Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cathy Reviews: Sisters of Treason

The Tudor Trilogy #2
Elizabeth Fremantle
Historical Fiction
448 pages
Simon & Schuster
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness -- and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante.

But when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

I have always had an interest in the stories and lives of those that lived in the era of Henry VIII. So when Jenny asked me to read Sisters of Treason, I gladly accepted. Who doesn't love all that intrigue, plotting and the many beheadings! All the wickedness that surrounds being heir to the throne. The story begins with the beheading of Lady Jane Grey. She was one of the successors of Henry VIII but was quickly overthrown. We are shown the complicated court life of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I through three different viewpoints. Two are the sisters of Jane Grey: Katherine, young, beautiful and a successor to the throne; and Mary, the youngest sister who suffers from some physical deformities. The third person is Levina, the royal portrait painter. Her observations are appreciated because using her focused painters eye, she sees the court from a removed and non-threatening viewpoint. She tries to protect the Grey sisters by working behind the scenes.

Katherine, because of her beauty and position, tends to go through her life with blinders on. She is at the center of the intrigue and her life is constantly in peril but she tends to romanticize what's going on around her. As a counterpoint, we have Mary's thoughts. I enjoyed Mary, even though she's entrenched in the middle of all the drama, her physique allows her to be slightly removed and therefore grasp of the dangers that surrounded she and her sister. These were treacherous and convoluted times. No one speaks the truth and everyone is out to improve their standing in the court, no matter who has to die! What is even more mind boggling is that these girls were hardly more than children when they were being pledged for marriage and becoming involved in plots to overthrow the throne. It is no wonder that if you made it to the age of 40, you were considered old.

Ms. Fremantle's historical research is very well done and her descriptive writing plants us firmly into the Tudor court. We become involved in the lives of Katherine and Mary and feel their anxiety about the times in which they lived. As with many historical fiction novels, there is a lot of narrative so that the reader can become engaged in the times but this does tend to slow the pace of the story. Ms. Fremantle does include a family tree and as well as a cast of characters, which are very helpful in keeping the relationships straight. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy getting to know the Grey sisters, as I did.

Rating: 4/5

Find Elizabeth:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is Cathy's honest opinion.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Treasured By Thursday: Excerpt + Giveaway!

Happy Monday Everyone! Wait. No. That doesn't really work does it? Mondays are never any fun, but today I hopefully get to make your Monday a little better by sharing a swoon-worthy excerpt from Treasured by Thursday, the latest contemporary romance from Catherine Bybee. You're welcome ;-) Be sure and check the bottom of the post too for a chance to win all sorts goodies!

And now, the promised swoon:

“I think we should talk about what’s going on here.”

She swallowed. “We’re cooking.”

“Gabi, look at me.”

She shook her head, taking the coward’s way out. If she noticed the lock of hair falling into his eyes a second time, she might have to push it back in place.

“Gabriella?” The smooth texture of his voice was like chocolate on her tongue.

His sticky hand tucked under her chin and forced her to meet his gaze.

He stepped closer, his frame molding to hers and pressing her back against the counter.

She couldn’t breathe.

His thumb traced her bottom lip. “This is a bad idea,” he mumbled her thoughts.

She nodded. “Very poor choice.” Her hands gripped the side of the counter to keep from touching him.

Hunter sucked in a deep breath. “You smell like flowers.”

“I’ll change my shampoo.”

He started to dip his head and she kept talking. “Something musky, so you won’t notice me.”

“I don’t think that’s going to work.”

He was close enough to catch the scent of mint on his breath. “I don’t even like you.” One of her legs lifted and rubbed against one of his.

“I don’t trust you.” His hand moved from her lip the side of her neck.

“You blackmailed me.”

“You tricked me into cooking with your mother.”

She smiled. “The two hardly compare.”

Instead of dropping his lips to hers, he detoured to the side of her neck and kept talking, his breath brushing her skin. “Have you met your mother?”

“That’s sill—”

His lips found her neck.

She moaned and closed her eyes. Such a deliciously bad idea.

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The seventh and final tale in the dazzling, heartwarming, and pulse-racing Weekday Brides series.
Gabriella Masini: She’s a woman haunted by her past, with the scars to prove it. She believes that fairy tales are for other people. An elite matchmaker at Alliance, she’s great at crunching numbers, but something doesn’t add up with her latest prospective client: a billionaire bad boy with his own secrets. When Gabi refuses to be his temporary wife, Hunter forces her hand with an offer she can’t refuse. But marriage to a man like that could never last…or could it?

Hunter Blackwell: Only his bank account is bigger than his ruthless ability to obtain anything he wants. These days, he has a secret reason to settle down, at least for a while—and he thinks the sensual and sassy Gabi will fit the bill perfectly. But when their marriage of convenience becomes downright dangerous, Hunter must decide how far to take his vow to honor and protect Gabi forever.

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New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Weekday Brides Series and the Not Quite Series. Bybee lives with her two teenage sons in Southern California.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review + Giveaway: When a Scot Ties the Knot

Castles Ever After #3
Tessa Dare
Historical Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

When a Scot Ties the Knot charmingly reminds us of all the reasons we love a Tessa Dare historical romance, giving us a sweet, self-aware heroine to show our gruff, slightly damaged hero that there’s more to life than duty and loneliness. A fanciful teenage attempt at self-preservation irrevocably alters the course of both their lives, taking all of us on a journey full of laughter and heat without weighing us down with unnecessary drama and conflict.

Maddie is nothing short of adorable, inventing a fantasy suitor in order to keep her family from pushing her to attend all the social events of her first Season out, something that makes her break out in a cold sweat thanks to a traumatic crowd-related incident in her youth. Years later when he suddenly shows up at her door, she meets him head-on with humor and self-deprecation, repeatedly reprimanding herself for bathing him in a romantic light when he’s clearly not there to sweep her off her feet, and begging him to share any number of faults to aid her in her quest to keep her heart from skipping a beat in his presence. What results is a relationship that’s utterly endearing, the two of them fighting their growing affection in a way that manages to be cute rather than frustrating.

Logan has the perfect amount of alpha in him; big, imposing, and completely loyal to the men under his command, but he also undeniably has what Maddie refers to–much to his chagrin–as “squish”. She’s not put off by his attempts at intimidation, instead choosing to see the positive over the negative at every turn regardless of both their efforts to yank her rose-colored glasses from her eyes. Despite a hasty marriage of convenience and necessity, the romance is definitely of the slow burn variety, the sexual tension between them taut as a bowstring for much of the book until Ms. Dare puts all of us out of our delicious misery.

Overall, When a Scot Ties the Knot is as sweet as can be, supporting fluff with plenty of substance and a strong set of secondary characters (here’s hoping we see some Logan’s men get books of their own!) to keep us engaged on every level.

Rating: 4/5

Find When a Scot Ties the Knot:

Find Tessa:

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mechanica Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway


Welcome to my stop on the Mechanica Blog Tour! I'm thrilled today to have author Betsy Cornwell popping in to answer a few fun questions about tiny metal animal companions, inventions, royal balls and more, so I hope you guys get excited about this one and add it to your lists. Be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details on a fantastic giveaway as well as the list of participating blogs so you don't miss out on any Mechanica awesomeness!

If you could pluck one of Nicolette’s inventions from her world and bring it into ours, what of hers would top your list?

Nicolette’s tiny metal horse, Jules, is technically her mother’s invention, so I don’t think I can say him! But she also makes a mechanical glass carriage to get herself to the royal family’s Exhibition of Art and Science. I need a new car, but ‘glass steampunk carriage’ would definitely be my dream vehicle if I had my choice.

What are three books we might find on the shelf in the secret cellar workshop Nicolette discovers?

Ooh, cool question! Nicolette’s a pretty omnivorous reader, so even though she lives in a fantasy world I would open a magic portal to slip her a collection of Christina Rosetti’s poetry (especially “Goblin Market,” which helped inspire the Night Market in Nicolette’s world), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Ada Lovelace’s work on the Analytical Engine. All of those brilliant women would be kindred spirits for Nicolette, and I know she’d fall in love with each of them.

I would personally love a tiny metal horse of my very own (come live with me Jules!).  If you could make yourself a tiny metal companion, what type of animal would you choose and what would his/her name be?

Jules pretty much became my favorite character as I wrote the book, and I think a tiny steampunk horse with great fashion sense would be an ideal companion. Especially after seeing this amazing fanart by Laya Rose, I’d have to bring him to life if I had the chance!

However, I love this question, and if I could have a tiny metal companion who wasn’t in the book, I would make a rattlesnake named Vivian who could slither around my house and eat dust and clutter in hard-to-reach corners, and maybe rest on my feet while I write (I’m always cold, and steam-powered metal animals must stay pretty warm).

What’s one modern-day dance you think would liven up a typical royal ball?

I am suddenly picturing royal ball-goers dancing to The Jacksons’ “Blame It on the Boogie,” and now I can’t give any other answer.

Nicolette doesn’t necessarily want the standard fairy-tale happily ever after. If you could choose one book that doesn’t have a happy ending and change things around, what book would you choose?

Okay, spoilers ahead if you haven’t read this children’s classic: I have always loved Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, but when I first read that ending it broke my heart. Of course, I was eleven, but all I wanted was for Winnie and Jesse to be together. I couldn’t fathom why she made the choice she did. I mean, you could live forever with a guy that cute?

I hate to tell my eleven-year-old self this, but now I think the ending of Tuck Everlasting is perfect. Winnie made exactly the right choice, and I can see Jesse’s flaws much more clearly now (even though I still think he’s a wonderfully drawn character). That’s the book that sprang to mind right away, but I actually love when a story’s ending kind of beats me up, so I can’t think of any that I would really want to change.

. . . Wait, there is one. If Will and Lyra were real, I would let them be together at the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman’s ending is transcendently good, but I still ugly-sob when I think about those two sitting alone at their bench every year.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Betsy!

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Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.


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Hi! I'm Betsy Cornwell, an American writer and teacher living in a stove-heated cottage in west Ireland, together with my horse trainer spouse, a small herd of dairy goats, and an increasing number of other animals. I write fiction and nonfiction and blog about Irish folklore, travel, wild food, goats (of course!), homesteading, and growing up.

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  • 1 winner will receive a finished copy of MECHANICA and a beautiful watch necklace from this etsy shop! US Only.
  •  2 winners will receive a finished copy of MECHANICA. US Only.

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8/19/2015- Two Chicks on BooksGuest Post  
8/20/2015- A Backwards StoryReview  
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8/24/2015- FiktshunInterview
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Court of Fives Blog Tour: Interview with Kate Elliott


Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Kate Elliott to the blog as part of the promotional tour for her first foray into YA fiction, Court of Fives. Kate was nice enough to answer a few questions for me about Jes, Kal, and all things competitive sports, and I was even able to pry from her a 5 word sneak peek at what's in store for us in the next installment. *pats self on back* I hope you guys enjoy the interview, and be sure to check the bottom of the post for the full list of participating blogs!

If Jes was helping you train to compete in The Fives, what would the first words out of her mouth be on day one when she evaluated your fitness and strategy?

“I have so much respect that you have come to train, Honored Lady, but at your age I have to suggest that you might think twice about setting your sights on the highest levels of competition.”

What was Kal’s first thought when he saw Jes first compete in The Fives?

How does she DO that???

If Jes lived in our modern world, what are the top three Olympic sports she’d be dying to compete in?

Jes would be dying to compete in American Ninja Warrior, of course! As for the Olympics, she would leap at the chance to try out the snowboard halfpipe with its twists and tricks, as well as the one sport the Olympics finally just last year allowed women to compete in: the ski jump. Nothing like the adrenalin rush of flying!

The social and gender divide in this world was enough to make me want to throttle a few select characters for their treatment of another human being. What’s the last book you read that made you spitting mad (the good, “I’m so involved in this story” kind of mad)?

Can I change the medium? I adore the television show Nashville, and probably the last time I got spitting mad with a narrative in the “I am so incredibly involved in this story and in these people’s lives that I have lost all perspective given they aren’t even real” has been with Nashville. Whether it’s Jeff, or Juliet, or Deacon, or even stubborn Rayna (why did you dump Luke???), I love this show exactly because I get exasperated with the characters in the same way I might with people I know in real life. That’s the magic of narrative!

If Jes could ask an Oracle what she’ll have to face in the next book, what are a few of the words she might hear in the Oracle’s answer?






Cheat and murder do not sound good. *bites nails* Thanks so much for answering my questions Kate!

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The greatest danger is that she might win.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors--one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy--causes heads to turn. When Kal's powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test her new friend's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

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Kate Elliott has been writing stories since she was nine years old, which has led her to believe that writing, like breathing, keeps her alive. As a child in rural Oregon, she made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction.  She now writes fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, and YA.

It should come as no surprise that she met her future husband in a sword fight. When he gave up police work to study archaeology, they and their three children fell into an entirely new set of adventures amid dusty Mexican ruins and mouthwatering European pastry shops.  Eventually her spouse's work forced them to move to Hawaii, where she took up outrigger canoe paddling. With the three children out of the house, they now spoil the schnauzer.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Bounce

Boomerang #3
Noelle August
Contemporary New Adult
304 pages
William Morrow
Available August 25th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Amazon)
When you have one chance to become a star, you can't let love get in the way . . .

Playing the occasional club gig just isn't cutting it for twenty-two-year-old cellist Skyler Canby, who's trying to support herself and her mother back home in Kentucky. When she accompanies her best friend Beth on an audition for the first feature film launched by Blackwood Entertainment, she figures, Why not? Beth's a shoe-in for the lead, but maybe Skyler's newly dyed pink hair will help her stand out enough to score a small speaking part.

Never in her wildest dreams does Skyler imagine she'll land the lead role or that she'll have her socks knocked off by the kiss her audition partner, Grey Blackwood, plants on her—a kiss that feels very real and not at all like acting.

Reckless musician Grey Blackwood spends his days fetching coffee and doing odd jobs on the set of his CEO brother's newest project, but he lives for nights when he performs with his band. He knows that if he can stay focused, success as a singer is just around the corner. But that's tough with a distracting pink-haired girl occupying his every waking thought. Skyler and Grey have every reason to resist each other. But, like a song neither of them can get out of their minds, they have no choice but to go where the music takes them.

Bounce continues in the same vein as Boomerang and Rebound before it, delivering a sweet, low-drama New Adult romance between to people with whom it's a joy to spend a few hours. Unlike the previous two books however, a faint love triangle comes into play as things between Grey and Skyler progress, and though it's not a major source of angst for any of the parties involved, Skyler spending time with another guy when it's obvious she and Grey are going to get together is still somewhat off-putting for those of us who like the path to love to be a straight line between two points rather than three.

Our relationship with Grey starts out a bit rocky as we're reunited with him when his older brother Adam comes home to find his beautiful home trashed thanks to a party thrown in his absence, but the writing team of Noelle August does a beautiful job of growing him up over the course of the book. Grey proves he's capable of learning from his mistakes with each chapter, putting forth a valiant effort to stand and meet his problems head-on rather than running away and licking his wounds, becoming a young man we want to see achieve whatever goal he sets for himself by the end. Skyler doesn't quite have the same maturity hurdles to overcome as Grey, but she does learn a few things about herself thanks to a business that's brutal on even those with the thickest of skins, taking some of Grey's newfound strength to prop herself up when her legs get knocked from underneath her.

The romance itself is perhaps the slowest burning of all three Boomerang books due in large part to the aforementioned triangle and Grey's younger age (he's nineteen), leading us on a merry dance of hesitation and flirtation until the very end when things finally heat up between them. Overall, Bounce is another hugely enjoyable tale from Noelle August, giving us plenty of depth and complexity in our lead pair (and a standout secondary character in Garrett Allen) to have us feeling as though we've learned a great deal about them by the time we reach the last page, and leaving us with a satisfied smile as we take comfort in the knowledge that good things lie in store for them both.

Rating: 4/5

Find Noelle August:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.