Short reviews: my last 3 for 2014

What link can you possible find between

 City of Scoundrels The Crown Unlikely Pilgrimage

Three audiobooks, ok, but hree different genres, three different periods?

Don’t wreck your brain, it’s simply the last 3 books I have not found time to review in 2014, even though I enjoyed it very much!

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago, by Gary Krist

I really enjoyed this audiobook. First I have to say I loved Rob Shapiro‘s warm voice, perfect for me for the journalistic style of this book.
The premise of the book is fascinating: the author picks up 12 days in 1919 with events that helped to shape Chicago as it is today.
It was a total discovery for me that there were heavy racial riots back in 1919!
This short quotation will give you an idea of the events and also of the style of the book, that reads like a novel.
Highly recommended for those who want to know more about Chicago.

Several hundred white gang members –having shot up, ransacked, and set fire to the black-occupied homes up and down the street– celebrated with a riotous bacchanal. To music provided by a player piano stolen from a black home and set up on the street, they danced and sang in the flickering light of a dozen burning houses, drinking, firing their pistols in the air, and feeding broken furniture, toys, and clothing into the flames. It was a demonstration of mind-boggling barbarity –a spectacle from Hieronymus Bosch, played out on the streets of South Side Chicago, to the city’s lasting shame.

And if you don’t know the paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, I encourage you to look them up right now, that will tell you a lot about what was happening!

The Crown, by Nancy Bilyeau

Having enjoyed volume 2 of the series, The Chalice, and preparing to read and review volume in a few months, it was tome to finally listen to volume 1!
Yes, another Tudor book, but so very different than many others, as it is seen from the perspective of Joanna Stafford, a strong willed young Dominican novice.
Fabulous protagonist, curious, investigating, ready for mystery, adventure and the pursuit of truth.
The suspense is fabulous. I can’t wait for volume 3!
The narrator Nicola Barber is good, though at times I think remembering I would have preferred a less high pitch voice.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Oh how I loved this book!
Great literary fiction, with awesome description of landscape and characters.
Harold is retired. On the point of mailing a letter to a former colleague who is dying, he decides on the spot this is not enough, and gets convinced that if he walks there on foot (600 miles away, with no former experience as a hiker, no equipment, no good shoes) he will somehow save her life.
This is a must read. The characters are so rich in their nature and encounters.
As Harold walks, he remembers his past and opens up to what he sees around him.
Beautiful writing voice.
I cna’t wait to read “the sequel”, written from the perspective of Queenie Hennessy, the woman he went to visit.



Book blast: The Chalice, now in the UK!

I really enjoyed The Chalice as you can see from my review, so I thought I would help spread the word that the book is now available in the UK. Here we go:

The Chalice UKThe Chalice

by Nancy Bilyeau

Paperback Publication Date: February 13, 2014

Orion Publishing

Paperback; 432p

ISBN-13: 978-1409135807

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two

Genre: Historical Mystery

A curse to kill a king, a fight to save a nation. Follow young Joanna Stafford right into the dark heart of King Henry VIII’s court in this stunning Tudor thriller.

England, 1538. The nation is reeling after the ruthless dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.

Cast out of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford – feisty, courageous, but scarred by her recent encounter with rebellion at court – is trying to live a quiet life with her five-year-old charge, Arthur. But family connections draw her dangerously close to a treasonous plot and, repelled by violence and the whispered conspiracies around her, Joanna seeks a life with a man who loves her. But, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny. She must make a choice between those she cares for most, and taking her part in a mysterious prophecy foretold by three compelling seers.

Joanna embarks upon a testing journey, and, as she deciphers the meaning at the core of the prophecy, she learns that the fate of a king and the freedom of a nation rest in her hands.

Praise for The Chalice

“Expect treason, treachery, martyrs and more.” — Choice magazine

“A time in which no one at all can be trusted and everyday life is laced with horror. Bilyeau paints this picture very, very well.” — Reviewing the Evidence

“Bilyeau creates the atmosphere of 1530s London superbly.” — Catholic Herald

“Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna Stafford’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page. — Historical Novel Society

“Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse.” — S.J. PARRIS, author of HERESY, PROPHECY, AND SACRILEGE

“Second in this compelling and highly readable Tudor thriller series following the 16th century adventures of (now cast out) nun Joanna Stafford. Treason, conspiracies and a dangerous prophecy draw Joanna back from the quiet life she had made for herself after being cast out of Dartford Priory – but she isn’t prepared for the gravity of the situation she finds herself in or the responsibility she now holds. Nancy Bilyeau has followed up her impressive debut with an accomplished historical thriller perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom, Philippa Gregory and S. J. Parris.” — Lovereading UK

“Sharply observed, cleverly paced and sympathetically written, this book more than fulfils the promise of THE CROWN, itself named as last year’s most impressive debut novel by the CWA Ellis Peters judges. If Joanna Stafford is to return to see out the final years of Henry’s tempestuous reign and the accession of his Catholic daughter Mary, I am sure I will not be alone in waiting eagerly for her.” —

“A stunning debut. One of the best historical novels I have ever read — ALISON WEIR

THE CHALICE offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t let you go even after the last exciting page” — KAREN HARPER, bestselling author of MISTRESS OF MOURNING

“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed.” — C.W. GORTNER, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

“Bilyeau paints a moving portrait of Catholicism during the Reformation and of reclusive, spiritual people adjusting to the world outside the cloister. This intriguing and suspenseful historical novel pairs well with C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution (2003) and has the insightful feminine perspective of Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Heretic’s Wife (2010).” — BOOKLIST

“As in The Crown, Bilyeau’s writing style means that the story reads almost flawlessly. The narrative really makes the reader throw themselves into the story, and makes it so the book is really difficult to put down. I was really very impressed with Bilyeau’s writing (As I was in The Crown), and honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough.” — LOYALTY BINDS ME

“THE CHALICE is a compelling and pacey time machine to the 16th Century. And when you’re returned to the present, you’ll have enjoyed an adventure and gained a new perspective on a past you’d wrongly thought to be a done deal.” — Andrew Pyper, author of THE DEMONOLOGIST

“The Chalice is a gripping, tightly-plotted mystery, with a beguiling heroine at its heart, that vividly conjures up the complex dangers of Reformation England. Bilyeau’s deftness of touch and complete control over her complex material make for a truly exciting and compelling read.”— ELIZABETH FREMANTLE author of QUEEN’S GAMBIT

“THE CHALICE is brimming with sinister portents, twisted allegiances, religious superstition and political intrigue. It’s a darkly fascinating Tudor brew that leaves you thirsting for more.” — PATRICIA BRACEWELL, author of SHADOW ON THE CROWN

Watch the Book Trailer

Buy the Book

Amazon UK

Book Depository

Orion Publishing


About the Author

Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.

Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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Book Blast Schedule

Monday, February 17

Mari Reads

Book Drunkard

Closed the Cover

Historical Tapestry

Royalty Free Fiction

Passages to the Past

Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, February 18

Princess of Eboli

Words and Peace

Big Book, Little Book

Curling Up By the Fire

Peeking Between the Pages

Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Historical Fiction Obsession

Wednesday, February 19

Broken Teepee

Kincavel Korner

A Bookish Affair

CelticLady’s Reviews

The True Book Addict

Teresa’s Reading Corner

Thursday, February 20

Drey’s Library

Booktalk & More

Must Read Faster

Reading the Ages

The Maiden’s Court

Historical Fiction Connection

Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Friday, February 21

HF Book Muse-News

On the Tudor Trail

Flashlight Commentary

Ageless Pages Reviews

Muse in the Fog Book Reviews

Confessions of an Avid Reader

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Giveaway winner of: The Chalice

The Chalice

The Chalice



512 pages

Published by Touchstone, on March 5, 2013

The Chalice

Read my review






Congratulations Kay,
and thanks to all who participated!

I will organize a giveaway during Armchair BEA,
coming soon.