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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Tempesta’s Dream by Vincent B. LoCoco

[ 6 ] July 21, 2014

Tempesta's DreamPlease join Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco, author of Tempesta’s Dream, as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy below – open to US and Canada residents only

Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

In the city of Milan, opera is life to twenty-five year old Giovanni Tempesta. Born to poor, Sicilian parents, Giovanni does not have the financial means nor the formal musical training to extend his love of the opera to much beyond singing part-time at Angelo’s, a local restaurant, that is close to the famous opera house La Scala. Giovanni’s love of music, his vast knowledge of the operatic greats and even his striking tenor singing voice, were all passed down from his beloved father Franco who died in a car accident. With a passionate wish to honor his father, as well as his own dreams, Giovanni dreams of one day singing himself at the historic La Scala. As friends, family, potential benefactors and music teachers continue to shoot down his dreams; Giovanni soon feels he will never fulfill his passion.

One Saturday night singing at Angelo’s, Giovanni soon finds his attention drawn to a beautiful young lady in the audience. Isabella is the eighteen-year old daughter of a prominent, wealthy judge, who forbids his daughter to speak to or see Giovanni due to his social rank. As Isabella and Giovanni realize their connection, he soon also realizes that he must do anything that he can to make his dreams a reality in order to be accepted by Isabella’s family and win her love. After entering the local retirement home Casa di Riposo that is exclusively for musicians and performers, Giovanni meets Signor Alfredo del Monte who agrees to teach and coach him in exchange for only his company and to share their love of opera. Alfredo also asks Giovanni to place him front row at La Scala when he makes it as an opera singer. Giovanni’s progress and failures rise and fall as his adulthood progresses and throughout it all, he continues to grow. There is an unspoken theme of the importance of relationships and the lessons that can be learned from every interaction. The love and hardships that Giovanni endures with Isabella, his family, himself and opera all manage to strike a chord on an emotional level that makes the reader want nothing more than for him to be happy and successful.

The use of operatic arias, essentially the lyrics, throughout the story and blended into the dialogue is a powerful creative tool used by Vincent B. LoCoco. These passages are used to share his love and knowledge of opera and add a higher level of dimension to the conversations in the story. LoCoco’s Giovanni is a careful, dedicated dreamer, a character that faces the odds stacked against him and yet still manages to keep his head up, remain noble and follow his heart. Tempesta’s Dream is a joyous story of art, opera, dedication and love.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Vincent B. LoCoco. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: The Songbird of Sovereign by Jennifer Wixson

[ 9 ] July 19, 2014

Sovereign Series notecard pic by Sally B 2-14Luxury Reading is kicking off The Songbird of Sovereign blog tour and hosting a fabulous giveaway, courtesy of the author Jennifer Wixson! 

5 winners will receive a copy of the book and 2 grand prize winners will also get packages of the Sovereign Series note cardsOpen to US residents only

About the series

Four novels (and a companion cookbook) about rural love and friendship in the tradition of Sarah Orne Jewett penned by Maine farmer and author Jennifer Wixson. The books are set in the mythical town of Sovereign, Maine (pop. 1,048) where eccentric and lovable characters weave in and out like good friends dropping in for a cup of tea.

Popular residents of Sovereign include the retired music teacher Miss Hastings and the old chicken farmer Wendell Russell. Each book is a stand-alone novel that features a feisty leading lady complete with her own challenges, mischances, and loves. The novels have been compared by readers and reviewers to the classic tales of Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) and Betty MacDonald’s book (The Egg and I).

Get lost in this picturesque town of rolling pastures, vernal pools, and pine-scented woods whether while sharing a picnic at the Millett Rock or picking fiddleheads beside Black Brook. Come visit Sovereign–the doors are always open (and unlocked). But be careful; you might never want to leave!

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle

[ 23 ] July 16, 2014

The Queens ExilesPlease join Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen’s Exiles, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy below – open to US and Canada residents only

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Have you ever found a book series that had you devouring each book as they came out, simultaneously saddened when the current book is over and newly excited to see where the next book will take the characters? Well after reading Barbara Kyle’s last book in her Thornleigh saga, Blood Between Queens, I knew I had found just that. I went back and listened to the audiobook version of the first book in the series and purchased the rest of the series to get caught up with the actions of the Thornleigh family as they navigated the twisted labyrinth that was the Tudor court. Ms. Kyle’s newest book in the series, The Queen’s Exiles, picks up in 1572, three years after the action in Blood Between Queens and, just like its predecessor, takes off running and never slows down.

Venturing away from England into the wild open sea and onto the turbulent and dangerous lands of the Spanish-occupied Netherlands, The Queen’s Exiles shines a light on Fenella Doorn, a Scottish born woman running her own ship-refitting business on the island of Sark, making her own way in life after her husband was killed by Spanish invaders. When Adam Thornleigh, a man she helped rescue eleven years previously and one she has never been able to forget, sails into Sark’s harbor she is instantly drawn into his quest to not only work as Queen Elizabeth’s agent on the high seas but to get back his children from his traitorous Catholic wife, Frances, who has been in hiding since her failed attempt to kill the Protestant Queen of England. Their journey is dangerous and filled with endless surprises, people they believed to be dead found alive and some of those they have long had at their side meeting their final end. As they both work to rescue their loved ones from the clutches of the tyrannical Duke of Alba, a man slaughtering the Dutch in the name of his faith and his Spanish King, they will find themselves falling in love in a world that wants nothing more than to keep them apart. Fighting between what they want and what is right, both will make tremendous sacrifices in the name of love.

Intertwined with the story involving Fenella, Adam and Frances is that of Adam’s sister, Isabel and her husband Carlos Valverde, a man longing for his home in England but having to work for the Duke of Alba in order to make enough money to be able to return to England and pay off his debts. These characters, like the others mentioned, have all been introduced in previous books in the series and it is fascinating watching them all try to untangle themselves from the various destructive webs they find themselves in, some of which have been twisting around them for a number of books. Mixed in with these established characters are some new and fascinating ones such as those in the groups The Sea Beggars and the Brethren, men and women all putting their lives on the line to push out the Spanish in the name of William, the Prince of Orange. The action and sacrifice is constant and Ms. Kyle does not shy away from placing the reader at the heart of the violence and adventure. But as in real life the determination and willingness of each character to give everything for what they believe in makes their triumphs that much sweeter and, for those that are not successful, their sacrifices that much more heartbreaking.

Barbara Kyle’s Thornleigh Saga is enthralling and each book draws the reader deeper and deeper into the lives and worlds of her characters, all against the backdrop of the very real and exhilarating history surrounding them. I for one cannot get enough of these books and am once again anxiously waiting to see how Ms. Kyle continues the many dangling threads of storyline in her next book.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Kensington Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: Eyes On You by Kate White

[ 17 ] July 9, 2014

A1jtO6QFTWLI have a copy of Eyes on You by Kate White to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

From New York Times bestselling author Kate White comes Eyes On You, a riveting psychological suspense in which a media star must battle a malevolent enemy who may be disturbingly close to her.

After losing her on-air job two years ago, television host Robin Trainer has fought her way back and now she’s hotter than ever. But suddenly, things begin to go wrong.

An adversary with a dark agenda wants to hurt Robin, and it becomes terrifyingly clear that the person responsible isn’t going to stop until Robin loses everything that matters to her . . . including her life.

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Summer Reads

[ 25 ] July 8, 2014

LittleMerciesTo celebrate the release of Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies (Harlequin MIRA, June 24, 2014), we’re listing off our must reads for this summer and giving away a Gudenkauf book bundle including Little Mercies, The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden! (enter to win below)

Book Trailer | Official Site | FacebookGoodReads

by Shannon Trenton

Summer is a magical season, full of possibilities. The warm weather opens up a world of opportunities for adventure, laughter, and a whole new level of relaxation – whatever you want the season to be.

For me, summer is the perfect time to clear my reading list to make room for new titles. Few things make me happier than lounging in a warm and shady place with a cold drink and a story that draws me in. Don’t get me wrong – I love devouring books in every season, but summer offers unique choices for location and environment that can take the reading experience to the next level.

There also just seems to be more time to read in the summer. After all, it’s easy to crack open a book during a road trip (unless you’re driving!) or to take advantage of extended daylight. A book is the perfect poolside companion or playground pick-me-up while the little ones run and explore.

Depending on your reading list, summer can be the ideal time to dive into heavier subjects – fictional or otherwise. The light and warmth can take the edge off of a book that you may find impossible to finish in the dark winter months.

This summer, my personal goal is to read 12 new books and perhaps an old favorite or two, including:

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf 

Little Mercies is one of those stories I prefer to read in the sun. The protagonist, social worker Ellen, confronts potential devastation because of a single mistake like those all mothers fear most. She may find the peace and mercy she seeks when she meets Jenny, a little girl suddenly on her own who wants anything but a social worker.

Gudenkauf is an award-winning author whose three previously-published books all revolve around plots taken directly from current headlines. She confronts the issues that we face in our everyday lives with a writing style that compels you to keep turning the page. As a mother I’m afraid, but as a reader I am anxious to see what Little Mercies has to offer.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

I am positively in love with Margaret Atwood’s genius in crafting gripping stories in dystopian settings, and the MaddAddam Trilogy has been on my wish list since Christmas. Now that Darren Aronofsky has been tapped to bring the trilogy to HBO, however, the entire trilogy has made it to the top of that list. (I’m a strict read-before-you-watch person!)

Snowman is a mysterious demi-god figure to the Children of Crake, and possibly the last true human alive. His present-day search for supplies and answers is punctuated with flashbacks to the time before the world was destroyed, when Oryx and Crake were still with him. The world Atwood describes is a near-future possibility, just far enough away to be fiction and close enough to make the reader think twice.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

In another read-before-you-watch list jump, I’m super excited to dive into Flynn’s thriller about the perfect couple whose life unravels when wife Amy disappears the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. Husband Nick is a prime suspect and continues courting suspicion with his own behavior, but did he do it? And what secrets was Amy really hiding? Gillian Flynn is widely acclaimed for her ability to weave a story, and I can’t wait to see for myself.

Broken into Beautiful: How God Restores the Wounded Heart by Gwen Smith

Gwen Smith is a singer-songwriter whose own personal story is a testament to God’s grace. Broken into Beautiful is her first book, a collection of stories about other real women who have dealt with pain, disappointment, and other tragic struggles, and who found beauty on the other side. Each story includes biblical applications so readers can use it as a resource in their faith journey.

My faith journey is an important part of who I am, so it seems fitting to read this book in what I consider to be the most beautiful season of the year.

Downward Dog, Upward Fog by Meryl Davids Landau

This is one of my personal favorites and has had a consistent place on my re-read list since I first reviewed it in 2011. I love going back to the beginning and retracing Lorna’s journey as she takes control of her life by opening herself up to a new spiritual life. While this was an easy read the first time around, I can now easily tear through it in the space of a couple of hours for the perfect uplifting read. (And as you can see from the other books on my list, I need a few uplifting selections!) If you pick up Downward Dog, you will feel like Lorna is one of your own friends – or a reflection of yourself – by the time you put it down again.

I’m always looking for great new (and classic) reading suggestions, so add your summer reads in the comments! Happy summer reading!

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Giveaway: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

[ 16 ] July 7, 2014

After-I-Do-CoverI have 2 copies of After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

Moving, gorgeous and, at times, heart-wrenching. Taylor Jenkins Reid writes with wit and true emotion that you can feel. Read it, savor it, share it.” – Sarah Jio New York Times bestselling author of The Violets of March

When Lauren and Ryan hit the breaking point in their marriage, they plan to take a year off with one rule: they can’t contact each other. Other than that, anything goes.

As Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, she learns her friends and family have their own ideas on what marriage means. These influences and her own healing process begin to change her thoughts on monogamy and marriage. When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, what are you willing to fight for?

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