Thursday, July 2, 2015

July Wrap Up (and goal check in!)

 2015 is half over, can you believe it?!  It has gone by so fast. I had a slow reading month in June but I think that was because I spent most of my time knitting and planning Julia's birthday party.  I was furiously knitting little doll blankets for her birthday present and that took up most of my reading time.  I only got one done but am hoping to finish the second one soon (I kept messing up and having to start over!).  I still met my goal for the month of reading 6 books so I still feel pretty good about it.

 Here are my June numbers:
-6 books read
   -1 non-fiction
   -1 historical fiction
   -1 review
   -2 library books
   -3 books I own
   -3 ebooks

What I read in June:

1.) Make You Remember by Macy Beckett
2.) The Grip of God by Rachel Hazell
3.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
4.) American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus
5.) Season of Storms by Susannah Kearsley
6.) Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva

Since the year is half over, I thought I would review my goals and see where I stand for the year.

Here are my numbers for the first half of 2015:
-44 books read
   -5 non-fiction
   -18 historical fiction
   -9 review
   -21 library books
   -14 books I own
   -16 ebooks

I'm really happy with my numbers so far.  I'm more than on track to reaching 80 books read for the year.  Two of my big goals this year were to read more non-fiction and less review books.  So far this year I have already read as many non-fiction books as I did in the whole of 2014.  And only 20% of the books I've read this year have been review books.  My goal was to stay under 25% so that makes me really happy.

I do need to be reading more books I own.  The number above includes books I own that I re-read, books I purchased this year, etc.  It doesn't include very many books I owned prior to this year.  I really need to start picking from my shelves first.  I guess I have something to work on for the next six months!

Sorry for all the words!  I hope the first half of 2015 has gone well for you all!  How are you doing on your goals for the year?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#FitReaders: I'm Back!


#FitReaders is hosted by The Geeky Blogger and That's What I'm Talking About.

I participated in #FitReaders early this year but then my daughter stopped sleeping and my whole life revolved around that.  I stopped exercising because I had no time to and I stress-ate my way through several months.  I was already heavier than I wanted to be but I added a few more pounds and began to feel like a stuffed sausage in my clothes.

In May, my husband changed shifts at work and is now home in the evenings and I decided it was time to get back on track.  In June, I started using My Fitness Pal to track my calories and I started exercising five days a week.  I started Couch 2 5K again because it's a great way to motivate me back into running.  This is the last week of Couch 2 5K and then next week I'll start the 10K program.

With all of these changes, I have lost 6 lbs!  I am hoping to lose 4-6 more pounds by the end of the summer.  I'm trying to make changes that are maintainable instead of starving myself and then gaining all the weight back later.  I think it's going really well and I feel so much better.

I'm excited to participate in #FitReaders again and will keep you posted on my progress!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015


Hey all!  I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and The Bookish.  It's the first one I've done in ages!

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015
Now I don't have ten favorites yet (the year's only half over!) but I do have a few that stand out as being my favorites so far.




1.) Missoula by John Krakauer - This book was so rage-inducing but it was so well-written and about such a fascinating topic.  As someone who works at a university that recently had a sexual assault scandal, it felt very relevant.  I think this is a book everyone should read.

2.) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - Seriously, the best book I've read this year.  It's absolutely beautiful and heart-breaking and inspiring all at once.  

3.) The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I re-read the Little House series this Spring starting with By The Shores of Silver Lake and enjoyed them all so much.  They were some of my favorite books as a child and it was comforting to read them again.

4.) Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova - This book kind of fell into my lap but it was a wonderful read. 

5.) Redeployment by Phil Klay - I still haven't given a rating to this book because it feels unrateable but it is definitely one of my favorites for the year.  It's a book of short stories about soldiers' experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and at home.  I don't really have words to describe how I felt reading this book but it definitely stuck with me.

What books have you loved in 2015 so far?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Release Day Blitz: "Roman Mask" by Thomas Brooke

Large copy of CoverPublication Date: June 29, 2015

CreateSpace

Formats: Kindle & Paperback

Pages: 388



Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure/Action



What is it we normally expect of the leading character in our books? Self-sacrifice? Bravery? Strength of character? Possibly with a hint of self-deprecation? Well, Cassius doesn’t have any of those. Cynicism – yes. Cowardice – possibly. Prepared to live a lie in order to further his own ends – absolutely!



It is Rome AD 9 and Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world. Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome’s imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career. None of Rome’s fashionable parties are complete without him.



But he hides a secret.



After his nerve is broken in Germany, even the thought of genuine armed combat is enough to send him into a cold sweat. But this doesn’t dissuade him from living off a false reputation so he can continue a life of womanising, wine and wild parties, as he is seduced by the many vices of Rome. However, his scandalous life is interrupted by a summons from the emperor’s wife. It ends his happy decadent life and returns him to Germany to assist the Roman legions in their greatest ever trial. The events will resound through history, in the dark forests of the Teutoburg …



I have researched the calamitous history of the doomed legions that marched into the Teutoburg Forest in AD 9, using a wide range of historical sources including the classical works of Tacitus and the more recent archaeological findings of the early 1990s in Kalkriese. I have put my complicated hero, who clearly suffers from the post-traumatic stress of his last encounter with the German tribes, at the centre of the events that rocked Rome to its foundations. How can a man, so flawed in so many respects, possibly impact on these terrible events? By his humanity, by coming to terms with his flaws, and learning to stop hating himself for them. It is a tale of betrayal and hardship, but also personal redemption.

Roman Mask Available At



Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

About the AuthorTom



Thomas Brooke lives in London where he works in the exciting, and sometimes crazy, fashion world. He is also a committed writer and he spends as much time as he can in his beloved Northumbrian hills, where up until recently could be seen walking with his black Labrador Fergus, who sadly passed in January 2015. Fergus was a constant companion to the writing of the novel and prevented many writers’ tantrums.



Roman Mask is Thomas Brooke’s second novel, although this will be the first available for sale.



As well as writing novels, he also writes a blog on both historical and fantasy genre novels.



For more information on Thomas M D Brooke, visit www.thomasmdbrooke.com and www.romanmask.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.



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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: "The Oracle" by D.J. Niko

02_The Oracle_CoverPublication Date: November 10, 2015
Medallion Press
Paperback; 456p
ISBN-13: 978-1605426273

Series: The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book Three
Genre: Historical/Archeological Adventure

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In Delphi, the mountain city deemed by the Greek gods to be the center of the Earth, a cult of neo-pagans re-create with painstaking authenticity ancient rituals to glorify the god Apollo and deliver oracles to seekers from around the world.

When antiquities are stolen from a museum in nearby Thebes, British archaeologist Sarah Weston and her American partner, Daniel Madigan, are drawn into a plot that goes beyond harmless role-playing: someone’s using the Delphian oracle as a smoke screen for an information exchange, with devastating consequences for the Western world.

Pitted against each other by the cult’s mastermind, Sarah and Daniel race against time and their own personal demons to uncover clues left behind by the ancients. Their mission: to find the original navel stone marked with a lost Pythagorean formula detailing the natural events that led to the collapse of the Minoan Empire.

But will they find it in time to stop the ultimate terrorist act?

Pre-Order The Oracle at


Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
IndieBound

About the Author


[caption id="attachment_7307" align="alignright" width="246"]Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO[/caption]

Daphne Nikolopoulos in an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and lecturer. Under the pen name D.J. Niko, she has written two novels in an archaeological thriller series titled The Sarah Weston Chronicles. Her debut novel, The Tenth Saint (Medallion Press, 2012), won the Gold Medal (popular fiction) in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. Her follow-up release, The Riddle of Solomon, continues the story of British archaeologist Sarah Weston as she seeks the relics—and mystical secrets—left behind by the biblical King Solomon in remote Israel.

Daphne is currently at work on The Oracle, book 3 in The Sarah Weston Chronicles, which releases in 2015. Also slated for publication in 2015 is her first historical novel, The Judgment, which is set in Israel and Egypt in the tenth century BCE.

In addition to writing fiction, Daphne is editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine and editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group. Prior to that, she was a travel journalist who logged hundreds of thousands of miles traveling across the globe, with emphasis on little-known and off-the-beaten-path locales—many of which have inspired her novels.

Daphne frequently lectures about her research on the ancient world. She is an instructor at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society, teaching on the subject of archaeology. She has also spoken to audiences at the Jewish Community Center of the Palm Beaches’ Academy for Continuous Education, and several libraries and private groups throughout Florida.

Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Daphne now resides in West Palm Beach with her husband and twin son and daughter. You can find her on the Web at djnikobooks.com and connect with her on Facebook (AuthorDJNiko) and on Twitter: @djnikobooks.

The Oracle Cover Reveal Schedule


Monday, June 15
100 Pages a Day
Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, June 16
Genre Queen
The Reading Queen

Wednesday, June 17
Book Nerd
Diana's Book Reviews

Thursday, June 18
The Lit Bitch
To Read, Or Not to Read

Friday, June 19
A Book Geek

Monday, June 22
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, June 23
Raven Haired Girl
CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, June 24
So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, June 25
The Never-Ending Book

Friday, June 26
Passages to the Past

Giveaway


To enter to win an Advanced Reading Copy of The Oracle by D.J. Niko please complete the giveaway form below. Two copies are up for grabs!

⇒ Giveaway is open to residents in the US, UK, and Canada.
⇒Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on June 26th.
⇒You must be 18 or older to enter.
⇒Only one entry per household.
⇒All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
⇒Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 27th and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
⇒Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.

The Oracle Cover Reveal + Giveaway


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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let Them Eat Cake

One of the reasons I have been MIA lately is because I was busy getting ready to make a wedding cake for a friend's wedding.  It was a long, stressful process that I'm so glad is over.  Almost every month in May was devoted to prepping for it and I'd been testing cake and frosting recipes for 6-8  months prior.  

I baked all the cakes the weekend before the wedding and froze them.  I baked every day for four days (it was Memorial Day weekend).  I had no idea how long it would take to bake all the layers and I baked extras just in case.

Baking Day

The wedding cake was three layers and square.  There was a 6", 10" and 14" layer.  Square cakes suck.  I don't ever want to do one again. When I signed up for this gig, the original plan was for a round cake but the changed their minds.

Practice layer I made the weekend before the wedding.

I took the day off before the wedding because I wanted to get most everything done that day.


 Just getting started.

By the end of the day, all of the layers were iced and ready to go.  And I had cake everywhere.  Did I mention that my kitchen is tiny?  Because it is and that made everything so much harder.

 Cake on the counter


  Cake in the fridge

The day of the wedding, I stacked the bottom two layers, put on the ribbon and did some of the piping.  I did not put the top layer on until I got the venue.  And I'm so glad I didn't because that sucker was HEAVY.  My arms were shaking so bad by the time I got to the venue (I was lucky to have a friend help me deliver!).

 Half done!

I will say that I am not at all happy with the final product.  I felt really good about it when I went to bed Friday night and then when I looked at everything on Saturday, I just wasn't thrilled.  I didn't have a lot of options to fix it or redo things because my babysitter fell through and I was stuck trying to finish the cake with my toddler running around (the hubs was gone because he was in the wedding).

Anyway here is the finished product:

  
There were a lot of compliments on it and evidently people thought it was delicious.  There were lots of people asking about it so I guess that's a good thing but I couldn't help but see every single flaw and it still upsets me.  But live and learn, right? I guess?  

Anyway, in the future, I will just stick with birthday cakes for Julia because if I don't like them, I can throw them out. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

"The Grip of God" by Rachel Hazell






Synopsis: The Grip of God is the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove. Set in the thirteenth century, its heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. She begins her story by recounting her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol armies that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is threatened by the bitter rivalries in her new master's powerful family, and shadowed by the leader of the Mongol invasion, Batu Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson. How will she learn to survive in a world of total war, much less rediscover the love she once took for granted? Always seeking to escape and menaced by outer enemies and inner turmoil, where can she find safe haven even if she can break free? Clear eyed and intelligent, Sofia could be a character from The Game of Thrones, but she refuses to believe that life is solely about the strong dominating the weak or about taking endless revenge. Her story is based on actual historical events, which haunt her destiny. Like an intelligent Forrest Gump, she reflects her times. But as she matures, she learns to reflect on them as well, and to transcend their fetters. In doing so, she recreates a lost era for us, her readers.

My Thoughts: I think this is the first time that I have seen a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Mongol invasions of Europe so I jumped at the chance to read this. The Grip of God is a very well-researched and detailed story of the fictional Princess Sofia and her time as a prisoner of the Mongols. 

Sofia is a fascinating character; at times her youth is very evident and at others, she seems wise beyond her years. She was smart and tough and very resilient. She handled her trials with so much grace. She was also kind of sassy; I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes where she would be defiant toward Batu Khan and others in power. 

I loved reading all about every day Mongol life and their customs. It was fascinating and Ms. Hazell described everything in great detail. I had no idea that the Mongols were so tolerant of other cultures and religions nor did I know anything about their daily life or ruling structure. I really feel like I need to go read more about them because while they are usually portrayed as savages, I think Ms. Hazell painted a pretty unbiased portrait of them including both the good and the bad.

The overall story was interesting and completely sucked me in. My only complaint is that at times, it was kind of long-winded and dragged on a bit. Otherwise, I think this was a great book and with such a neat cliffhanger ending, I'll definitely be reading the next in the series. 3 1/2 stars.

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