Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Address by Fiona Davis



THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota—New York City’s most famous residence.

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of


The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else...and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in...and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives—and lies—of the beating hearts within.

REVIEW

Fiona Davis’s is premised around The Dakota, a famous landmark hotel with a rich history in New York City. It was first built in the late 1800's and was destined to boast its opulence and convenience for the wealthiest citizens. It is a novel that flips back and forth between the 1900's and the 1800's, a tale of two women, Bailey and Sara, and their link to the architect of the building, a most intriguing man.

The details of how, why, and when the building came to be are skilfully intertwined with a rich story of greed, power, and rags to riches. The characters were ever evolving and at times, not what they seemed. This kept me flipping the pages until the secrets and conflicts came to a head at the brilliant end. 

I am very fond of this author. Having read The Doll House, I had high expectations of this novel. And she did not disappoint. Two very different stories, but each one engrossing! This is one author you need to follow! 

Casanova's Secret Wife by Barbara Lynn-Davis



“Full of passion and rich historical detail . . . an enthralling read, impossible to put down.” —Phyllis T. Smith, bestselling author of I Am Livia and The Daughters of Palatine Hill

“This is Venice beneath the mask: A dark and fascinating love story hiding in the shadows of the golden city.” —Marina Fiorato, bestselling author of The Glassblower of Murano

Set in eighteenth-century Venice and based on an actual account by Giacomo Casanova—here is a lush tale of desire and risk, offering a little known portrait of the writer as a young man.

Caterina Capreta was an innocent girl of fourteen when she caught the attention of the world’s most infamous chronicler of seduction: Giacomo Casanova. Intoxicated by a fierce love, she wed Casanova in secret. But his shocking betrayal inspired her to commit an act that would mark her forever . . .

Now twenty years later on the island of Murano, the woman in possession of Caterina’s most devastating secret has appeared with a request she cannot refuse: to take in a noble-born girl whose scandalous love affair resembles her own. But the girl’s presence stirs up unwelcome memories of Caterina’s turbulent past. Tested like never before, she reveals the story of the man she will never forget . . .

Bringing to life a fascinating chapter in the history of Venice, Casanova’s Secret Wife is a tour de force that charts one woman’s journey through love and loss to redemption.

“Seductive and unforgettable” —Harmony Verna, author of Daughter of Australia

“Breathtaking, beautiful . . . will mesmerize readers." —Rosanna Chiofalo, author of Stella Mia

REVIEW

It is a little known secret that my favourite genre is Italian historical fiction. And this novel certainly did not disappoint. I was interested in seeing how a rake and con like Casanova would be portrayed and whether the author would make him a rogue or sympathetic. I was pleased that the author showed us his charm and likeability. Of course there were moments when I worried that he would turn sour on his relationship with Caterina, and although he did drift, he did his best to remain supportive and kind to her. 

Of course the novel was set in Venice and it the author created an excellent depiction of the time. locations, and social norms of the time. She brought to life the decadence, secrets, and rich way of life.

This story pleased me on many, many counts - its historical detail, the historical personages, and of course the beauty of La Serenissima! This was a great read and I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Mapmaker's Daughter by Katherine Nouri Hughes



A novel of the Venetian girl who became the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Magnificent Century.



The Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power during the sixteenth century when Cecilia Baffo Veniero was kidnapped from her Venetian homeland and chosen to be the wife of Selim II, successor to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She would be known as Nurbanu.


The Mapmaker’s Daughter vividly imagines the confession of Nurbanu as she lies on her sickbed narrating the spectacular story of her rise to the pinnacle of imperial power, determined to understand how her extraordinary destiny was shaped. With unflinching candor, Nurbanu reviews the desires and motives that have both propelled and harmed her, as she considers her role as a devoted yet manipulative mother, helping to orchestrate her son’s succession to the throne. Serving as the appointed enforcer of one of the empire’s most crucial and shocking laws, Nurbanu confronts the consequences of her loves and her choices—right up to one last shattering revelation.

REVIEW



Some claim Nurbanu was a Venetian woman named Cecilia Baffo Veniero abducted abducted from Paros island when it was captured by Barbarossa. Others say she was a Greek woman named Kale Kartanou from Corfu. To this day, no one knows for certain. Once in the folds of the Ottoman Empire, she became known as Nurbanu. Her destiny was to became favourite consort and legal wife of Ottoman Sultan Selim II and mother of Murad III.

Wherever she came from, she one day found herself the head of the Sultan's harem. Despite the Sultan's right to take as many concubines as he wished, Nurbanu was his favorite because of her sharp wit and breathtaking beauty. Because of her propensity for good judgement, he reated her as an advisor and respected her opinion in many matters.  

In return, she was a devoted wife and wonderful mother. When she gave birth to Murad, she knew that one day, when it came time to succession, he might be murdered, as had happened many times in the past where entire families were massacred. Nurbanu was determined never to let this happen. 

Murad was away serving as goveror of Manisa when her husband died in 1574. Nurbanu realized her life's son may be in danger by a usurper of power. Before anyone could learn of her husband's death, she hid his body in the harem in an icebox and then summoned her son to return home. Only when Murad made it home, did she announce her husband's death. In this way, Murad became the next sultan and she became the highest ranking woman in the sultanate and very powerful indeed. She managed the government and acted as co-regent with her son. 

Her reach was long. She was a pen pal of Queen Catherine de Medici of France and the Venetians proudly followed her reign, writing about her often. That's because she was good for the Venetian government. For as much as she was loved by the Venetians, she was spurned by their rivals, the Genoese who resented her unwavering support of all things Venetian. When she died in Istanbul on December 7, 1583, it was suspected she might have been poisoned by a Genoese spy. 

It is a fascinating novel about a woman intelligent enough to manoeuvre about in a dangerous regime where a slip of the tongue or a wrong action could result in immediate death.

A Great Love of Small Proportions by Colin Falconer



Can a woman discover the beauty in an ugly man, even if he can’t see it himself?

Seville, 1489.

The end of the Reconquista.

Diego Sanchis is Seville's most famous painter; his tryptychs and murals fill every church in the city. He is also ugly, angry, possibly Jewish and a dwarf. Nobody but his father loves him and Diego likes it just that way.

Until one day he is asked to take on a new student.

Mercedes Goncalvez is the most beautiful young woman in the city, and her father is rich and powerful. What could such a woman possibly see in him?

But there are many ways to see beauty. And beyond the dungeons of the Inquisition; beyond betrayal and torture; and even as the guns pound the heavenly gardens of the Alhambra, and the Moors prepare to leave Spain forever, Diego finds true beauty among the ashes of his last hopes.

A story of love, art and genius just before the fall of the Alhambra in 149, perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Geraldine Brooks.

REVIEW

In this novel, author Colin Falconer sweeps readers into 15th century Seville after the Reconquista. At the heart of the story is Diego Sanchis, Seville's most sought after, most talented artist. His work is prolific and graces the walls of every church in the country. But what is most fascinating about this character is his faults - for he is ugly, bitter, and an outspoken dwarf. He has been bullied, shunned, abused, and made fun of all his life. His life experiences shaped him into a man with a vitriolic tongue and low self-esteem. It is only through his work that he gains respect and fame. Oh, and did I mention that he might be Jewish? A danger in itself and another strike against him. 

One day, he is tasked with teaching art to a beautiful young woman, Mencia Goncalvez, the daughter of a rich and powerful man. At first, he resents being her mentor and only wishes to put an end to his obligation. But soon, their relationship changes into something much more meaningful, more powerful.  

Colin Falconer delves deep into the psyche of both characters as they strive to live in a most dangerous era. History and romance combines in this highly entertaining novel. I fell in love with Diego and his biting sarcasm and propensity to be bluntly honest. He is real, loveable, and easy to sympathize with. Likewise is Mencia who struggles to break through the norms of the era to become an artist by her own right.

Another winning novel by Colin Falconer that is filled with wit and suspense! Beautifully rendered and highly recommended! 

Julien's Terror by Laura Rahme


In this chilling psychological tale set in revolutionary France, a young couple confront their darkest fears. Looming above them, between healing and oblivion, lies the French Republic's most shocking secret.
FRANCE, 1794 - The Reign of Terror
Julien d'Aureville, a young boy from a broken home in Paris, meets a fugitive aristocrat who changes his life. As the Terror subsides and Napoleon rises to power, Julien's fortunes improve.
Then he meets the mysterious Marguerite.

Upon her marriage to Julien, Marguerite Lafolye has all a Parisian woman could ever wish. Yet something is not quite right. Is Marguerite hiding a dark secret? When she attempts to see into Marguerite, even the celebrated fortuneteller, Marie Anne Lenormand, cannot read her cards.

From bourgeois Paris to the canals of Napoleon's Venice, Marguerite seems to be living a lie. Who is she really? What drives her obsession with the late Dauphin, Louis-Charles, son of Marie-Antoinette?
Could the answer lie in a memory - in Nantes' orphanage, or in the hidden undergound caves of war-torn Vendée, or else in the secret refuge of Gralas Forest, deep in Western France?
Or could the answer be right here, in Paris, within the forbidding walls of the Temple Prison that Napoleon threatens to destroy, and where the Dauphin tragically perished.
From the author of THE MING STORYTELLERS and THE MASCHERARI comes an historical psychological thriller that will defy all you knew of France's revolution.
In this confronting new novel, Laura Rahme paints the tragedies and triumphs of love in tumultuous and deadly times.
JULIEN'S TERROR is a suspenseful mystery where folklore and superstition meet with the horrors of the past.

REVIEW

Julien's Terrror is the latest novel by author Laura Rahme. It is a powerful tale that sweeps its reader into the dark atmosphere of the French Revolution. The story centres around two people - Julien and Marguerite - who both survived the reign of terror. They are drawn together inexplicably, powerfully, and with a touch of mystery and danger. 

The novel has a touch of the psychological, the paranormal with a Gothic feel and with a good mystery at its core. Most definitely it can be classified as a suspense thriller. Laura Rahme delves deep into the darkest circumstances of the revolution, bringing it to vivid clarity and revealing lesser known facts. Her research was thorough and rich indeed. Of all the novels I've read set during the revolution, this one had more detail than usual. It was the first I had read of the Nantes drownings, the refugees, the women rebels, and more. 

I've now had the pleasure of reading all of this author's novels - each one equally as enthralling. For certain, this is one author I urge you to follow! Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Saint Christopher and the Gravedigger by Catherine Cookson


Known for the wit of her writing, in her lifetime Catherine Cookson became the UK’s most widely read novelist. When the Cookson Estate discovered the unpublished manuscript of Saint Christopher and the Gravedigger in the attic of her home, they unearthed a gem for Cookson’s many fans.
Gravedigger John Gascoigne lives in Downfell Hurst with his wife, Florrie, their three children and his mother, Gran. John is a deep thinker but extremely taciturn—a man of few words and many grunts. Which is why everyone is alarmed when he’s hit on the head by a cricket ball, and it suddenly seems as if the words won’t stop. What’s more, he says he is talking to Saint Christopher—only no one else can see the saint, and they’re beginning to worry John’s not quite right in the head…
Mad or not, John has some secrets he’s been keeping. But if he can’t stop talking, they won’t stay secret for long.

REVIEW

It's been a long while since I last read a novel by Catherine Cookson. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this one! It is charming, full of wit, and utterly charming. When John the Gravedigger gets hit in the head by a cricket ball, he begins to have conversations with Christopher who appears only to him. Of course, everyone thinks John has gone mad, but is he really? 

I loved the characters, especially Saint Christopher who not only has a sense of humour, but has the odd bout of mischief. This novel works and is plausible. It is filled with secrets and quirky turns. It's memorable characters literally leap off the page.

Another winner by this author!

Where the Light Falls by Allison and Owen Pataki



A rich and sweeping novel of courage, duty, sacrifice, and love set during the French Revolution from New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki and her brother Owen Pataki

Three years after the storming of the Bastille, the streets of Paris are roiling with revolution. The citizens of France are enlivened by the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The monarchy of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette has been dismantled—with the help of the guillotine—and a new nation is rising in its place. Jean-Luc, an idealistic young lawyer, moves his wife and their infant son from a comfortable life in Marseille to Paris, in the hopes of joining the cause. André, the son of a denounced nobleman, has evaded execution by joining the new French army. Sophiea young aristocratic widow, embarks on her own fight for independence against her powerful, vindictive uncle. 

As chaos threatens to undo the progress of the Revolution and the demand for justice breeds instability and paranoia, the lives of these compatriots become inextricably linked. Jean-Luc, André, and Sophie find themselves in a world where survival seems increasingly less likely—for themselves and, indeed, for the nation.

Featuring cameos from legendary figures such as Robespierre, Louis XVI, and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, Where the Light Falls is an epic and engrossing novel, moving from the streets and courtrooms of Paris to Napoleon’s epic march across the burning sands of Egypt. With vivid detail and imagery, the Patakis capture the hearts and minds of the citizens of France fighting for truth above all, and for their belief in a cause greater than themselves.

REVIEW

“Where the Light Falls” is a splendid tale set against the backdrop of the French Revolutions. The novel successfully evokes all the fear and terrors of the time. It is a tale of two men - Jean-Luc St. Clair and André Valière. Their lives become irretrievably interwoven because of their circumstances and family. A rivalry turns to hatred and escalates as the story unfolds. 

The tale is vividly told with a sprinkling of appearances by famous personages of the time. I could not help but become engrossed in the story and it definitely kept me interested and reading throughout. The prose was lovely and flowed seamlessly, an ease to read. Nicely written and nicely told!

Grace by Paul Lynch




A sweeping, Dickensian story of a young girl on a life-changing journey across nineteenth-century Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine

Early one October morning, Grace's mother snatches her from sleep and brutally cuts off her hair, declaring, "You are the strong one now." With winter close at hand and Ireland already suffering, Grace is no longer safe at home. And so her mother outfits her in men's clothing and casts her out. When her younger brother Colly follows after her, the two set off on a remarkable odyssey in the looming shadow of their country's darkest hour.

The broken land they pass through reveals untold suffering as well as unexpected beauty. To survive, Grace must become a boy, a bandit, a penitent and, finally, a woman-all the while afflicted by inner voices that arise out of what she has seen and what she has lost.

Told in bold and lyrical language by an author who has already been called "one of his generation's very finest novelists" (Ron Rash, author of The Risen), Grace is an epic coming-of-age novel and a poetic evocation of the Irish famine as it has never been written.

REVIEW

Grace is a novel about a young woman and her brother who are forced by their mother to leave home and potential starvation due to the potato famine. It is a life-saving effort, but it sets the duo upon an unforgettable journey through Ireland during one of its most devastating eras. It is a coming of age story, but also one of survival and courage. The prose was mesmerising and evoked both vivid images as well as emotion,

I most definitely enjoyed this novel and recommend it to all those who love tales about strong heroines historical detail, and heart-wrenching stories.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Underground River by Martha Conway



The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love.

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters.

As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.

REVIEW

I've never had the pleasure of reading a novel by Martha Conway, but I'm definitely going to do so in the future. This novel is about slavery and theatre - a strange mix, but one that worked very well. 

May is a seamstress who works on a riverboat sewing costumes for the theatrical group. She is an exceptionally well rounded characters with a strong sense of morality, intelligent of wit, yet innocent. Her personality fascinated me throughout the story. A tale that will appeal to many! Read it and enjoy!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Where Rainbows End by Anne Marie Brear


For fans of The Keeper of Lost Things and Island of Secrets. You'll adore this strong, feisty heroine. Set in Australia.


Can she hold on to her dreams ...?
It’s 1850 and the Noble family have travelled to the other side of the world to start a new life after scandal drove them from their native England. Pippa Noble is determined to reclaim their honour by making her father’s plan for an outback farm reality, although her ambition is frowned upon by a society that has very set ideas about a woman’s place … 

Pippa learns the hard way about the unforgiving nature of the bush, sometimes with devastating consequences. And when unfortunate circumstance leads to Pippa tending the farm alone, it is the friendship of neighbouring estate owner Gil Ashford-Smith that helps her through.

Then an unexpected visitor from England arrives, putting Pippa’s dreams in jeopardy. But she refuses to let go. She will hold onto her family’s land, even if it means losing everything else …

Review

I always crave reading a good Australian historical novel. Being Canadian, I have always been fascinated with this continent on the opposite side of the world. Anne Marie Brear, having lived in Australia for numerous years, was able to write an authentic feeling tale that truly thrust me into the era and continent.

She successfully recounted the hardships faced by the new colonists while breathing life into memorable fictional characters. Strong heroines, impossible conflicts, and lovely descriptions grace each page. Anne Marie is one of my favourite authors, evoking emotion and realism into each and every one of her books. Read one of her two books, especially this one and I promise you will never be disappointed.