Tuesday, January 3, 2017

December 2016 Wrap Up + Year in Review

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  My family had a great December (other than a little bit of stomach flu) and now I'm ready for 2017!  As I'm sure it was for a lot of people, 2016 was a hot mess, not just because of current events but also in my personal life.  So I'm looking forward to having a great 2017!

December was another good reading month for me!  I read 12 books for the month which I think is great.  I started out strong in the beginning of the month but kind of tapered off toward the end.  Because of how much I've read in the last two months, I managed to hit 101 books for the year which is way more than I anticipated.

My stats for December are as follows:

-12 books read
   -1 non-fiction
   - 0 historical fiction
   - 0 review books
   -9 library books
   -3 books I own
   -5 ebooks

I had a lot of bookish goals for the 2016 year and I think I did okay with some of them.

1.) Read 52 books - I read 101 books so I far surpassed this goal though I'm pretty sure I set it low so that I could focus on quality over quantity.  I may have to work on that next year.

2.) Read more non-fiction - So technically I did do this one.  I did read more non-fiction this year than I have in any year since I started tracking this (so since 2012).  However, I did want to read 50% non-fiction this past year and I got more like 20% in.

 3.) #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks - I failed at this one like always.  If I look at my stats I read more of my own books than in previous years but I did read a lot of books as I purchased them and stayed away from a lot of books that have been on my shelf for a while.

4.) Cut back even more on review books- I did succeed at this one.  I read even less review books than I did last year and it was kind of nice not to have the extra pressure of reading something because I had to.

5.) Participate more in #FitReaders- I failed at this miserably.  I participated occaisionally but then fell completely off the wagon after summer.

6.) Put more effort into the Blog-This was another fail.  I worked on the blog a lot over the summer but have been kind of in a tailspin for the past couple months.  I am probably going to be taking a break after this post goes live and don't have any clue what will happen with this blog in the coming year.

So I guess my goals were kind of a bust but I'm still very happy with my reading stats for the year.

-101 books read
   - 19 non-fiction
   - 42 historical fiction
   - 18 review books
   - 54 library books
   - 27 books I own
   -56 ebooks

So all in all a good reading year.  I'm still trying to come up with my reading goals for 2017 and may post those in the next week or so.

How was 2016 for you?  Did you meet your reading goals?  I hope you all have a wonderful week!





Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review: "Victoria" by Daisy Goodwin


From Goodreads: In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….


My Thoughts: This is the second book I've read about Queen Victoria recently and she is such a fascinating historical figure.  This book focuses on the early years of Victoria's reign and the issues she faced in her personal and political life as she cemented her role as queen.

I enjoyed reading about the relationship between Victoria and her mother; it was fascinating to watch Victoria come into her own as an independent young woman. Her mother seemed like such a difficult person to deal with and for the most part, Victoria handled her well.  The portrayal of their unique relationship made them both seem more normal and less like superior beings.  I actually like this aspect of the story because it made Victoria relatable.

I'll admit that I didn't really like Prince Albert all that much.  He was just so whiny and insufferable.  I did feel bad for him since he had such a difficult childhood but he was just a big grouch for most of the story.  The relationship seemed very rushed in the story and I would love to see a continuation of this book that focuses on the progression of Victoria and Albert's relationship through their married years.  

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  Victoria was portrayed as a much more interesting and complex than I had previously thought.  This is a definitely a good read for those who enjoy reading about the person behind the crown.  3 stars.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Blast and Giveaway: "Marlene" by C.W. Gortner


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Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich by C.W. Gortner



Paperback Release Date: December 13, 2016


William Morrow, Harper Collins


ISBN: 9780062406071; 432 Pages


Genre: Historical Fiction/Contemporary Women/Biographical



Add to GR Button


Marlene Dietrich’s femme fatale persona defined her, but behind the glitz of 1930s Hollywood was a remarkably modern woman, determined to live by her own terms.

A rebellious girl, Marlene’s genteel family expectations curtail her until Germany's defeat in the Great War gives rise to the decadence of Weimar Berlin. Here, Marlene finds her niche as a cabaret actress. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tuxedo, she performs to packed houses and has a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention until she finds overnight success in the scandalous movie The Blue Angel. As Hitler seizes power, Marlene sets sail for America to become one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, starring opposite Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. When Hitler tries to entice her back to Germany, Marlene defiantly declares her stance, risking her life to perform for Allied troops. And upon the war's savage end, she finally returns to Germany to discover a heartbreaking secret amidst the war’s devastation.

MARLENE is out in paperback on December 13 and features exclusive extra content. A perfect gift for lovers of old Hollywood and strong dames! To find out more, please visit: www.cwgortner.com/Marlene.html.


Synopsis



From the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the tyrannical movie studios of Los Angeles, this sweeping story of passion, glamour, art, and war is a lush, dramatic novel of one of the most alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age: Marlene Dietrich.

Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When her budding career as a violinist is cut short, she vows to become an actress, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses and conducts a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention until she finds overnight success in the scandalous movie The Blue Angel.

For Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler rises to power, she sets sail for America to become a rival to MGM’s queen, Greta Garbo. As one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, she stars with such legends as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Defiant in her stance against the Nazis, Marlene chooses instead to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, she tours with the USO, performing for Allied troops in Europe and Africa. But one day, she must return to Germany, where she will discover a heartbreaking secret amidst the war’s devastation that transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling account of this extraordinary legend, MARLENE reveals the inner life of a woman of grit and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path.


“Skillfully evokes the cross-dressing, sexually fluid atmosphere of the seedy nightclubs that helped Marlene define her unique appeal.
Well-detailed and truly moving; an ambitious account of the German-American star. ” —Kirkus Reviews



“Full of the sizzle and decadence of Weimar Berlin, and the scandal and soirees of Hollywood’s golden era, this is a gloriously entertaining read.
CW Gortner’s Marlene is utterly beguiling, the kind of woman who only comes along once in a century. Reader, you can’t take your eyes off her!” —Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author



"From the ribald cabarets of Weimer-era Berlin to the glamour of golden-era Hollywood, beguilingly androgynous and fiercely passionate Marlene Dietrich . . . fairly leaps off every page." —Booklist, starred review



Amazon | Barnes & Noble | HarperCollins | iBooks | IndieBound




03_cw-gortnerAbout the Author


C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twittter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.


Book Blast Schedule


Tuesday, December 13
Kinx's Book Nook
A Bookaholic Swede
To Read, Or Not to Read
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, December 14
The Lit Bitch
Unabridged Chick
The Never-Ending Book
Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Thursday, December 15
Impressions In Ink
CelticLady's Reviews
Please Pass The Books
What Is That Book About

Friday, December 16
Broken Teepee
Books, Dreams, Life

Saturday, December 17
SJ2B House of Books
Ageless Pages Reviews
Beth's Book Nook Blog
First Impression Reviews

Sunday, December 18
T's Stuff
100 Pages a Day
Passages to the Past

Monday, December 19
Book Nerd
A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, December 20
I Heart Reading
Creating Herstory
Just One More Chapter


Giveaway


To win a paperback copy of Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich by C.W. Gortner, please enter via the Gleam form below. Two copies are up for grabs!

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– 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.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Marlene Paperback


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

New Release! "Garden of Her Heart" by Shanna Hatfield

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USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield joins us with her latest release, a sweet World War II romance.

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Picture a beautiful summer day when the sky is clear, the temperature is warm, but not uncomfortably so, and the humidity is low.

On one of those ideal summer days, Captain Cavedweller (my husband) and I climbed a hilly path to visit the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon. We heard it was “nice” and “pretty,” but we had no idea what to expect.

After we topped the hill and paid our admission at the little gate booth, we walked inside the garden, spellbound by the beauty around us. For a few minutes, we didn’t move, absorbed in the wonder of being transported to a completely different world in a matter of a few steps. The garden — oh, such a lovely garden. I highly recommend visiting it if you are ever in the area. There are ponds with bright orange fish, walking paths, raked sand, and a waterfall. In truth, in my mind’s eye, it is Miko’s secret garden, only bigger.

It was while we wandered along the moss-covered stones and stepped across the wooden bridges that the idea for this story began to percolate. What if there was a girl who lived in a secret garden? Why would she be there? What scenario would drive her into hiding in a Japanese garden up on a hilltop that no one knew was there?

As Captain Cavedweller and I ambled among weeping cherry trees and vibrant flowering bushes, I blurted out my thoughts. Then somehow, in a wonderful blending of ideas, we both arrived at the conclusion of World War II. A Japanese girl would have every reason to hide, had she the opportunity to do so, in 1942 when the government ordered all Japanese along the West Coast “military areas” to report to Assembly Centers.

And so the story was born.
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Can forbidden love blossom

   amid the constraints of war?

The moment the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, life shifted for Miko Nishimura. Desperate to reach the Portland Assembly Center for Japanese-Americans, she’s kicked off the bus miles from town. Every tick of the clock pushes her closer to becoming a fugitive in the land of her birth. Exhausted, she stumbles to her grandparents’ abandoned farm only to find a dying soldier sprawled across the step. Unable to leave him, she forsakes all else to keep him alive.
After crashing his plane in the Battle of the Atlantic, the doctors condemn Captain Rock Laroux to die. Determined to meet his maker beneath a blue sky at his family home, he sneaks out of the hospital. Weary and half out of his mind, he makes it as far as a produce stand he remembers from his youth. Rather than surrender to death, Rock fights a battle of the heart as he falls in love with the beautiful Japanese woman who saves his life.
A poignant, sweet romance, Garden of Her Heart proves love can bloom in unlikely places even under the most challenging circumstances.

Don't miss out on this beautiful happy ever after. Get your copy today!


Available on:
    


gohh-party-banner
Join us for a Facebook Party today (December 7) from 4-7 p.m. (EST) to celebrate the release of Garden of Her Heart. Here is the link:

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Excerpt:
“Please, Miko? Would you at least consider marrying me?”
She shook her head and tried to pull away from him, but he drew her closer, wrapping his arms around her and holding her. His breath tantalized her ear as he bent his head near hers. “Please?”
“I can’t, Rock. I don’t want to be the cause of you missing out on the love of a lifetime.” She turned her head to the side and pressed it against his neck. Unintentionally, she heightened the yearning that already pulsed between them. Forcibly, he relaxed his hold on her.
“Miko,” he whispered. “Look at me, sweetheart.”
Unhurried, she tipped her head back, drawn into the bright warmth of his eyes.
“Miko, if I didn’t want to marry you, I wouldn’t offer. I rather like the idea of spending my future with you. We have more going for us than many couples who wed. There is no doubt in my mind at all about your ability to be a good wife. Me, on the other hand…” His cocky grin brought an amused light to her eyes. “It might be challenging to be married to someone like me.”
A smile curved her mouth upward and Rock tamped down the desire to kiss her again, even with the pastor watching their every move.
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shanna-3USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Find Shanna’s books at:
Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

November 2016 Wrap Up

Oh my goodness, I am so glad November is over!  First, because I LOOOOVE Christmas but also because November was a giant suck fest for a variety of reasons.  Despite all that, I managed to have the best reading month I've had in years (probably).  I pretty much gorged myself on Christmas romance novels and it was pure heaven.  I plan on continuing to do that for the rest of the year because they're full of fluffy goodness. I feel bad for reading so many of the same genre but that's about all I can handle right and I have big reading plans for the new year so I'm going to enjoy myself until then.

I hit my raised goal of 80 books and am now only 11 books shy of 100!  Most of what I read was library books so like I every year, I've pretty much failed at reading my own books.  I think the ones I did read this month were books I just purchased instead of just ones I've had for a while.  I did beat my non-fiction total from last year; I know I wanted to finish with 20 total for the year but I don't think that's going to happen.  I know I've missed a lot of reading goals for the year but I'm okay with that.  I'm kind of tired of putting pressure on myself to read things.  It's kind of fun to read what I want for a change!

Here are my stats for November:

-20 books read
-1 nonfiction
-7 historical fiction
-1 review book
-16 library books
-3 books I own
-7 ebooks

What I read in November:

1.) Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses by Lawrence Ross
2.) Corsets and Cuffs by Shanna Hatfield
3.) Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber
4.) Mistletoe on Main Street by Olivia Miles
5.) Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber
6.) A Creed Country Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
7.) The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
8.) A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
9.) Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
10.) Dashing through the Snow by Debbie Macomber
11.) The Christmas Angel by Jane Maas
12.) Christmas in Snowflake Canyon by RaeAnne Thayne
13.) An Outlaw's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
14.) Starry Night by Debbie Macomber
15.) The Christmas Quandary by Shanna Hatfield
16.) The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans
17.) Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne
18.) There's Something About Christmas by Debbie Macomber
19.) A Cold Creek Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne
20.) Mr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

How was November for you?  Are you on track to meeting your reading goals?


Friday, November 4, 2016

October 2016 Wrap Up

 Phew!  I am so glad that October is over.  Halloween was fun but the rest of the month was just plain rough.  Work was crazy busy and I just kind of got into a reading rut.  The majority of the books I read were finished in the last week because I just didn't have it in me to read.  A lot of what I read this month was pure fluff and I don't see that changing for the rest of the year.  I think I'm going to actively try to read as many Christmasy romance novels as I can because I just don't have the brain capacity for anything too deep right now.

I am on track to meeting my new goal of 80 books for the year so I'm pretty happy about that.  I am not doing a great job of reading books I own but I did still manage to read two non-fiction books in October.  Even thought I've read fewer books total than last year, I've already surpassed the number of non-fiction books I last year.  I really wanted to try to focus more on non-fiction books this year and as of right now, almost 25% of my books this year have been non-fiction.  That's not too shabby.

I've been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blog over the past two months so I'm hoping to post more often.  I would like to shoot for at least once a week but hopefully more than that. 

Here's what I read in October:

1.) Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner
2.) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas - 5 stars
3.) Crumpets and Cowpies by Shanna Hatfield - 4 stars
4.) Becoming Queen Victoria by Kate Williams - 3 stars
5.) Thimbles and Thistles by Shanna Hatfield - 4 stars
6.) Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller - 3 stars
7.) Property of a Noblewoman by Danielle Steele - 3 stars

My stats for the month:

-7 books read
   -2 non-fiction
   -2 historical fiction
   -1 review book
   -3 library books

   -3 books I own
   -5 ebooks

I hope November is off to a great start for you!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cover Reveal: "The Competition" by Donna Russo Morin

COVER REVEAL!


THE COMPETITION: Da Vinci’s Disciples Book Two!


Ready (willing and eager) to see the cover of the much-anticipated second book in the Da Vinci’s Disciples trilogy? Well, we hope so, because here it is (be sure to read to the end of the post for an extra special bonus!).

But before we get to the gorgeous cover, here’s what the author has to say about the next book in this thrilling trilogy and its cover:

“I knew I wanted the second book in this trilogy to be a little more personal, get into the lives of these courageous women, and da Vinci himself, a bit more deeply. Oh, they are still daring to go where women had never gone before in the Renaissance, and they put everything on the line for the love of their art—their marriages, their family relationships, even their lives—to do it, to bring their work out into the open, no matter the consequence. Another form of art is explored through their eyes, through their hands. But in THE COMPETITION, I’ve pulled back more of the layers of their lives and the secrets they may hold. Love bursts to fulfillment, desire is ignited, disastrous illnesses change lives, and familial condemnations are shattered. All set amidst the glory that is Florence during the Renaissance.

These women are bold; there can be no doubt. But they are elegant women and this cover, like the first, captures that elegance to perfection. It is the seamless companion to the first, and they look dazzling together.”

Ready to see the cover? Not just yet. Here’s the official description first:

A commission to paint a fresco in the church of Santo Spirito is about to be announced and Florence’s countless artists each seek the fame and glory this lucrative contract will provide. Viviana, a noblewoman freed from a terrible marriage, and now able to pursue her artistic passions, sees a potential life-altering opportunity for herself and her fellow artists. The women first speak to Lorenzo de’ Medici himself, and finally, they submit a bid for the right to paint it. And they win. The very public commission belongs to them.

But with the victory comes a powerful cost. The church will not stand for women painting, especially not in a house of worship. The city is not ready to consider women in positions of power, and in Florence, artists wield tremendous power. Even the women themselves are hesitant; the attention they will bring up) on themselves will disrupt their families, and even put them in physical danger.

All the while, Viviana grows closer to Sansone, her soldier lover, who is bringing to her a joy that she never knew with her deceased husband. And fellow-artist Isabetta has a flame reignited, sparked by Lorenzo himself.

Power and passion collide in this sumptuous historical novel of shattering limitations, one brushstroke at a time.

THE COMPETITION: Da Vinci’s Disciples Book Two goes on sale April 25, 2017. Pre-order a copy here.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf!

Now, are you ready to see the cover?

Really?

Are you sure?

Here it is!

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Do you love it?!

Haven’t read the first book yet? Now’s your chance at a special reduced price.

For the next SEVEN days (beginning November 2 until November 9!), the Kindle version of PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY IS ONLY $.99…that’s a $7 savings!

Get your copy now!

Read the first critically acclaimed book, fall in love with these daring women, and get ready to fight beside them for the right to be who they truly want to be in THE COMPETITION.

“Russo Morin’s elegant command of language and composition left me breathless, but the story itself, with its flawless depiction of power, corruption, defiance, intrigue, and retribution makes Portrait of a Conspiracy an absolute must read.” Flashlight Commentary

“...a page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition...a masterful writer at the peak of her craft.”—C. W. Gortner, author of THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE’ MEDICI

“This riveting book is filled with art, assassinations, retribution, and a sisterhood of fascinating women who inspire as well as entertain.”—Stephanie Dray, NYT Bestselling author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER

“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's prose is as sharp as a Medici dagger...Thwarting danger, finding love, and creating masterpieces, [these women] remind us just how powerful the bonds of womanhood can be.”—Marci Jefferson, author of THE ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS

“A 15th-century Florence of exquisite art, sensual passion and sudden, remorseless violence comes vividly to life in Donna Russo Morin's new novel.”—Nancy Bilyeau, author of THE CROWN

“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's rich detailing transports the reader to the heart of Renaissance Italy from the first page.”—Heather Webb, author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE

“Illicit plots, mysterious paintings, and a young Leonardo da Vinci all have their part to play in this delicious, heart-pounding tale.”—Kate Quinn, author of THE EMPRESS OF ROME SAGA

About the Author03_donna-russo-morin


Donna Russo Morin is the award winning of author of historical fiction. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, she lives near the shore with her two sons, Devon and Dylan, her greatest works in progress.

Donna enjoys meeting with book groups in person and via Skype chat. Visit her website at www.donnarussomorin.com; friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @DonnaRussoMorin.

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