A month of favorites: 10 Fave Book Covers


a month of favorites#amonthoffaves

All December-long,
Estella’s Revenge,  Girlxoxo, and Traveling with T
will be sharing our fave bookish
(and sometimes non-bookish)
experiences from throughout the year
AND we want YOU to join us!

Dec 3 is for
10 Fave Book Covers – link-up hosted at Traveling with T

Enjoy my  10 Fave Book Covers, of  books read in 2015 so far.
Some were even embossed, unfortunately the picture does not give them justice.

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9 titles for our April 2014 Book Club

Recap of our Block Book Club April 2014 meeting


Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].


1. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (1978) presented by J.

When Matthiessen went to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and, possibly, to glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard, he undertook his five-week trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes. This is a radiant and deeply moving account of a “true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart.”


2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1862) presented by P.

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean – the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread – Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope – an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.


3. Be Careful What You Wish For (The Clifton Chronicles #4) by Jeffrey Archer (March 2014) presented by M.

Bestselling author Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish For opens with Harry Clifton and his wife Emma rushing to hospital to learn the fate of their son Sebastian, who has been involved in a fatal car accident. But who died, Sebastian or his best friend Bruno?

When Ross Buchanan is forced to resign as chairman of the Barrington Shipping Company, Emma Clifton wants to replace him. But Don Pedro Martinez intends to install his puppet, the egregious Major Alex Fisher, in order to destroy the Barrington family firm just as the company plans to build its new luxury liner, the MV Buckingham.

Back in London, Harry and Emma’s adopted daughter wins a scholarship to the Slade Academy of Art where she falls in love with a fellow student, Clive Bingham, who asks her to marry him. Both families are delighted until Priscilla Bingham, Jessica’s future mother-in-law, has a visit from an old friend, Lady Virginia Fenwick, who drops her particular brand of poison into the wedding chalice.

Then, without warning, Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshireman who no one has come across before, takes his place on the board of Barringtons. This causes an upheaval that none of them could have anticipated, and will change the lives of every member of the Clifton and Barrington families. Hardcastle’s first decision is who to support to become the next chairman of the board: Emma Clifton or Major Alex Fisher? And with that decision, the story takes yet another twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Be Careful What You Wish For showcases the master storyteller’s talent as never before – when the Clifton and Barrington families march forward into the sixties, in this epic tale of love, revenge, ambition and betrayal.

4. Cross My Heart (Alex Cross #21) by James Patterson (2013) presented by B.

Detective Alex Cross is a family man at heart–nothing matters more to him than his children, his grandmother, and his wife Bree. His love of his family is his anchor, and gives him the strength to confront evil in his work. One man knows this deeply, and uses Alex’s strength as a weapon against him. When the ones Cross loves are in danger, he will do anything to protect them. If he does anything to protect them, they will die.

5. The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve (1999) presented by J.

Until now, Kathryn Lyons’s life has been peaceful if unextraordinary: a satisfying job teaching high school in the New England mill town of her childhood; a picture-perfect home by the ocean; a precocious, independent-minded fifteen-year-old daughter; and a happy marriage whose occasional dull passages she attributes to the unavoidable deadening effect of time. As a pilot’s wife, Kathryn has learned to expect both intense exhilaration and long periods alone—but nothing has prepared her for the late-night knock that lets her know her husband has died in a crash.

As Kathryn struggles with her grief, she descends into a maelstrom of publicity stirred up by the modern hunger for the details of tragedy. Even before the plane is located in waters off the Irish coast, the relentless focus on her husband’s life begins to bring a bizarre personal mystery into focus. Could there be any truth to the increasingly disturbing rumors that he had a secret? Fighting the impulse to protect herself and her daughter from the details of the crash and the mystery surrounding it, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was—whatever that knowledge may cost. The search will lead her to shocking revelations, testing both the truth of her marriage and the limits of her ability to face it.

From the bestselling author of The Weight of Water, this taut, impassioned novel asks fundamental questions we all have about how well we can really know anyone—even those (or especially those) we love the most. Written with grace and controlled beauty, The Pilot’s Wife definitively places Anita Shreve among the ranks of the best novelists writing today.

6. Hitched (Regan Reilly Mystery #9) by Carol Higgins Clark (2006) presented by S.

The date is Saturday, April 2. Five April brides discover their wedding dresses have been stolen. One of the brides is private investigator Regan Reilly. Her wedding is in seven days. Regan Reilly and her fiance, Jack “no relation” Reilly — head of the NYPD Major Case Squad — are getting married! Regan had the perfect dress made by two young designers on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Arriving at the bridal salon to pick up her gown, Regan discovers the shop has been broken into, the designers bound and gagged, and wedding dresses for four of the April brides (her dress included) are missing. A fifth dress is in shreds on the floor. Even though it’s a week before her wedding, Regan gets on the case, and in the process she meets an unusual mix of brides and grooms-to-be, or — perhaps “not-to-be.”

Over at One Police Plaza, Regan’s bridegroom, Jack, is trying to solve a perplexing series of bank robberies. The robber, nicknamed “The Drip” by the NYPD because he always strikes during rainstorms, has been eluding the police for months. Jack is determined to crack the case before his upcoming nuptials.

Carol Higgins Clark fuses the two seemingly unrelated mysteries with an ingenious twist, taking readers from the streets of New York City, to the casinos of Atlantic City, and finally to that most popular wedding spot — the one and only Las Vegas. She weaves a web of mystery around a charming, humorous tale of five April brides and the trials and tribulations they face planning their weddings.

7. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (Feb 2014) presented by A.

The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

8. Breach Of Trust (Jason Kolarich #2) by David Ellis (2011) presented by R.

Former college football star and criminal defense attorney Jason Kolarich returns in this shocking thriller from the award-winning author of The Hidden Man.

Jason Kolarich has spent the past year struggling to recover from the horrific deaths of his wife and baby daughter.

On the night of their deaths, Kolarich was at the office, awaiting a call from a confidential informant named Ernesto Ramirez-a call that never came. Kolarich blames himself not only for the deaths of his wife and child, but for the informant’s murder as well. He can’t bring back his family, but he can find out who killed Ramirez and bring the killer to justice.

Unfortunately, Kolarich’s guns-blazing approach to justice lands him smack in the middle of an FBI probe of a deeply corrupt governor and his cronies. To avoid jail, Kolarich must enter a world of wiretaps, double-dealing, and kickbacks, where he soon discovers that the murder of his informant was only the tip of the iceberg.

This breach of trust runs up to the highest levels of power, and exposing it may drag Kolarich into the fight of his life.

Shadow Queen cover


9. The Shadow Queen, by Sandra Gulland (April 2014) presented by me

From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.

A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen.” Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king’s bed.

Indeed, Claudette’s “reputable” new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King’s favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

My own review is here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2014/04/26/book-review-and-giveaway-the-shadow-queen-i-love-france-93/

I also organize a giveaway to win 1 copy of this book. If you are interested, fill in this quick form before May 31 midnight: http://francebooktours.com/2014/05/01/may-books-of-the-month-giveaway/




Book review: A Star For Mrs. Blake – I love France #94


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A Star For Mrs. Blake

Star For Mrs Blake

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post
as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.
A Star For Mrs. Blake
April Smith

Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: Jan 14, 2014

ISBN:  978-0307958846
Pages: 352 

Historical fiction

Source: Received
from the author for a
virtual book tour on France Book Tours


This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

      books-on-france-142014 historical fiction New author challenge


new eiffel 5

In 1929, American mothers of soldiers fallen during WWI in France were offered a free trip to allow them to visit the graves of their sons. In A Star For Mrs. Blake, April Smith recounts this trip through the portrayal of 5 of these Gold Star Mothers. To do so, she based her inspiration on the Diary of Colonel Thomas Hammond, who did accompany such a group of pilgrims. Hammond is in the novel, under his real name, and just as in life, this adventure changed the course of his military career.

The book starts slowly, with the description of Cora Blake’s daily life in Maine, in a small city living mostly from the sea. This slow beginning helps to understand who Cora is, and how she dealt with her grief of losing her boy during WWI. It also highlights the difference between her milieu and the persons and sites she will discover during her trip to France.

I highly enjoyed this book, which touches on so many major themes around war and its effects, though not in an overwhelming way.

The writer listened, the notebook filled up, and Cora could feel something lift as she’d tossed that thorny secret over her shoulder, left it to the pond and the flower beds and the bittersweet afternoon light.

  1. There’s grief of course, and how each woman lives it differently, from serene but sad acceptance, to insanity. There are very powerful scenes when the mothers finally arrive in the cemetery in chapter 16.
    The author also portrays very well how grief colors and modifies relationship between people.
  2. There’s the theme of disability, with the character of a journalist, totally disfigured, and his life with a lead mask.
  3. There’s also the theme of destruction, with incredible descriptions of Verdun. The women, some coming from an affluent American high society, are shocked to discover what war did to this city, which has barely started reconstruction in 1929. I have to say, visiting such areas a couple of years ago, you can still see the impact on the environment, where the tranchées were.
  4. The mothers, coming really from protective naive milieus (compared to what the French just had to go through) are also shocked at discovering the reality of collaboration during the war.
  5. And there’s the ever present problem of unexploded grenades and bombs. Believe it or not, peasants in this region still discover some every year as they till the land, some dating from WWII, but lots also from WWI. I had myself to evacuate an area when I discovered one around 2000 on a property visited by many tourists on that beautiful afternoon in Champagne. Fortunately, it was easy to contact quickly the fire department by phone. They came right away, took care of the thing, they are so used to that, and no one was injured. The scene when a Gold Star Mother comes upon an unexploded bomb in the book is so true to life, so well rendered.

Lots of other themes fascinated me in this book. For instance diversity. I don’t know if this was in Hammond’s diary, but 2 mothers happened to have the same last name, and they got mixed up, sent to the wrong group, the wrong hotel, and received the wrong pictures of their son. The problem is, for the context of the time, one mother was white, the other black. The theme was so well treated, with the beautiful relationship developing between the black mother and the other ladies in her group who totally accepted her among them, just as any mother having sacrificed her son for the sake of peace, but how the system intervened and messed up everything.

In relation to this theme and others, the army definitely does not come out too well in this book. No surprise for me here. There’s an awesome passage on the futility of war in chapter 22.

And there’s also social diversity, and how women form totally different social backgrounds interact.

And national diversity and relationships, with quite revealing scenes between Americans, French, and Germans. In some French regions today, especially among older generations, you still can feel this is not neutral ground.

I also liked other things surrounding Cora’s life at home, her inner debate about possibly starting a new life, and a very special person she met at the end of her trip.

I think the author did an amazing job at dealing with highly emotional topics without ever falling into the teary or over gruesome style.


I had actually started listening to this audiobook when I was contacted by the author to review her book. So I ended up listening to some chapters, and reading others. I thoroughly enjoyed the narration by Bernadette Dunne. I think she had the perfect tone of voice, able to convey emotion with restraint. Her narrations also helped a lot to differentiate between the different social milieus encountered in the course of the novel.

VERDICT: Very powerful, yet not overwhelmingly emotional historical novel, reflecting on many facets of international conflicts. Highly recommended to anyone curious to know what happened on the field of WWI, and how it affected people, relationships, and countries.



In 1929, The U.S. Congress passed legislation that would provide funding for the mothers of fallen WWI soldiers to visit the graves of their sons in France. Over the course of three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made this trip.  Smith imagines the story of five of these women, strangers who could not be more different from each other. One of them is Cora Blake, a librarian and single mother from coastal Maine. Journeying to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the lives of these women are inextricably intertwined as shocking events – death, scandal, and secrets – are unearthed. And Cora’s own life takes an unexpected turn when she meets an American, “tin nose,” journalist, whose war wounds confine him to a metal mask.  [provided by the author]





April Smith

April Smith is the author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey mystery series,
starting with North of Montana.
She is also an Emmy-nominated writer and producer of dramatic series and movies for television.
She lives in Santa Monica with her husband.

Visit her website.
Follow her on Goodreads
Get in touch with her on Facebook and Twitter




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