Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Barbara Kyle (and Giveaway, too!!!)

Please join me in welcoming Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen's Exile to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Barbara guest blogs about one special email from a reader.

Enjoy and be sure to enter the giveaway below!

by Barbara Kyle

I welcome every letter and email I get from readers, but there's one that I particularly cherish. Here’s the story.

Some years ago I was in England researching The Queen’s Lady, the first book in my Thornleigh Saga, and spent a day exploring Hever Castle in Kent. This was the home of the Boleyn family, and Henry VIII came here to court Anne. That tempestuous affair, as we know, changed the course of England’s history, and is pivotal to my book’s plot. 

As I strolled the grounds in a happy haze of imagination, I picked up an acorn. I squirreled it away in my pocket and brought it home to Canada, and it sat on my desk beside my computer, a potent reminder of its birthplace as I wrote The Queen’s Lady.

The acorn was still on my desk when I wrote my next book, The King's Daughter. It had become a touchstone that spirited me back to the Tudor world. I was very fond of it.

Then my husband and I moved, and in the shuffle the little acorn got lost.

A few months later, as I was preparing for the publication of book #3 in the Thornleigh Saga,  The Queen’s Captive, I got a cheery email from a fan telling me he was on his way to England for an “Anne Boleyn Tour,” during which he’d be staying at Hever Castle. There would be dinners in the Great Hall where Henry and Anne ate, plus lectures, plays, and demonstrations – “A once in a lifetime experience,” he said. I replied to wish him a happy trip and told him about my acorn. His name is Colonel Elmer K. Follis and he lives in Tennessee.

Some time later a small package arrived in my mailbox. It was from Colonel Follis. Inside was a note: “I looked for an acorn to replace the one you lost but couldn’t find one.  I did get you this.” Nestled under the note was a pine cone. He had scoured the Hever grounds for it. “It’s from the area where Henry courted Anne, according to the castle staff,” wrote the Colonel. 

I was so touched. The pine cone has had pride of place on my desk beside my computer as I've written three more Thornleigh Saga books. The Queen's Exiles is the latest.

Thank you, Colonel Follis, for what you gave me. A once in a lifetime experience.


Thank you Barbara Kyle for sharing this wonderful guest post with us!!!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS - (US/Canada only)  

Thanks to the Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours I have one paperback copy of The Queen's Exiles to give away to my readers.

To enter…
  • Leave a comment below & be sure to include your email address.
  • Tweet, share on Facebook, or blog for 2 extra entries.
  • You MUST include email address or entry will be invalid.
  • I will contact winner at the conclusion of the giveaway & they will have 2 days to respond or I will pick a new winner.
This giveaway is open to US/Canada residents only and ends July 30th.

Good luck!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Title: Little Mercies   
Author: Heather Gudenkauf     
Published: June 2014, Harlequin MIRA  
Format: ARC Paperback, 320 pages   
Source: Publisher  

In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences...

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity; the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

My thoughts: This is the first full-length novel I've read by Heather Gudenkauf and I was captivated from the first page. I had read the prequel to this book, Little Lies, that introduces us to the main character, Ellen, and I just knew from that little teaser that I was going to be in for a treat. Little did I know how much I would love this book.

Taken from the headlines, Heather Gudenkauf has crafted a tale so emotionally charged, it's hard not to come away from this book not being affected in some way. Told from the alternating perspectives of Ellen, the social worker and mother of three and Jenny, the young girl who suddenly finds herself on her own, the story moves at quite a fast pace, pulling you in so fast that you don't want to put the book down until you realize you've reached the end.

Ellen struggles with balancing her roles as mother of three and full-time social worker. She finds herself in a situation that we can only hope never to find ourselves in and must deal with the consequences as such. This is a unique place for her to be and she soon comes to have a greater understanding for some of her clients. As this is all going on, Jenny, a ten-year old who suddenly finds herself on her own, comes into her life. As Ellen is fighting for her own life, she is pulled into Jenny's world. Will Jenny let Ellen help her? Will helping Jenny hurt Ellen's case?

As I mentioned, this book is emotionally charged. Even though I don't have children myself, I was deeply touched by the mother-daughter relationships that play out in this book. But the book also makes you think...think that dreaded what if? What if that was me? Maybe not the same circumstances but could something just as far-reaching happen to me?  Do I get so busy and bogged down that I could make one small mistake that could lead to life-altering consequences? These are the thoughts that have been on my mind since finishing this book. Are we at times too distracted for our own good?

If this is any indication of what Heather Gudenkauf's other books are like, then she has a new fan!!! I definitely plan on going back and reading her previous books. I love when authors take ideas straight from the headlines - and really make you think and clearly Heather has done that with this book.

I went into this book not knowing what was going to happen and so, I have purposely been a bit vague in my review. Even as I've chatted about the book with friends, I've been very careful in what I say so as not to give too much away. Do you agree? Disagree?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blog Tour & Review: The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle

Title: The Queen's Exiles   
Author: Barbara Kyle    
Series: Thornleigh, #6     
Published: May 2014, Kensington  
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages   
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours  

1572. Europe is in turmoil. In the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise ...

Scottish-born Fenella Doorn rules like a queen over a privateer's haven on the Isle of Sark. Her success at salvaging crippled vessels affords her gold and security, and it is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron—and privateer—Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him.

But Fenella’s own bold actions have put a price on her head. Now Adam and Fenella’s lives are in peril as they race across Europe in an attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the crown, and restore the peace that few can remember.

My thoughts: This is the 6th book in Barbara Kyle's Thornleigh series and I was quite excited to read it. I've read every book in this series, and while they can all be read as stand alones, I find that you get the full development of the fictional family Barbara has created - The Thornleighs.

One of my favorite aspects of historical fiction is the weaving of fact with fiction to create a compelling tale. I feel that Barbara Kyle has done this quite well with her fictional Thornleigh family - a family that has taken us on quite a ride through Tudor England. In this latest installment, the book focuses on the Dutch revolution against the Spanish rule - a period of time in history I knew virtually nothing about. Kyle pairs this with the hero and heroine - Adam Thornleigh and Fenella Doorn attempting a daring rescue of his children.

The action in this book is non-stop and there are many chapters that end with mini cliff-hangers that beg you to keep reading to find out what happens next. It's so easy to be swept up in this book - for the historical aspects as well as the drama that ensues.

I also love the Author's Note that is included at the back of the book. Here Barbara Kyle takes some time to point out the historical points she used as well as the fictional areas she created to mesh the two together. I like that this is at the end of the book, so that I can enjoy the story for what it is, but I can then find out what what fact and what was the imagination of the author.

I really enjoy reading this series. I love the characters, I love the time period and I love that Barbara Kyle doesn't necessarily set all the books in England. They are all set during the Tudor reign, but we've been to quite a few places in the realm during this reign, now adding the Netherlands to the fray. This is what makes this series so fun and exciting and different and I can't wait to see what she comes up with in the next installment!!!

Books in this series:
  1. The Queen's Lady
  2. The King's Daughter
  3. The Queen's Captive
  4. The Queen's Gamble
  5. Blood Between Queens
  6. The Queen's Exiles
  7. The Traitor's Daughter - due out 2015

The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle is on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Be sure to check out the other tour stops to read more reviews, guest posts and some giveaway opportunities. Be sure to follow all the twitter activity, too at #QueensExilesTour.

I will be posting a Guest Post by Barbara Kyle on Wednesday and there just might be a giveaway!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Sunday Post #32 (7.20.14)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.
I've decided to try a new weekly meme - a place where I can do both a weekly wrap up and share what books I get all in one post, so I'm going to give The Sunday Post a try, and also link up with Sheila's It's Monday Post over at Book Journey
So, last week I was on call for Jury Duty - what a pain that was. I couldn't make any plans for the week until I knew if I had to report in. Luckily for me, I never had to go in, but it sure messed up my week. This week is all about getting ready for my next 1/2 marathon that I'm walking...I can't wait!!! I'm doing the MoonWalk NYC - it's a charity event for Breast Cancer and all participants must walk in their bras.  My mom and sister are doing the walk with me and we still need to decide how we are going to decorate our bras...that's this week's project!

Have a great week everyone!!! 

Last week on the Blog:           
* Review: That Night by Chevy Stevens
* Blog Tour, Review & Guest Post: The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts
* Review: The Promise by Robyn Carr

* Review: Live To See Tomorrow by Iris Johansen  
* Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in Jul 18 

Books Read:      

* Gone by James Patterson (mine)   
* Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins (audio book)         
Currently Reading:            

* The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle (review book)           
* Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen/Roy Johansen (audio book)

Books Up Next:            
* The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich (review book)  
* Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (review book)   
* Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan (review e-book)
Recent Giveaway Winners:             
* One Plus One by Jojo Moyes: Christina / Book Addict

Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle  

* Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf  
* Guest Post: Barbara Kyle (with giveaway!!!)
* Review: Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins

Book Haul:     
* Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen/Roy Johansen (audio via Audible)
* I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in July 18


I can't believe that my next 1/2 marathon is next weekend! Good thing I'm not planning on doing this one for time as I really haven't done much training for it between my back injury and then the heat. Since this one is for charity (Walk the Walk MoonWalk New York City benefitting Breast Cancer) and I'm doing it with my mom and sister, our goal is just to finish it. I've been doing some longer walks and will get a few more in before next weekend, but I think I'll be ok. Now I just need to figure out how we're going to decorate our bras...did I tell you everyone walking in this event has to walk in their bra?


Here's how my week went:  

Jul 12:  rest
Jul 13:  rest
Jul 14:  30 minutes
Jul 15:  30 minutes

Jul 16:  45 minutes
Jul 17:  60 minutes

Jul 18:  45 minutes 
How did your week go?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: Live to See Tomorrow by Iris Johansen (audio)

Title: Live to See Tomorrow   
Author: Iris Johansen   
Series: Catherine Ling, #3   
Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers  
Published: April 2014, Brilliance Audio  
Length: 12 hours, 11 minutes   
Source: Personal copy via Audible 

Catherine Ling is one of the CIA’s most prized operatives. Raised on the unforgiving streets of Hong Kong, she was pulled into the agency at the age of 14, already having accumulated more insight and secrets than the most seasoned professionals in her world. If life has taught her anything, it is not to get attached, but there are two exceptions to that rule: Her son, Luke, and her mentor, Hu Chang. When Luke was kidnapped at the age of two, it nearly broke her. Now, nine years later, her son has astonishingly been returned to her and Catherine vows never to fail him again. But when her job pulls her away from home, she relies on the brilliant and deadly Hu Chang to safeguard Luke in her absence.

Now Erin Sullivan, an American journalist with mysterious ties to Hu Chang, has been kidnapped in Tibet. If Catherine doesn’t agree to spearhead the CIA rescue mission, she knows that Hu Chang himself will go, a possibility she can’t risk. But she will be facing a monster whose crimes stretch back forty years, always eluding the CIA. And the job grows even more complicated when Catherine meets Richard Cameron, a supposed ally who’s clearly not telling all he knows. Their attraction is immediate, but Catherine isn’t at all sure that he can be trusted. If she’s going to rescue this journalist with a story worth killing for, she’ll need to keep Cameron very close. From the treacherous landscape of the Himalayas to the twisting back alleys of San Francisco, the clock is ticking for Catherine and those she loves most. At every turn she faces a ruthless enemy who is determined to keep the truth buried, even if it means that none of them live to see tomorrow.

My thoughts: I am so thrilled that Iris Johansen has given Catherine Ling her own series. After introducing us to her in an Eve Duncan book and then having her work with Eve on a few cases, I really fell in love with her character and just knew she would be a great lead character.

What I love about Catherine is that she is a strong, independent female character. She is a force to be reckoned with and knows it!!! She is forced to take on a case instead of going to spend time with her son. The case involves rescuing a journalist and she ends up teaming up with Cameron - who is quite the interesting character. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of him, but he grew on me as the story progressed.

I loved the interactions between Catherine, her son Lucas and Hu Chang, Catherine's mentor and trusted friend. Lucas is starting to grow into himself and test the boundaries and it provided for some humorous situations at times. Catherine still have miles to go to repair the damage done to her relationship with Lucas from him being kidnapped all those years, but as he approaches his teen years, things are going to be interesting!

This book is filled with action almost from the start. But, it's also about character development. After all, it's still a relatively new series, and we're still getting to know the key players - Catherine, Lucas and Hu Chang. I don't know if Cameron will be sticking around or not, but there sure is some serious chemistry going on between Catherine and Cameron. I would love to see where that goes.

I didn't particularly love all the paranormal stuff going on, but that seems to be a trend lately in Iris Johansen's latest books. Provided it doesn't become too much, I guess I can live with it as I really love these books!!!

Audio Thoughts: I really enjoy Elisabeth Rodgers and have listened to her narrate quite a few of Iris Johansen's books. She just gets the idea behind the books - the action, the suspense, the characters. It just works and I really hope she continues to narrate these books.

Books in this Series:
  1. Chasing the Night (Eve Duncan, #11)
  2. What Doesn't Kill You
  3. Live to See Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: The Promise by Robyn Carr

Title: The Promise   
Author: Robyn Carr    
Series: Thunder Point, #5     
Published: June 2014, Harlequin MIRA 
Format: ARC e-copy, 363 pages   
Source: Netgalley  

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr returns to Thunder Point with an uplifting story about overcoming loss and finding unexpected love

Scott Grant has a bustling family practice in the small Oregon community of Thunder Point. The town and its people have embraced the widowed doctor and father of two, his children are thriving, and Scott knows it's time to move on from his loss. But as the town's only doctor, the dating scene is awkward. That is, until a stunning physician's assistant applies for a job at his clinic.

Peyton Lacoumette considers herself entirely out of the dating scene. She's already been burned by a man with kids, and she's come to Thunder Point determined not to repeat past mistakes. When Scott offers her a job, at a much lower salary than she's used to, Peyton is surprisingly eager to accept…at least for now. She's willing to stay for a three-month trial period while she explores other options.

Scott and Peyton know the arrangement is temporary—it isn't enough time to build a real relationship, never mind anything with lasting commitment. But love can blossom faster than you think when the timing is right, and this short visit just might hold the promise of forever.

My thoughts: This is the 5th book in Robyn Carr's Thunder Point series and I am just loving this series. Each book leaves me falling more in love not only with the characters but also with the town itself. As I'm finding with a few of the series I've been reading lately, this small town almost feels like it's a character itself!

This latest installment is Scott and Peyton's story. We had already met Scott in previous books and I had been waiting for him to get his own story. He's a widowed father of two and the town doctor. He does so much for the town and deserves to find a little happiness of his own. Peyton is new to town. She thought she was just passing through, answering an ad for a Physician Assistant on a temporary basis while trying to get over a bad ex. Little did she know she had found her new home.

I loved the journey that Scott and Peyton take to get to their happily-ever-after. First, there's a misunderstanding that puts them off-limits to each other, then they slowly meander their way through a romance, one more ready than the other. As their histories unfold, it becomes clear that these two are meant for each other but it just takes a while for them to see it. Of course, there are two little cuties that can't help but melt anyone's heart - despite past history.

There are also some secondary story lines going on as well. We get some updates on previous stories and some hints as to what might be coming up in the next book. I'm not sure how long this series will be, but I sure hope it continues for a while!

Books in this series:  

  1. The Wanderer
  2. The Newcomer
  3. The Hero
  4. The Chance 
  5. The Promise
  6. The Homecoming - due out Aug 2014

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