Berry Good Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Berry Good Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

It’s always terrific to have a blog hop on the first day of the month (Thank You MAMA!) and this one is especially good because it’s named for all the delicious fresh fruit – including berries – that is just perfectly ripe and juicy over the summer. With school being out, it’s enough to make anyone think that “WOW, Summer is HERE!”

What makes you feel the summery-est?  Answer below for your chance at the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in Books.

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For more “berry good” prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Moms Rock Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Moms Rock Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

I looked back at my post for this hop last year and it’s all still true! I really can’t imagine my mom even in the vicinity of that guitar. My mom was a teenager, and in high school, during World War II, so rock and roll wasn’t yet here to stay. She was amazing in a whole lot of ways, but anything that would have involved that ax just wasn’t among those ways.

But I know plenty of moms who would definitely be able to rock that guitar. But even moms that don’t rock absolutely do rule!

Whether or moms are still with us or not, or whether the people who occupy that place in our lives are our moms by birth or adoption or by love alone, they still have mom things that they do that no one else does ‘right’. I still miss my mom’s vegetable beef barley soup, and my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies. I have the recipes for both, and I’ve even made them a time or two. IT’S JUST NOT THE SAME!

What about you? If you’re a mom, what’s your best ‘mom thing’? Or if you didn’t go that route or haven’t yet, what’s the thing you remember that your mom just did THE best?

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For more mom-worthy prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop, hosted by  The Mommy Island & The Kids Did It!

And May the 4th Be With You, as today is also Star Wars Day.

So there’s plenty to celebrate, not just today throughout the “Lusty Month of May” as the song from Camelot called it. Even if it is not yet beach weather where you are, there’s a lot to celebrate this month, from Cinco de Mayo tomorrow to Mothers’ Day next Sunday through Memorial Day at the end of the month.

It might even be beach weather by Memorial Day. Definitely something to look forward to!

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For more fabulous beachy prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Come What May Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Come What May Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

It’s a bit wide-open, isn’t it? Come what may potentially encompasses a whole lot of mayhem, after all. It’s also the month of “May the 4th Be With You” if you’re a Star Wars fan of any stripe whatsoever. Then there’s Cinco de Mayo and Mothers’ Day. All of the above are just in the first half of the month! And then there’s “The Lusty Month of May”, a song from the play – and the movie – Camelot.

I still think of the song first. My parents had a copy of the Broadway Original Cast LP, and I listened to it fairly often – if only because I also loved the material the play was based on, particularly T.H. White’s epic The Once and Future King.

May is also the month when flowers really get to blooming. One of the highlights of May in Chicago was all the peonies that seemed to pop out of nowhere to blossom in profusion.

What do you first think of when May pops into your head? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at Reading Reality’s usual hop prize, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in Books!

It’s May, it’s May, the lusty month of May!

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For more May prizes to come your way, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: The Cleaving by Juliet E. McKenna + Giveaway

Review: The Cleaving by Juliet E. McKenna + GiveawayThe Cleaving by Juliet E. McKenna
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: Arthurian legends, fantasy, historical fantasy, retellings
Pages: 400
Published by Angry Robot on May 9, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

Four women, four destinies – the future of King Arthur's court…
A new, feminist retelling of the Arthurian legends

The Cleaving is an Arthurian retelling that follows the tangled stories of four women: Nimue, Ygraine, Morgana, and Guinevere, as they fight to control their own destinies amid the wars and rivalries that will determine the destiny of Britain.
The legendary epics of King Arthur and Camelot don’t tell the whole story. Chroniclers say Arthur’s mother Ygraine married the man that killed her husband. They say that Arthur's half-sister Morgana turned to dark magic to defy him and Merlin. They say that the enchantress Nimue challenged Merlin and used her magic to outwit him. And that Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere ended in adultery, rebellion and bloodshed. So why did these women chose such dangerous paths?
As warfare and rivalries constantly challenge the king, Arthur and Merlin believe these women are destined to serve Camelot by doing as they are told. But men forget that women talk. Ygraine, Nimue, Morgana and Guinevere become friends and allies while the decisions that shape their lives are taken out of their hands. This is their untold story. Now these women have a voice.
Juliet McKenna is an expert on medieval history and warfare and brings this expertise as well as her skills as a fantasy writer to this epic standalone novel.

My Review:

The story (or legend, or myth, or history) of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table is one of those “tales as old as time.” Whether one considers it a myth, or a legend, or a bit of fictionalized or fantasized history, there’s something about the story that speaks to generation after generation, and has since Sir Thomas Malory compiled his now-famous Le Morte d’Arthur back in the 15th century.

A compilation which was itself based on an earlier popular “history”, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th century History of the Kings of Britain. All of the elements we now recognize as part of the Matter of Britain, King Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, the castle at Tintagel, the sword Excalibur and his final rest in Avalon are all in that 12th century tale, just as they are in this 21st century reimagining, The Cleaving.

Some stories, and some characters, are so profoundly immortal that they must be reinterpreted for each generation and the story of King Arthur is one of those tales. Each generation has reinvented the “once and future king” for over EIGHT centuries so far.

There’s no sign of that stopping any time soon. Rather the reverse. The Cleaving, with its gritty medieval setting and its female-centered perspective on the deeds and misdeeds of the arrogant and autocratic and all-too-frequently abusive men they were supposed to serve and obey, shows the reader a somewhat more-plausible version of a story we all believe we know and love. The Cleaving tells another, rather different side to a legend and makes it all that much more “real” and even believable by that telling.

And it’s going to inform and inflect (or possibly infect) the next generation of tellers of this beloved tale. As it so very much should.

Escape Rating A+: The Cleaving is a compelling conundrum of a book. On the one hand, the story of King Arthur and his knights has been told, and retold, over and over, to the point where it forms one of the foundational tales of western literature along with a considerable number of the archetypes therein.

But very much on the other hand, in order to be considered a good book right now, The Cleaving has to be, and very much is, considerably more than merely a rehash of a story we already know. So it has the hard work of being a book where readers will already know how the story ends, while needing to tell its familiar story in a way that is fresh and new and will appeal to the audiences of its time and not just play on the nostalgia of those already familiar with the story.

The Cleaving succeeds in dancing on that very high and narrow tightrope by telling the story from the perspective of the women who usually exist as mere ciphers in its background while the men perform all the deeds of derring-do and conduct all the important business of their realms.

What The Cleaving does with the familiar story doesn’t change the story nearly as much as an earlier explicitly feminist and fantastically magical version – Marion Zimmer Bradley’s ultra popular The Mists of Avalon – did. Rather, The Cleaving takes that original story of men doing manly things and shows it from the perspective of a group of intelligent, influential women who performed as society forced them to in public – while maintaining their own thoughts and their own council behind the scenes.

It’s a portrait that feels more realistic to a 21st century reader without stretching the bounds of anachronism. These women were expected to manage complicated households, oversee large budgets for those households, keep everything running smoothly whether their lords were in residence or not – and even act in place of those lords when they were away – as many often were.

That level of intelligence and capability can’t be faked for very long at all without being found out. On the other hand, public subservience is easy to fake just by schooling one’s expressions and keeping one’s mouth shut except to be agreeable and above all, meek. It would require getting used to the sensation of swallowing one’s own tongue rather a lot, but it can be done. Especially in front of men who would be inclined to believe it anyway.

So in public they all seem meek, mild and accepting of the inevitable. Because the abuse they suffered, whether physical or emotional, was inevitable. Their choices were few. But in private, they mitigated what damage they could. Even if it wasn’t nearly enough.

So Uther, with Merlin’s connivance, rapes Ygraine while wearing her beloved husband’s face. With Merlin’s connivance, the child of that rape becomes king. With Merlin’s connivance, a whole lot of things happen that probably shouldn’t. (There’s a possible interpretation of this version of the Arthurian legend as Merlin interfered with a whole lot of things that he should have left well enough alone and karma is a bitch.)

Because of the way the story plays out, and just how much the queens are influencing events when the men are too busy pillaging to pay attention, even though we know how the story ends we don’t know how it gets there, and it keeps the reader turning pages to learn what is different and what remains familiar when told from a formerly hidden point of view.

Based on this latest variation of these seemingly eternal legends, we’re clearly not done with Arthur yet. Is it possible that this is what was truly meant by that sobriquet, “the once and future king”?

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Thanks to the publisher, Angry Robot, I’m giving away one copy of The Cleaving to one lucky US or UK commenter on this tour!

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Just Because Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Just Because Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

“Just Because” today is part of my annual Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week, I’m participating in not just one but two giveaway hops today! So be sure to check out today’s other hop, Dancing in the Rain along with all of the rest of this week’s giveaways (Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday)

There are many variations of this particular quote, but the one I’ve always liked best is “We like someone because. We love someone although.” In this house, that’s often applicable to the cats, particularly after they’ve done something reprehensible, like throwing up on the rug. One of us will say to the other, “We love them. Why was that again?” The answer is just because, we love them in spite of some of their less stellar attributes. LaZorra and both of her daughters upchucked at the drop of a hat. They weren’t sick, they just regularly tossed their little kitty cookies, usually on the bed. And we loved them anyway. Just Because.

But what does “Just Because” mean to you. Is it loving someone in spite of their faults? Or is it something you do “Just Because” it’s a habit or a tradition or invokes a memory? Answer in the Rafflecopter for your chance at Reading Reality’s usual prize, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in Books.

Just Because.

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Just Because this is a giveaway hop, check out all the other prizes being given away. Just Because!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Dancing in the Rain Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Dancing in the Rain Giveaway Hop, hosted by  The Mommy Island & The Kids Did It!

The start of April tends to mean that Spring has really and truly sprung, no matter how far behind – or ahead – the official climatological event might have been.

Growing up, that generally meant my birthday, which was yesterday, and Passover, which my birthday usually managed to fall somewhere in the middle of. Which meant no cake and no party until after the holiday. For many, I imagine that Easter marks the true start of Spring.

And then there’s the Major League Baseball season opening day, which this year was March 30, just a tad early. In Cincinnati, my hometown, the Reds had the honor of opening at home every year on Opening Day, in honor of their history as the first Major League Baseball team. Or so the story goes.

While Opening Day was never an OFFICIAL city holiday, let’s just say that attendance at school on that day was always a bit sparse – and the line to submit absence excuses the next morning was always a bit long. You do the math.

Speaking of math, there’s a bit of math in picking blog hop winners, something I’m really glad that Rafflecopter takes care of for me.

As part of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration, I’m giving away one of Reading Reality’s usual prizes, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in Books to one lucky winner on this hop. There’s also a second hop today, Just Because so be sure to enter there as well, along with all of the rest of this week’s giveaways (Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday) – and there’s one more for tomorrow!

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Spring over for more prizes by visiting the other stops on this hop!

TWELFTH Annual Blogo-Birthday Celebration and Giveaway!

Today is the 12th anniversary of the very first post on Reading Reality, then called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”. Which explains why all the review ratings are “Escape Ratings” unless the book is nonfiction and then they are “Reality Ratings”.

Two years ago was the big milestone blogoversary at ten years, and last year represented a milestone birthday. So the numbers aren’t so much of a big deal – although the idea that I’m still doing this every day twelve years later is a bit of a shock.

Twelve years for us means three different cities – and one of those cities twice – eight different residences, and an entirely different clowder of cats as the members of the original bunch went to the Rainbow Bridge over the intervening decade plus. Although the spirit of Erasmus still seems to be stealing my pens. As he did.

This annual Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week, like the ones before it, will be a “Hobbit Birthday” as I give away presents instead of getting them. Mostly. Galen has already given me my birthday present, a lovely Coach bag to replace the purse that George recently chewed through the strap of. As he does.

I give away presents this week because I want to thank each and every one of you who take the time to read my reviews and features, post comments and enter the giveaways. Creating Reading Reality was my salvation when I was laid off during the “Great Recession” and has continued to be so in all the years since.

TWELVE years and still counting.

So, in thanks and appreciation to all of you, on this second day of the Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week I have a giveaway, just as I did yesterday and will every day this week. Today’s giveaway is for a $25 Amazon Gift Card or a Gift Card to a bookstore of your choice if you have a local that sells gift cards over the interwebs. (I’ll be giving away books again tomorrow for my actual birthday.)

From the bottom of my bookish and cat-loving heart, my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who has been part of this journey. There’s still more to come!

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Review: One Extra Corpse by Barbara Hambly + Giveaway

Review: One Extra Corpse by Barbara Hambly + GiveawayOne Extra Corpse (Silver Screen Historical Mystery #2) by Barbara Hambly
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Silver Screen Historical Mystery #2
Pages: 256
Published by Severn House on March 7, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

Hollywood intrigue, glamor . . . and murder: Enter the roaring twenties in this thrilling Silver Screen historical mystery, starring two very different female sleuths.
May, 1924. It's been seven months since young British widow Emma Blackstone arrived in Hollywood to serve as companion to Kitty Flint: her beautiful, silent-movie star sister-in-law. Kitty is generous, kind-hearted . . . and a truly terrible actress. Not that Emma minds; she's too busy making her academic parents turn in their graves with her new job writing painfully historically inaccurate scenarios for Foremost Studios, in between wrangling their leading lady out of the arms of her army of amorous suitors.
So when one of Kitty's old flames, renowned film director Ernst Zapolya, calls Emma and tells her it's imperative he meet with Kitty that morning, she's not surprised. Until, that is, he adds that lives depend on it. Ernest sounds frightened. But what can have scared him so badly - and what on earth does cheerful, flighty Kitty have to do with it?
Only Ernest can provide the answers, and Kitty and Emma travel to the set of his extravagant new movie to find them. But the shocking discovery they make there only raises further questions . . . including: will they stay alive long enough to solve the murderous puzzle?

My Review:

One Extra Corpse, like its predecessor Scandal in Babylon, strips away the phony tinsel of Hollywood to find the real dirty, bloody tinsel underneath.

It’s 1924, just one month after the events of the first book in the Silver Screen Historical Mystery series, Emma Blackstone has mostly settled herself into her new life in Hollywood as her movie star sister-in-law’s general factotum and keeper of all secrets as well as caretaker of both Kitty Flint AND her three pampered Pekingese dogs, Chang Ming, Black Jasmine, and Buttercreme.

Managing Kitty also comes with a bit of tinsel-making of Emma’s own. She’s regularly employed – and sometimes just plain used – as a scene doctor for movie scripts during these frenetic-paced early days of the silver screen – and occasionally as a social prop for a gay actor who needs to be seen with a woman to protect his image.

Days that may be silent on film but are filled with noise, chatter and above all gossip behind the scenes. Gossip that all too frequently includes who’s sleeping with whom this week – as opposed to last week or next week – as the star-making machinery of Hollywood seems to be fueled by equal parts sex and addiction.

The addiction of entirely too many actors to their drugs of choice – frequently provided by their studios, the addiction of the studios to making money and controlling their actors so that they can keep making that money, and the addiction of the general public to movies as well as gossip about their favorite stars.

No one wants a dead body on the set, not when that dead body belongs to a big name movie director and when it’s all too clear that the man was murdered. Quite possibly by his over-acting, downright histrionic current wife. Who had plenty of motives and no alibi.

But she’s a star in her own right, and her studio doesn’t want to ruin her box-office potential. She makes them too much money to be a murderer, and the police have been paid plenty to make sure she doesn’t get labeled as one. The studios have handed the police a neat-and-tidy case with a tailor-made perpetrator. They can afford to sacrifice an extra to keep one of their stars out of trouble.

Which is where Emma and Kitty get themselves involved. They were on the scene because the victim had something important he wanted to tell Kitty. Who was one of his many, many ex-lovers, just as he was one of hers. Of course, he was killed before he could tell them whatever-it-was, otherwise there wouldn’t be a case to investigate.

And there so very much is. Not the case of a jealous wife, tempting though it was. Or at least Emma is sure that isn’t the solution – not when the Bureau of Investigation (the FBI before it became the FBI) seems to have searched Kitty’s house looking for something, and mysterious thugs make multiple attempts to murder one or both of them.

All while a desperate young woman is on the hook for a murder that she couldn’t possibly have committed. Or could she?

Escape Rating A: This was surprisingly meaty for a book whose cover kind of screams camp with vamp, but then, the silent movie era did have to maximize flash and style to convey emotion. After all, the characters couldn’t use their own words, or even the scriptwriter’s words.

What makes this story so good, and kind of rocks the reader on their heels at the end, is the way that it gets deep into how the sausage-machine of moviemaking worked then – and probably still does now to a greater extent than we like to think about while we’re watching the latest hit.

This story looks hard at the human cost of all that “entertainment”. When that director is killed on set, he dies in the middle of directing a climactic battle scene in his last picture. A scene that uses real bullets fired hopefully above the heads of real people while the inevitable stampeding horses are harnessed into a rig that is guaranteed to bring them down in a crash of heavy bodies on spindly legs that will look great on film. That some of those extras will need to be carried off on stretchers, and that some of the horses will be crippled and shot afterwards, is considered just part of the cost of making movies.

Nobody cares who or how many die as long as it can be hushed up and the show goes on. Which is what the case turns out to be all about in the end.

But it middles in a whole lot of the real issues of the time, in Hollywood and elsewhere. Particularly, in this case, the growing “Red Scare” about communism and socialism in Hollywood, and the lengths the government will go to suppress it, the adults who briefly flirted with it in their misspent youths will go to escape their pasts, and how far some will go to keep their secrets – or the secrets of their own, currently imploding, government.

As the story whipsaws the reader back and forth from the froth of Hollywood to the hamfisted murder investigation to the all-too-real threats to Emma’s and Kitty’s life and liberty, it’s impossible to stop turning pages to find out not just whodunnit but what they done and why they did it.

Most people read mysteries for what has been called “the romance of justice”, that guarantee that good will triumph and evil will get its just desserts. One Extra Corpse doesn’t deliver on the whole of that promise, but it delivers as much justice as was possible and definitely satisfies in that delivery just the same.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Today is the first day of Reading Reality’s Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. There will be giveaways every day this week, and I wanted to get the week started with a real bang.

Barbara Hambly is an author who I’ve been reading and following for more than 40 years, since her first book, The Time of the Dark. Over those decades she has written epic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal that verges on horror, and historical mystery. While I haven’t read EVERYTHING she’s ever written, I’ve read and loved some of everything she’s turned her hand to, and am looking forward to more to come as I expect Emma and Kitty have plenty more cases coming in their future. At least I certainly hope so.

As is my custom, TWELVE YEARS now and counting, I’m giving things away for this combined blogoversary and birthday week. Today’s giveaway is the winner’s choice of any one of Barbara Hambly’s books, in any format, up to $30 (US) so that includes One Extra Corpse.

Good luck with today’s giveaway and remember that there’s more to come!

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Chasing Rainbows Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Chasing Rainbows Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

It’s still March – even if seemingly the strangest March weatherwise on record – so this hop is all about being lucky. Lucky enough, that is, to find the pot of gold that is supposed to be at the end of every rainbow.

Come to think of it, I wonder if there are supposed to be pots of gold at the ends of snowbows, too. Considering the way the weather has been this month, I’m sure there are some areas that need to know!

Whether you’re looking for rainbows or snowbows, what would you like to find at the end of the next one you see? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at Reading Reality’s usual prize, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in Books. It’s not a whole pot of gold, but it’s a lucky piece or two!

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For more lucky prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.