Friday, March 27, 2015

SPECTRE teaser trailer

SPECTRE has a teaser trailer (FINALLY) and it is the most exciting, beautiful thing I've seen all week. Bask in the glory of James Bond, my friends!

Mr. Selfridge & Call the Midwife

This Sunday sees the return of two of my favorite programs on PBS - the season four premiere of Call the Midwife followed by the season three premiere of Mr. Selfridge! Here are a couple of previews:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: The Desert Princess by Jill Eileen Smith

The Desert Princess (The Loves of King Solomon #1)
By: Jill Eileen Smith
Publisher: Revell


I've been long overdue for the opportunity to read a Jill Eileen Smith novel. Having devoured all three installments of her first series, The Wives of King David, her subsequent stories have -- sadly -- found themselves lost in my toppling to-be-read pile. Happily, The Desert Princess provides the perfect solution for those like myself craving a quick trip into her richly-imagined biblical world. This brief novella is the first of a proposed series exploring the Solomon through the eyes of the women in his life. And with 700 wives and princesses and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3), Smith has a veritable wealth of potential "loves" from which to choose her characters...but with a catch. Compared to the sheer number of women in his life, the verses devoted to fleshing out any of their characters and experiences are incredibly sparse. But Smith has more than earned the right to a little artistic license in my view, for her stories exploring the lives of Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba reflect her knowledge, understanding, and passion for scripture and the history reflected within its pages.

The Desert Princess tells the story of Naamah the Ammonite, mentioned once in scripture as the mother of Solomon's son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21). Smith sets her story during one of the most turbulent periods of David's reign -- when he fled Jerusalem from his son Absalom. She posits that Shobi the Ammonite who provisioned David and his company, mentioned in 2 Samuel 17:27, could have been Naamah's father -- and thus Solomon's introduction to the woman who would bear his heir. And thus the stage is set for a lovesick princess to fall in love with David's favorite son. There's more supposition than fact here, which I am typically intolerant of in biblical fiction. However, Smith has little to go on when characterizing Naamah, so allowances must be made.

My biggest issue with this novella is that it is simply too short to do justice to Smith's talent for bringing biblical stories to life within the pages of her writing. That aside, this is a promising start to the Solomon series, as she uses the heavily fictionalized Naamah to frame Solomon at a critical point in his youth -- favored but not yet proclaimed David's heir. Naamah's interactions with Solomon hint at the wisdom to come by revealing his facility for wordplay as well as his penchant for pleasure. I look forward to discovering how Smith both frames an older Solomon in further novellas and gives a plausible, sympathetic voice to the now silent women who once inhabited his world.

About the book:

Solomon captured her heart. But can she hold on to his?

King David is running for his life with his young son Solomon in tow when Naamah first encounters the prince. Her father is loyal to the king, and that loyalty will be sealed years later--through the marriage of Solomon and Naamah. 

For her part, Naamah is happy to wed the handsome prince and enter into palace life. But all is not well in Jerusalem. Solomon must navigate constant threats to his life--even from within the palace walls. And when peace is restored, can Naamah ever be truly happy as she watches the love of her life taking more wives?

Join bestselling author Jill Eileen Smith as she weaves a tale of young love, heartbreaking betrayal, and the power of forgiveness, all against the vivid backdrop of one of the most tumultuous times in Israel's history.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation trailer!!

Cue the SQUEE factor! I am so stupid excited for this one, people, it defies description!

Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2)
By: Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Publisher: Vintage


Since Veronica's return to Neptune and work as a private investigator, her life has settled into a regular rhythm of Daddy-Daughter dinners (now including Logan, recently returned from his latest deployment), co-running Mars Investigations, and continuing to strive to be the biggest thorn possible in Sheriff Dan Lamb's side. For if there is one constant in Neptune, it's the corruption under-pinning the city's veneer of wealth and respectability. Riding high on the success of Weevil's exoneration, she and her father begin to brainstorm how to take Weevil's case further, transforming him into a symbol of the systemic corruption in the sheriff's department. But Veronica's latest solo success has gained her a measure of notoriety, and the offer of a (lucrative) solo job investigating possible fraudulent insurance claim against the Neptune Grand Hotel. 

Grace Manning (fans of the show will remember her as the younger sister of Meg, featuring in the "Donut Run" episode), the victim of a vicious rape, was left with no memories of the attack, until memories began to resurface and she accused a Neptune Grand employee. The deeper Veronica digs, the more she begins to realize that Grace's attack may be the tip of the iceberg. Driven by her own demons, Veronica digs ever deeper, determined to stop a monster from hurting one more girl -- but the cost may be more than she's willing to pay, as her drive to succeed threatens to disrupt the fragile balance she's achieved since returning to Neptune. 

Following the release of the Kickstarter-backed film, I was thrilled when Rob Thomas furthered his commitment to Veronica Mars with the promise of a series of original novels. The first, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, was a fabulous addition to the world of the show, sliding seamlessly into place as a literary extension to the film world. I sped through Thomas and Graham's first collaboration and was immediately left wanting more -- but concerned that lightning this good surely couldn't strike twice. Book versions of beloved television shows aren't supposed to be this compulsively readable and addictive. But I was -- no surprise -- wrong.

Mr. Kiss-and-Tell is vintage Veronica Mars, delving deep into the seedy underbelly society and stripping away the glossy veneer of Neptune's culture of wealth and privilege. This book is everything I want in a Mars story - dark, twisty plotting, razor-sharp characterizations, nail-biting suspense, and a healthy dose of Logan-related relationship goodness. With a serial rapist as the focus of the central case, this book is necessarily darker in tone, and though difficult at times to read it fits with Veronica's noir-tinged history. This is especially true in how the case is resolved -- when it comes to crime in Neptune, life -- and justice -- is rarely as black-or-white as one might like, instead often meted out in shades of gray.

Woven throughout Veronica's investigation are the wonderful character moments that have come to define the series. Where the first novel focused on Veronica's relationship with Keith, this novel's primary relational focus is on her renewed romance with Logan. The exploration of the struggles facing military couples was brutally real and honest, and I absolutely adore where this series of novels is taking these characters that I love so much -- it's the next best thing until the next film, eh Rob Thomas? :) 

Veronica's relationship with Logan is a piercing ray of light in her shadowy world. It's a hope this natural born cynic with a marshmallow-soft heart will need to survive in the ever-evolving world of Neptune's criminal and social whirl. This series is a masterclass in how to do tie-in fiction right -- compelling stories, pitch-perfect characters, and chilling suspense -- and I need more, as the opportunity to live within Veronica's world for a brief span will never, ever grow old. 

About the book:

In the second book in the New York Times bestselling mystery series, Veronica Mars is back with a case that will expose the hidden workings of one of Neptune’s most murderous locations.

The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman's story.
The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Secret of Pembrooke Park Spotlight & Tour!

If you've followed by reading habits for a while you've probably gathered that Julie Klassen is a favorite of mine. She's been touring the blogosphere in celebration of her latest release, The Secret of Pembrooke Park:

Award winning historical romance author Julie Klassen tours the blogosphere February 16 through March 2 to share her latest release, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Twenty five popular book bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, book reviews and excerpts of this acclaimed gothic Regency romance novel. A fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of all of Ms. Klassen’s eight books and other Jane Austen-themed items, is open to those who join the festivities.  

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follower her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Here's all you need to know to participate in this grand tour's fabulous giveaways!

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes

In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!


February 16              My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 16              vvb32 Reads (Excerpt)                             
February 17              Psychotic State Book Reviews (Review)
February 17              My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice (Spotlight)    
February 18              Addicted to Jane Austen (Review)                                
February 18              Peeking Between the Pages (Review)                                     
February 19              Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)                                          
February 19              Living Read Girl (Review)                                                
February 20              My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)                                           
February 20              Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Review)                            
February 20              Laura's Reviews (Guest Blog)                                        
February 21              A Bookish Way of Life (Review)                                    
February 21              Romantic Historical Reviews (Excerpt)                        
February 22              Reflections of a Book Addict (Review)                                    
February 23              Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog)                                         
February 23              Peace, Love, Books (Review)                                        
February 24              vvb32 Reads (Review)                                         
February 24              Poof Books (Excerpt)
February 25              Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)                                         
February 25              Austenesque Reviews (Review)                                    
February 25              Luxury Reading (Review)
February 26              So Little Time…So Much to Read (Review)
February 26              More Agreeably Engaged (Excerpt)
February 27              Psychotic State Book Reviews (Interview)                             
February 27              Booktalk & More (Review)
February 28              Laughing with Lizzie (Spotlight)
February 28              The Calico Critic (Review)
March 01                   Leatherbound Reviews (Excerpt)                                              
March 01                   Delighted Reader (Review)
March 02                   CozyNookBks (Review)                                       
March 02                   Laura's Reviews (Review)

Now, you might notice that there is a "review" next to Booktalk & More in the above list...and now I must admit, much to my chagrin and with my most heartfelt apologies, that I've not yet finished the book! However, I checked with the tour organizer (thanks Laurel Ann!) and this spotlight will serve as my tour entry post for today, with a review to come before the tour's end on March 2nd! 

To help whet your appetite, here's more information about The Secret of Pembrooke Park, including the gorgeous trailer. In my view, this is easily Klassen's most ambitious novel to date! (I'd love to hear your favorite Klassen novel in the comments!)

In the spring of 1818, twenty-four-year-old Abigail Foster fears she is destined to become a spinster. Her family’s finances are in ruins and the one young man she truly esteems has fallen for another woman — her younger, prettier sister Louisa.

Forced to retrench after the bank failure of Austen, Gray & Vincent, the Foster family optimistically pool their resources for another London Season for her sister in hopes of an advantageous alliance. While searching for more affordable lodgings, a surprising offer is presented: the use of a country manor house in Berkshire abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to the imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left, the tight-lipped locals offering only rumors of a secret room, hidden treasure and a murder in its mysterious past.

Eager to restore her family fortune, Abigail, with the help of the handsome local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah, begins her search into the heavily veiled past aided by unsigned journal pages from a previous resident and her own spirited determination. As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?


“Jane Austen meets Victoria Holt in Christy Award–winning Klassen’s latest deliciously spooky and sweetly romantic historical.” — Booklist

“Regency romance with awesome castles, secrets, hidden rooms and, of course, romance . . . . Julie Klassen has hit this one out of the ballpark.” — Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick

“If you are looking for a book which combines the enticing elements of a Gothic with the mannerly charm of a Regency, look no further, because this lovely Inspirational is just your cup of tea.” — Heroes and Heartbreakers

“While there are plenty of Regency authors out there, the lovely Julie Klassen is by far one of the top and a must read for fans of Austen/Brontë style and prose. Klassen’s latest, The Secret of Pembrooke Park has a touch of both – the mystery of Brontë and the fun of Austen.”— Books and Beverages

The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting.” — Burton Book Review

See you soon with my full review!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Once Upon a Time: The Dark One

And we FINALLY get a new preview for Once Upon a Time's season 4B! This hiatus has been FOREVER LONG!!