“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Magical Cinderella Retelling! --"Beholden" by Jody Hedlund--Review


My review:

“Beholden” by Jody Hedlund is the first book in the “Fairest Maidens” trilogy.  It is related to Ms. Hedlund’s “Lost Princesses” trilogy (all of which I have read and loved).  This series is almost like a prequel to the “Lost Princesses.”  The newest installment can be read as a standalone.

“Beholden” is a Cinderella retelling, with its own unique voice and a fresh spin on the original story.   Gabriella, or Gabi, is our heroine with a heart like gold and bravery to match.  Gabi tries to practice kindness, even though she has lost everything and is forced to be a slave in a mine, doing manual labor because of the Evil Queen.  Even when in a horrific situation, she focuses on others and does not lose heart.   I often find “Cinderella” characters one dimensional, but Ms. Hedlund writes Gabi as a much more complex and relatable heroine.  Gabi has had so much taken away from her by the Evil Queen.  Will she let her need for revenge or kindness win?

Vilmar is the hero of the story.  He must go through a Testing to prove himself worthy to be the next king.  He works undercover in a mine, where he meets Gabi, and learns to be a slave to others.  As Vilmar becomes more and more involved and invested in the plights of Gabi and the townspeople, he starts to realize maybe there are things more important than his Testing and becoming king.  Will he give it all up to help others? 

This story reads like a Disney movie.  I could picture the events in my head as they played out.  I especially love the ending, which has such a beautiful message!  I will let you read it for yourself.  Fans of Melanie Dickerson, fairy tale retellings and happily ever afters will love this book!  

Content:  This is a clean read.  The only content is a brief reference to men drinking and gambling.

Rating:  I give this book 5 stars.

I want to thank Jody Hedlund and Northern Lights Press for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

About the Author:

Jody Hedlund is the author of over twenty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

To visit the author's website click here

To purchase the book click here

Saturday, September 19, 2020

An Action-Packed Retelling Filled with Greek Mythology! --"A Curse of Gold" by Annie Sullivan—Review


My Review

"A Curse of Gold" by Annie Sullivan is the second book in the “A Touch of Gold” duology.  It can be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading the first in the series to fully enjoy this entry.  “A Touch of Gold,” the first book in the series, is a “King Midas” retelling.  Kora, our heroine, is King Midas’s daughter.  She has been touched by King Midas and cursed.  Her skin is gold and she has secret powers.  

In “A Curse of Gold” Kora seeks to break the curse once and for all.  Her people do not trust her to become their ruler and Dionysus (the one who cursed her father) is now trying to kill her and overthrow the kingdom.  

This book is full of adventure as the characters embark on this dangerous quest to stop Dionysus and break the curse once and for all.  I enjoyed seeing the old gang from the first book back together.  Ms. Sullivan does an amazing job building her characters.  The side characters are well done, and they are some of my favorites.  I love the friendship theme running throughout.  Although this is a quest story, there is still a lot of focus on characterization and character growth.  

There is also so much adventure and action!  There are oracles, quests, sea monsters, gods, and a myriad of other creatures from Greek mythology.  Through it all, Kora learns what it takes to be a good ruler and leader, she protects and fights for her people and puts her people above herself.  The conclusion is nonstop adventure and action!   If you pick up “A Curse of Gold,” buckle your seatbelts for a wild ride!

Content:  This is a clean read.  The only content is a reference to a man being drunk and a woman is naked after being released from a curse.

Rating:  I give this book 4 stars.

I want to thank Annie Sullivan, Blink and NetGalley for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

About the Author

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

Website: https://anniesullivanauthor.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/annsulliva

To purchase the book click here

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

"A Trace of Deceit" by Karen Odden Blog Tour (Review) & GIVEAWAY!



Publication Date: December 17, 2019
William Morrow
Paperback & eBook; 416 pages

Genre: Historical Mystery/Victorian



From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.


My Review

“A Trace of Deceit” by Karen Odden is a work of art.  Like a striking painting, this story is beautiful, complex and full of details.  Some words I would use to describe this mystery are lush, descriptive and immersive.  Those who love professionally researched mysteries with a lot of complexities will savor this story.  There are a lot of period and art details.  Sometimes I felt like the story was a little slow with the pacing.  But it is a story to savor and linger in, much like one does at an art gallery.  The author obviously has done extensive research and knows what she is talking about.  Art lovers will especially love this book, although an amateur (like myself) can also enjoy it.  The mystery is done so well, it kept me guessing through the whole book.  I do not know how Ms. Odden was able to bring everything together at the end like she did, but it was very cleverly done.  I also love that the story has a slightly Gothic feel to it.

Our heroine, Annabel Rowe, is a female painter in Victorian England.  She goes to a progressive art school (one of the few that accept women).  Her brother (another artist) is mysteriously murdered. Annabel basically inserts herself into the investigation and gets to know the inspector, Matthew, and they develop a friendship and later a romance.  They work together to find answers. Annabel is strong, courageous, stubborn and fearless.  Sometimes, I got frustrated along with Matthew that Annabel put herself in some dangerous situations.  I love Matthew’s character and the relationship that develops between the two as they work together.  I also think the way Annabel’s past relationship with her brother and how she processes everything is very well done.  Ms. Odden gives the reader a poignant look at grief, loss and resilience.  

I recommend this book to lovers of mystery, art and historical fiction!

Content: I give this book a PG-13 rating.  Some examples of the content are: a character uses opium and gambles; the Lord’s name is taken in vain; a man drinks; the words “da**,” “bloody hell,” “devil,” “a**” and “bastard” are used; mention of suicide; mention of a man trying to have sex with the maids; metions that a male teacher had sex with some of his male students and made unwelcome advances; mentions that people curse, but the words aren’t actually written.

Rating: I give this book 4 stars.  

I want to thank Karen Odden, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and William Morrow for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

Praise for A Trace of Deceit

“Odden’s third effort injects a refreshing level of complexity, both in character development and plotting, into what one typically expects to find in historical cozies. This will appeal to fans of Victorian mysteries, as well as those interested in art history.” -Booklist (starred review)

“Odden keenly evokes the physical as well as cultural milieu of Victorian England, and peoples her setting with fully realized and intriguing characters. This book will delight readers who like their mysteries cloaked in well-researched history.” -Publishers Weekly

“…this thrilling, action-packed story [is] an absolute delight to read.” -Historical Novel Society

“Odden’s literary brushstrokes vividly portray the misogyny and gender bias experienced by women in Victorian society, especially a woman battling to exercise her artistic talent. ” -Washington Independent Review of Books

“Fans of Anne Perry, Deanna Rayborn, and Tasha Alexander will root for Karen Odden’s newest heroine, Annabel Rowe—aspiring painter and now amateur sleuth—investigating the murder of her art forger brother. The novel’s a delightful mix of mystery, history, and romance, served with a delicious helping of lush period detail, while chemistry between Annabel and the investigating Scotland Yard detective add spice to the adventure.” -Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series

“A darkly thrilling story filled with suspense and secrets, a courageous heroine, an edgy climax, and an atmospheric setting that perfectly captures the underbelly of London’s art world in the Victorian era. A Trace of Deceit is an absolute winner!” -Stefanie Pintoff, Edgar Award winning author

About the Author

Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble editions of books by Dickens and Trollope; and she edited for the academic journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and won the New Mexico-Arizona 2016 Book Award for e-Book Fiction. Her second novel, A Dangerous Duet, about a young pianist who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall in 1870s London, won the New Mexico-Arizona 2019 Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. A Trace of Deceit is her third novel. She resides in Arizona with her family and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 7
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Tuesday, September 8
Feature at I’m All About Books

Wednesday, September 9
Review at Hallie Reads

Thursday, September 10
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, September 11
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, September 14
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, September 15
Review at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, September 16
Review at Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, September 17
Review at Novels Alive

Friday, September 18
Review at A Darn Good Read

Saturday, September 19
Review at Nursebookie

Monday, September 21
Review at Books and Zebras

Tuesday, September 22
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, September 24
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Friday, September 25
Review at The Lit Bitch

Monday, September 28
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Review at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Tuesday, September 29
Review at Impressions In Ink
Review at Writing the Renaissance

Wednesday, September 30
Review at Probably at the Library
Guest Post at Writing the Renaissance

Thursday, October 1
Excerpt at Books In Their Natural Habitat
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, October 2
Review at Jessica Belmont
Review at Jorie Loves A Story
Review at View from the Birdhouse


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away one paperback copy of A Trace of Deceit! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/competitions/qxgBy-a-trace-of-deceit

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

"Dust" by Kara Swanson Blog Tour (Review) & GIVEAWAY!

Dust FB Banner

About the Book

Title: Dust
Authors: Kara Swanson
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: July 21, 2020
The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real—since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London…and a boy who shouldn’t exist. Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins. The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan—and herself.

Click here to get your copy!

 My Review 
Can I just say this book is truly magical?!  “Dust” by Kara Swanson is a “Peter Pan” retelling that takes place after the events of the original story, so it is also a sequel.  This story has many of the whimsical, magical elements that one expects from a “Peter Pan” retelling, but it also has a darker, more gritty side to it as well.  
“Dust” is truly a masterpiece.  The way Ms. Swanson writes is lyrical and witty.  I especially love how she portrays Peter Pan and how she writes his voice in the story.  She seems to capture the Pan we all know and love—cocky, mischievous, loveable.  But he is also flawed and selfish and needs to grow up.  Claire, our heroine, deals with mental health issues, a rough past and not fitting in.  Peter helps Claire learn that she can fly and to not let the hard stuff drag her down.  Through this relationship and story, faith is explored and the need to believe in who we are and do what we were born to do.  One must find the light in their shadows and always hold on to hope.  These are such amazing lessons expertly woven into a gripping story that I could not put down.  “Dust” kept me reading and wanting to find out what went wrong in Neverland, where Claire’s brother is and many other questions.  My only complaint (if you can call it that) is the cliffhanger.  I need book two; NOW!  Take a step into this magical story, you will not regret it.
Content:  I give this book a PG-13 rating.  Some examples of the content are: a person curses, but the words aren’t actually written; a girl tries to commit suicide; talk of bullies and violent parents; reference to a drunk parent; reference to the devil; a girl has a past of cutting herself.
Rating: I give this book 5 magical stars.
I want to thank Celebrate Lit, Kara Swanson and Enclave Publishing for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

About the Author

As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent her childhood running barefoot through the lush jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the fantasy genre. The award-winning author of The Girl Who Could See, Kara is passionate about crafting stories of light shattering darkness, connecting with readers, and becoming best friends with a mermaid—though not necessarily in that order. Kara chats about coffee, fairy tales and bookish things online (@karaswansonauthor) and at karaswanson.com

More from Kara

I wrote Dust not just for those who grew up loving the original Peter Pan story — but especially for the children who were left behind. Those of us who never escaped through a window to a magical world, whose childhoods oftentimes felt a little shadowed.
Dust follows Peter Pan when he is cast out of Neverland, grounded in London. For the first time, this Peter has to start thinking about someone other than himself—and become a beacon to remind any Lost ones that there is still magic to be found.
Dust also follows a young woman named Claire who can create pixie dust, but is desperately afraid of herself because when her fears and insecurities leak out, her dust starts to burn. Claire has seen too many shadows to believe in fairytales anymore and is doing everything she can just to lock away the strange dust dripping from her fingertips. But when she meets Peter, he challenges everything she thought she knew.
I wrote Claire for those of us who may feel too weighted to even remember what it feels like to have hope lift your soul. Who can look at ourselves and all we see are our own shadows and shortcomings.
Throughout the course of the novel, Peter has to teach Claire how to see the spark of light inside herself that is far brighter than the darkness. As he helps this girl learn how to fly, Peter rediscovers what it is that truly makes him Peter Pan: the unquenchable childlike belief that there are weightless thoughts in all of us that can lift us out of the shadows.
This story is a love letter to anyone who has ever needed that reminder. We have value simply because we exist. We do not have to be weighed down by our shadows. There is still light that can lift our hearts if we have faith, trust…and a dash of the impossible.

Blog Stops

Rebecca Tews, July 31
Emily Yager, August 2
Worthy2Read, August 5
Remembrancy, August 6
Wishful Endings, August 6
Nancy E Wood, August 9
Mia Reads, August 10
Simple Harvest Reads, August 11 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
Artistic Nobody, August 12
Pause for Tales, August 12


To celebrate her tour, Kara is giving away the grand prize package of a Dust-themed bundle that includes a signed hardcover, bookmarks, character cards, Peter + Claire art print, and an exclusive Dust pin!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.