DuMaurier Giveaway Winners!

Ms. K @ Write on Thyme!

 Jo-Jo @ Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Send me your addresses ladies and I will pass on to Sourcebooks!  Another big thanks to Sourcebooks Publishing for hosting this great giveaway!  And thanks to everyone who entered!


Wordless Wednesday

 I am having a rather CRAPTASTIC day, so I thought I would post a picture that makes me happy.  And nothing makes me happier than my animals.  This is Kille (kee-lee)...she was our first adopted kitty (out of three).  She is named after the lighting girl for Pearl Jam (not really after her, but we liked the name).  We looked all day long for her and the last place we stopped was adoption day at PetSmart.  A volunteer had her out and I knew she was MINE!  They were about to close, so I had to beg and plead with them to let me have her even though they couldn't verify anything.  I did work at a vet at the time, so that helped my chances.

She is now 6 years old and rather fat I'm afraid to admit.  I'm sure that like me it's a gland problem =)  All of my animals have weird quirks, but she takes the cake.  She loves playing IN the water bowl - sticks her paw in and watch the ripples...FOR HOURS!  I think she's looking for something in there...maybe she's a witch cat and is using the water bowl for conjuring spells!? She also has little toys or woobies that she'll carry into our room in the middle of the night, lay them on the floor and meow at them until we kick her out or throw something until she leaves.  

Sorry, forgot this was supposed to be a "wordless" post - I got carried away!


Mailbox Monday!

Happy Monday everyone and hope you are all having a nice Memorial Day!  Mailbox Mondays are hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. Here is what I added to Mt. TBR!  What about you?


the winner of Royal Blood is....

Congratulations to Gwendolyn B. from A Sea of Books, you have won Royal Blood by Rona Sharon!!

Send me an email with your address Gwendoyln and I'll get it right out to you!

Thanks to everyone who entered!


Pope Joan giveaway!


 In honor of the re-release of Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross I would like to welcome you to the Pope Joan giveaway!  Please note that the giveaway copy has this cover and is NOT the edition shown above.

Pope Joan is being re-released by Three Rivers Press and will be available on June 9, 2009.

Please stay tuned in the next few weeks for my review AND an interview with Donna!
Synopsis: For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . .

In this international bestseller, Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.

Giveaway 411:
  • Giveaway ends on June 8th. Winner will be announced on June 9th.
  • Open to all domestic and international entries. Passages loves our neighbors across the water =)
  • For 5 additional entries sign up as a follower; if you already are a follower you will automatically get this.
  • For another additional one entry, post about this giveaway. 

Good luck!


announcing the winner of the Royal Harlot giveaway!

CONGRATULATIONS to bridget3420 from Readaholic....you my dear are the winner of Susan Holloway Scott's Royal Harlot!

Shoot me over your address and it'll be on the way!  
Thanks to everyone who entered!  Don't forget, I have two more giveaways going on, here and here!


Review: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Rating: 5/5

Juana of Castile's life began amidst war, in between Spain's battle with the Moors, and her beginning would prove to be just as stormy as the rest of her life. 

Born to the incomparable Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, Juana is the third child and second daughter.  She is raised on the battlefield with arrows flying overhead and witnesses the fall of Granada in her youth.

When the matter of marriage to Philip of Hapsburg is raised, Juana is not happy at all to have to leave Spain and her family.  However, being a good little Princess and understanding how important this is to the country she so loves, she acquiesces herself to the match.  Bringing her new husband Philip to the true religion, Catholicism, is her ultimate goal.

 Juana of Castile & Philip the Handsome

With the death of her brother, Juan, the heir to the crown and her sister and nephew, Juana is now next in line.  A fact that pleases Philip and his rat of an advisor, Besancon, to no end.  The tenderness and love Juana and Philip found at the start of their marriage turns sour as the scheming for the throne begins in earnest and poor Juana is caught in the middle of another war - this time between her parents and her husband.  Philip scheming for a way to be named heir and her parents adamantly refusing it.  Years of this craziness rage on...power struggle after power struggle, drama after drama.  Nothing is what it seems and the duplicity is rampant.  (Sounds like a lot of Courts we've read of huh!)

Think all this sounds great?  I haven't even covered the craziest part....her 46 year imprisonment by not only one but three family members - her husband, her father and her son!  And we should also touch on the supposed insanity of Juana, after all she was known as "Mad Juana".  C.W. handled this perfectly I felt.  To me it's the same old male attitude that still exists today - if a woman stands up for herself, she's labeled a "bitch".  A bunch of men who didn't want to be ruled by a another woman decides to just call her crazy and try to lock her up.  The reader sees it for what it is - complete fabrication.  Yeah, she was emotional,  but goodness after you read what she went through who can blame her?!  Not I, not Amy!


The Last Queen is the perfect historical fiction novel and I highly recommend it to amateurs and veterans alike.  I actually think this would be a GREAT book for someone starting out in historical fiction.  Juana is a remarkable woman, fearless and strong and I think it takes a likewise remarkable person to write her story - so thank you C.W., how you write women so well I'll never know, but please don't stop!! 

Click here to read my interview with C.W. about The Last Queen!

C.W.'s website | C.W.'s Blog:  Historical Boys

more Fall releases....


US Release Date:  December 8, 2009
SYNOPSIS:  One of the most legendary figures in medieval history,Richard the Lionhearted led his knights onto the Saracen battlefields, inspired by a vision of the Holy Land. In The Lute Player, Lofts paints her portrait of the Soldier-King as he launches the Third Crusade. During the years of fighting and intrigue, King Richard’s life was intertwined with two strong women who loved him, Berengaria, Princess of Navarre, and his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. While his union with Berengaria was ill-fated, his mother loved her son with a frantic, possessive pride. In trademark Norah Lofts’s style, it is the ones usually left behind the scenes who take center stage to tell the stories of famous figures. In The Lute Player, Blondel, the minstrel whose life was constantly linked to that of the King, steps forward to tell a tale of romance, war, and betrayal. Along with Blondel, Berengaria, and her hunchbacked sister help to bring Richard the Lionhearted to life, as Lofts paints a complex and human portrait of a legendary king.

US Release Date:  September 8, 2009
SYNOPSIS:  Meet the Plantagenets. Like the Tudors, they live high and love passionately, but this family story is set against the backdrop of The War of the Roses, pitting brother against brother, for the throne of England.
Now Philippa Gregory, master chronicler of British royal history, brings this family drama to life through the lives of  its women, beginning with the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.


US Release Date:  October 6, 2009
SYNOPSIS:  When the young and beautiful Catherine Howard becomes the fifth wife of the fifty-year-old King Henry VIII, she seems to be on top of the world. Yet her reign is destined to be brief and heartbreaking, as she is forced to do battle with enemies far more powerful and calculating than she could have ever anticipated in a court where one wrong move could mean her undoing. Wanting only love, Catherine is compelled to deny her heart’s desire in favor of her family’s ambition. But in so doing, she unwittingly gives those who sought to bring her down a most effective weapon—her own romantic past. The Queen’s Mistake is the tragic tale of one passionate and idealistic woman who struggles to negotiate the intrigue of the court and the yearnings of her heart.


Review: Behold, Here's Poison by Georgette Heyer


Rating:  4/5
When Gregory Matthews, patriarch of the Poplars is found dead one morning, imperious Aunt Harriet blames it on the roast duck he ate for supper, after all, she had warned him about his blood pressure. But a post-mortem determines that the cause of death is much more sinister. Murder by poison. Suspicion falls immediately amongst his bitter, quarrelsome family. Each has a motive; each, opportunity. It falls to Superintendent Hannasyde to sift through all the secrets and lies and discover just who killed Gregory Matthews, before the killer strikes again...
Most of you are aware of my love for Georgette Heyer, so it's probably no surprise that I couldn't resist trying out one of her mystery novels.  And let me tell you, I was not disappointed!  I do believe that this woman could make a grocery list read witty!

Behold, Here's Poison is an entertaining little murder mystery with a "Clue" sort of vibe to it.  The characters are a little wacky, but in a delightful and amusing way.  There's the outrageously thrifty Miss Matthews, moocher extraordinaire Mrs. Matthews and her spawn...and then there's Mr. Randall Matthews, newly made head of the family.  I fell in love with his quick tongue and smart remarks...made me laugh out loud a few times, drawing odd looks from my husband!

Thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read such a great book!  I truly enjoyed it and I think you will too!


Review: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Rating:  5/5

Year of Wonders is a novel inspired by the true story of the little town of Eyam in Derbyshire, known as the Plague Village, during the years 1665 - 1666.   Although the cause of how the plague showed up in their village is still unknown, the villagers' decision to quarantine themselves in order to stop the spread of the deadly disease has sealed their place in history.

Geraldine Brooks provides us with a fictional account of what life looked like from within the Plague Village and gives us insight into the human nature that accompanies tragedy.  

Anna Frith is a widowed housemaid busy raising her two sons and working in the home of the town's priest and his wife, the Montpelliers.  When Anna's lodger dies she suspects the plague to be the cause of his awful death and it's not long before her fears are confirmed.  The spread is rampant and the fatalities of the villagers grow daily.   No one is safe from the disease and every Sunday the church pews get emptier.  Anna and Mrs. Montpellier team up to care for those afflicted while Mr. Montpellier works tirelessly bringing comfort to the dying.

What really fascinated me in this novel was the human factor - how the villagers dealt with the constant death of their loved ones and neighbors, the trauma of self-exile and how their faith was tried.  They sought a reason why this plague had come upon them, to understand...why was God punishing them or was he testing them?

My favorite part of the novel was the friendship between Anna and Mrs. Montpellier, which has been strengthened by the tragedy is really beautiful to read and you can't help but love both of them and stand in awe of their strength.

The ending is a bit of a rollercoaster with the revealing of secrets and hidden desires realized.   Brooks ties the ends up nicely and while I was a little surprised by the ending, it was a pleasant surprise and I felt a great way to say goodbye to Anna, knowing she would have the happy future she so deserved.

This poor book has been sitting on my TBR tower for ages and I could just kick myself for waiting this long to finally read it!  Brooks' writing is brilliant, I can't wait to read more from her.  Do yourself a favor and read this!  You won't be sorry you did =)

Official website for Geraldine Brooks.


Author Interview with Jules Watson, author of The Swan Maiden


Passages to the Past is delighted to bring you a Q & A with my new favorite author, Jules Watson!  Not only is she cute as hell, Jules is also super nice, gracious and charming.  She has found a life-long fan in yours truly and I totally want to be her when I grow up!  I hope you enjoy the interview, her answers are fabulous!

There are varied versions of how Deirdre met her death - how did you choose her ending and why?

I’ll try to do this without a complete spoiler! I chose the ending based on the oldest version of the myth of The Sons of Usnech, which dates from the ninth century. Later versions give Deirdre an ordinary, lonely death — nothing as poetic and dramatic as in the version I have used. While trying to write a realistic setting, I wanted this book to capture the beauty and mysticism of the original myth, and so her death could not be prosaic. Also, I would not have attempted to novelize such a tragic story if I could not come up with an end that is transcendent and spiritual; that leaves the reader uplifted and still full of hope. The recurring theme of swans and ravens in the book gave me the perfect ending: something about the freedom and power of birds and flying, showing the ultimate triumph of Deirdre over her captors. That’s all I’ll say! 

Did you feel a special connection with Deirdre?

Her personality is not well drawn in the original myth; she comes across as either a selfish manipulator or a victim. Having said that, near the end of the original story her nobility and dignity take center stage as the vice of fate tightens around her, and you can’t help but root for her then. These pagan stories were only written down much later by Christian monks, though, and in them powerful women are often demonized. I therefore felt able to reinvent her: to peel back the layers of legend and imagine what she could have been like. The moment I decided to write about her, a richer Deirdre came alive in me. She’s a wild child, a nature sprite, brave and unconventional — just as we’d all like to be. When I was young I also felt alone, and sought solace in nature, and I identify with the way she doggedly follows her own path despite the formidable obstacles. She questions who she really is — and finds the answer in her spirituality — and that also reflects a lot of me. I wish I had her courage, though!

What’s in store for your readers with your next novel, The Raven Queen?

In the Ulster Cycle, the ancient Irish legends, the two most important women were Deirdre, heroine of The Swan Maiden, and Queen Maeve. Maeve is the subject of The Raven Queen. They are two completely different characters: Deirdre is a beautiful and tragic maiden, an Aphrodite, and her story is about true love and jealousy. Maeve is a ruling queen in her own right, a powerful warrior — more of an Athena crossed with Mars. She causes the war between Ulster and Connacht that is at the heart of the best-known Irish epic The Tain. Both women were maligned by the monks who wrote down the oral tales, Deirdre portrayed as a selfish, sexy minx and Maeve as a bloodthirsty nymphomaniac. Both were blamed by the early chroniclers for causing the deaths of many men. What could these women have truly been to inspire such fear and suppression? I wrote the novels to imagine the answer. We don’t have one tale about Maeve, we have many, so I picked out some aspects and left the more fantastical out of it. It’s more a “reimagination” inspired by her. It shows the princess Maeve’s struggle to become queen, triumphing over the men in her life who have always used her for their own ends. She eventually takes her warriors to war against Ulster, facing the famous Irish hero Cuchulainn and the slightly mad King Conor. When disaster strikes, she discovers what her true power could be. There is also an unusual love story, as I always have a romance at the heart of my books.

Before starting your writing career you were in archeology (which was my childhood dream), what was the most exciting discovery you made? Or what was the most thrilling “dig” you were a part of?

I helped to dig up a Roman army fort that underlies a medieval village in Germany. Every time the villagers sunk a drain or built a wall, they stumbled across Roman stuff and one of us was despatched to have a look. I ended up sitting in the bottom of someone’s newly-dug swimming pool, looking at the remnants of human life from prehistoric times to 19th century all stacked up like a sandwich. My favorite moment was digging my spade in and seeing a necklace of glass beads literally roll out around my feet. Since that was in the soldiers’ barracks, we figured they must have been receiving visits from ladies of ill repute!

I got the sense when reading The Swan Maiden that you are a natural storyteller, is that true? Have you always had the gift?

I do see myself as a storyteller, rather than a literary writer, and I did this from an early age. I love beautiful words, but my main drive is to carry the reader on a journey of soaring and swooping emotions. Emotion is the buzzword for me; I always read books to be moved. When people write to say I made them sob for hours I feel a great thrill! This also harks back to tribal storytelling, which was at the heart of Celtic society. People gathered around a campfire, the flames pushing back the dark. The bard leaned in, his voice transporting his audience into his story. It’s all about the “ooh” and “ahh” factor — lifting the listeners into transcendence, plunging them into heartbreak, thrilling them with danger and redemption. Storytelling also joins us together because through it we share the common concerns of humanity. We recognise ourselves in stories: we gain insight from our heroes into how to survive the pitfalls of life, how to discover our own nobility or bravery, or act with generosity. I absolutely love it. 

What are you reading at the moment?

A friend’s unpublished manuscript about the Guinevere legend; and Diana Gabaldon’s A Breath of Snow and Ashes.

Who are your top five authors?

Marion Zimmer Bradley, Diana Gabaldon, Sara Donati, Joan Wolf’s Dark Ages series, Tolkien.

Book that changed your life?

The Mists of Avalon, as it was then I knew I wanted to write ancient historical books that had the same mixture of adventure, romance and spirituality.

Favorite line from a book?

Can I have two? “The dream is ended: this is the morning” from the last volume in the Narnia books, The Last Battle

Also “The grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and Frodo beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” The end of The Lord of the Rings.

Book that you most want to read again for the first time?

I sound like a complete Tolkien freak, but I did start out reading fantasy before I moved into historical fiction. One day aged 15 I got sent home from school with the flu for a whole week — brilliant — and it was then I read Lord of the Rings for the first time. I wasn’t even IN our world that whole week: I was completely transported to his. Some people find it ponderous, but I love how his books sound like mythical poetry. That same alchemy of the epic and the emotional has always stayed with me, and suffuses my own writing.

Jules Watson Website - highly recommended - be careful, you could get lost for hours!!

new adds to the wishlist

Synopsis: Not unlike the elusive figure played by Greta Garbo, the real Queen Christina stood among the most flamboyant and controversial figures of the seventeenth century. All of Sweden could not contain her ambition or quench her thirst for adventure. Freed from her crown, she cut a breathtaking path across Europe -- spending madly, seeking out a more majestic throne, and stirring up trouble wherever she went. With a dazzling narrative voice and unerring sense of the period, Veronica Buckley goes beyond historical myth to breathe life into an extraordinary woman who set the world on fire and became an icon of her age -- a time of enormous change when Europe stood at the crossroads of religion and science, antiquity and modernity, war and peace.

Synopsis:  At her friend Ivy's behest, Emily reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon—Ivy's husband—is arrested for the crime.

Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name, Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiancé, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.

I would love some input if any of you have read either of these!


Booking Through Thursday...Book Gluttony? Guilty as charged....

Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?
Lock me up and throw away the key, I am guilty as charged! Buying books is one of the top pleasures in my life and I'm afraid it always will be (sorry hubby)! I've made an effort this year and have been quite good at not binging on book purchases...most definitely the ARCs I receive help me get my fix. I feign blindness when I walk past a bookstore when it's not a good time to buy something, because once I'm in there you can't get me out! My poor husband feels like he lives in a library, but he's really great about it and humors me.

Hubby and I were talking about this same subject the other day as I was explaining what a TBR pile is. He says, "oh so, you have what like 20 books that you haven't read in your shelves?" I giggled and said as I walked away "yeah, something like that!". It's actually closer to 200, but who's counting?! He just can't wrap his head around why you would buy a book and not read it right away. Then again I can't fathom why he needs every single Pearl Jam concert on CD either, so I guess we're even =)

My motto: "He who dies with the most books, wins".

Booking Through Thursday hosted here.


Daphne du Maurier 2 Book Giveaway!!

In honor of what would have been Daphne du Maurier's 102nd birthday, Sourcebooks Publishing is sharing the love with all of you readers!  I have 1 copy of The Frenchman's Creek and My Cousin Rachel to give away to two lucky winners!  To clarify, one winner will receive one or the other, not one of each.  

This giveaway is only for US and Canada residents only (sorry to my neighbors across the water - I'm not calling the shots with this one!)


Giveaway 411:
  • Giveaway ends on May 27th. Winner will be announced on May 28th.
  • Open to US and Canada ONLY.
  • For 5 additional entries sign up as a follower; if you already are a follower you will automatically get this.
  • For another additional one entry, post about this giveaway.
Good luck to all!  And a HUGE thank you to my favorite publisher, Sourcebooks!

My Cousin Rachel and Frenchman's Creek are available at all major chain bookstores, Amazon.com and through Sourcebooks.com.

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