Hi All! Here at Amused By Books headquarters I've had a busy week and failed to announce the winners of a couple of giveaways! Well, fear no more, because without further ado, chosen via random.org the winners are:
'Princess Elizabeth's Spy' Author: Susan Elia MacNeal Format: Paperback Published: Bantam; Oct. 2012 Pages: 384 Genre: Historical fiction; mystery Grade: B Source: Publisher Synopsis: As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against German attack, Maggie Hope, former secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, completes her training to become a spy for MI-5. Spirited, strong-willed, and possessing one of the sharpest minds in government for mathematics and code-breaking, she fully expects to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front. Instead, to her great disappointment, she is dispatched to go undercover at Windsor Castle, where she will tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Yet castle life quickly proves more dangerous—and deadly—than Maggie ever expected. The upstairs-downstairs world at Windsor is thrown into disarray by a shocking murder, which draws Maggie into a vast conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril. And as she races to save England from a most disturbing fate, Maggie realizes that a quick wit is her best defense, and that the smallest clues can unravel the biggest secrets, even within her own family. My Take: After reading and falling in love with Maggie Hope in Mr. Churchill's Secretaryby Susan Elia MacNeal (click title for my review) I couldn't wait to read the next book in this historical mystery series! Princess Elizabeth's Spy takes off pretty soon after Mr. Churchill's Secretary ends and the characters all came flooding back to me very easily. I liked that MacNeal didn't spend a lot of time reminding us of the backstory of her previous novel, that she just jumped in with quick introductions. When Princess Elizabeth's Spy opens, Maggie Hope is being trained to be an MI-5 spy with the hopes of being dropped off in Europe to really help catch war criminals. Oh yeah, did I mention this book takes place in WWII (ie, my favorite time period ever to read about!)? Anyway, while Maggie is incredible at breaking codes and solving mysteries, her physical abilities do not quite match the rigors that her training requires for her to be a spy. Instead, she gets assigned to go undercover as a maths tutor at Windsor Castle for the young Princess Elizabeth. Maggie is not happy with this assignment. She is pretty sure it will be boring. What she doesn't realize is that there is a spy afoot at Windsor and the Princesses Elizabeth and Mary are in danger! For some back story here, Windsor Castle is more in the country so while they stayed in England during the War, the young Princesses were felt to be more safe in this castle. Their parents stayed in Buckingham Palace during the week and would visit them on the weekends. Back to the story! As Maggie soon finds out, there is plenty to keep her busy at Windsor Castle, as a spy is causing all sorts of problems that Maggie needs to solve before the Crown is put in serious danger. Let's cut to the chase here. If you enjoyed Mr. Churchill's Secretary then you most certainly will want to read Princess Elizabeth's Spy! While not quite as fast paced for me as the first in the series, it was enough to keep me turning the pages and want to find out what was going to happen. And the set up at the end for the next in the series, Her Majesty's Hope (which was released this past Tuesday), well, let's just say you will want to rush out and buy it! The ending of this novel revealed what Maggie would be doing next and it sounds exciting! Cover Lust: I am loving the covers in this series! They look like works of art!
I just love hosting this giveaway every month and I hope you enjoy the possibility of grabbing some great reads for free. So without further ado, here's what's on offer this month, and as before, the titles link to my reviews. The Fine Color of Rust by P.A. O'Reilly
All titles are ARCs, have been read once by me, and are in very good condition. Giveaway Details! The deadline for this giveaway is May 31st; entries open to those in the US. To Enter (Mandatory)! Comment below, indicating which book(s) interest you anda way for me to contact you. You can enter for all but you will only win one. For Extra entries (Optional), indicate in the comments below that you are: +1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar) +1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet) +1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar Three extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST May 31st. I will draw the winners using random.org and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!
'Seduction' Author: M. J. Rose Format: ARC Published: Atria Books; May 2013 Pages: 384 Genre: Historical fiction Grade: F or DNF Source: HF Virtual Book Tours Synopsis: A gothic tale about Victor Hugo’s long-buried secrets and the power of a love that never dies . . . In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, still grieving, Hugo initiated hundreds of séances from his home on the Isle of Jersey in order to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published.
Or so it has been believed . . .
Recovering from a great loss, mythologist Jac L’Etoile thinks that throwing herself into work will distract her from her grief. In the hopes of uncovering a secret about the island’s mysterious Celtic roots, she arrives on Jersey and is greeted by ghostly Neolithic monuments, medieval castles and hidden caves. But the man who has invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different— transcripts of Hugo’s lost conversations with someone he called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. Central to his heritage, these are the papers his grandfather died trying to find. Neither Jac nor Theo anticipate that the mystery surrounding Victor Hugo will threaten their sanity and put their very lives at stake.
Seduction is a historically evocative and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, written by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists. Awakening a mystery that spans centuries, this multilayered gothic tale brings a time, a place and a cast of desperate characters brilliantly to life. My Take: I am going to keep this one short and to the point. It just didn't work for me. Seduction by M.J. Rose had elements of a book I would like. It is historical fiction (my favorite genre) with an element of suspense (I am trying to expand my wings with more mysteries), and the writing was lyrical. Yet, the book and I did not jive. I realize that all over the synopsis they talk about mysticism and reincarnation, and perhaps it was my mood, but I just found myself rolling my eyes the whole time. If you love mysticism, reincarnation, seances, etc, then you will be all over this book! However, if like me, you are not sure where you sit on the belief spectrum, this book may not work for you. Now we all know that everyone has a different opinion, so I encourage you to check out the full Historical Fiction Virtual Tour for Seduction! Cover Lust: I want that necklace! This cover is perfect for this novel.
'Orphan Train' Author: Christina Baker Kline Format: Paperback Published: William Morrow Paperbacks; Apr. 2013 Pages: 304 Genre: Historical fiction; Fiction Grade: A Source: SheReads Book Club Synopsis: Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude? As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship. My Take: I flew through this book! I stayed up late at night so I could tear through it. I am going to try to share my cohesive thoughts with you so I can impart the importance of you reading this book too! Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline utilizes the storytelling method of a past and present story that I am really loving lately. Each chapter starts with the location and date so you know exactly where you are and don't get confused. First of all, have you heard of orphan trains before? I had read about them once before but it was a minor part of the story in The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (click title for my review). In Orphan Train though, as you might have guessed by the title, it centers around these trains that left New York between 1854 and 1929 to ship desparate children to the Midwest in the hopes of finding a happy and healthy home. A fascinating chapter of our history if you ask me. So, this story centers around Naimh in the past and present. In the past Naimh emigrated to the US from Ireland with her parents and siblings as a six year old. Two years later a house fire destroyed everyone she loved. I don't want to give very much away so let's just say that Naimh became a ward of New York State and was placed on an orphan train to take her to the Midwest so she could have the chance at a better life. Those who took her in initally did not offer her that chance and she struggles to find love and acceptance for quite a while. In the present day, as ninety year old woman, her name has changed to Vivian and she is a wealthy woman living in Maine. A young girl, Molly, has some court ordered community-service to fulfill and she gets placed with Vivian to help clean out her attic. Molly herself is an orphan, moving from foster home to foster home, also struggling to find love and acceptance in each new place. At first Vivian and Molly don't realize what they have in common and Molly is very annoyed to have to hang out with such an old woman. However, as Molly helps Vivian go through each box in her attic from her past it become clear to both women just how much they share. While I enjoyed the present day story and learning how Molly dealt with her struggles, I was absolutely fascinated by the story of Naimh in the past. Luckily, that was what most of the novel focused on. However, the two interweaved so well I loved it all! I would highly, highly recommend this novel to any historical fiction buff or someone just looking for a well written, immensly readable novel. Cover Lust: Just look at that sad little girl staring out the window of a train longingly. This is the perfect cover.
'The Gods of Heavenly Punishment' Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein Format: Hardback Published: W.W. Norton & Co.; Mar. 2013 Pages: 384 Genre: Historical fiction Grade: A Source: TLC Book Tours Synopsis: In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption. My Take: At this point, it should come as no surprise that if a book is set around WWII I am going to try to read it. So yep, when I read the synopsis of this book I jumped all over it, and I am so glad I did. This is the one book I read during last weekend's read-a-thon. Normally, I don't pick long books to read because I don't feel like I am getting anything accomplished but this novel was so good, I just had to keep reading. Yep, so good I read it in one day! The God's of Heavenly Punishment could be described as an historical epic because it takes us through such a long span of time: the 1930s-1960s. It is set in both the US and Asia and it beautifully tells the wartime experience of multiple families. Honestly, while reading it, I kept flashing back to the mini-series The Pacific. Have you watched that? If you did, you would probably like this book!
When the novel opens it is 1935 and we are in a small town in New York. A courting couple, Cam and Lacy, are learning that they might be falling in love. We meet them later as Cam goes off to war in the Pacific, and again as Lacy lives without him during the war.
We then meet Billy and Yoshi. Both children in Tokyo, Billy is of European parents living off the wealth of 1930s Tokyo and Yoshi is the child of Japenese doing the same. We alternately learn about the parents lives and how they try to make their marraiges work as the war changes their living situation and its after effects of it when the war ends.
Billy and Yoshi we watch grow up. In their teenage years they don't remember each other and the story isn't really about them together, it's about them apart: Billy in the US and Yoshi in Tokyo and how their teenage years in those locations equal a vastly different experience.
Honestly, it's hard to explain how all of these stories intertwine without giving a lot away. Suffice it to say that everyone's story in the book will eventually loop around to someone else but their indiviual stories are captivating enough that you want to know what happens to them.
Each chapter starts with a photo, a location, and a year. This wholly puts you in that exact location as you start that chapter. This was a wonderful addition to the story.
If you like historical fiction, WWII, or just reading about someone's life, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a great route to go! This will be one of those novels that I can tell will stick with me for some time.
Cover Lust: This cover is so beautiful in person. The paper is even of a higher quality that I am used to.
For more opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Book Tour.
Giveaway Details Thanks to the publisher, I have one hardback copy to give away! The deadline for this giveaway is May 16th; entries open to those in the US and Canada only (no PO boxes please). To Enter (Mandatory)! Comment below with a way for me to contact you. For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are: +1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar) +1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet) +1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar 3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST May 16th. I will draw the winners using random.org and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!
I have a bevy of winners to announce so please bear with me while I do so! Thank you to all who took the time to enter these giveaways. I like to see that I am offering up books others would like to read! So, without further ado, using random.org:
'The J. M. Barrie Ladies Swimming Society' Author: Barbara J. Zitwer Format: Paperback Published: Atria Books; Dec. 2012 Pages: 288 Genre: Women's fiction Grade: B Source: Author Synopsis: When Joey Rubin stumbles upon a group of elderly women swimming in a lake one freezing January morning, she thinks they must be mad. But then they dare her to come in… Joey, an overworked New York architect, is in the Cotswolds to oversee the restoration of Stanway House – the stately home that inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. It hasn’t been easy. The local residents aren’t exactly welcoming, and then there’s the problem of the brooding caretaker, a man who seems to take every opportunity to undermine her plans. She soon begins to feel that she can’t do anything right. Until, that is, she discovers the J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society and begins to take a daily dip with them in their own private Neverland. For Joey, meeting Aggie, Gala, Lilia and co. is a life-changing experience, the beginning of a friendship that will transform her in the most remarkable of ways… My Take: I'll admit, I was drawn to this book by the cover. To me, it looked like a lovely historical fiction book set in the 1920s. Once I read the synopsis though I realized it was set in modern day. However, I then was drawn to the fact that it was about women's friendship. I love those kind of novels so I was looking forward to diving into this read. Barbara Zitwer's The J. M. Barrie Ladies Swimming Society opens with Joey, an architect in New York who has had some hard knocks and is pretty tough as a result. She gets offered her idea of the opportunity of a lifetime which is to restore Stanway House. Stanway House was the onetime home of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie. It is where he found much of the inspiration for his story and Joey's goal is to restore it to a beautiful hotel that honors the past. To do so, Joey must fly to England and live on the grounds while this happens. While there, she reconnects with her childhood friend Sarah whose life has gone in a much different direction then Joey's. As a result their friendship isn't what it used to be. Sarah's mother-in-law, Aggie, is a very influential woman in the small town in which Stanway House is located and so the two are introduced. Aggie has a group of female friends who have swam in the small, and often freezing, lake near Stanway House every day. When Joey stumbles upon this she is instantly confused and intrigued. This, as you might guess, is where the title gets its name. There is also a caretaker on the property, Ian, who is a widower and has a young daughter. Lily, the daughter is instantly taken with Joey. Joey is instantly taken with both of them but both Ian and Joey's hearts have been hurt in the past.
Let's cut to the chase here, I really enjoyed getting to know all of the characters in this novel and learning about the history of Stanway House. I'll admit, Joey often rubbed me the wrong way. She was too stuck up for me. However, all of the other characters helped to balance her out and it made for a very enjoyable read that I would easily recommend to others!
Cover Lust: As I said, I was instantly drawn to this cover! Giveaway Details Thanks to the publisher, I have one paperback copy to give away! The deadline for this giveaway is May 13th; entries open to those in the US only (no PO boxes please). To Enter (Mandatory)! Comment below with a way for me to contact you. For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are: +1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar) +1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet) +1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar 3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST May 13th. I will draw the winners using random.org and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!
I feel bad about never checking in yesterday but I really wanted to accomplish my goal of finishing one big book! I did visit a ton of new to me blogs though which I really enjoyed. Here are my answers to the end of the read-a-thon meme:
Which hour was most daunting for you? Around the half way point I started to get kinda sleepy but I was able to get a second wind. In total I probably read for eight hours.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Well I only read the one book but it kept me interested: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope!
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everything!
How many books did you read? 1 at 400 pages
What were the names of the books you read? The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Which book did you enjoy most? Luckily the only one I read!
Which did you enjoy least? N/A
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Yes, definitely, as a reader!
As always I am late to join the readathon. I blame living on the West Coast and needing to sleep off my work week. However! I have a game plan to spice things up around here. I am not just going to read as much as I can today but I am going to do the same tomorrow. I always ended up having things to do during the readathon so instead of feeling guilty about not getting as much read in one day, I am hoping that by spreading it out over two days I will get much more accomplished. We'll see how it goes!
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I am reading from foggy San Francisco. Although, I hear that it is supposed to turn into a sunny 75 degree day so I might have to take this reading outside! 2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Well at this point in time I just barely cracked into The Gods of Heavenly Punishment but I am really excited to see where that takes me as it's set during my favorite time period, WWII. 3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Currently? Coffee! 4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I missed the last readathon because I was on my honeymoon. 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? See intro paragraph as to what I am trying that is different. I believe this is my fourth or fifth readathon. Good luck everyone! Happy Reading!