Monday, May 16, 2016

Quick Review: "The Midnight Watch" by David Dyer

From Goodreads:  As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

My Thoughts:  I've been really into Titanic related books this year but this one was completely different than I have read so far.  I actually had never heard of the judicial inquiry into the acts of the Californian on the night that the Titanic sank so this book gave me a whole new view of the Titanic disaster.

I will say that this story was a sad one but it was also poignant.  I admired Officer Stone's loyalty to his captain even if it meant lying about the events of April 14.  He seemed so lost and like someone who never could decide on the correct path to take.  I also really enjoyed the character of Steadman.  He was such a sleazy journalist but at the same time, he was a devoted father and he really did care about telling the victims' side of the story.  His 'story within the story' about a family in third class on the Titanic was heartbreaking but also beautiful.  It definitely made you think, 'if only the Californian had done something'.

I loved that the author included actual text from the British and American hearing transcripts.  This was very clearly a well-researched work and I really appreciated the extensive author's note at the end of the book.  I think this is one of my new favorite Titanic books and I would highly recommend it to anyone interest in the story of the Titanic.  4 stars.

Friday, May 6, 2016

April 2016 Wrap Up

Thank goodness April is over!! What an awful month that was.  I had a major reading slump and dealt with a ridiculous amount of work stress and drama.  I am so glad that May is here and hopefully it will be a kind of fresh start. 

I hit a serious reading roadblock this month.  There was a whole week where I read nothing (except some stuff for school).  I just had no motivation to read. I somehow managed to get through 4 books  which I probably only got to because I participated in the read-a-thon.  I'm at 19 books out of 52 for the year and according to goodreads, I'm ahead so I guess it's not all bad.  The class I'm taking ends next week so I'm hoping for a better reading month in May.

I don't normally do this but I am setting monthly reading/non-reading goals for the month to help me focus a little bit.

1.) Read one non-fiction book
2.) Read a book I own
3.) Spend less money
4.) Exercise regularly
5.) Clean my house (!)

Here is what I read in April:

1.) The Virgin's Spy by Laura Andersen
2.) The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt
3.)  Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan
4.) The Virgin's War by Laura Andersen

My April stats were:

-4 books read
   -0 non-fiction
   -4 historical fiction
   -3 review books
   -1 library books
   -0 books I own
   -4 ebooks
I hope May is a wonderful month for you all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: "The Dark Lady's Mask" by Mary Sharratt

Synopsis:  Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.
London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

My Thoughts:  I loved this book!  There was just something about the opening pages of the story that  completely sucked me in to this book.  This is the second book I have read by Mary Sharratt and I must say, she is a fabulous writer.  Her prose is beautiful and her descriptions of Italy are just so vivid.  She created an amazing image of Aemilia's Italian villa so much so that you could almost feel the heat of the sun.

I had never heard of Aemilia Bassano prior to reading this book but I was completely in awe of her character in the book.  She dealt with such adversity but no matter what managed to use her wit and intelligence to find a way to survive.  She was definitely unconventional for the times but that is what I loved most about the character.  I want to read about women like her more often!  There were actually a lot of unique female characters in this story and I really like reading about them.  It was nice to see Tudor era women portrayed as more than just a pretty face. 

I'll be honest though, the character of Shakespeare didn't really do it for me; there was just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way.  That being said, I did really enjoy reading about their collaboration on some of his most famous plays.  It made me want to go back and re-read many of Shakespeare's plays.

Overall, this was an excellent read and I would highly recommend it! 4 stars.

About the Author:

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: "The Northern Queen" by Kelly Evans

From Goodreads:  St. Brice’s Day, England, 1002. At the order of King Aethelred, thousands of Danes are murdered in a frenzy of ethnic cleansing.

Outraged, the Danish King, Sweyn Forkbeard, swears he will take Aethedred’s head, and his crown. But Sweyn needs allies. Chief amongst his supporters is Aelfgifu, an English noblewoman and head of a once great family.

She has her own reasons to hate Aethelred, and as a pagan, she is sympathetic to the Danish cause. When Aelfgifu marries Sweyn’s son, Canute, war is inevitable.

But if Aethelred is weak, his Norman queen is not. And Emma will stop at nothing to destroy the woman at the heart of the Viking army.

Love, ambition and revenge combine in an epic struggle for justice during the most turbulent period in England’s history.

My Thoughts:  This book was such a surprise to me!  I had no idea what to expect going into it but I ended up really enjoying the story.  I have read very little about this period in English history but now I think I need to read more because I was completely captivated by the story of Aelfgifu.  Hers is a story filled with action, adventure and romance and it sucked me in through the very last page.

Aelfgifu is the quintessential heroine.  She is smart and tough and always seems able to handle whatever life life throws at her.  She is such an honorable character and I couldn't help but root for her throughout the book.  I also love that she is portrayed as such a loving mother who would do anything to protect her children and their birthright.  Emma is very clearly the villain in this story but I also thought she was an interesting character.  She was conniving and violent but beneath that she was also a strong woman trying to deal with the hardships life threw at her.  While I did not like her at all, I kind of felt bad for her and her circumstances.

In addition to great characters, the story has a really cool setting.  The reader gets to see England, Denmark and Norway as well as the people of those countries and their customs.  I liked reading about how each country governed themselves and their way of life; it was truly fascinating.

Overall, The Northern Queen is a great read for anyone interested in lesser known historical periods and those who just love a good story.  4 stars.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mailbox Monday (56)

I'm linking up with Mailbox Monday again this week.  I've been trying hard not to buy books but yesterday, I completely failed.  It's so hard to resist a kindle sale!

I participated in Dewey's Readathon yesterday and got in a decent amount of reading (though not as much as I would have liked).  I'm getting ready to start week 3 at my new job so it was nice to relax a little bit with a good book this weekend.

Purchased (for kindle):

From the Library (ebook and physical):

 What books did you pick up this week? 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon April 2016 - Master Post

Hey y'all, it's that time again!  The first readathon of 2016 is here!  I'm feeling pretty nervous about it right now because I'm not sure how much reading I will actually get done but it's such a fun event that I can't help but participate.  Julia has swimming lessons in the morning and we have lots of errands to run so I'll try to do most of my reading while riding in the car.

I don't have a fun stack of physical books to showcase but I have four books on my kindle that I plan to choose from.  I've started The Beast but I'm not really feeling it right now so I'll probably begin the day with something else.  I do have some reading to do for the class I'm taking so even though I won't be reading a book during that time, I will be reading. : )

On my stack:
The Virgin's War by Laura Andersen
The Beast by J.R. Ward
The Midnight Watch by David Dyer
The Tsarina's Legacy by Jennifer Laam

Most of my check ins will be on twitter since that's the easiest for me.  You can follow me here: @so_many_books.  I will try to post occasional updates on the blog when my daughter is napping and goes to bed in the evening.

HOUR 0 Questionaire
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  I'm in Kansas and the weather is supposed to be gorgeous.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  I'm looking forward to The Virgin's War.  I love this series and even though I know I should read one of the others first, I think it will be the one I start with.

 3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  Not sure.  I have to go to the store tomorrow so we'll see what I come home with

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  I'm a mom to a crazy smart, sassy, adorable, almost 3 year old.  I live with my husband, daughter and crazy dog.  I work in higher education which is an adventure and a half. AND I love to read. 

 5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  I would like to visit more blogs and cheer people on even if it's just on twitter or Facebook.

It has been a crazy busy morning.  We had swim lessons this morning and then errands and lunch and more errands.  The hubs is currently putting the toddler down for a nap so I'm going to try to get some more reading in.  We did stop at my favorite bakery for some yummy treats so I'm feeling super ready to read!  So far, I have only read 19% of The Virgin's War.  It's probably more than I would normally read by this time on a Saturday but still I feel like a slacker.  Hopefully, I will have a better update this evening.  

I hope everyone's having a great readathon!

Final Wrap Up
So I ended up reading a total of 72% of The Virgin's War plus 3 articles for my class before I went to bed last night (and I finished after the readathon was over).  I definitely read more than I usually would on a Saturday but I still kind of miss the pre-kids readathon days where I could just lay on the couch and not be bothered.  I definitely wish I had more time during the day to visit blogs and twitter but the yesterday wound up being a lot busier than I had planned.  Looking forward to the next readathon; hopefully the toddler can go visit grandma that day!

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