Cover Crush: Empress of the Fall by David Hair

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

Empress of the FallEmpress of the Fall

Pub Date 09 Mar 2017

The Emperor is dead – long live the Empress!

Emperor Constant is dead and his rivals are scrabbling for power – but any misstep could plunge the land, already devastated by the shocking outcome of the Third Crusade, into a calamitous civil war.

The Imperial throne is not the only one in jeopardy. Two brothers, imprisoned veterans of the Crusades, finally return home to find their father’s kingdom being plundered – but the price of regaining their birthright will have far-reaching implications for the entire empire.

In the East, Sultan Salim, peacemaker and visionary ruler, faces his greatest challenge as his people demand an invasion of the West in retribution for the Rondian Crusades

And lurking in the darkness, orchestrating both the power struggles and the inevitable conflicts, is a shadowy group threatening to destroy civilisation itself.

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This cover captured my attention straight away! It really pops! I love it! I believe the design and title depicts what the story is about perfectly. Adding this book to my reading pile!

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-Coming Soon!

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

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Bookish Happenings: Into the Wilderness

It’s been rather quiet on Layered Pages lately. I do promise to try to pick up the pace again soon. I have had a lot going on as many of you know. I’ve been reading a lot more lately so I have several reviews to draft. This past weekend I picked up, Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati. I am almost half way through it. For those of you who have read it, you will know it is a big novel to digest. I’m enjoying it thus far; the story takes place in one of my favorite periods in American History. Check out the Book blurb below.

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Into The Wilderness by Sara DonatiWeaving a vibrant tapestry of fact and fiction, Into the Wilderness sweeps us into another time and place…and into the heart of a forbidden, incandescent affair between a spinster Englishwoman and an American frontiersman. Here is an epic of romance and history that will captivate readers from the very first page.

When Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, leaves her Aunt Merriweather’s comfortable English estate to join her father and brother in the remote mountain village of Paradise on the edge of the New York wilderness, she does so with a strong will and an unwavering purpose: to teach school.

It is December of 1792 when she arrives in a cold climate unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man different from any she has ever encountered–a white man dressed like a Native American, tall and lean and unsettling in his blunt honesty. He is Nathaniel Bonner, also known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives.

Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village–white, black, and Native American–Elizabeth soon finds herself at odds with local slave owners. Much to her surprise, she clashes with her own father as well. Financially strapped, Judge Middleton has plans for his daughter–betrothal to local doctor Richard Todd. An alliance with Todd could extract her father from ruin but would call into question the ownership of Hidden Wolf, the mountain where Nathaniel, his father, and a small group of Native Americans live and hunt.

As Judge Middleton brings pressure to bear against his daughter, she is faced with a choice between compliance and deception, a flight into the forest, and a desire that will bend her hard will to compromise and transformation. Elizabeth’s ultimate destiny, here in the heart of the wilderness, lies in the odyssey to come: trials of faith and flesh, and passion born amid Nathaniel’s own secrets and divided soul.

Interweaving the fate of the remnants of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati’s compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America.

Book Spotlight: Alvar the Kingmaker

me-iiIt is no surprise I love historical fiction. Much of my interests of history has taken place in England. Many of my ancestors are from there so the history has me even more invested. Political history plays a big role often times in my reading of history and in my own research for my projects. Not only that I take great pleasure in authors writing about these subjects. What is more thrilling is to bring the voices of the past to life and gives us a glimpse into the distant past?

Award Winning Annie Whitehead is one of those authors who does this in creative and intriguing ways. Today, I share one of her stories, Alvar the Kingmaker with you all. -Thank you.

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B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Alvar the Kingmaker BRAG Synopsis

Alvar the Kingmaker is a tale of politics, intrigue, deceit and murder set in tenth-century England. Nobleman Alvar knows that securing the throne for the young and worthy King Edgar will brand him as an oath-breaker. As a fighting man, he is indispensable to the new sovereign, but his success and power gain him deadly, murderous enemies amongst those who seek favour with the king, and point the finger of suspicion when Edgar’s brother, the previous king, dies in mysterious circumstances. Alvar must fight to protect his lands, and his position, and learn the subtle art of politics. He must also, as a man of principle, keep secret his love for the wife of his trusted deputy. Civil war erupts, and Alvar once again finds himself the only man capable of setting a new king upon the throne of England, an act which comes at great personal cost. His career began with a dishonourable deed to help a good king; now he must be loyal to a new king, Aethelred, whom he knows will be weak, and whose supporters have been accused of regicide. Can he bring about peace, reconcile with his enemies, and find personal happiness, whilst all the time doing his duty to his loved ones? And what of the fragile Queen, who not only depends upon him but has fallen in love with him?

 

Male Protagonist Rhys Griffin

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Meghan Holloway is currently working on a story about a WWI veteran and on a desperate search for his son in war-torn France in 1944. His name is Rhys Griffin and Meghan is here today to tell us a little about him. I don’t know about you, but I am delighted to meet him and look forward t0 reading more about his story when it comes out! Please help me welcome, Meghan.

Meghan, who is Rhys Griffin?

Rhys is a veteran of the Great War. He is a son, a widower, a father, and he followed in the footsteps of the men of his family and took over the Griffin sheep farm when his father died. He is a simple man of quiet depth, more at home in the hills in Wales than in the streets of Paris in the wake of the liberation in 1944, when my story begins. He is down to earth, calm and stalwart, not prone to temper or to effusive emotions. He is really a man of his time, and in my story, he is a man on a desperate journey.

 What are his strengths?

He is a man of great perseverance. This is a man who survived the horrors of the Somme and who spends his days toiling as a sheep farmer. He doesn’t let difficulty or exhaustion or physical pain stop him when he sets his mind to something. Once he decides to do something, he is tireless in that pursuit.

His faults?

Rhys is stubborn, and he is not very tolerant of those whose opinions differ from his. I wouldn’t say it’s a fault, but an important aspect of his character is that he is not a man who believes in forgiveness. He is searching for his estranged son not to ask his forgiveness–he still thinks what his son did was wrong–but to recapture the bond they once had and to heal the chasm between them.

What is your personal opinion of him?

Rhys Griffin is a character I greatly admire. He is masculine without having to say so, strong without having to prove it. He is a man with whom you could traipse silently and comfortably through the heathered hills. I appreciate his traditional ideals and his staunch perseverance in life. He is absolutely my favorite character I’ve written.

About Maghan Holloway

“My dearest darling …” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.

I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, finished my graduate work in an all-girls school in the blustery north, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Appalachians, writing my third and fourth novels, and hanging out with my standard poodle.

Meghan’s Website

Historical Fiction Goodness

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Throwing Clay Shadows by Thea Atkinson

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

It’s 1807 on the Isle of Eigg. Four-year old Maggie believes she has killed her mother by saying bad things and now she won’t say a word. It’s true that Ma’s voice stays in the cottage even though Da says she’s gone, and sometimes Maggie can see her in the shadows, but it’s not the same thing as having a real ma. She’s worried if she says anything, she will kill her da too.

She doesn’t want him to die, and so no matter how much he tries to get her to, she won’t speak.

The trouble is, the consumption that really took her ma and her premature sister, has marked Maggie too. It forces Da to marry Janet so Maggie can have a woman to look after her.

It gets harder for her to stay silent, though, because Janet tries just as hard to get Maggie to talk. She’s not sure she can hold out when this new ma reveals secrets that make her squirm, that make her feel like Da is doing things he shouldn’t be.

It seems there is more to worry about than a few words. He is indeed in trouble and much of that danger comes from the things his new wife isn’t saying.

If she can just understand what Ma is telling her from those corners, Maggie will be able to face her fears and find her voice and true power. The question is: will that power be enough to bind the family together even against the darkest secrets?

Author Website

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

these-shallow-gravesJo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

My thoughts:

My interest of late lies in 19th century America due to my own research and writing. I was looking for something light to read in this era and was delighted that, These Shallow Graves caught my attention. I read, A Northern Light by the author a few years ago, so I was even more curious about this story.

This story is truly atmospheric and captures the attitudes and traditions of the people during the era. Though I found the story to be a bit predictable, alas there was a surprise about two characters I did not see coming…  Having said that, the predictability doesn’t take away from the good story telling this author weaves. Not only that, I found each character to be unique and intriguing.

This story has a solid premise, a good build up, tension in all the right places and concludes with a strong ending.  I hope to see more stories like this from the author!

I rated this book three stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

mr-rochesterA gorgeous, deft literary retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s beloved Jane Eyre–through the eyes of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself.

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My Thoughts:

The Bronte sisters have always been a bit of a fascination to me since my late teens. Charlotte in particular after reading Jane Eyre for the first time so many years ago. There is also the fact that 19th Century Gothic Classics tend to be my forte-if you will. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre evokes those Gothic themes many readers love. One can’t be help be drawn to the gloominess and the elements of the English moors, the troubling events unfolding, or the hauntingly beautiful and mysterious Thornfield Hall. The raw emotions of romance, madness, and tortured feelings brings you even closer to the realization of a person’s soul.

After having read Jane Eyre several times over the years I still wondered about so many things. When Mr. Rochester came along I was hoping some of those things would be answered. Like what was Edward Rochester life like as a child and young adult and how did his upbringing shape him into the man we see in Jane Eyre? I wanted to further explore the relationship between Bertha Mason and Rochester. I firmly believe her story of insanity and wretchedness plays a pivotal role in the outcome of Jane Eyre. Does Shoemaker give the reader a better understanding of those important details in her story, Mr. Rochester? What is it convincing enough?

The story starts with Edward Rochester’s early life at Thornfield Hall. Though it is not expanded on, Edward’s mother died giving birth to him, his father indifference to him and his brother’s unkindness shows his childhood was lonely and neglected at best. At least that is what I got from the brief telling of it. As he got a little older he was entrusted to the care of Mr. Lincoln for his education until the age of thirteen when his father felt he was old enough to learn more of the world. Mr. John Wilson of Maysbeck then took him under his care and Edward soon discovers the education he was to receive from Wilson was not what he thought. You see, Edwards father had plans for him that was not the tradition route for a second son during the era and his class. From there things did get rather interesting at times but I felt Edwards characterization could have been stronger. I don’t feel you get to really know him and it seems like he is doing more telling of his surroundings and what everyone’s else is doing. As he got older and I read about his relationship with Bertha Mason and Jane Eyre, I felt disjointed with the portrayal Shoemakers gives. His upbringing in this story did not convince me of why he became the man he was in Jane Eyre.

There were a lot of miss opportunities in this story. The scenes and Edward’s interaction with the characters didn’t exactly drive the plot and left me feeling dissatisfied with the overall story.

I am not sure I would readily recommend this story to my fellow enthusiasts of the classics. Having said that, I applauded Shoemakers’ efforts in creating Rochester’s early life and despite my shrewd analysis above I respect the authors’ endeavor.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

*I obtained a copy of this book from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review*