Thursday, 31 May 2012

'My Favourite Reads' Giveaway Hop! (International Stop)

Welcome to 'My Favourite Reads' Giveaway Hop which is hosted by 'I am a Reader, not a Writer' and 'Rachel Writes'. As usual my post is one of the first to go up as I am based in the UK and am governed by Greenwich Mean Time. As the majority of the other blogs that are taking part in this hop are based in America and Canada, their posts will go up at 00.01 on the 1st June 2012, according to their specific time zones.

To gain entry to this draw all you have to be is a GFC Follower of my blog and enter on the Rafflecopter form that can be found at the bottom of this post. You also have the chance of gaining two additional entries to this draw by also following this blog through 'Linky' and or 'Google +'. There are no other hoops that you have to jump through! Once this has been completed, you will have been entered into the draw.

I have so many favourite books that it is almost impossible for me to decide where to start, so instead I have chosen three of my most recent enjoyable reads which I hope you too would like to read! The prize that I have decided that can be won in this particular draw is the winner's choice of one book from the following three titles:

'The Midnight Palace' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
'The Song of Achilles' by Madeline Millar
'The White Pearl' by Kate Furnivall

There will be one winner from this draw. The winner can chose one book from the three book titles that have been listed. Each entry will be issued a sequential number. You can only enter this draw once. After the closing date for this draw ( Wednesday 6th June 2012 at 23.59GMT) the winning number for this draw will be chosen by This is an International Giveaway Draw.

To visit the rest of the blogs that are taking part in this great hop, just click on the 'Click Here' link below, to be taken to a page of participating blog links.
Good Luck Everyone!

If you're not in, you cannot win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

'Untold Story' By Monica Ali

Release date:  July 2012
Published by:  Simon and Schuster UK
ISBN No:  978 1471100086

An Englishwoman named Lydia is living in a small, nondescript town somewhere in the American Midwest. She has a circle of friends: one owns a dress shop; another sells houses; another is a frenzied stay-at-home mother. Lydia works at an animal shelter and swims every morning. Her lover, who adores her, feels she won't let him know her.
Who is she?
Imagine if this woman was once one of the most famous living on our planet? A woman who captivated the entire world? A woman whose sudden death was mourned by millions.
Who is she?
Copyright: Simon and Schuster Synopsis

'Catherine the Great - Portrait of a Woman' by Robert K Massie

Release date: 1st July 2012
Published by:  Head of Zeus
ISBN No:  978 1908800008

The daughter of an impoverished aristocrat, Catherine was married aged 16 to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne of all the Russias, a feckless teenager with a weakness for drink. Catherine was only able to give him an heir by passing off her lover's son as his own. In 1762, Catherine rode out of St Petersburg at the head of an army to arrest her husband. Three months later she became sole empress of the largest empire on earth. She was 33 years old. She ruled Russia as a benevolent autocrat for 34 years,fighting the Turks abroad and rebellion at home, and shepherding her people through the upheavals of the French Revolution. She took on many lovers but gave her heart to General Potemkin, the foremost statesman of her time. She died in 1796 aged 67, revered by her people as 'our mother', praised by Voltaire as a philosopher, reviled by her enemies as the Messalina of the North and remembered in history as Catherine the Great. From this extraordinary life of great events, fabulous splendour and barbaric cruelty, Robert K. Massie has woven a thrilling narrative based on impeccable scholarship and a cinematic eye for detail.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

'Spy for the Queen of Scots' by Theresa Breslin

Release date:  7th August 2012
Published by: Doubleday Childrens 
ISBN No:  978 0385617055

As lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, the beautiful Ginette - known as Jenny - is the young queen's closest childhood friend. Growing up in the elegant but ruthless French court, surrounded by enemies and traitors - not least the jealous, manipulative Catherine de Medici, and Mary's own scheming half-brother, James - Jenny has always been fiercely loyal to her mistress. But when she overhears a mysterious whispered plot, closely followed by several unexplained deaths at court, she puts her own life in danger and turns spy for Mary.
Jenny quickly realises not a soul at court can be trusted, and when she and Mary return to their Scottish homeland for Mary to claim her throne, they face even greater peril. Desperate to protect her friend from those who would slit her throat to steal her crown, while battling her feelings for the charismatic nobleman Duncan Alexander, Jenny becomes embroiled in a dangerous web of secrets, betrayals and lies.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of Three Sisters' by Juliet Barker

Release date: August 2012
Published by:  Pegasus Books
ISBN No: 978 1605983653

The story of the tragic Bront family is familiar to everyone: we all know about the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel of a brother, wildly romantic Emily, unrequited Anne, and poor Charlotte. Or do we? These stereotypes of the popular imagination are precisely that imaginary created by amateur biographers from Mrs. Gaskell who were primarily novelists and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of genius.Juliet Barker 's landmark book is the first definitive history of the Brontes. It demolishes the myths, yet provides startling new information that is just as compelling but true. Based on first hand research among all the Bront manuscripts and among contemporary historical documents never before used by Bront biographers, this book is both scholarly and compulsively readable.The Brontes is a revolutionary picture of the
world 's favorite literary family.

Copyright: The Book Depository Synopsis

Monday, 28 May 2012

'Tuscan Rose' by Belinda Alexandra

Release date:  July 2012
Published by: Simon & Schuster UK
ISBN No: 978 0857208781

A mysterious stranger known as 'The Wolf' leaves an infant with the sisters of Santo Spirito. A tiny silver key hidden in her wrappings is the one clue to the child's identity.

When Rosa turns fifteen, she must leave the nuns who have raised her and become governess to the daughter of an aristocrat and his strange, frightening wife. Their house is elegant but cursed, and Rosa - blessed with gifts beyond her considerable musical talents -- is torn between her desire to know the truth and her fear of its repercussions.

Meanwhile, the hand of Fascism curls around beautiful Italy, threatening her citizens. In the face of unimaginable hardship, will Rosa's intelligence, intuition and her extraordinary capacity for love be enough to ensure her survival?

A compelling and beautiful tale about sacrifice and reward, of beauty and horror, and of redemption.
Copyright: Simon & Schuster Synopsis

New Book Launch: 'When Dreams Come True' by Rebecca Emin

Release date: 26th May 2012
Published by:
ISBN No: 978 1471092046

Rebecca Emin's second novel for 10-14 year olds has been launched today!

Charlie is happiest when biking with Max and Toby, or watching films with Allie. But when Charlie reaches year nine (age 13), everything begins to change.

As her friends develop new interests, Charlie's dreams become more frequent and vivid, and a family crisis tears her away from her friends.

How will Charlie react when old family secrets are revealed? Will her life change completely when some of her dreams start to come true?

Where to Buy
When Dreams Come True is now available to order via any bookshop or online in various places including:
The Book Depository
Barnes and Noble
& via Apple iBooks

Join Rebecca for her launch party at her Facebook Author page where giveaways have already started running. Click on the following link to join in the fun:  the Facebook Event

You can also visit Rebecca's website by clicking on the following link:

'The Wild Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria's Daughters' by Mary Hart Perry

Release date:  31st July 2012
Published by:  William Morrow & Company
ISBN No: 978 0062123466

The astronomical success of the historical novels of Phillipa Gregory and Christine Trent prove that readers simply can't get enough of the British royals--and now Mary Hart Perry enters the fray with an exciting, deliciously sensual novel of Queen Victoria's "wild child" daughter, the Princess Louise. The Wild Princess transports us back to Victorian England and plunges us into the intrigues of the royal court, where the impetuous Louise brazenly followed no one's rules but her own--even marrying a commoner, which no one of royal blood had done in the previous three centuries. Filled with rich period deal, The Wild Princess is an exciting, enthralling read. The Tudors have gotten the lion's share of attention in historical fiction; it's high time Queen Victoria and her family got their due!

Copyright: The Book Depository Synopsis

Sunday, 27 May 2012

'Snow White and the Huntsman' by Lily Blake et al

Release date:  1st June 2012
Published by: Atom
ISBN No: 978 1907411700

A breathtaking new vision of a legendary tale. Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen who is out to destroy her. But in a twist to the fairytale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed becomes her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
Includes fold-out film poster!

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'What Matters in Jane Austin?' by John Mullan

Release date: 7th June 2012
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN No:  978 1408820117

What do the characters call each other, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? And which important Austen characters never speak? In What Matters in Austen, John Mullan shows that you can best appreciate Jane Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction - by asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals their devilish cleverness. In twenty-one short chapters, each of which answers a question prompted by Jane Austen's novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most to the workings of the fiction. So the reader will discover when people had their meals and what shops they went to, how they addressed each other, who was allowed to write letters to whom, who owned coaches or pianos, how vicars got good livings and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Austen explores the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and sheer daring as a novelist. Though not a book about Jane Austen's life, it uses biographical detail and telling passages from her letters to explain episodes in her novels; readers will find out, for example, what novels she read or how much money she had to live on or what she saw at the theatre. Inspired by an enthusiastic reader's curiosity, written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Austen will appeal to all those who love and enjoy Jane Austen's work.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'Before I Wake' by Rachel Vincent

Release date: 6th July 2012
Published by: Mira Ink
ISBN No: 978 1848451193

Now Kaylee's dead, she's finally started living. After being murdered as a sacrifice, ex-teen banshee Kaylee now works for the afterlife's Reclamation Department, repossessing souls. She's also quickly falling in love with her new boyfriend Tod, a reaper who's been dead for two years, and her ex-boyfriend's brother. But Kaylee's afterlife is far from easy as she struggles to move between the world of the living and the world of the dead, all while maintaining her grades! Now she's dead Kaylee's whole world has changed...but could it actually be for the better? SOUL SCREAMERS The last thing you hear before you die

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

Saturday, 26 May 2012

'An Absolute Deception' by Lesley Lokko

Release date: 7th June 2012
Published by: Orion
ISBN No: 978 1409101758

Known as 'The Ice Queen', Anneliese Zander de St Phalle is one of the world's most celebrated fashion designers. With an empire that stretches across continents, she's a truly global brand, in every sense. Yet despite her success, she's a mystery; a reclusive disciplined perfectionist who rarely grants interviews. She's successful and she's talented, and that's all anyone needs to know.

Anneliese never talks about her past - not even to her only daughter, Callan. She's worked hard to leave it all behind her and it's a time and place to which Anneliese will never return. Or so she thinks. Until, at an exclusive New Year's Eve party at her glamorous island hideaway, a woman appears whom Anneliese has done her best to forget. On the cusp of her retirement, at the height of Anneliese's fame, the stranger brings a story that demands to be told. To Anneliese's horror, the past cannot be left behind; it is here, part and parcel of the present, despite everything she's done to forget it.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'The Call of Sedona' by Ilchi Lee

Release date: July 2012
Published by: Simon and Schuster
ISBN No:  1451695888

The Call of Sedona speaks to anyone seeking greater fulfillment and deeper meaning in their lives. With practical advice on meditation and profound insights on the healing power of the earth, this book gives you the guidance you need to embark on your own journey of the heart.
If you haven’t been to Sedona, this book will urge you to travel to this blessed place. If you have been to Sedona—or even if you live there now— this book will deepen the love you hold for the wonders of the land. Wherever you are, let this book show you how to experience the spirit of Sedona and make a true connection with your heart.

Copyright: Simon and Schuster Synopsis

Friday, 25 May 2012

'The Secret Keeper' by Sandra Byrd

Release date: June 2012
Published by: Simon and Schuster
ISBN No: 143918315

What she sees in secret, she may not tell.

Mistress Juliana St. John is the lovely, forthright daughter of a prosperous knight’s family. Though all expect her to marry the son of her late father’s business partner, time and chance interrupt, sending her to the sumptuous but deceptive court of Henry VIII.

Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, returns to Wiltshire to conclude his affairs with Juliana’s father’s estate and chances upon her reading as lector in the local church. He sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves and wants most to please, Kateryn Parr. Juliana’s mother agrees to have her placed with Parr for a season and Juliana goes, though reluctantly.

For she keeps a secret.

Juliana has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one vibrant vision she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of a highly born young woman, while it was still on her body, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana accompanies Kateryn Parr to court, Henry’s devout sixth queen raises the stakes for all reformers. Support of firebrand Anne Askew puts the queen and her ladies in life-threatening jeopardy, as does the queen’s desire to influence her husband’s—and the realm’s—direction and beliefs. Later, without Henry’s strong arm, the court devolves to competition, duplicity, and betrayal. The risks could not be higher as Juliana must choose between love and honor, personal fulfillment and sacrifice. Ultimately, her course is driven by a final kept secret, one that undoes everything she thought she knew.

Copyright: Simon and Schuster Synopsis

'Tell the Wolves I'm Home' by Carol Rifka Brunt

Release date: 7th June 2012
Published by:  Macmillan
ISBN No: 978 1447218531

There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter, Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her once inseparable older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies far too young of a mysterious illness that June’s mother can barely bring herself to discuss, June's world is turned upside down. At the funeral, she notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd, and a few days later, June receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn's apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realises she's not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he might just be the one she needs the most. Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'Abdication' by Juliet Nicolson

Release date:  7th June 2012
Published by:  Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN No: 978 1408823088

England, 1936. After the recent death of George V, the nation has a new king, Edward VIII. But for all the confident pomp and ceremony of the accession, it is a turbulent time. Terrible poverty and unemployment affect many, but trouble few among the ruling elite; for others, Oswald Mosley's New Party, which offers a version of the fascism on the rise in Germany, seems to offer the vision of the future. Nineteen-year-old May Thomas has just disembarked at Liverpool Docks after making the long journey by steamer from Barbados to escape the constraints of her sugar-plantation childhood. Her first job as a secretary and chauffeuse to Sir Philip Blunt, Chief Whip in Baldwin's Conservative government, will open her eyes to the upper echelons of British society...The unlikely friendship she forms with Evangeline Nettlefold, American god-daughter of the Chief Whip's wife and an old school friend of Wallis Simpson, will see her through family upheavals including the shocking, sudden loss of her mother; but more significant for May, the Blunts' son Rupert has an Oxford University friend, Julian, a young man of conscience for whom, despite all barriers of class, she cannot help but fall. Secrets, hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities are everywhere - biggest and most dangerous of them all, the truth about the new King's relationship with a married woman, and the silent horror that few in Britain dare voice: the increasing inevitability of another world war...

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'Lionheart' by Thorvald Steen

Release date: 15th June 2012
Published by: University of Chicago Press
ISBN No: 978 0857420336

Richard I (1157-99) was king of England from 1189 until his death, but he is best known as a soldier, not a monarch. He earned his moniker Richard the Lionheart as a knight and military leader, and his revolt against his father Henry II and his conquest of Cyprus as part of the Crusades helped to solidify his historical legend. In "Lionheart", Norwegian author Thorvald Steen, celebrated for his historical novels, brings his characteristic accuracy and artistic vision to the life of Richard I. "Lionheart" is the story of a man living in the shadow of his own myth, also a fanatic general who wants to conquer the world's greatest sanctum and a king who is suddenly vulnerable. At the age of fifteen he leads an army against his father. Fourteen years later he is the Pope's obvious choice to lead the third Crusade. But the Richard of Steen's novel is less sure of himself and his role - is it true that he is God's chosen one, like his mother says? Drawing on extensive research, Steen paints a dark and conflicted, yet credible and convincing, portrait of a man who has engrossed historians, poets, novelists, and readers for centuries.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

Winners of my 'Love in Bloom' Giveway Hop!

I would like to say a great big thank-you to everyone who joined my blog as a new GFC follower or were already a follower and entered this draw. It really is appreciated. With so many entries and with some really nice comments being left during this fantastic event, it's been great!

As usual I wish that I could send everyone who entered this draw a prize, but within the rules, there was to be only two lucky winners from this draw! For those of you who have not won this time, there are plenty more giveaway draws to come. Please keep visiting this blog and entering the giveaways. You never know your luck, you could be one of our next winners! If you are a GFC follower of this blog, do not forget to enter my monthly 'GFC Followers' book draw. Just click on the relevant tab at the top of the page!

I visited earlier today and the winners of this particular draw for a copy of  Philippa Gregory's new YA novel 'Changeling' is, drum roll!!!

Mel and LisaILJ
I will contact the winners to let them know and to arrange delivery of their books. If I have not been able to make contact with a winner within 48 hours of this post, another winner will then be drawn. Thank-you again to everyone who entered this draw and who follow my blog. Happy reading!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

'Splash into Summer' Giveaway Hop! (International Stop)

Welcome to the 'Splash into Summer' Giveaway Hop which is hosted by 'I am a Reader, not a Writer' and 'Page Turners Blog'. As usual my post is one of the first to go up as I am based in the UK and am governed by Greenwich Mean Time. As the majority of the other blogs that are taking part in this hop are based in America and Canada, their posts will go up at 00.01 on the 1st May 2012, according to their specific time zones.

To gain entry to this draw you have to be a GFC Follower of my blog. You can also gain an extra entry or two or three, by 'following' me as well, either through 'Linky', 'Google + or 'Networked Blogs' . Just complete the 'Rafflecopter Entry Form' that you will find at the end of this post.Once the form has been completed, you will have been entered into the draw.

As there is such a selection of books available these days, I am offering the main prize winner a choice of either a $20 (US) or £15 (sterling) Amazon Gift Voucher/Certificate, so the winner can choose their own books! I will arrange that the prize is e-mailed to the winner on the completion of the draw!

Also, if I hit 1,800 GFC followers during this hop, I'll add a second prize to the draw of either a $15 (US) or £10 (sterling) Amazon Gift Voucher/Certificate. So as well as entering, please try to encourage others to join this blog as a GFC follower, so that I can hopefully award two prizes at the end of this draw rather than one!

One first prize of either a $20 (US) or £15 (sterling) Amazon Gift Voucher/Certificate.

If my blog shows that I have a total of 1,800 'GFC followers' at the end of this particular blog hop, I'll add a second prize to the draw of either a $15 (US) or £10 (sterling) Amazon Gift Voucher/Certificate!

There will only be one main prize winner from this draw. If I have 1,800 GFC followers at the end of the hop, a second prize will be added to the draw. There will only be one second prize winner from this draw, if the set criteria is met. The gift Vouchers/Certificates will only be offered in either US dollars or sterling. No other currencies can be catered for. Each entrant will be allocated a sequential number. After the closing date for this draw ( 31st May 2012 at 23.59GMT), the winning numbers entered for this draw will be chosen by This is an International Giveaway Draw!

To visit the rest of the blogs that are taking part in this great hop, just click on the 'Click Here' link below, to be taken to a page of participating blog links.

Good luck Everyone!
If you are not in, you cannot win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

'Counting Backwards' by Laura Lascarso

Release date:  14th August 2012
Published by: Simon and Schuster
ISBN No: 9781442406926

In this haunting and hopeful debut novel, a teen’s court-mandated psychiatric residency prompts a change in perspective from which there is no looking back.

Taylor Truwell is a sixteen-year-old girl from Florida with a troubled past, a neglectful mother, a seemingly callous father, and an urge to flee. When Taylor is caught with a stolen car, her violent reaction lands her in court for resisting arrest. Her father convinces the judge of an alternative to punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. And so Taylor arrives at Sunny Meadows.
Sunny Meadows is anything but the easy way out, and Taylor has to fight hard just to hold on to her sanity as she battles her parents, an intrusive therapist, and a group of particularly nasty fellow patients. But even as Taylor clings to her stubborn former self, she gradually relents to new friendships—and to unexpected romance. Sunny Meadows goes against everything Taylor stands for. But could it be the place that saves her?
In this striking debut, Laura Lascarso weaves together a powerful story of anger and self-destruction, hope and love, and the complicated way that it all comes together.
Copyright: Simon and Schuster Synopsis

'The Island House' by Posie Graeme-Evans

Release date:  2nd August 2012
Published by:  Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN No: 978 0340920411

Freya Dane has inherited Findnar, a small island off the east coast of Scotland from her long-estranged father. Michael Dane - like Freya, an archaeologist - has left her research notes and artifacts from the island's Viking and Christian past. But what he found is only the beginning of a story that began in 800 AD.

It is then that Signy, a Pictish girl from the nearby mainland, narrowly escapes dying along with the rest of her family in a Viking raid. Taken in by the survivors from the new Christian monastery on Findnar, she learns their language and their ways - even the mysteries of writing. But before she can take her vows as a nun, she falls in love with Magni. Like Signy, he is a survivor of the raid, but unlike her, he is a proud follower of the Viking way. Forced to choose between her native religion, her adopted faith and the man she loves, Signy's life is set on a tragic course . . .

As the island's terrifying past is revealed, it seems that Findnar may be as dangerous now in the twenty-first century as it was twelve hundred years ago.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

'River of Destiny' by Barbara Erskine

Release date: 5th July 2012
Published by: Harper Collins
ISBN No: 978 0007302307

From the bestselling author of Time's Legacy and Lady of Hay comes a thrilling new novel River of Destiny. On the banks of the River Deben in Suffolk lies a set of barns dating back to the Anglo Saxons, within their walls secrets have laid buried for centuries. Zoe and Ken have just moved into one of the barns, ready to start a new life away from the hustle and bustle of the city. To the outside world they seem like an ordinary couple, but underneath they are growing more distant by the day. And when Zoe becomes close to local recluse, Leo, she finds her attraction to him undeniable. Whilst farmers are ploughing the land surrounding the barns, sets of human bones are found and when the police arrive it becomes clear that the bones are much older than first suspected! From an ancient burial ground to a Victorian murder, Erskine will have you gripped as the mystery unfolds across the ages!

Copyright: The Book Depository Synopsis

'England's Thousand Best Churches' by Simon Jenkins

Release date: 5th July 2012
Published by: Allen Lane
ISBN No: 978 1846146640

Simon Jenkins has travelled the length and breadth of England to select his thousand best churches. Organised by county, each church is described - often with delightful asides - and given a star-rating from one to five. All of the county sections are prefaced by a map locating each church, and lavishly illustrated with colour photos from the Country Life archive. Jenkins contends that these churches house a gallery of vernacular art without equal in the world. Here, he brings that museum to public attention.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'The Secret Language of the Renaissance: Decoding the Hidden Symbolism of Italian Art' by Rishard Stemp

Release date:  5th July 2012
Published by: Duncan Baird Publishers 
ISBN No: 978 1844839377

The mind of the Renaissance artist differs from our modern mind in its habit of encoding meanings into symbols - everything from beehives to centaurs. Often these meanings drew upon a traditional symbolic repertoire available to Renaissance man but now largely disused. However, sometimes a more esoteric meaning was encoded in a painting, sculpture, building or other visual artefact, or in a text - perhaps even a hidden political message or an expression of heretical faith. The Secret Language of the Renaissance peels back these layers of meaning in three distinct, detailed sections. Part One is a vivid immersion in the culture of this remarkable period, encompassing literature, painting, sculpture and the decorative arts. Part Two offers a wide-ranging guide to the essential elements of symbolic language in Renaissance art, including colour, geometry, light and shade, proportion, perspective and body language. Part Three, the heart of the book, analyses more than 40 works arranged in a theme-by-theme guide to the symbolism. Each major work is shown in all its glory and then deconstructed - or decoded - to reveal the symbols that it contains and interpret their enigmatic meaning in that particular context. Punctuating these three parts there are fascinating boxed features that shed light on themes and topics of the time, from guilds and confraternities to the original 'bonfire of the vanities'. For all those who relish secret symbolism and conspiracies, as well as all lovers of the art of Renaissance Italy, this book will instruct and delight in equal measure.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'George Washington' by Stephen Brumwell

Release date: 7th June 2012
Published by: Quercus Books
ISBN No:  978 1849165464

'I am a warrior'. These were the uncompromising words that George Washington chose to describe himself in May 1779, at the height of the Revolutionary War against Britain. It's an image very different to the one that he's been assigned by posterity - the patriotic plantation owner who would become the dignified political leader of his country.

Stephen Brumwell's new book focuses on a side of Washington that is often overlooked: the feisty young frontier officer and the tough forty-something commander of the revolutionaries' Continental Army. It examines Washington's long and chequered military career, tracing his evolution as a soldier, and his changing attitude to the waging of war. Brumwell shows how, ironically, Washington's reliance upon English models of 'gentlemanly' behaviour, and on British military organisation, was crucial in establishing his leadership of the fledgling Continental Army, and in forging it into the weapon that won American independence.

George Washington is a vivid recounting of the formative years and military career of 'The Father of his Country', following his journey from brutal border skirmishes with the French and their Indian allies to his remarkable victory over the British Empire, an achievement that underpinned his selection as the first president of the United States of America. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including original archival research, Stephen Brumwell paints a compelling and challenging portrait of an extraordinary individual whose fusion of gentleman and warrior left an indelible imprint upon history.
Copyright: Quercus Synopsis

Monday, 21 May 2012

'Softly Grow the Poppies' by Audrey Howard

Release date:  16th August 2012
Published by:  Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN No: 978 1444755954

Rose Beechworth is mistress of a charming country house - her own, left to her by her wealthy father. In the summer of 1914, she is not even looking for love.

Alice Weatherly turns Rose's world upside down. The loveable young heiress longs to kiss Captain Charlie Summers goodbye - she takes Rose to Liverpool's Lime Street station and into the heart of Charlie's brother Harry. Even though they are neighbours, they have never met, for Rose ignores the social round, while Harry's time is taken up desperately attempting to keep his father's ramshackle estate together. He becomes the master of Summer Place, a magnificent mansion with a proud history. He is only too glad when it becomes a hospital for wounded soldiers.

As the war takes its terrible toll and Charlie disappears into fog of battle, Alice - the spoilt runaway heiress - becomes a heroine, while Rose finds herself running two great houses. It seems impossible that any of them can ever find happiness again . . .

Once again, Audrey Howard has combined her profound knowledge of life in Lancashire in days gone by with a heartbreaking story of love lost and won.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'Across a Bridge of Dreams' by Lesley Downer

Release date: 7th June 2012
Published by: Bantam Press
ISBN No: 978 0593066829

In the brave new Japan of the 1870s, Taka and Nobu meet as children and fall in love; but their relationship will test the limits of society.

Unified after a bitter civil war, Japan is rapidly turning into a modern country with rickshaws, railways and schools for girls. Commoners can marry their children into any class, and the old hatred between north and south is over - or so it seems.

Taka is from the powerful southern Satsuma clan which now dominates the country, and her father, General Kitaoka, is a leader of the new government. Nobu, however, is from the northern Aizu clan, massacred by the Satsuma in the civil war. Defeated and reduced to poverty, his family has sworn revenge on the Satsuma.

Taka and Nobu's love is unacceptable to both their families and must be kept secret, but what they cannot foresee is how quickly the tables will turn. Many southern samurai become disillusioned with the new regime, which has deprived them of their swords, status and honour. Taka's father abruptly leaves Tokyo and returns to the southern island of Kyushu, where trouble is brewing.

When he and his clansmen rise in rebellion, the government sends its newly-created army to put them down. Nobu and his brothers have joined this army, and his brothers now see their chance of revenge on the Satsuma. But Nobu will have to fight and maybe kill Taka's father and brother, while Taka now has to make a terrible choice - between her family and the man she loves ...

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A Short Interview with Author Julie Kagawa

Julie Kagawa was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos, and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn't getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish, and the odd eel.

When not swimming for her life, Julie immersed herself in books, often to the chagrin of her schoolteachers, who would find she hid novels behind her Math textbooks during class. Her love of reading led her to pen some very dark and gruesome stories, complete with colored illustrations, to shock her hapless teachers. The gory tales faded with time, but the passion for writing remained, long after she graduated and was supposed to get a real job.

To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dogtrainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full-time.

Julie now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where the frequency of shark attacks are at an all time low. She lives with her husband, two obnoxious cats, one Australian Shepherd who is too smart for his own good, and the latest addition, a hyper-active Papillon puppy.

Julie is the author of the bestselling Iron Fey series. 'The Iron Knight' the fourth title in The Iron Fey series was published in Jan 2012. 'The Immortal Rules', the first title in a brand new series was published in May 2012.

I am deeply honoured that Julie has kindly agreed to a short interview with me here today at TheSecret Writer'!

Julie, can I begin by asking, did you always want to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about 16. That’s when I started seriously trying to write novel-length manuscripts. Trust me, those early works were not things that should ever see the light of day. Writing is a craft that takes a long time to learn and improve, and it took me fifteen or so years to get to the point where my work was of a publishable quality.

Where do you do your writing best?

I pretty much do all of my writing in my home office. Sometimes I think about going outside to write, but the reality quickly outweighs the romance. Turns out, that’s where they keep all the heat and bugs. Who knew?

Did you have to undertake any research before writing 'The Immortal Rules'?

A lot of research went into The Immortal Rules. This was the real world, albeit a futuristic, vampire infested world, but the real world nonetheless, and things had to make sense. A large part of my research involved watching the entire season of The Discovery Channel's Life After People, to see how long it would take buildings and other structures to fall apart. I researched what would happen to dams, power plants, bridges, ect. if there were no humans around to take care of them. What would happen to the wildlife? What would happen to normal pets? How long would it take for the plant life to retake everything? Do guns fire underwater? Lots of questions, and lots of research, but it was essential to make the world of The Immortal Rules even remotely believable.

Can you let us into any secrets about your next book project?

I'm in the middle of writing the sequel to The Immortal Rules now, and all I can say is that Allie will meet new and old faces, fight her Hunger, and discover a monstrous enemy who has dark plans for her and the entire world.

Do you have any hobbies or interests that give you a break from writing?

Martial Arts. My hubby and I are practioners of kung-fu and Kali. We spend a lot of hours throwing each other around and hitting each other with sticks. It’s wonderful stress relief and great exercise. Also video games, which give me both inspiration and needed down time.

Julie I know that you are kept very busy, so I would like to thank-you for taking the time out to talk to us today.

Thank-you too Calum!

To find out more about Julie and her writing just follow the links that are detailed below:

Visit Julie's website at:
Visit the Iron Fey website:
Follow Julie on Twitter:  @jkagawa

To be in with a chance to win a copy of Julie's latest book 'The Immortal Rules',  just click on the picture of 'The Immortal Rules' below:

Saturday, 19 May 2012

'Alnwick Castle: The Home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland' by James McDonald

Release date: 7th June 2012
Published by: Frances Lincoln
ISBN No: 978 0711232372

Alnwick Castle is at the heart of Northumberland, England's most northerly county, a land filled with ancient market towns, golden beaches, moorland, and the remains of Hadrian's Wall. This imposing medieval castle sits by the River Aln on the edge of Alnwick town overlooking a landscape by Capability Brown. The home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle has belonged to the Percy family for over seven centuries. One of the largest inhabited castles in Britain, it is also visited by hundreds of thousands of people every summer. Some visitors are intrigued by the staterooms, some because the castle was used as 'Hogwarts' in the first two Harry Potter movies: very few until now have seen the private rooms.

With unique access to both the castle and the Percy family archives, and the full cooperation of the Duke and Duchess, their staff, builders and interior designers, James Mcdonald takes the reader on a tour of twenty-first century castle living. He goes behind the scenes to talk to those who help make the castle function as a home for a modern family, and he visits both the extraordinary garden and the surrounding Hulne park. While describing the changes each generation of Dukes and Duchesses has bought, above all this is the story of Jane Northumberland, who since becoming Duchess in 1995 has remade the private side and has renovated the state rooms, blending English country house style with the existing Italianate grandeur.

Illustrated with archive pictures and some 300 new photographs of both public and private rooms, this sumptuous book is a revealing portrait of one of the world's great castles, its magnificent recent restoration, and the people who live and work here.

Copyright: Amazon Synopsis

'Something Strange and Deadly' by Susan Dennard

Release date: 24th July 2012
Published by: Harper Teen
ISBN No: 978 0062083265

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . . "Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about." Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper: The Dead are rising in Philadelphia. And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother. Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Copyright: Book Depository Synopsis

'Night Waking' by Sarah Moss

Release date: 5th April 2012
Published by: Granta Books
ISBN No:978 1847082701

Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby's skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women's vexed and passionate relationship with work. Moss's second novel displays an exciting expansion of her range - showing her to be both an excellent comic writer and a novelist of great emotional depth.

Copyright: Waterstones Synopsis

'New Girl' by Paige Harbinson

Release date: 4th May 2012
Published by: Mira Ink
ISBN No: 978 1848450639

The Queen Bee’s missing. Will you be next?It’s hard fitting in as the new girl among the rich elite at Manderley Academy, especially when you’re assigned to the old room of the perfect, popular Becca – who’s disappeared. What really happened to Becca? And what other sinister secrets lurk in the school’s dark hallways?Learning to survive Manderley’s cut-throat social scene, you can’t help but follow in Becca’s footsteps, even falling for Max, the boy she left behind. Although sometimes it seems that Becca’s still out there, watching you take her place. Waiting to take it back…

Copyright: Mira Ink Synopsis