The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY

tsoppjkAs you may have noticed by now, I’m a huge Julie Klassen fan. I’ve reviewed five of her works thus far, and her wit and immersive writing have kept me coming back for more each time. It was a no-brainer then that I decided to be part of the blog tour for The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Matching Klassen’s lively writing style with a dash of mystery was bound to create an adventure that I couldn’t pass up.

From Goodreads:

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her–a longtime friend–has fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor’s past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family’s financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

One of my favorite things about Klassen as an author is seeing the influence that both Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters have in her works. The themes and spirit of her writing borrow from their famous works, and it always makes me happy to see, being such a fan of these authors myself. For example, reading Abigail’s search for the secret treasure room had many parallels to when Catherine Morland was attempting to find out if Henry Tilney’s mother was murdered in Northanger Abbey. Just like in Jane Eyre, there is a serious undertone of Gothic mystery to the plot as a whole, and you get a sense that there is a bigger picture hiding behind all the clues that one comes across during the course of events. I felt this way as clues began piling up while Abigail searches for the secret room and tries to uncover the mysteries of Pembrooke Park. I knew that the anonymous letters, warnings, and other seemingly independent events would weave together in a larger picture, much like Jane’s dealings with Mr. Rochester belie his true intentions until much later.

In addition to these overall themes, I felt that the plot moved well, with the revelations coming quickly enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Of special note are the twists at the end, which had me actually gasping out loud (much to my husband’s amusement from the other room.) Not only did the plot and themes hook me, but the characters did as well. Abigail, Leah, William, and even Miles were the cause of my ability to read the entire book in one sitting. Overall, Klassen has produced yet another gem in her lineup. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was everything I thought it would be, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of reading any of Klassen’s works, this is a great one to start with.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishing (2014)
Paperback: 464 pages
ISBN: 9780764210716

Special thanks to Bethany House for my review copy!

Author Julie Klassen 2015 x 200AUTHOR BIO:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follower her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes

Secret Pembrook Park Blog Tour Prizes x 350

In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!

Secret of Pembrooke blog tour horizontal bannerClick here for more details of the blog tour!

 

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New Year; New Challenges, Episode V

So here we are near the end of January and I’m only just now getting around to posting my annual “New Year; New Challenges” post. I received a promotion at work right around Thanksgiving and have been trying to deal with the change to my schedule. Having a job with irregular hours can sometimes throw off my schedule outside of work. I’m trying to find my balance between work, life, and blogging, and I appreciate you all sticking with the blog as I figure it out.

With all of that being said, here is my goal for 2015: 140 books. Since I successfully completed reading 100 books in 2014, 10 more books gets added to my goal. (2011 = 100 books, 2012 = 110 books, 2013 = 120 books, 2014 = 130 books, etc) As per years past, you can keep track of my reading progress and what books I’ve read here.

In no particular order, here are some of the books releasing in 2015 that I’m looking forward to reading!

  1. Fairest by Marissa Meyer
  2. Bound by Flames by Jeaniene Frost
  3. Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
  4. And I Love Her by Marie Force
  5. The Heir by Kiera Cass
  6. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
  7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (This is an exclusive collector’s edition!)
  8. The Seven  Sisters by Lucinda Riley
  9. When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
  10. Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell
  11. Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt
  12. Tiny Little Things by Beatriz Williams
  13. One Night with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  14. Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen
  15. A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

Well readers, what are your reading goals for 2015? What titles are you excited to read?

What Are You Reading This January?

Here we are, almost a month into the new year and I have yet to ask what you’re all reading! Pardon my bad manners folks. This month’s reading schedule is chock full of new releases. January seems to be the month when a lot of my favorite authors release new novels. So without further ado, here’s what I’m reading!

wayrjanuary

Julie Klassen has become one of my favorite historical fiction writers over the last year or so. Her latest release, The Dancing Master, is high up on the list of books I MUST read this year. Continuing on my binge of historical fiction books for January will be new author (to me) Anne O’Brien and her latest release The Forbidden Queen. I love the rich history of the English monarchy, so any chance to read more about it I’ll take. And finally, Tessa Dare’s historical romance Romancing the Duke. It’s the first in her new Castles Ever After series and features a blind hero!!! The first 50 pages were released online this past week (click here) and after reading them…..I was hooked.

Other books releasing this month that I’m excited about: A Match Made in Texas is a compilation of short stories by several authors, Karen Witemeyer being one of them. I’m also pumped about The Destiny of Violet and Luke by Jessica Sorensen, Believe by Erin McCarthy, Live by Mary Ann Rivers, and Seeking Her by Cora Carmack.

Over to you readers! What’s currently on your nightstand? Any new releases you’re excited about this month?

New Year; New Challenges, Episode IV

January 1, 2014. The official start of yet another year’s 100 book reading challenge. This year my goal will be 130 books. Every year that I’ve been successful in reading 100 books I tack on another 10 for the following year. (2011 = 100 books, 2012 = 110 books, 2013 = 120 books, etc.) I’m always giddy with anticipation for the new year’s challenge to start. Seeing my book counter reset to 0 again motivates me like nothing else. You can keep track of what I’m reading throughout the year by viewing my book list page here!

In no particular order, here are some of the titles I’m looking forward to reading in 2014:

  1. The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
  2. The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
  3. Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
  4. Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer
  5. Written In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  6. The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien

I’m sure that as the year unfolds I’ll be continually adding to this list. After all, I am a book addict and I can never have enough books to read.

So readers, what are you looking forward to reading this year? Share some titles with me below!

2013 – A Year In Review

fireworksIt’s totally cliché, but where the hell has this year gone? With today being the very last day of 2013 I figured I’d do a quick “Year in Review” post to talk about my progress with reading challenges and also to discuss my favorite books of the year!

Quick rundown on how I did with my reading challenges: I successfully read 120 books this year. In fact, as of the time of writing this post I am at 199 books for the year! (WOOT!) You can see all the books I’ve read with links to their reviews here. Now, a bit of bad news. I utterly failed (for the second year in a row) the audio book challenge. I didn’t listen to 1 audio book this year (read: pathetic.) I also didn’t do so great with the Book to Movie challenge either, with only 2 out of 12 read. Now, to the good news: I completed 78% of the Color Coded Challenge, or 7 out of 9 reads. I actually had a blast doing this challenge. You don’t realize how many books use colors in their titles until you do a challenge like this! Additionally, I unsurprisingly completed the Historical Fiction Challenge as well as the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary challenge with no trouble at all.

And now for the difficult part: Picking my favorite reads of 2013.

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  2. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley (look for my review next week!!!)
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers/Making It Last by Ruthie Knox
  5. Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  6. Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
  7. Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander/Easy by Tammara Webber
  8. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
  9. Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
  10. The Secret of Ella and Micha/The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

Having read almost 200 books this year, choosing 10 (really 12) of my favorites almost killed me. So, in the effort of easing my conscience I’m giving you some of my runners-up (in no particular order)!

  1. Pride, Prejudice, and the Perfect Match by Marilyn Brant
  2. The Edelstein Trilogie by Kersin Gier (Book one, two, & three)
  3. The Westfield Wolves/Regency Vampyre Series by Lydia Dare
  4. Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow
  5. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. Losing It by Cora Carmack
  7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  8. Bittersweet by Noelle Adams

This was hands down the hardest year yet to pick my favorite books. When you read almost 200 books in a year I guess that should be expected, no?

Ok, the burden is being passed to you. What did you love reading this year?!? Please let us know below. And finally, enjoy the rest of your New Year’s Day, hopefully with a great book. See you in 2014!

Kim’s Review of The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

Tutor'sDaughter_mck.inddAs you may or may not know, I’m a huge Julie Klassen fan.  So far, I’ve reviewed The Silent Governess, The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and last but not least, The Girl in the Gatehouse .  So, as you can see, I’m just slightly into her books.  When I heard she was coming out with a new book, The Tutor’s Daughter, can you guess how I acted? (I do admit, the previous four reviews may be a bit of a giveaway.)

Emma Smallwood, the daughter of a widowed father who ran a now-defunct academy, decides to cheer her father up by agreeing to travel with him to the Cornwall coast.  There, he is charged with instructing two sons of a baronet in their large manor home atop the cliffs.  At first, everything goes according to plan and Emma enjoys being in their new surroundings at the grand estate.  However, things soon begin to change and Emma begins to experience strange occurrences.  She hears the pianoforte playing in another room, only to find that no one is there.  She begins to receive strange notes, and discovers a toy soldier in her room on the floor, even though none of the boys is young enough to play with toy soldiers anymore.  Most chillingly, she finds a bloody hand print on her mirror!  Meanwhile, the baronet’s two older sons, Henry and Phillip, both have secrets of their own, and they struggle to hide them from Emma.  Both have known her since her childhood as they were former pupils at her father’s academy, and one seems to have found a new attraction to her.  Can Emma find out who is behind these chilling pranks?  What will she make of her new love interest?

I’m always impressed with Klassen’s ability to pay homage to classic literature with her novels while also creating unique and fascinating characters in her own right.  The Tutor’s Daughter is definitely an homage to Jane EyreNorthanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice.  Now that’s not to say that those are the only three books that have inspired her work, but the influence that these books had on Klassen is abundantly obvious in this work.  Emma herself is a blend of Jane Eyre and Catherine Morland, with a bit of Lizzie and Darcy mixed in.  She has the seriousness of Jane, the naive and adventurous spirit of Catherine, and a bit of the close-minded attitude that Darcy and Elizabeth have when forming first impressions about people.  It’s not only Emma that bears resemblance to characters of classic literature.  Her father is a bit like Mr. Bennet, Henry is a hybrid between Darcy and Mr. Tilney, and the list goes on and on.  She weaves characters, themes, and tidbits of plot from some of my favorite novels all while making it feel fresh and new.

I literally could not get enough of this book while I was reading it.  The book starts out at a normal pace, and before you realize it, things are happening rather rapidly.  Pieces of a puzzle that you didn’t even know existed begin coming together, and you’re left with a tale of intrigue, shipwrecks, smuggling, adventure, and how far the boundaries of love and family can be pushed and tested.  Of all of Klassen’s works so far, The Tudor’s Daughter feels like her masterpiece.  As much as I’ve loved all of her other books, this one truly shines on a pedestal all by itself.  The writing is crisp, clear, and absolutely mesmerizing, taking the reader to Cornwall and to Ebbington Manor itself.  This is definitely not a work to miss, and for those of you looking to be transported to a world full of rich characters, suspense, and an epic storyline, this is your book.

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers (2013)
eBook 416 pages
ISBN: 9780764210693

New Year; New Challenges, the Third

This is my third New Year; New Challenges post and I have to tell you, I still get excited writing them.  Just knowing that I’m beginning another 365 day period of challenging myself to read an ass-ton of books excites me.  Since I completed the 110 books I set as my goal for 2012, I’ve decided to stick with tradition and add another 10 books to my goal for 2013.  Therefore, my starting goal for this year will be 120 books!  In case you missed all of the reading challenges I’ve signed up for (on top of my overall goal), you can click here to view my progress.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to reading (in no particular order) in 2013:

  1. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  2. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
  3. Sever by Lauren DeStefano
  4. Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt
  5. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
  6. Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
  7. The Mistress by Tiffany Reisz

I know that this is a bit of a short list, but I’m hoping that as the year progresses, more new and exciting books will be announced from my favorite authors.  2012 was a great year for both new books and additions to series that I already loved, so I’m hoping that 2013 will be just as fun, if not more so!

As always, I encourage you to try your own reading challenges!  My biggest piece of advice is to start small.  There is nothing wrong with saying that you want to read 10 books this year.  Make a small goal, meet that goal, then increase it!  Tell me about your own goals, as well as the books you’re excited about reading, below.

2012 – A Year in Review

fireworksAnd with it being  January 1st, 2013 we can officially end 2012 and all its reading goals.  I’m very happy to say that I have succeeded in reading my 110 books for the year and exceeded that goal by a whopping 74 books!  With the success of this year I’ll up my reading goal again for 2013.  Keep an eye out for my annual New Year, New Challenges post for a breakdown of what I’m looking to accomplish.

2012 has definitely been a year of eclectic reading for me.  It’s difficult to pick my favorite books of the year since I read so many, but here is my best go:

  1. The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
  2. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
  3. Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander
  4. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
  5. The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
  7. The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
  8. Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer
  9. In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener/The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
  10. Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Damn. That was difficult.

My reading challenges wrap up is as follows: I once again blew through the Historical Fiction challenge (woot woot!).  I also succeeded in my first year participating in the Around the Stack challenge!  Now for the bad parts. The TBR challenge and the Audio challenge both got only one completed review each out of me.  I know I failed the audio challenge because of 1Q84 (AH SO LONG), plus my addiction of reading newer books killed any hope I had of finishing the TBR challenge.  A 50% completion rate for the challenges isn’t terrible, but I’d still liked to have completed 100%.

Even though it’s 2013 I still have some books to review that I finished in 2012, so keep an eye out for them.  You can also see a listing of EVERYTHING I read this year, including review links, here.

Well, there you go folks.  My 2012 year in review.  Enjoy the rest of your New Year’s and join me again tomorrow as we kick off a new year and new challenges!

#113 A Review of The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

I fell in love with Julie Klassen’s writing back in 2011 when I downloaded The Silent Governess (my review) on a whim.  I quickly followed that up with reads of The Apothecary’s Daughter (review) and The Maid at Fairbourne Hall (review).  Klassen’s next novel, The Tutor’s Daughter, is slated for a release early in 2013.  Knowing this, I had a few months to finish reading everything else of hers published previously.  The Girl in the Gatehouse, Klassen’s ode to Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Mansfield Park, became my next choice.

Miss Mariah Aubrey is in trouble.  The latest darling of the Ton to fall victim to a tarnished reputation, Mariah is banished to the gatehouse of her Aunt’s estate.  Alone except for her servant, Dixon, Mariah writes and publishes novels in secret in order to support the two of them.  Captain Matthew Bryant, now back from the Napoleonic wars, decides to rent the estate from Mariah’s cousin, who is facing hard economic times of his own doing.  Bryant himself is still stung from a rejection from a high society woman many years prior due to his lack of wealth and social standing (Persuasion, anyone?).  When he finds that a mysterious woman is living in the gatehouse of the estate, he can’t help but want to find out more about her past.  The more that is revealed, however, the more that Matthew finds that he wants to love this woman despite what it would do to his reputation.  What will become of the two of them?

Klassen is a pro at creating awesome heroines.  I like that they’ve all had to struggle through some type of hardship to become stronger and more sure of themselves.  Having her heroines go through specific trials and tribulations make them find out what they are truly made of and what they are worth.  Mariah of the gatehouse is no different.  Society and her family have turned their back on her without ever hearing her side of the story that has shamed her into hiding.  She is left to her own devices with no way of supporting herself (at first) and has essentially been ostracized from almost all of her family, friends, and neighbors.  This abandonment is at first extremely difficult for her to deal with, but it makes her re-evaluate the relationships of the people who have chosen to stick with her.  It’s sad to think that back in the day your own family would disown you for even the hint of scandal attached to your name.  In Mariah’s case I was surprised that her father wouldn’t listen to her and trust that she was telling him the truth.  It saddened me further that both Mariah and her brother, Henry, believed that if their father knew of their conversing that both would be forever cut off financially.  To have that broken of a relationship with one’s parents must have been tough to deal with, which is why it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that Dixon and Martin become surrogate parents to her.  They become the people she bounces her ideas off of and look to for guidance.  I enjoyed reading about her finding faith in humanity again as she deepened the bonds with those that supported her in her exile.

I should also mention that Klassen’s writing style is practically flawless.  She weaves multiple characters’ lives/demons/hopes/dreams together seamlessly.  Several times I thought I had figured out what was going to happen plot-wise only to be totally thrown off by a new addition to the mysteries Klassen had created.  What added to the already amazing writing were the quotes she chose to open each chapter with.  They added extra depth and insight into each chapter and the story overall.  So, if you haven’t yet checked out the awesome works that Klassen has provided, I wholeheartedly recommend The Girl in the Gatehouse.  You won’t regret it.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my forty-sixth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
Bethany House (2011)
eBook: 400 pages
ISBN: 9781441214119

The June Round-Up!

Half the year is over! To make my goal of reading 110 books by the end of the year I should have completed 55 books by June 30th.  I can happily say I was finished with 95 books at the end of June!!! WOOT WOOT!  I’m clearly going to make my goal of 110 by the end of July, so upon completion I’ll re-evaluate my goal and up it.

My cousins with my sister and her EPIC hat

This summer has proved to be one of the busiest of my life, and June continued that trend.  The beginning of June was my sister’s bridal shower, (her wedding is the end of July – YAY!) and man was it fun!  My sister BEGGED us to play toilet paper bride at the shower.  If you’re unfamiliar with this game let me enlighten you.  You split up into teams, are given toilet paper and other “accessories”, and must dress one member of your team in a bridal gown of toilet paper.  It is by far one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and the creations are hysterical.  Two of my mother’s friends must have been dressed in four rolls of toilet paper a piece.  Then of course my cousins made my sister an EPIC hat using all the ribbons from her gifts.  Seriously, the hat was enormous. (Just check out the picture)

Wedding!

The weekend following  Todd and I flew out to Columbus, Ohio for his cousin’s wedding.  This trip marked the farthest west I’ve ever been in the US!  We don’t get to see Todd’s extended family much since the majority of them are in Ohio, so not only was it great being there for the wedding, but it was wonderful visiting with Todd’s family.

Our Relay For Life event took over our lives for the third and fourth weeks of June.  The event went off WONDERFULLY and we’ve raised over $100,000 to-date!  I met my personal goal of raising $1,000 and was SO damn happy!  We had beautiful weather and the event was just perfect.  It was unfortunately my last year as an event chair (as I’ve been a chair for three years) and I couldn’t have asked for it go any better than it did.

Probably my favorite event of the whole month was last weekend when I got to meet ROBERT GOOLRICK!!  If you don’t know who he is then you’ve been living under a rock!  Robert wrote A Reliable Wife and just came out with his newest novel, Heading Out To Wonderful.  My favorite bookstore R.J. Julia hosted an evening with him in their bookstore and honestly I’ve never looked forward to something more than this!  He was absolutely hysterical and I was mesmerized as he read two chapters from Heading Out To Wonderful.  Being able to chat with him later on as he signed my books was heavenly.  AH. I’m still in disbelief that I got to meet him!

Anyway, enough about what I did. What did I read!?! I finished 12 books this month and The Siren by Tiffany Reisz was HANDS DOWN my favorite of the month.  I keep telling people that it’s 1,000 times better than the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and that they should read it instead! The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen came in at a close second! I kept it eclectic for June – erotica, historical fiction, Jane Austen fan fiction, etc.  Someone needs to give me a romance novel intervention.  I literally can’t get enough. HELP.

Alright folks, enough of my rambling.  What have been some of your favorite author meetings? Who do you want to meet?  What did you read this month?  Any good books you want me to add to my list?

As always…..happy reading!