Blog Tour: Blackmoore

Today I'm absolutely thrilled to share with you a review of Julianne Donaldson's latest release Blackmoore. You may remember when I reviewed her debut Edenbrooke last year; I am very happy to say that Blackmoore is every bit as amazing. If not better.

Kate Worthington knows she can never have her heart’s desire and so believes she will never marry. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore on the cliffs above the seashore, where she must face the truth and the man that has kept her heart captive.

Set in northern England, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn to follow her heart. With hints of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Blackmoore is a page-turning tale of romance, intrigue and devotion.

Check out my review below, and then click the banner to see what others think!

Julianne Donaldson
Shadow Mountain, 2013

Kate Worthington is many things, but she is not like her mother and sisters. The women in her family have an ill-gotten legacy of scandal, and even though their mistakes have cost her everything her heart desires, Kate is determined to break the tradition. She's forsworn marriage - and love - and seeks only to escape to India with her spinster aunt. After a long-desired visit to Blackmoore, of course. Blackmoore is the ancestral home, and future inheritance, of Kate's best friend Henry Delafield. Kate's plans are not her mother's plans however, and Kate quickly discovers just how far her mother is willing to push her to get her own way. Even as she seems to escape easily - agreeing to obtain (and reject) three proposals of marriage while at Blackmoore, thus earning the trip to India - Kate is sucked deeper into a vortex she cannot escape. She is forced to confront her own demons, all her hidden secrets, opening her heart up to searing pain and losing everything precious all over again. Blackmoore was supposed to be a dream come true, but it feels more like a nightmare to Kate.

I loved this book. Loved this book. I love Kate, and her struggles - she's trying so hard to keep herself from hurting, to break the mold of her family. She's fighting so hard that she gets a little lost, and that's a feeling I can relate to myself. But she is a fighter, so she's going to make it - you know she is, one way or another - and you root for her, and cringe and cheer for her by turns. And then there's Henry. Oh stars, but is there Henry. He's the perfect boy-next-door best friend, but he's also ... well, Henry. The heir of Blackmoore. A gentleman. Someone Kate has known and loved her whole life, and so, so much more. He's fighting too, fighting to be true to himself and understand the struggles that are sending Kate into the wild dangers of India. Their individual stories are so closely intertwined ...

Donaldson does a masterful job of weaving in the backstory, as Kate - and Henry - get brave enough to look back into the past, we experience it through their memories. Each "flashback" adds depth to the "present" story, and isn't distracting or confusing the way they can be at times. And the characters, oh the color and breath in the characters. I just ... You've got to read this. It's a Regency story with spunk and flair and surprises that will take your breath away.

ARC provided by publisher for review.

About the Author
Julianne Donaldson grew up as the daughter of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She learned how to ski in the Italian Alps, visited East Berlin before the wall came down, and spent three years living next to a 500-year-old castle. After earning a degree in English, she turned her attention to writing about distant times and places. She lives in Utah with her husband and four children.
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Blog Tour: Claude at the Circus

Hi guys, welcome to another Peachtree blog tour! Today I'm happy to share a review for Claude at the Circus, the second installment of the super cute adventures of a very spunky dog. Emily's done another great job lining up an exciting tour, so make sure you check it all out after catching my review!

Claude at the Circus
Alex T Smith
Peachtree, 2013

Remember meeting the adorably entertaining Claude and his best friend Sir Bobblysock? Well, they're back! And do they ever return with style -- Claude is nothing if not spiffy, and Sir Bobblysock is so very posh and refined. For a sock, of course. (But how can you not love Claude's beret?) Our dazzling dog-and-sock duo's latest adventure takes place on a lovely Saturday when Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes take a daytrip. Leaving Claude to his own devices. Uh-oh ...

Deciding it's a perfect day for exploring, Claude and Sir Bobblysock wander into the Park, and discover all kinds of wonderful people and places. They even help save the day when a mommy out for a jog loses her baby carriage! The best is yet to come however, when Amazing Alan (of Alan's Amazing Circus) gives them ringside seats for his show. After arriving early, and doing a little spring cleaning, Claude and Sir Bobblysock settle in for a good show. But ... it's not. It's a horrible show, and Amazing Alan quickly sends the pair into the ring, to rescue his circus.

An incredibly fun book for both early chapter book readers and adults, the text is easy to read and the illustrations - simply done in grayscale and red - are hilarious. The chapter length make it feel like a real adventure, building excitement and spotlighting Claude's antics throughout the day. Claude is definitely becoming a favorite, and I look forward to his further adventures.

Galley provided by publisher for review.


Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood
Abby McDonald
Candlewick, 2013

We all know I'm a fan of Jane Austen and the realm of Austenesque literature/paraliterature (what I label "Austenia" here). We also know I'm a fan of contemporary YA. Combine the two, and it's safe to assume I'm going to enjoy the read. That was definitely the case in Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood.

This contemp take on Sense & Sensibility throws some interesting twists into the original storyline, but I never got the feeling anything was "missing." In fact, I think McDonald did a masterful job of transferring a very time-and-culture-specific situation into a contemporary, relatable story. And the characters are marvelous. Simply marvelous. Grace is an Elinor that I think people will relate to more than Austen's original, and Hallie is a spot-on imagining of a twenty-first century Marianne. With cellphones and the internet, and being set in Hollywood (hello!), the whole Elinor/Edward relationship between Grace and Theo develops more "naturally", and seems more plausible. Who hasn't wondered what a guy means when he texts/emails so-and-so, or stops texting/emailing after such-and-such? Likewise, Hallie's relationship with Dakota (Willoughby) is more realistic, though just as dramatic. And I love-love-loved Brandon, who is - clearly - the contemporary remaking of Colonel Brandon.

A very fun reimagining of a favorite story, with characters I could root for (even if I occasionally wanted to shake Hallie) and relate to. A quick read that will also appeal to readers who are not fans of Jane Austen (gasp!).

ARC received from publisher for review.


Mini Reviews: AugBooks Edition

After participating in Nancy's AugBooks Readathon, I'm grouping some of my reviews together as a mini review post (others, like The Silmarillion, are getting stand-alone reviews). While I didn't complete my reading list, I did get roughly half read (if we count finishing Gorgeous once the official AugBooks deadline passed), and there was only one I bailed one! Yahoo!

Beautiful Day
Elin Hilderbrand
Reagan Arthur, 2013

One of those perfect summer reads: a wedding weekend, a beautiful island/beachy setting (normally I read Southern beaches, so the Nantucket setting was new-but-still-familiar-feeling), and more family drama than a reunion in the Deep South. I loved the multiple perspectives, giving a multi-faceted inside look at everything taking place surrounding this One Beautiful Wedding. The backstory was woven in beautifully, and I just really enjoyed the whole reading experience.

Book provided by my local library.

Vivian Vande Velde
HMH, 2013

A supercute, quick late elem/MG read about what happens when the princess kissing the frog, gets frogged. Imogene is a likeable princess, and her time as a frog leads her on many misadventures with colorful people. It's also a time that teaches Imogene what it means to be a princess (something her mother's best efforts struggled with). And, of course, there's a Prince.

Book provided by my local library.

Jane Austen Marriage Manual
Kim Izzo
St Martin's Griffin, 2012

"What if a modern woman took Jane Austen's "marriage advice" to the letter, and applied it to her own life?" That's the basic premise of this novel, although with a slightly more cynical/materialistic bent than Jane herself suggested (although Mrs. Bennett would certainly agree with Kate's theories!). It's a fun, quick read. I figured out where it was going reeeeeally fast, but that didn't take away from the reading. The story itself fades into the background for me though, because what I really enjoyed were the characters. Kate's one crazy conflicted woman, and watching her struggle to justify things is both exasperating and entertaining. There's a whole cast of colorful and interesting characters, my favorites being Fawn and Griff. (Also fun: so many of Kate's intimate circle feature Austen character names: Marianne, Brandon, Emma, etc. So fun!) A good summer reading choice.

Book provided by my local library.

Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
Philomel, 2013

I loved the idea of this book, and I've enjoyed other books Levithan has co-written (especially loved Dash & Lilly's Book of Dares!), but once I started reading ... I just couldn't get into it. After several chapters from each viewpoint (alternating between Stephen and Elizabeth), I started skimming. And even skimming things were moving sooooo slowly. And it's kinda weird. I mean, I knew it'd be weird -- the guy is INVISIBLE -- but it's like, weird-weird. Thus, I'm leaving it unfinished. Hopefully other readers will enjoy it more.

Book provided by my local library.

Sidenote: I really enjoyed making myself a list of things to read in a set amount of time, and focusing on doing just that. I may employ a similar method for catching up on some of my reading the rest of the year ... Or, I may have a big "end of year readathon" ... Hmm ... Must think on this ...