Monday, January 14, 2019

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

From the Back Cover:

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?

My Thoughts:

I very much enjoyed Nancy Bilyeau's Joanna Stafford trilogy, so I was excited to see she had a new book. In The Blue, she jumps forward two hundred years, leaving the Tudor era behind for the decadent Georgians, the scandalous court of Louis XV, and the porcelain rage that was sweeping Europe.

Genevieve Planche is a young Huguenot woman living in London with her grandfather, her family having fled religious persecution in France. A talented artist, Genevieve longs to do more than paint flowers on fabric for society ladies' dresses. She wants to capture the world around her on canvas, but to do so she needs a teacher. Unfortunately, no teacher in London will take on a woman as a student. Though she is offered a job as a decorator at her cousin's porcelain factory in Derby, Genevieve believes her creativity and spirit will be crushed in such a meaningless job, and she is about to take drastic action to avoid that fate when a mysterious benefactor makes her an offer: take the job in Derby, find the chemist rumored to be working on the most beautiful shade of blue the world has ever seen, steal his formula, and she will be fully funded to Venice, where women are accepted as artists.

But Derby turns out to be nothing like Genevieve was expecting. Her new employers are suspicious of her from the start, and her eyes are opened to the cutthroat competitiveness of the porcelain industry and the lengths her employers are willing to go to to win the race. But she does make some friends and, to her surprise, she does find some creative satisfaction. Genevieve turns out to be a rather poor spy, and she constantly wages an internal battle over the morality of her actions, especially once she finds her elusive quarry. But her benefactor will suffer no excuses and makes clear that there will be dire consequences should Genevieve fail to carry out her mission. What follows is a tense game of cat-and-mouse as Genevieve tries to stay a step ahead of the dangerous men who will stop at nothing to get what they want while she tries to extricate herself from her precarious position and save the people she loves.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway with Jess Montgomery, Author of The Widows

Please join me in welcoming Jess Montgomery to Let Them Read Books! Jess is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical novel, The Widows, and I recently had the chance to ask her some questions about her protagonists and their inspiration and the challenges of bringing their story to life. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of The Widows!

Kinship, Ohio, 1924: When Lily Ross learns that her husband, Daniel Ross, the town’s widely respected sheriff, is killed while transporting a prisoner, she is devastated and vows to avenge his death.

Hours after his funeral, a stranger appears at her door. Marvena Whitcomb, a coal miner’s widow, is unaware that Daniel has died, and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter.

From miles away but worlds apart, Lily and Marvena’s lives collide as they realize that Daniel was not the man that either of them believed him to be–and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined.

Inspired by the true story of Ohio’s first female sheriff, this is a powerful debut about two women’s search for justice as they take on the corruption at the heart of their community.

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Hi Jess! Thanks so much for visiting Let Them Read Books!

Your characters are based on Maude Collins, Ohio's first female sheriff, and Mary "Mother" Jones, a famous community organizer. How did you first discover these women and what was it about them that inspired you to write The Widows?

Our younger daughter went to Ohio University in Athens County. I was researching places to visit with her in the area for her birthday and ran across the tourism website for Vinton County, which abuts Athens County to the southwest. Maude Collins was featured on the county’s tourism website, with a few photos and a brief bio of Maude, who was appointed to fill her husband’s role as sheriff when he was killed in the line of duty in 1925, thus becoming Ohio’s true first female sheriff. Maude went on to be elected as the county’s sheriff in her own right in 1926—in a landslide!

I was immediately inspired by the quiet strength and strong character that I sensed in Maude from both her bio and her photos. As I began writing a novel inspired by her role as sheriff in the 1920s, I realized that my character, Lily Ross, needed another character who would serve as both a foil and an ally. I knew that Lily knew only aspects of her husband Daniel, and I wanted her to discover a more complete understanding of his life—ironically, after his death, while investigating his murder. A rather minor character slowly emerged to fulfill that role—Marvena Whitcomb, who was a childhood friend of Daniel’s. She grew to become Lily’s connection to the coal mining community of the region. I already knew about Mother Jones in general, and then I read about her role in the true-life Battle for Blair Mountain (essentially warning of the dangers of an uprising—and she turned out to be right), which took place in West Virginia in 1921 as coal miners rebelled against the poor wages and unsafe work conditions set by their coal company bosses.

Lily and Marvena would be well aware of this battle and end up wanting to prevent a similar battle from taking place in their region. So I realized I could have the strong spirit of Mother Jones become a part of Marvena’s character.

What led you to creating fictional characters based on these pioneering women rather than writing biographical fiction about them?

One reason is that I am a novelist, not a nonfiction writer. Much has already been written about Mother Jones’s life and work.

In Maude’s case, the circumstances of her sheriff husband’s death—he was killed in the line of duty—are certainly tragic, but not at all mysterious. There was no doubt about who killed him. My novelist mind started wondering, though, what if the sheriff was killed, but no one knows by whom or why? What if the explanations given to his widow are sketchy and unsatisfactory? What if she started asking questions? What if she was appointed sheriff and decided to use the access that gave her to help uncover the truth of his death? And so from there, Lily Ross was born as a character inspired by Maude Collins.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Quick Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

From the Back Cover:

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

My Thoughts:

After the huge plot twist at the end of The Cruel Prince, I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Wicked King. Now that most of the ruling faerie family is dead, Jude's twin sister has betrayed her, and her stepfather is her adversary, Jude has no one to watch her back as she navigates court politics as Cardan's seneschal. And Cardan, the cruel prince who is now the wicked king, is quite a handful. One of the things I loved from the first book was the delicious nature of their relationship. They hate each other, but they are oh so drawn to each other. That tension sizzles in this book and serves as a sensual undercurrent as Jude tries to keep Cardan safe from enemies far and near. And Cardan does not make that easy, going out of his way to punish Jude for placing him in that position in the first place. Yet he is still fascinated by the human girl who managed to turn the faerie world upside down. Slowly they grow closer and begin to work together to protect faerie, but nothing is what it seems. Secrets are revealed, alliances are made and broken, and the story races nonstop to yet another jaw-dropping twist I didn't see coming, and now I can't wait to get my hands on The Queen of Nothing!

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Book Blast: Fortress of the Sun by E.M. Thomas

Fortress of the Sun by E.M. Thomas

Publication Date: December 26, 2018
Paperback & eBook; 300 Pages
Rokhish Press
Genre: Historical/Greek & Roman



Read an Excerpt.

It’s 243 B.C. and Greece is ready for a revolution.

Eighty years have passed since the death of Alexander the Great, the man who first cowed free Hellas into submission. His successors to the Macedonian throne have only tightened their grip in the interim, the present king no exception. Spartan rebellions, opportunistic usurpers, foreign invaders – for nearly five decades, King Antigonus has seen them all and crushed them all. He now stands alone astride Greece; he fears no one.

Aratus of Sicyon plans to change that. With a passion for freedom and hatred for the King that stem from the same childhood tragedy, he takes aim at Macedon when no one else would dare; takes aim at its crown jewel in the south, the linchpin of its control, the very symbol of its domination – Corinth. Hopelessly outfunded, outmanned, and outarmed, he embarks on one of the most audacious and stunning attacks in ancient history, one that would change Greece forever.

Available on Amazon


About the Author

E.M. Thomas is an author of two novels - an epic fantasy (The Bulls of War) and a historical fiction set in Ancient Greece (Fortress of the Sun).

E.M. was born and raised on the East Coast of the United States but is a world traveler at heart. He caught the writing bug early on and has a passion for all good fiction, but especially that of the fantasy and historical variety. One of his favorite moments thus far in his young career was writing a chapter of his latest book about the great battle of Corinth - while sitting amidst the ruins of ancient Corinth.

For all news and updates related to E.M. Thomas, visit www.emthomas.com. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas from Jenny Q and Gunner & Sassy too!



We hope your Christmas is filled with love and laughter, good food, and good books!
See you in 2019!