Hallie Rubenhold – The French Lesson

hallierubenhold-thefrenchlessonHenrietta Lightfoot, a young Englishwoman, trips on her silk gown as she runs for her life along the bloodstained streets of revolutionary Paris. She finds refuge in the opulent home of Grace Dalrymple Elliot, the city’s most celebrated courtesan. But heads are rolling, neighbours fear neighbours, and masters whisper before servants.

As the sound of the guillotine echoes outside, within the gilded salons of high society Henrietta becomes a pawn in a vicious power game.

Hallie Rubenhold’s The French Lesson is book two in The Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot. I’d intended to start here, but there seemed to be a conspiracy by the universe to make me read book one too. I really loved Mistress of My Fate and was happy that I could immediately dive into the next book. The French Lesson picks up where Mistress of My Fate ended, with Henrietta searching for Allenham, this time following him to Paris.  Read More …

Hallie Rubenhold – Mistress of My Fate

hallierubenhold-mistressofmyfateEngland, 1789. Under a cloud of scandal, Henrietta Lightfoot flees her home at Melmouth Park. She has little money and no worthwhile talents, for what use is a neat stitch and a pretty voice outside the drawing room? Without family support, her only hope of survival lies with the dashing but elusive Lord Allenham…

In a desperate quest to find him, Henrietta embarks on a journey through London’s debauched and glittering underworld. With the aid of new-found skills at the card table and on the stage, will Henrietta be able to turn her life around to become mistress of her fate?

Sometimes a book is pushed on you by the universe, whether you planned to read it or not. When I was approached about reviewing Hallie Rubenhold’s The French Lesson, I learned that this was the second book in a series, but that it stood alone very well. Thus I agreed and decided that I’d just jump in at book two and skip the first book, Mistress of My Fate, since I didn’t have that one. Somewhere, someone or something had other ideas, because no sooner had I said yes than I got an email from an online retailer offering Mistress of My Fate as part of a sale. I got the message: the universe wanted me to read this book. And with good reason, because apparently it knew I would love the book.  Read More …

Author Query – Kate Forsyth

Rebirth-of-RapunzelI first read Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens in 2013 and I fell in love with the story, its characters and Kate’s writing. Reading her next novel The Wild Girl only strengthened that love. Her previous book, The Beast’s Garden has only been published in Australia (get on that, UK publishers!) and as such I haven’t yet managed to get my hands on a copy, because it’s really expensive to order books from Australia. But I plan on getting my hands on it somehow in the future. All of this goes to say that I was really interested in reading Kate’s non-fiction collection, The Rebirth of Rapunzel, which I reviewed yesterday, and which left me with some questions to ask Kate. Luckily, she’d already agreed to be interviewed and you can find the results below. Can I just say I can’t wait for Beauty in Thorns? It sounds amazing! If you haven’t read Kate’s work before and you love fairytale retellings or historical fiction, I highly recommend checking out her writing.  Read More …

Kate Forsyth – The Rebirth of Rapunzel

Rebirth-of-RapunzelA unique collection presenting Kate Forsyth’s extensive academic research into the ‘Rapunzel’ fairy tale, alongside several other pieces related to fairy tales and folklore.

This book is not your usual reference work, but a complex and engaging exploration of the subject matter, written with Forsyth’s distinctive flair.

I’ve read and loved Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl, though I still need to get onto reading her last novel The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. When The Rebirth of Rapunzel arrived in my inbox I was really excited, since it was the non-fiction component to Forsyth’s MFA of which Bitter Greens was the fiction part. I love learning about the development of stories throughout the ages and The Rebirth of Rapunzel delivered exactly that for the story of the maiden in the tower.  Read More …

David Sanger – All Their Minds in Tandem

davidsanger-alltheirmindsintandemThe setting is October 1879. The stage is New Georgetown, West Virginia.

A mysterious figure by the name of ‘The Maker’ has entered this small community and, almost immediately upon doing so, started entering the minds of the townsfolk.

Townsfolk who are as curious as The Maker himself. Like Dr Umbründ, the pint-sized physician with a prodigious capacity for sin; like the three sisters in the house on the hill – one stern, one wild, one mysterious; like the tavern’s semi-mythical siren, ‘The Bird’, who plays spellbinding music from behind a black velvet curtain, and whom no patron has ever laid eyes on; like Odell, a youth with dreams and ambitions that his craven disposition will forever prevent him from seizing; and who has spent the entirety of his erstwhile existence under the crushing heel of Clay, New Georgetown’s lead cad and chief alpha male.

As we enter these characters’ lives, and lightly tread our way through their brains, their bedrooms, their backstories and beyond, we will see what it is they all hope for and hide – and learn just why The Maker has chosen to meet them.

What piqued my interest about David Sanger’s All Their Minds in Tandem was its pitch as pseudo-historical fiction and its billing as set in the post-Civil War era. The first indicates that there might be supernatural elements, which I always enjoy, and the second is an era which I know little about other than that it was turbulent and difficult, and so probably interesting. Combine that with a pretty cover — we all know I’m a sucker for a pretty cover — and I was in. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting the book to deliver when I was going in, except for it to be an interesting read. And Sanger debut certainly was interesting, but while I enjoyed it, I was also left a little frustrated by All Their Minds in TandemRead More …

Author Query – Alan Smale

alansmale-eagleinexileAlan Smale’s Clash of Eagles series combines some of my favourite things: fantasy, historical fiction, and Romans. So one day, one day when I finally get my time turner, I definitely want to read them. Until that time though, I decided to settle for the second best option and that was to ask Alan for an interview. He obliged and had some great answers about the research he has done for the book, whether his work for NASA influences his writing, and promoting science through song. Check out Alan’s latest novel Eagle in Exile from Titan Books, out now.  Read More …

Stephanie Burgis – Masks and Shadows

stephanieburgis-masksandshadowsThe year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus’s mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband’s death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace’s golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress–a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

I’ve been aware of Stephanie Burgis’ writing for years through the rave reviews I’ve read of her middle grade books, yet I’ve never actually read them. It did make me pay extra attention whenever her name popped up as the author of a story featured on the short fiction podcasts I listen to. And from what I’d heard I really liked Burgis’ writing. Reading the synopsis for her first fantasy novel for adults made me perk up immediately as it blends a lot of my favourite things: fantasy, history, mystery and conspiracy. And Masks and Shadows delivers on all of those things with the added bonus of a pinch of supernatural and a dash of romance thrown in.  Read More …

Review Amnesty: YA Edition

reviewamnestyMy second post in my Review Amnesty series is all about YA. What is a review amnesty you might wonder? Well, it is a phrase I coined for the books that stacked up in a review back log when I had my blogging hiatus last year. They became a stumbling block to getting back into the swing of things, so I decided to give myself an out and call a review amnesty, meaning I’d only review the books with the most basic of reviews, so I could share my thoughts without having to reread the books, some of which I’d read over six months ago. So, two down, one to come!  Read More …

Gordon Snider – The Hypnotist [Blog Tour]

gordonsnider-thehypnotistIn 1906, San Francisco has reached the peak of its golden age. Fortunes have created a society that attracts European opera singers and cordon bleu chefs. It is a world defined by elegant balls, oysters, and champagne. But there are darker sides to the city as well. The Mission district south of Market Street houses tenements where shanties huddle together and rats plague the streets. And nearby sits Chinatown, an endless warren of dark alleys that offers gambling, prostitution, and opium, all controlled by vicious gangs, called tongs.

Into these disparate worlds steps Marta Baldwin, a young woman who has shunned her own social background to help the poor. She is confronted by a hypnotist, a man who hypnotizes young women from the tenements and delivers them to the tongs in Chinatown to work in their brothels. Marta escapes his hypnotic trance, but when her assistant, Missy, disappears, Marta realizes she has been taken by the evil man who confronted her. She seeks the help of Byron Wagner, one of San Francisco’s most prominent citizens. Marta finds herself drawn to Byron but knows his high social standing prevents any possibility of a relationship between them.

Marta is caught up in a whirlwind of opulent balls, opium dens and brothels, and police raids in Chinatown. She cannot deny her feelings for Byron, but she must save Missy and protect her new friends from harm. For lurking in the background is the hypnotist. He has become obsessed with Marta and will use all his guile to ensnare her. When he threatens those she loves, Marta is determined to stop him, even at her own peril. Will her boldness entrap her? If so, how can she hope to escape the man’s hypnotic embrace? Then the earth trembles, and Marta’s world will never be the same.

The Hypnotist by Gordon Snider is my first foray into early twentieth century San Francisco and during the Great Earthquake to boot. Well, in a straight historical fiction sense at least, as I adore Mercedes Lackey’s The Fire Rose, which is set at the same time, but has a whole different explanation for the earthquake! But the synopsis for Snider’s novel sounded intriguing and the strong bonds of friendship between women that seemed at its core were a strong draw as well. Snider certainly delivers on the latter, but The Hypnotist wasn’t always an easy or pleasant read for me, mostly due to its prose.  Read More …

Anticipated Reads (Summer-Autumn) 2015

2015In the past week and a half I’ve brought you my Anticipated Books for Summer/Autumn 2015 and today I bring you the fifteen books I anticipate reading the most in the coming six months. As usual it’s a list of fifteen, as there are just too many good books to choose from and I always have a hard time getting the list down to the more usual ten books. Also as per usual, I’ve excluded many books I’m really looking forward to reading right out of the gate, for example all the new instalments in series I’ve been reading. If I loved the previous book in the series, it’s a good bet I’ll want to read the next one. Some examples of these are Claire McGowan’s The Silent Dead, Edward Cox’s second book The Cathedral of Known Things, Stephanie Saulter’s Regeneration, Rebecca Levene’s The Hunter’s Kind, and the final book in Snorri Kristjansson’s Valhalla series Path of Gods.

So below in alphabetical order by author is my list, with a little explanation of why I really can’t wait to read these books. Do you agree or would you have chosen differently from the lists I posted recently?  Read More …