In my Deborah Swift persona, am working on another big 17th C novel right now which I am loving, and on a YA sequel to 'Shadow on the Highway.' As Davina Blake, I have an idea for another 20th C novel set in the 1960's, but it will have to wait a while whilst I work on the others! For me, the most important thing is to keep myself interested in every book I write, and not to be too hidebound by market forces or the demands of the publishing industry. I always wished I could be in two places at once, and having two pen names is about as close as I can get to that experience. I also would love a Star Trek transporter so I could beam down to the US whenever I feel like it, but I guess that invention might be a while coming!

Many thanks Heather for your questions, and for hosting this interview.

03_Davina Blake

Davina Blake used to be a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, during which time she developed a love of research which fueled her passion for the past. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and also writes successful seventeenth century historicals under the pen name Deborah Swift. ‘Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf. Highly recommended.’ The Historical Novels Review From Davina: ‘I was inspired to write ‘Past Encounters’ because I live close to the railway station where the iconic ‘Brief Encounter’ was filmed in 1945. I have often used the refreshment room that featured in the film when waiting for a train. I love a good cup of tea, preferably accompanied by a chocolate brownie!’

For more information visit Davina Blake’s website and blog. You can also find her on Twitter.

Book Blurb:

England 1955.

The day Rhoda Middleton opens a letter from another woman, she becomes convinced her husband, Peter, is having an affair. But when Rhoda tracks the mysterious woman down, she discovers she is not Peter’s lover after all, but the wife of his best friend, Archie Foster. There is only one problem – Rhoda has never even heard of Archie Foster.

Devastated by this betrayal of trust, Rhoda tries to find out why Peter has kept this friendship a secret for so long. Her search leads her back to 1945, but as she gradually uncovers Peter’s wartime experiences she must wrestle with painful memories of her own. For Rhoda too cannot escape the ghosts of the past.

Taking us on a journey from the atmospheric filming of Brief Encounter, to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snow-bound Germany, PAST ENCOUNTERS explores themes of friendship, hope, and how in the end, it is the small things that enable love to survive.

Includes bonus material for reading groups.

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Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

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You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #PastEncountersBlogTour.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Review: The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton & Giveaway

Tiger Queens Cover

The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton
Paperback, 496 pages
NAL
November 4, 2014
★★★★ ½☆

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review as part of HFVBT

“In the late twelfth century on the sweeping Mongolian grasslands, following a violent feud between blood brothers, the victor Temujin ascends to power, declaring himself Genghis Khan. But behind one powerful man stand many strong women…

After her mother foretells an ominous future for her, darkness looms over Borte’s life. She becomes an outcast among her clan and after seeking comfort in the arms of an aristocratic traveler, she discovers he is the blood brother of Temujin, the man she was betrothed to years ago but who abandoned her long before they could marry. And he will only leave her behind again.

Temujin will make Borte his khatun, his queen, yet it will take many women to safeguard his fragile new empire. Their daughter, a fierce girl named Alaqai, will ride and shoot an arrow as well as any man. Fatima, an elegant Persian captive, seeks revenge against the Mongol barbarians who destroyed her city and murdered her family, but in the end will sacrifice everything to protect the Golden Family. Demure widow to Genghis’ son, Sorkhokhtani positions her sons to inherit the Empire when it begins to fracture from within.

As Genghis Khan sets out to expand his conquests and the steppes run red with blood, Borte and the women of the clan will fight, love, scheme, and sacrifice, all for the good of their family and the greatness of the People of the Felt Walls…”

The Tiger Queens is broken up into four parts with each part being narrated by a different women from Genghis Khan’s tribe. This divide into parts is designed to move the reader through over 80 years of time and I think this works well stylistically as each story picks up about where the prior one left off giving the reader a continuity. While these women couldn’t be more different, I like them for different reasons. They are strong, but in their own ways. Borte has seen and been subjected to a lot in her life and that is where she draws her strength from. Alaqai has been pretty much a tom-boy and the Khan’s favorite child, so she got away with a lot growing up, but now must use her skills in a new land amongst people who basically hate her. Fatima, who was taken as a slave, and must learn to deal with her captors. Sorkhokhtani, the quiet, one who takes everything in and then does everything she can to keep her family in power. There is a wide cast of characters here, but the author has done a great job of giving you enough information about each one to make them whole – even the more periphery characters.

The best scenes in my opinion are the times when these women are all together. There is a great scene that stands out for me while reading this novel. All of the daughters (by blood, marriage, and adoption) of Genghis Khan spend time really getting to know each other while discussing what to expect upon two of the girls marrying in the very near future. It was funny, sweet, and solidified the sisterly bonds. It actually broke my heart to see these women have to break up and go the separate ways of their new families after this heart-to-heart moment. I think that was when I really started to enjoy the book – not that it wasn’t an enjoyable read up until that point.

It is obvious that the author has done a great deal of research on the topic of Genghis Khan and the Mongols and the groups that they interacted with along the way. This is an area of the world where I have virtually little knowledge going into this novel. She does an excellent job of weaving even the smallest details into the novel so that the world they live in feels palpable to the reader without it ever feeling overburdened with detail. A great balance of show and tell.

The novel had a little bit of a slow start for me, but quickly picked up and didn’t slow down straight through to the end and left me wanting to know more about these incredible women.

Author Stephanie Thornton also has written The Secret History and Daughter of the Gods. You can visit Thornton’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book (scroll down that page about halfway)?

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

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You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #TheTigerQueensBlogTour.

I also have a giveaway opportunity for you all (this is the same giveaway that was posted on my In-Progress review on Tuesday November 25th).  I have 2 paperback copies ofThe Tiger Queens to giveaway - one copy will be sent out by me (extra copy I received) and the other will be sent by the publisher. 

  • Giveaway is open to USA residents only and will be open from November 25, 2014 until December 6, 2014
  • Entries are made via the Rafflecopter below - please follow directions provided in the Rafflecopter entries
  • I have updated by giveaway policies and made them always available on my "policies" tab at the top of the page.  When you get to that page scroll about 3/4 down the page and there are my giveaway policies.  Please review these and abide by them.  Thanks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up

christmas spirit read-a-thon 2014

Well, the read-a-thon ends today - and since I'm watching The Walking Dead as I write this, I don't see myself getting any more reading done tonight, so I'm wrapping up now.  I did pretty well for the first one that I participated in.  I actually read several Christmas related novellas/short stories (3) and finished another book that I had been reading.  Here is a summary of what I completed this week:

  • Finished reading The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton
  • Read in their entirety: The Advent Bride by Mary Connealy; The Nutcracker Bride by Margaret Brownley; and The Evergreen Bride by Pam Hillman (all Christmas themed)
  • Started, but haven't finished: The Gift-Wrapped Bride by Maureen Lang

Pretty impressive.  I also working on my new goal of trying to tweet and post to Facebook more often. Great success.  You can read my daily updates on my sign-up post.

Thanks Michelle for hosting the Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon and I will continue to participate in the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court