Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My 10 Favourite Books of 2014

I was initially going to call this my "best books of 2014" post, but since what constitutes "best" differs depending on the reader I've instead chosen to focus attention on the ten books that made the biggest impression on me in 2014. Given I was in a review funk for the last half of the year, I've only reviewed six of the ten books on my list (click on the titles to link to the reviews).

(1) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (2014 - Contemporary Literature/Fantasy). Not having read Mitchell's previous novels, I wasn't sure what to expect from this one.  Well-written with a great cast of characters, I was disappointed that the book had to end.

(2) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014 - Dystopian). This is a beautifully written tale of survival in the aftermath of a global pandemic.

(3) The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier (2014 - Historical Fiction/Time Slip). Successfully blending history and myth into a fast-paced tale, Fortier has delivered a winner with The Lost Sisterhood. The focus of this book is the origins of the legendary Amazons.

(4) Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton (2014 - Historical Fiction). Stephanie Thornton is quickly becoming one of my favourite historical novelists. Daughter of the Gods tells the story of Egyptian royal Hatshepsut.

(5) The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (2014 - Modern Day Jane Austen Re-Telling). I loved everything about this modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and think any fan of Austen would too.

(6) A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett (2013 - Memoir). This is a beautifully written memoir conveying Lindhout's fifteen months held in captivity in Somalia. Although Lindhout endured horrendous abuse at the hands of her captors, making this book difficult to read at times, she managed to hold on to the hope that she would be freed.

(7) The Iron King by Maurice Druon (2013 re-issue - Historical Fiction). Druon's Accursed King's series of historical novels, set in the French Court during the 13th and 14th centuries, has been called "the original game of thrones" by George R.R. Martin.  The Iron King is the first novel in the seven book series.

(8) The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas (2014 - Historical Mystery). This follow-up to Thomas' debut, The Midwife's Tale (which made my list of 2013 favourite reads) is every bit as good as its predecessor. Bridget Hodgson is an engaging heroine and the mystery is a good one.

(9) Traitor's Blade by Sebastien De Castell (2014 - Fantasy). This is the first book in a new fantasy series. The characters are great, and I love the world De Castell has created. I can't wait for the next book.

(10) The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker (2014 - Mystery). Fabulously told murder mystery that left me guessing about the identify of the perpetrator until the very end.

What were your favourite books from 2014?

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 End of Year Book Survey

Jamie over at the Perpetual Page Turner is once again hosting the End of Year Book Survey.  I participated in the Survey last year, and it is my favourite of the various ways bloggers share thoughts on their favourite (or least favourite) books and characters of the year. 

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. This was the first of Mitchell's books I've had the pleasure of reading. I loved the writing, the characters, and the story.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.  I really enjoyed Simsion's first novel, The Rosie Project, and eagerly awaited its sequel. While The Rosie Effect had some funny moments, and Don Tillman remains a favourite fiction character of mine, it did not live up to my expectations.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I picked this one up based on all the buzz surrounding it. I, however, don't often get along with highly touted books. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and it will definitely make my list of Top 10 Books I Read in 2014.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I didn't love this book as so many other readers seemed to, but it's definitely one that needs to be talked about. I successfully convinced a number of my co-workers to read it. 

5. Best Series you Started in 2014?

Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms novels
 (I will read the final book in the series early in 2015).

6. Favorite New author you Discovered in 2014?

Sebastien de Castell, author of The Traitor's Blade, the first book in a new fantasy series. 

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  I don't generally read horror novels but this one sounded good and I wasn't disappointed.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.  A smart thriller that was hard to put down during the final few hundred pages.

9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Maybe The Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell.

10. Favorite Cover of a Book you Read in 2014?

Into the Blizzard: Walking the Field of the Newfoundland Dead by Michael Winter.  Anyone familiar with the Newfoundland Regiment and the memorial to it at Beaumont-Hamel, France, will know this cover is perfect for the book.

11. Most Memorable Character of 2014?

Pax from Michael J. Sullivan's Hollow World.

12. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2014?

Non-fiction: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Fiction: The Enchanted by Rene Denfield

13. Most Thought-Provoking Book of 2014?

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. Lindhout, an aspiring Canadian journalist, was kidnapped in Somalia and held for 15 months. The abuse she endured while in captivity was horrendous, but through it all she managed to hold on to the hope that she would gain her freedom. This is an extraordinary book by a remarkable woman. Amanda's story will stay with me for a long time to come.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. 

15. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: Whisper of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn (Novella - 53 pages)
LongestThe Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker (640 pages)

16. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Several things in Gone Girl by Gillan Flynn shocked me, but none more so than the ending.

17. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Definitely the friendship between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti from The Traitor's Blade.

18. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier.  I previously read Fortier's novel Juliet, which is a great read, but The Lost Sisterhood is even better!

19. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Bird Box by Josh Mallerman. When it was released it was promoted/recommended heavily on my Twitter feed so I thought I'd give it a try.

20. Newest Fictional Crush from a Book you Read in 2014?

William Darcy from The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick.  Darcy has never been my favourite of Austen's heroes (that honour goes to Captain Wentworth from Persuasion), but I must say I developed a little crush on Su and Rorick's version of Darcy :-)

21. Best 2014 Debut you Read?

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Great debut fantasy novel that marks the start of a new series. I can't wait to read the next one. 

22. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan. Sullivan never disappoints. 

23. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (click on the title to read my mini-review). While this book, which is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, won't win any literary awards, it entertained me in a way very few books have lately.  I smiled the whole time I was reading it, and was so sad that it had to come to an end.

24. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

I admit to crying in the latest Bridget Jones' book, Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding.

25. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Grist by Linda Little (click on the book title to read my review). A beautifully written historical novel set in 19th century rural Nova Scotia. 

26. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

The Bees by Laline Paul. As the  title suggests, this is a novel about a colony of bees.  Sounds odd, doesn't it? But the book is one of the most original and engaging I've read in a long time.

27. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Gone Girl by Gillan Flynn -- that ending!!! 

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday Novels: Do You Read Them?

With the holidays fast approaching I've been trying to decide whether or not to read something set during the Christmas season. Of the novels already sitting on my shelves the obvious choice would be Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, which I've never read but think I should. But there is also Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe (part of her Pink Carnation series) to consider, especially given that it has been sitting on my shelf unread since it was first published four years ago! I also have a Deanna Raybourn novella, Silent Night, which is a holiday companion to her Lady Julia Grey historical mystery series.

While I love the holidays, I've never been one to specifically read Christmas-related books at this time of year, but I've noticed that many of my fellow readers do.  So, I'd like to know if any of you make a point of reading Christmas/holiday-related fiction at this time of year? If so, what are some of your favourites?

Happy Reading!

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Reading Wrap-Up

It's hard to believe that November will be over at the end of today, and that we are heading into the busy holiday season!  I've already managed to get most of my Christmas shopping completed, and have spent much of this weekend decorating the house.

Reading-wise, I've been in a bit of a slump lately. As discussed in my recent post Genre Fatigue: Historical Fiction Edition, I'm in a major rut when it comes to historical fiction right now and, as indicated by my November reading list below, I'm reading only non-historical fiction books these days. I think my genre fatigue will likely carry-over into the new year. 

Books Read in November 2014:
  • The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg (Fiction - Contemporary Mystery)
  • Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil  (Non-Fiction - Adventure/Mountaineering)
  • The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (Fiction - Modern-day Pride & Prejudice re-telling)
  • The Grey Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima (Fiction - YA Fantasy)
  • Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Non-Fiction)
  • The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (Fiction - Contemporary/Humour)
  • Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg (Fictional)
When I look over my reading list I realize that, other than The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet (click on title to read my mini-review), none of the books stand out as outstanding reads. In fact, a couple of the books on my list were a disappointment:

The Rosie Effect: I really enjoyed Graeme Simsion's first novel featuring Professor Don Tillman, The Rosie Project, but this follow-up didn't have the same effect on me. While the book did have a few laugh out loud moments, and I continue to adore Don, I felt the overall story to be a little over the top.  In addition, I didn't find Rosie anywhere near as likeable in this one.  While The Rosie Effect is by no means a bad book, I didn't have the same connection with it that I did with The Rosie Project, and for this reason it was a disappointment.

Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg: Based on reviews and blogger feedback I expected Texts from Jane Eyre would produce non-stop giggles. The book features series of text messages sent by famous literary characters, including Jane Eyre. While I found a few of these messages to be quite funny--the texts between Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter, and Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights stand out--the vast majority left me wondering what I'd missed. Granted, many of the characters featured in the book come from novels I've never read, but even those featuring characters I'm quite familiar with, such as Lizzie Bennet from Pride & Prejudice and Scarlet O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, failed to elicit from me any humorous response. While I found this book disappointing, others might find it appealing.

Have you read any of the books on my November reading list? If so, what did you think?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Genre Fatigue: Historical Fiction Edition

After a short hiatus, I decided to return to blogging a couple of months back. Unfortunately, despite my good intentions, I'm still not writing many posts. One of the principal reasons for this is that I'm suffering from severe genre fatigue when it comes to historical fiction, the genre I read and review most widely in. During 2013 and the first half of 2014, the vast majority of the books I read were historical novels. Now, I don't want to go anywhere near the genre. I have a (very) large number of unread historical works on my shelves, yet I've been reading mainly mystery/thriller, fantasy and contemporary novels, as well as some non-fiction, since mid-summer.  I keep waiting for this fatigue to come to an end, and my love of historical fiction to re-assert itself, but this has yet to happen. 

What about you, do you ever suffer from genre fatigue? If so, how do you overcome it? Are there any particular genres you tend to get tired of more than others?

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mini Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Touchstone Books, June 2014
400 pages

My Review

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, which is based on the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, was an absolute delight to read.  The novel is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's beloved Pride & Prejudice, one which I think does justice to Austen's original characters and story. The star of the book is communications graduate student Lizzie Bennet, whose thesis project involves making video diary entries chronicling her life and that of her family, and posting them on the web with the help of her best friend, Charlotte Lu.  Lizzie's path soon crosses with that of William D'Arcy, an arrogant and standoffish businessman who arrives in town when his friend, Bing Lee, rents a home near that of the Bennet's.  What follows is a tale familiar to any fan of Pride and Prejudice, albeit one told from a 21st century perspective.

I've read a few great retellings of Jane Austen's novels, but The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet has to be my favourite.  I love how faithful the authors are to Austen's original story, and how they develop each of the characters to be representative of Austen's yet unique and memorable on their own.  I had not watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries prior to reading this book, but I definitely plan to do so now.

Highly recommended to Jane Austen fans.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Source: Purchased

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review: The Darkest Hour by Barbara Erskine


Love is as uncertain and as untameable as war... 

In the summer of 1940, most eyes are focussed on the skies above the South of England. The battle for Britain has just begun. But young Evie Lucas has eyes for no-one but a dashing young pilot called Tony. Evie has a glittering career as an artist ahead of her but seems to be wasting her time sketching endless portraits of Tony. She wants his parents to have something to remember him by in case it all goes wrong in the war... 

Seventy years later, and recently widowed art historian Lucy is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. And in order to do that, Lucy needs to uncover the mystery surrounding a painting in her home. But as she accidentally ends up stirring up a hornet's nest of history which has been deliberately obliterated, Lucy finds herself in danger from people past and present who have no intention of letting an untold truth ever surface.

HarperCollins Publishers | July 2014 | 400 pages | ISBN: 9780007513130

My Review

I've been a fan of Barbara Erskine since reading her wonderful historical novel Child of the Phoenix many years ago.  As such, I always look forward to the release of a new Barbara Erskine book.  Like many of her earlier novels, Erskine's latest release, The Darkest Hour, is a dual-time narrative. The present day storyline concerns Lucy Standish, an art historian who recently lost her husband, as she attempts to write a biography of a prominent World War II artist about whom little is known.  The historical narrative focuses on Evie Lucas, a young woman looking to make her mark as an artist as the Battle of Britain commences. When Evie's path crosses with that of handsome pilot Tony Anderson, she turns her attention to him and the hopes that they can build a life together. But not everyone is happy about Evie's blossoming relationship with Tony, including one person who will stop at nothing to keep them apart forever.  As Lucy begins to dig deeper into Evie's life and slowly starts to uncover some it its secrets, it soon becomes apparent that the past is reaching out into the present to prevent the truth of Evie's life from ever being known.

The Darkest Hour is a relatively quick-moving tale that, at times, I didn't want to put down. Both Evie and Lucy are engaging, as are many of the novel's secondary characters, especially those in Lucy's portion of the narrative.  A key component to the success of dual-time narratives is ensuring that the reader is never jolted out of the story when it transitions between the modern-day and historical narratives.  As one of the masters of the dual-time narrative, Erskine's transitions are always smooth.  As is the case with most of Erskine's other dual-time narratives, there is an element of the paranormal that is weaved throughout the book.  I liked this element for the most part, and found it kept me eagerly turning the pages, but did find it to be a little much at times, leaving me with the impression that certain parts of the narrative had become too fantastic for a non-fantasy novel. 

While several of my favourite books are dual-time narratives, I usually have a distinct preference for one storyline over the other, and it's usually the historical narrative I'm most drawn to.  In the case of The Darkest Hour, however, I preferred the modern-day storyline. While I liked both Lucy and Evie as characters, it was Lucy's quest to uncover the truth about Evie's life that I found most intriguing.   My only real criticism of the novel is that the ending felt too rushed. While the novel concluded as I expected (and wanted), I was ultimately left unsatisfied by how quickly everything was resolved and wish the ending had not wrapped up quite so quickly. 

While I don't think The Darkest Hour is Erskine's best book, fans of her previous novels (as well as those interested in dual-time narratives in general) should still find much to like in this book.     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: Purchased

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: New(ish) Series I Want to Start

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's list is:

Top Ten New Series I Want to Start Reading 
(new is defined as first published within the last one to two years)

(1) The Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes (YA Fantasy). The first novel is Falling Kingdoms (2012).

(2) The Throne of Glass series by Sarah Maas (YA Fantasy). The first novel is Throne of Glass (2012).

(3) The His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers (YA Fantasy). The first novel is Grave Mercy (2012).

(4)Rick Yancy's 5th Wave series (YA Fantasy). The first novel is The 5th Wave (2013).

(5) Conn Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series (Historical Fiction). The first novel is War of the Roses: Stormbird (2013).

(6) Lindsay Faye's Timothy Wilde series (Historical Mystery). The first novel is Gods of Gotham (2012).

(7) Emma Newman's The Split Worlds novels (Fantasy). The first book is Between Two Thorns (2013).

(8) Django Wexler's Shadow Campaign series (Fantasy). The first novel is The Thousand Names (2013).

(9) Saladin Ahmed's Crescent Moon Kingdoms series (Fantasy). The first novel is Throne of the Crescent Moon (2012).

(10) Sylvia Izzo Hunter's Noctis Magicae series (Fantasy).  The first book is The Midnight Queen (2014). 

Are there any series on this list you'd like to start reading?  Are there any you have started?

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-A-Thon: October 18, 2014

Today's the day to get your reading on with Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon!

I'll use this post to provide updates on my progress throughout the day.   To start, here are my responses to the opening meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I'm reading from Ottawa, Canada's Capital City.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Probably The Martian by Andy Weir.  This is the book I intend to read first.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I actually haven't any specific snacks lined up.  I'll just grab stuff out of my cupboards or fridge as the mood strikes me.  I do, however, have lots of tea lined up -- my flavours of choice are Pure Chai and Maple Sugar.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Well, I love to read obviously, but I also love to travel.  My favourite place to visit is England, and no visit there is complete without a trip to Foyles Bookstore in London!   I'm a huge baseball fan, with the Toronto Blue Jays being my favourite team. 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I'm a first timer, so I'm looking forward to the whole experience :-)

Happy Reading!


Well, we are now through three hours of the Read-A-Thon, and I've only managed to get 85 pages read. I'm not off to as great of a start as I'd hoped, but I am enjoyed the book I selected to start with (The Martian by Andy Weir).

I have participated in one of the mini-challenges: Coffee or Tea?  As a tea addict I'm clearly TeamCSLewis on this one. I hope to take part in more mini-challenges as the day progress. 

I will be taking some time off this afternoon to take my daughter to see Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (at least it's based on a book), and to buy some groceries (turns out I should have planned some snacks in advance after all). 

Once my afternoon activities are completed I'll plant myself firmly back in my reading chair and get back to it.

How is your Read-A-Thon going?


I did it!  I finally finished a book!  It was The Martian by Andy Weir and it took me longer to read than I expected it would.  But that's okay, it was totally worth it since it was a great read.  

My next book will definitely be shorter :-)  This one wasn't included on my Read-A-Thon stack, but I'm going to give The Giver by Lois Lowry a try since it really should be quick read.

On another note, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a really cute movie, and since it's based on a book, I think going to see it was a great way to take a break from the Read-A-Thon. 

I hope the Read-A-Thon is still going well for everyone!


It's hard to believe the Read-A-Thon is already over!  I fell asleep around hour eighteen, intending to get back up and read for the final few hours, but it turns out I slept right through hour twenty-four and then some :-)   So, I'm a little late with my answers to the end of event meme, but here they are:

1.    Which hour was most daunting for you? 

Hour 18, as that is when I determined I needed a bit of sleep or I wouldn't be able to function the next day.  

2.    Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I think George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series would work well as Read-A-Thon novels.  I found them hard to put down.  Each book in the series is about 1000 pages long though.

3.    Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

None.  This was my first time participating and I thought it was well run and fun!

4.    What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I enjoyed the fact that people shared their progress on social mediums other than just their blogs, which I admit I had a hard time visiting since I was concentrating on reading.  With Twitter and Instragram I could stay connected without the need to put my book down.

5.    How many books did you read?

Two.  My goal was to finish three, but in retrospect I miscalculated how long it would actually take me to read each book.  

6.    What were the names of the books you read?

The Martian by Andy Weir and The Giver by Lois Lowry.  

7.    Which book did you enjoy most?

Definitely The Martian by Andy Weir.  It was suspenseful, had great characters and surprisingly funny.  

8.    Which did you enjoy least?

The Giver by Lois Lowry.  I recognize this is an award-winning novel, and that lots of people love it, but it didn't work for me.  It was entertaining enough that I could easily finish it, but it left me with a lot of unanswered questions.

9.    How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

So long as future Read-A-Thon's don't fall on holiday weekends, I definitely plan to participate again -- and hopefully make it longer than hour 18 before falling asleep :-)

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

24-Hour Readathon: Book Stack

This coming Saturday I'll be taking part in the Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon for the very first time (click here for more information).  After following previous Readathon's via Twitter, I'm super happy that I'm finally able to participate! 

After careful consideration of my tremendously large TBR pile, I've decided upon the following books for my readathon stack:

Melissa's 24-Hour Readathon Book Stack
While there is no way I'll possibly be able to read all of the books on my reading stack, I like having options to chose from.  My goal will be to read three of the seven books I've picked. 

Has anyone read any of the books I've selected?  Are there any books I simply must make sure I read on Saturday?   Are there any I should stay away from?

Happy Reading! 

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's list is:

Top Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit (real or fictional)

I'm going to divide this list in two, the first five spots will focus on the real places I'd like to visit thanks to books, while the remaining five spots will focus on the fictional places I'd like to visit. 

Real Places:

(1) The Scottish Highlands -- thanks, in part, to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novels.  I've had the opportunity to visit Edinburgh, Scotland, but never made it as far as the Highlands, a place of stunning beauty that Gabaldon vividly brings to life in her novels.    

(2) Australia -- thanks to The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. This was one of my favourite books as a teenager, and I've wanted to go to Australia ever since I finished reading it.  

(3) Northern Wales -- thanks to Sharon Kay Penman's England/Wales historical fiction trilogy.  I've been to Cardiff and Caerphilly, Wales, but ever since reading Sharon Kay Penman's England/Wales trilogy I've longed to go to Northern Wales and visit the castles of Caernarvon, Beaumaris and Conwy.  

(4) Pompeii, Italy -- thanks to Robert Harris' historical novel, Pompeii.  My next trip to Italy will include a stop to see the ruins of Pompeii. 

(5) Versailles, France -- thanks to pretty much every historical novel I've read set in France.  I've visited France several times, but somehow none of my trips included a visit to the palace of Versailles. 

Fictional Places:

(6) Hogwarts -- I don't think I even need to explain why or what books inspired this selection :-)

(7) Middle Earth -- thanks to JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels.  I do imagine it would look exactly as envisioned on the big screen by Peter Jackson...which means I also want to visit New Zealand where the movies were filmed.

(8) Westeros -- thanks to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.  I'd love to visit Westeros as a whole, keeping clear of all the fighting!, but I'm most interested in seeing The Wall up close...and maybe visit Jon Snow while I'm there. 

(9) Anne Shirley-era Green Gables in Prince Edward Island -- thanks to Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables novels.  While Prince Edward Island isn't fictional, and I've visited several times (including stops at "Green Gables"), I'd like to go back in time and visit PEI and Green Gables during the era in which the Anne of Green Gables novels are set. 

(10) Thursday Next's England -- inspired by Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels.  Any place that features literary detectives and allows you to jump into a book is a place I'd like to visit. 

Where would you like to travel thanks to books?

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Blogging Update and Giveaway Winner

Hello fellow book bloggers!

As you may have noticed, it has been two months since I last posted here. While I've generally enjoyed my time as a book blogger, over the course of 2014 I lost my blogging mojo -- not only in terms of writing up my own posts, but also in taking the time to visit other blogs. I blame much of this on the fact that I over committed to reviews during the past year. Even though I only accepted review copies of books I genuinely felt I would enjoy, the number of books I accepted meant that all of my reading time became devoted to finishing these books and writing reviews of them. My own (extremely large) TBR pile was neglected, leaving me wondering if I'd ever get to it again, and blogging (and reading) began to feel less like a hobby and more like a job. As a result, I decided to go on hiatus. This hiatus has been good for me. I've only read books from my own TBR pile, and have been able to choose what I want to read based solely on my reading mood, and not on a requirement to meet a review deadline.

Now that I feel my reading life is getting back to where I want it to be, I've decided it's time to give blogging another shot. My approach will be different this time, however. I'm no longer going to accept any books for review -- no matter how badly I might want to say 'yes'. Instead, any reviews I post from here on out will be for books I purchase myself and want to share with other readers. Although the focus of this blog has primarily been on historical fiction novels, my reading tastes are much broader than this one genre, and my new approach will reflect this -- although there is no need to worry historical fiction fans, I still plan to share my thoughts on titles in this genre too :-)

In addition to recommitting myself to blogging, I also plan to become active once again in the blogging community. I've missed interacting with others. My TBR pile is the size of small mountain in large part due to the great posts, reviews, and lists created by my fellow book bloggers.  

Happy Reading and Blogging!

The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden - Giveaway Winner

I do have one giveaway winner to announce, one that I should have announced a long time ago!  My apologies for the delay.   I'm pleased to announce that Sarah from A Geek's Bookshelf has been selected (using Random.org) as the winner for my giveaway of Jenny Barden's The Lost Duchess.  Many thanks to Jenny for offering a giveaway copy.   The winner has been notified by email. 

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden


Once a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, Emme Fifield’s only hope of surviving the scandal that threatens to engulf her is to escape England for a fresh start in the new America.

Emme joins Kit Doonan’s rag-tag band of idealists, desperados and misfits bound for Virginia, but such a voyage will be far from easy and Emme finds her attraction to the mysterious Doonan inconvenient to say the least.

As for Kit, the handsome mariner has spent years imprisoned by the Spanish, and living as an outlaw with a band of escaped slaves; he has his own inner demons to confront, and his own dark secrets to keep…

Ebury Press | June 2014 (Paperback) | ISBN: 978-0-091949-67-9

My Review

Jenny Barden's latest release, The Lost Duchess, is not your typical work of Elizabethan-era historical fiction.  While the novel opens at Queen Elizabeth I's court and includes a familiar cast of aristocrats (Edward Seymour, Earl of Surrey), adventurers (Sir Walter Raleigh) and political advisors (Francis Walsingham), it is the Roanoke Colony and the people who sought to establish it that are at the heart of this novel. 

Young Emme Fifield is a lady in waiting to the Queen, one with the world seemingly at her feet.  But when a brief encounter with an unscrupulous man jeopardizes her position at court, Emme is forced to reconsider her future.  Faced with few options, Emme pins her hopes on an upcoming expedition to the Americas financed by Sir Walter Raleigh and led by John White that seeks to establish a colony on the Island of Roanoke.  Unfazed by the dangers associated with an ocean crossing and the hardships involved with settling in the New World, Emme convinces the Queen to let her go.   Accompanying the expedition is Kit Doonan, a sailor who was once held captive in the Spanish Main and escaped to lead a band of Cimaroons.  While Kit and Emme have instant chemistry, the secrets they harbour threaten their chances for happiness; a situation made more pronounced by the harsh realities of living in a colony that is surrounded by enemies intent upon its destruction.   The Lost Duchess explores not only the fate of Emme and Kit, but also that of the Roanoke colony itself.

Having enjoyed Jenny Barden's debut novel, Mistress of the Sea (click here to read my review), I was eager to read The Lost Duchess.  I wasn't disappointed.  Jenny Barden has once again crafted a beautifully written and well-researched historical novel, one that features a memorable cast of characters, and an entertaining and informative narrative.  My favourite aspect of this novel is its New World setting.   I've read many works of historical fiction set in the Elizabethan era, but The Lost Duchess is the first that features the Roanoke colony at its core.  While little is known about the fate of the colony and its inhabitants, Barden's interpretation is a plausible one.  While the political and strategic considerations that impacted on the future of the colony receive only minimal attention in the book, Barden includes just enough detail to ensure that the reader understands the key issues.   This detail has also left me wanting to read more about England's first attempts at colonization and the strategic considerations behind them. 

While Kit Doonan's character is first introduced in Mistress of the Sea, enough of Kit's back story has been included in The Lost Duchess to ensure that the novel stands well on its own, and that reading the books in publication order is not necessary. 

Recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction set during the Age of Discovery, as well as to readers interested in a fictional account of the lost colony of Roanoke. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I was provided with a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 


I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one copy of The Lost Duchess courtesy of Jenny Barden.  Giveaway details are as follows:

- The giveaway is open internationally;
- To enter, simply leave a comment below with your email address;
- Only one entry is allowed per person;
- The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) August 24th; and
- The winner will be selected using random.org and will be notified by email.  

Good Luck! 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review: The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier


From the author of the New York Times bestseller Juliet comes a mesmerizing novel about a young scholar who risks her reputation—and her life—on a thrilling journey to prove that the legendary warrior women known as the Amazons actually existed.

Oxford lecturer Diana Morgan is an expert on Greek mythology. Her obsession with the Amazons started in childhood when her eccentric grandmother claimed to be one herself—before vanishing without a trace. Diana’s colleagues shake their heads at her Amazon fixation. But then a mysterious, well-financed foundation makes Diana an offer she cannot refuse.

Traveling to North Africa, Diana teams up with Nick Barran, an enigmatic Middle Eastern guide, and begins deciphering an unusual inscription on the wall of a recently unearthed temple. There she discovers the name of the first Amazon queen, Myrina, who crossed the Mediterranean in a heroic attempt to liberate her kidnapped sisters from Greek pirates, only to become embroiled in the most famous conflict of the ancient world—the Trojan War. Taking their cue from the inscription, Diana and Nick set out to find the fabled treasure that Myrina and her Amazon sisters salvaged from the embattled city of Troy so long ago. Diana doesn’t know the nature of the treasure, but she does know that someone is shadowing her, and that Nick has a sinister agenda of his own. With danger lurking at every turn, and unsure of whom to trust, Diana finds herself on a daring and dangerous quest for truth that will forever change her world.

Sweeping from England to North Africa to Greece and the ruins of ancient Troy, and navigating between present and past, The Lost Sisterhood is a breathtaking, passionate adventure of two women on parallel journeys, separated by time, who must fight to keep the lives and legacy of the Amazons from being lost forever.

Ballantine Books | March 2014 | 608 pages (hardcover) | ISBN: 9780345536228

My Review

Anne Fortier's latest novel, The Lost Sisterhood, is a fast-paced adventure that transports the reader between modern day Europe and North Africa, and the classical world of Ancient Greece and Troy.  When Oxford philologist and Amazon enthusiast Diana Morgan is approached by a mysterious stranger and offered the chance to decipher an obscure ancient language, it presents her with an opportunity she can't turn down.  Diana soon finds herself in North Africa studying inscriptions left on an ancient temple that had been buried for centuries, inscriptions that lead Diana to uncover not only the name of the first Amazonian queen, Myrina, but also to trace the origins of the fabled, female-only tribe.   Excited by her discovery, Diana sets off on a quest to trace Myrina and the Amazon's path and, hopefully, unearth the treasure supposedly removed by the Amazons from Troy in the aftermath of the Trojan War.  Diana is joined on her quest by Nick Barran, a perplexing and secretive man employed by the same foundation that hired her.  As Diana and Nick attempt to retrace Myrina's steps and uncover the mythical treasure, it isn't long before they realize that their own movements are also being tracked.   It seems Diana and Nick are not the only ones searching for the treasure, and that their opponents will stop at nothing to keep Diana and Nick from it.

There are many aspects of The Lost Sisterhood that I enjoyed, not the least of which is the novel's heroine, Diana Morgan.  Diana is an intelligent, resourceful,  and curious woman, one who is committed to the truth and advancing knowledge.  Most important to me, however, is that even though she is a fictional character Diana felt very real.  As such, while the quest Diana undertakes is a remarkable one, readers will nevertheless be able to easily relate to Diana herself.   Diana is not the only heroine of this novel, however, as Diana's story is complemented by that of Myrina's.  Like Diana, Myrina is a well-drawn character, and I enjoyed how Fortier used her to convey the story of the Amazons.  Often times when reading novels that feature dual time narratives I find myself strongly drawn to one narrative over the other.   In The Lost Sisterhood, however, I found both Diana and Myrina's story lines to be equally compelling.  Both are quick moving and captivating, and Fortier is able to seamlessly move between the two without interrupting the novel's flow.    

Another strength of The Lost Sisterhood is how Fortier  successfully fuses many aspects of Amazon, Greek and Trojan myth with history, and it is obvious that Fortier undertook a significant amount of research in order to write this novel.  While debate exists as to whether or not the Amazons really did exist, at least in the form depicted by legend, by drawing on this history Fortier makes a compelling case for their existence.  As a result, the Amazons are now a subject I'd like to explore further through non-fiction.  

If you're a fan of adventure novels, books that feature strong heroines, dual-time narratives or books that are set (at least in part) in the classical world, I highly recommend giving The Lost Sisterhood a try.   I can't wait to read what Anne Fortier writes next! 

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Blackwell's Paradise by V.E. Ulett


Relive the pleasure of falling into the past in Volume II of Blackwell’s Adventures.

The repercussions of a court martial and the ill-will of powerful men at the Admiralty pursue Royal Navy captain James Blackwell into the Pacific, where danger lurks around every coral reef. Even if Captain Blackwell and Mercedes survive the venture into the world of early nineteenth century exploration, can they emerge unchanged with their love intact. The mission to the Great South Sea will test their loyalties and strength, and define the characters of Captain Blackwell and his lady in Blackwell’s Paradise.

Old Salt Press | January 2014 | 300 pages 

My Review

Blackwell's Paradise is the second installment in V.E. Ulett's Captain Blackwell series.  At the heart of this series, which is set primarily on the high seas in the early 19th century, is Royal Navy Captain James Blackwell and his wife Mercedes.   In Blackwell's Paradise, Captain Blackwell, his crew, and Mercedes find themselves headed for the Pacific on a mission of exploration.  But as Blackwell's ship approaches the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), an ill-fated mishap has disastrous consequences for both Blackwell and Mercedes, testing their love and resolve, and putting Blackwell's mission in jeopardy.

As was evident in the series' first novel, Captain Blackwell's Prize (click here to read my review), V.E. Ulett is clearly at home writing about 19th century nautical life.  While there is considerable attention paid to detailing the activities involved with running and serving on a ship of war,  Ulett never overwhelms the reader with nautical jargon.  As a result, this is a novel that can be enjoyed by readers already familiar with nautical historical fiction, as well as by those brand new to the genre.   Ulett's characters and prose feel authentic, helping to convey a strong sense of both time and place.   While Captain Blackwell and Mercedes form the core of this novel, Ulett has once again created a solid cast of supporting characters, some of whom carry over from Captain Blackwell's Prize.  

While the characters and plot are engaging, one of my favourite things about Blackwell's Paradise is its setting.  A good deal of this novel is set on the Sandwich Islands, and Ulett does a great job conveying the customs, beliefs and politics of the Islands and its peoples.  While not featured prominently, King Kamehameha has an important role in the novel, and I was intrigued by his quest to control the whole of the Islands.  

Overall, Blackwell's Paradise is an entertaining and educational novel, one that is sure to appeal to fans of nautical historical fiction.  Although Blackwell's Prize can be read as a stand alone novel, I recommend reading Captain Blackwell's Prize first. 

I'm looking forward to finding out what adventures Captain Blackwell and Mercedes embark upon next! 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of Blackwell's Paradise from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton


Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt…and sets her on a profoundly changed course.

Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Isis Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.

Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall….

Once again, Stephanie Thornton brings to life a remarkable woman from the distant past whose willingness to defy tradition changed the course of history.

NAL Trade | May 6, 2014 

My Review

Daughter of the Gods, the latest novel from Stephanie Thornton, tells the story of Hatshepsut, one of only a few females to ever rule as an Egyptian pharaoh.  Having read and enjoyed Thornton's first novel, The Secret History (click here to read my thoughts on it), I jumped at the chance to review this one.  Am I ever glad I did -  I loved this book!   

There is a lot to like about Daughter of the Gods.   The novel's heroine, Hatshepsut, is vividly portrayed.  Even though I didn't always agree with the choices she made, I quickly came to admire Hatsheput's intelligence, perseverance, dedication and sacrifice.  It was not difficult to understand why she is considered one of ancient Egypt's greatest rulers.  In addition to Hatshepsut, Daughter of the Gods is full of memorable characters whether they are figures central to the story or just sit on the periphery of it.  I particularly enjoyed Thornton's characterization of Hatshepsut's nephew Tutmose, her friend Aset (who is also mother to Tutmose), and her bodyguard Nomti. 

Thornton's writing is lovely, and her descriptions of Egyptian royal life and customs help to create a strong sense of both time and place.  I was captivated by Hatshepsut and the world in which she lived right from the opening pages.  Given few details concerning Hatshepsut's life and rule exist, Thornton had significant latitude to fill in the blanks.  Using what little is known of Hatshepsut as a foundation, Thornton has crafted a thoroughly engaging and entirely plausible narrative.  The story moves quickly, never losing focus or getting bogged down in excessive detail.  While the novel comes in at well over 400 pages, Daughter of the Gods doesn't feel like a long book.  In fact, I enjoyed the novel so much that I wouldn't have minded if it had been even longer.  

I noted in my review of The Secret History that Thornton's writing reminds me of Kate Quinn's, and that is still the case.  As I was reading Daughter of the Gods, however, I found myself thinking of Michelle Moran's Egyptian novels.  While I'm a big fan of both Quinn and Moran, after reading both of Thornton's novels she is now the one whose works most stand out for me.  As such, if you love Kate Quinn and Michelle Moran's books you definitely need to check out Stephanie Thornton.  You won't be disappointed.

Highly recommended to all fans of historical fiction, especially those who enjoy reading novels about lesser known historical figures.   I can't wait to read Thornton's next novel, The Tiger Queens

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher as part of Stephanie Thornton's virtual book tour, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Daughter of the Gods is currently on tour!  Click here to check out the tour schedule. 

About the Author

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” is available from NAL/Penguin, and “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” will hit the shelves May 2014 and “The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan” will follow in Fall 2014.

For more information, please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one paperback copy of Daughter of the Gods.   Giveaway details are as follows:

- Open to residents of Canada and the United States only;
- To enter simply leave a comment on this post including your email address;
- One entry per person;
- The giveaway will close at midnight (EST) on May 16, 2014.
- The winner will be selected using Random.org

Good Luck!

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review - 1066: What Fates Impose by G.K. Holloway


England is in crisis. King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own. There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland.

Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies will stop at nothing to gain power. As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold.

Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny – or does he have to bow to what fates impose?

Matador Publishing | March 4, 2013 | 440 pages

My Review

G.K. Holloway's debut novel, 1066: What Fates Impose, transports the reader to England just prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066.  At the centre of this novel is Harold Godwinson, son of England's most powerful nobleman and a respected Earl in his own right, who is best known to history as the English monarch beaten by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.  But, as is vividly shown in this novel, there was much more to Harold than his last battle. 

Given that G.K. Holloway's novel is not the first work of historical fiction I've read about Harold Godwinson or the events leading up to the Norman invasion, much of 1066's storyline was already familiar to me.  As I'm interested in time period covered by the book, however, I was curious to read Holloway's interpretation of the historical figures and events synonymous with the era.  The novel's principal protagonist, Harold, is portrayed as an honourable, intelligent, and strong man.  This matches the impressions I'd gleaned of Harold from the other Conquest-era novels I've read.  King Edward (aka Edward the Confessor) on the other hand, comes across as a weak ruler, one who too easily puts his trust in those who seek to use him for their own ends.  Aside from well developed characters, another strength of this novel is the attention it pays to the complex politics of the era, both within England and abroad.  But 1066: What Fates Impose is not only a novel of politics and battles, there is also a well-drawn romantic element to the storyline. 

1066: What Fates Impose is a well-written, engaging, and superbly researched work of historical fiction.  Holloway has added enough historical detail to give readers a real flavour for 11th century England while ensuring that the narrative isn't bogged down in it.  Whether you are new to historical fiction set in England around the time of the Conquest, or are already familiar with the period's people and politics, 1066: What Fates Impose is recommended.   I look forward to reading more from G.K. Holloway. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel as part of G.K. Holloway's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

1066: What Fates Impose has been touring the blogosphere for the past couple of weeks.  Click here to link to additional reviews. 

About the Author

I have been interested in history since I was a boy, which I suppose explains why, when I came across a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University that looked tailor made for me, I applied right away.

In my first year at Coventry I lived in the halls of residence within a stone’s throw of the Leofric Hotel. In the opposite direction, just a short walk from my halls, is the bell tower that houses a clock, which when its bell chimes the hour, produces a half size model of naked Lady Godiva riding a horse for the titillation of tourists. Above her, Peeping Tom leans out of a window for a better view. In all of the three years I was there, it never once occurred to me that I would one day write a book featuring Earl Leofric and his famous wife, as key players.

After graduating I spent a year in Canada before I returned to England to train as a Careers Officer in Bristol. Later, I lived and worked in Gloucestershire as a Careers Officer and then in Adult Education as an Education Guidance worker.

After I met my wife, I moved back to Bristol to live and I worked at Bath Spa University as a Student Welfare Officer for a number of years. It was about this time I read a biography about King Harold II which fascinated me so much I read more and more about the man and the times. I found the whole pre-conquest period of England so interesting I couldn’t understand why no one had written a novel about it. So, I decided to write one myself. Now, after many years of study and time spent over a hot keyboard, I have finally produced thatnovel.

1066: What Fates Impose is the result of all that study and hard work and is the first book I’ve written. I am now working on a sequel.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Spotlight: To Live Forever by Andra Watkins


Is remembrance immortality? Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.

Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.

Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another. An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.

Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.

It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.

Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.

To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?

After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.

Read an Except HERE.  

World Hermit Press | March 1, 2014

Buy the Book

Amazon (Kindle Ebook)

Amazon (Paperback)

Barnes & Noble (Nook Ebook)

Barnes & Noble (Paperback)

About the Author

Hey. I’m Andra Watkins. I’m a native of Tennessee, but I’m lucky to call Charleston, South Carolina, home for 23 years. I’m the author of ‘To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis’, coming March 1, 2014.  It’s a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.

I like:


eating (A lot; Italian food is my favorite.)

traveling (I never met a destination I didn’t like.)

reading (My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.)

coffee (the caffeinated version) and COFFEE (sex)

performing (theater, singing, public speaking, playing piano)

time with my friends

Sirius XM Chill

yoga (No, I can’t stand on my head.)

writing in bed

I don’t like:

getting up in the morning

cilantro (It is the devil weed.)

surprises (For me or for anyone else.)
house cleaning


Author Links

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 | Twitter
 | Goodreads | 
 | Pinterest

Natchez Trace Walk

The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.

To launch To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did since the rise of steam power in the 1820′s. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.
I will take readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me.

I’ll also have a daily YouTube segment where I answer reader questions about the book, my walk, my arguments—I mean—interactions with my dad, and whatever readers want to know. Ask me anything at mystories(at)andrawatkins(dot)com. 

You might see yourself on this site during my tour.

To Live Forever is currently on tour.  Click HERE to check out the tour schedule.  You'll find reviews, giveaways, author guest posts and more!

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