Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top Ten Characters I’d Like To Switch Places With For 24 Hours

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Characters I’d Like To Switch Places With For 24 Hours

1.) Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy-Rose is such a bad ass.  I would love to hang out in her world for a while.
2.) Claire Randall Fraser from Outlander-It would be so awesome to be able to travel back in time!
3.) Makayla Lane from the Fever Series-I would love to fight Unseelie and hang out with Barrons.
4.) Sydney Stone from Bloodlines-Sydney is a smart, cool character.  Her job sounds awesome and she gets to spend time with the Vampire Academy crowd.
5.) Tris Prior from Divergent-I really want to see her world.  The way the society she lives in is split up is so fascinating.
6.) Diana Bishop from A Discovery of Witches-Diana has so much power and it would be neat to be able to know what that feels like.
7.) Doc Jane from Lover Unbound-I'm not going to lie, I only want to be her so I can meet Vishous.
8.) Hermione Granger from Harry Potter-I just really want to see Hogwarts.  I wouldn't mind switching places with any character (except Voldemort) if it meant I could go to Hogwarts.
9.) Tessa Gray from The Infernal Devices-I wouldn't want to have to choose between Will and Jem but I would love to stay at the London Institute.
10.) Laura Ingalls from the Little House books-I have always wondered what it would be like to be a pioneer and Laura is one of my favorite childhood characters.

That's all I have!  Who made your list this week?

Monday, July 30, 2012

July Wrap Up

July is almost over and I can't believe it!!  I am not ready for the school to start again but I am ready for the summer heat to be over.  It has been hotter than blazes here! I know the month isn't quite over but since we are moving onTuesday/Wednesday, I doubt I will finish the book I am reading.

July was a decent reading month probably because it was too hot to do anything but stay inside.  I read 10 books and 2 of them were for my challenges.  I have read 77 books so far this year which is pretty good.  I only have 7 more challenge books to read!  Several of them are big books but I think I should be able to finish them before the year is out.  I also FINALLY got caught up on all of my NetGalley books and am going to try to stay away from that site for a while.  I kind of just want to read my challenge books and then any other book I feel like reading.  Otherwise I wind up feeling really stressed out about reading and that's not very fun!

Surprisingly enough, I have not bought a single book for myself since January.  This is good because I have completely failed at making a dent in the books I own.  I have read 17 out of the 82 books on my shelf at the beginning of the year (this does not include ebooks).  Oh well.  I would like to read more of the books I own this year but I am not going to pressure myself to do so. 

Anyway, here is what I read this month:

1.) The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
2.) Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
3.) Gilt by Katherine Longshore
4.) Insurgent by Veronica Roth
5.) The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
6.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
7.) Sanctuary by Nora Roberts
8.) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
9.) Broken Harbor by Tana French
10.) A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir

What books did you read this month?  How are you doing with your reading goals?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (10)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I picked up a few light reads from the library this week.  Work has been super draining lately and makes me just want to curl up with an easy read.

From the Library:
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Have you read any of these?  What books did you get this week?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: "Broken Harbor" by Tana French

From Goodreads:  In BROKEN HARBOUR, a ghost estate outside Dublin - half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned - two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I love Tana French's books.  They are so completely different than anything else I read and they are always a good read.  Broken Harbor is her latest book in the Dublin Murder Squad series.  This book features Scorcher Kennedy who made an appearance in her last book, Faithful Place.  I liked Scorcher as a character a lot; he seemed to be an upstanding guy who always did the right thing.  Like all of French's characters, he had some major issues but the reader doesn't find out how damaged he was until the end of the book.  French slowly lets the reader see bits of pieces from Scorcher's childhood but it isn't until the end that we see how deep his childhood trauma went. 

I thought that French did an excellent job of showing how hard the recession hit Ireland and how much it wrecked people's lives. The way she incorporated it into the story made the mystery aspect of the story very thought-provoking.  The mystery kept me guessing for most of the book and I found myself not able to put the book down because I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.  I felt like everytime I got a handle on who the killer might be, something would happen and completely shake everything up.  It definitely was not a cut and dry mystery where there was a clear bad guy.  

I'll just come out and say that I never enjoy the endings in French's books.  I like that she doesn't wrap up everything up in a neat little bow and have everyone live happily ever after but it's still hard when I get to the end of one of her books.  I liked and respected Scorcher Kennedy as a character but I didn't like his actions at the end and was really surprised by them.  I understood why I did the things he did but it just made the end feel like a big kick in the gut.  I kind of hope that in one of her later books, we'll get to see more about what happened to him after this case was over as he was one of my favorite of her characters.  Overall, this is a great book for people who love well-written mystery and great characters.  4 1/2 stars.

Favorite quote:  "Only teenagers think boring is bad.  Adults, grown men and women who've been around the block a few times, know that boring is a gift straight from God.  Life has more than enough excitement up its sleeve, ready to hit you with as soon as you're not looking, without you adding to the drama."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin

From Goodreads:  Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

My Thoughts:  I'll try to keep this short and sweet.  This book was completely awesome!  I can't believe I put off reading it for so long.  The characters and world building were amazing. The writing was fantastic.  Honestly, I am just blown away by how epic this book was.  I can't even imagine how long it took Martin to create all of these characters and the well developed world they lived in.  There are a TON of characters (at times it was hard to keep track of them all) and each chapter is told from a different character's view point.  Some are lovable and some are just the most evil group of people ever.  There are even some that you want to like but are not sure you should.

The story sucked me in quick and made want to keep reading.  There was so much going on that I am not even going to try to do it justice in this review.  I never got bored and even though the book was long, I was able to read it in about 5 days.  I normally don't even like the fantasy genre and yet, this book still managed to grab my attention.  There were major cliffhangers at the end of the book so I can't imagine not rushing out to read the second book in the series.  I can't wait to see what happens in the next installment!  5 stars.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (9)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I only picked up one book this week but that's fine because we are moving!  I am spending a lot of time trying to get stuff packed so that we can move at the end of the month.

From the library:

What books did you pick up this week?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: "Sanctuary" by Nora Roberts

From Goodreads:  Photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway thought she'd escaped the house called Sanctuary long ago. She'd spent her lonliest years there, after the sudden, unexplained disappearance of her mother. Yet the sprawling resort off the Georgia coast continues to haunt her dreams. And now, even more haunting are the pictures someone is sending to her: strange close-ups and candids, culminating in the most shocking portrait of all--a photo of her mother...naked, beautiful, and dead. Now Jo must return to the island, and to her bitterly estranged family--and, with the help of one man, learn the truth about her tragic past. But Sanctuary may also be the most dangerous place of all...

My Thoughts:  I don't read Nora Robert's books very often but I was looking for nice fluffy read so I picked this up. This was an easy read with a lot of romance and a major creepy factor.  I have been easily freaked out lately and I stayed up late reading this one night and wound up scaring myself.  It was at times a predictable story and I easily figured out some of the mystery though there were a few things that surprised me.  There were three different romances in the story and each one was pretty cute and humorous.  The characters were snarky (just how I like them) though kind of two-dimensional.  I felt like she tried to get them to be deeper but just couldn't get there.  The book was short and could be read in a day.  Overall, a fun, easy summer read. 3 stars.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Top Ten Books for People Who Like 'Vampire Academy'

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Books for People who Like Vampire Academy

I love the Vampire Academy books so I decided to make a list of fun vampire books that I think people who like Vampire Academy might also enjoy.

1.) The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice-These were the first vampire books I ever read so they have a special place in my heart.  Plus, they are really good!
2.) The Black Dagger Brotherhood books by J.R. Ward-Super sexy vampires?  Yes, please!
3.) Dracula by Bram Stoker-This is the original vampire book
4.) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova-This is an incredibly smart vampire book.  I highly recommend it.
5.) Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist-This is probably the scariest vampire book I have read.  Definitely not one to read by yourself late at night.
6.) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness-This is not just a vampire book as there are witches and demons featured in it as well but it's a fantastic book with a vampire main character.

That's all I have this week. Do you have any other great vampire reads you would add to the list? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley

From Goodreads:  Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

My Thoughts:  I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book.  I have seen Frankenstein's monster portrayed on television and in movies but I had no real understanding of what the book would actually be about.  For the first few pages, I was a little bit confused and checked to make sure I had downloaded the right book.  I kept thinking 'Where's the monster?!'

 The story is told in letters from Walton, a sailor, to his sister.  Walton encounters Dr. Frankenstein as he traveling through the arctic and Dr. Frankenstein reveals his story to Walton.  The story is not so much scary or creepy as it is kind of tragic.  It's also a kind of 'be careful what you wish for'.  Dr. Frankenstein loves science but winds up creating something that terrifies him.  His 'monster' didn't start out as an evil creature but became that way after being shunned by his maker and those he tried to befriend.  He only becomes evil because he wants someone to love that will love him back.  It kind of made me think about whether or not people are inherently evil or if they become that way because of life's circumstances.

I was really surprised that this book was written in 1818.  It was interesting to think that Mary Shelley envisioned someone gaining enough scientific knowledge and skill to build a living, breathing, rational creature.  That's pretty high tech for back then! 

Overall, I am really glad I read this book.  It was a little slow to start but after a little bit, it moved pretty well.  3 stars.

I read this book as part of the Classics bribe.  Check it out here! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (8)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I picked up two books this week, both of which look really good!

From NetGalley:

From the Library:

Have you read either of these?  What books did you get this week?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: "Insurgent" by Veronica Roth

From Goodreads:  One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

My Thoughts:  Whoa!  I really expected to be disappointed by this book and instead wound up loving it.  I didn't think Divergent was that awesome and I only read Insurgent because I kept hearing that it was amazing. Well, it didn't disappoint and, in my opinion, it was way better than Divergent.  The story was action-packed and kept me wanting more.  We get to learn more about the people who are 'Divergent' and get to meet a lot of diverse characters from the different factions.

 Both Tris and Four seemed to be deeper and more developed in Insurgent.  They both have to deal with their actions in the past and present as well as with learning how to trust themselves and each other.  I liked that Tris isn't a character who blindly follows her boyfriend.  She always did what she believed was right whether or not Four agreed with her and I think that made her a very admirable character.  I also liked that a lot more is revealed about Four's family and there are some major surprises in that department. 

There is a HUGE cliffhanger and now I seriously can't wait for the next book to come out.  It's so crazy to think that I almost gave up on this series!  4 1/2 stars.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: "Gilt" by Katherine Longshore

From Goodreads:  When Kitty Tylney’s best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII’s heart and brings Kitty to court, she’s thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat’s shadow, Kitty’s now caught between two men—the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat’s meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

My Thoughts:  I was very surprised by how much I liked this book because I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up.  Gilt is a Tudor era story but is told differently than any other Tudor book I have read.  Even though I know the whole Catherine Howard story, Gilt was unique retelling of it and kept my interest throughout the book. 

 The narrator is Kitty, Catherine Howard's childhood friend, and follows their youth in the Duchess of Norfolk's household, Catherine's marriage to King Henry VIII and her subsequent execution.  Kitty is definitely a 'follower' in the beginning of the story who seems a little lost while Catherine Howard is kind of a 'mean girl' who will do anything to get what she wants with no thought for the consequences.  Kitty is a great character; it was neat to watch her find her voice and sense of self.  She starts off very shy and self-deprecating but really comes into her own as the story progresses.  Catherine was a total brat.  I am always kind of curious as to what her personality was really like when I read a book about Catherine Howard.  In Gilt, she was a hateful, selfish girl who loved using people to get what she wanted.  I felt bad for her in the end but I didn't like her much.

The story did include a romance between Kitty and one of the Duke of Norfolk's retainers, William.  It was pretty sweet but was unresolved when the story ended.  Gilt is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy so I am hoping to get to see more of Kitty and to find out what happened between her and William.  4 stars.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top Ten Books I Will Finish Before the Year is Over

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week is a freebie so I decided to list the Top Ten Books I Will Finish Before the Year is Over.

A lot of these books have been mentioned on previous lists but I am determined to get through them this year.

1.) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin-Someone gave me this book in Fall 2011 and I still haven't read it.  Luckily, it is the July pick for my book club so that motivates me to get to it sooner rather than later.
2.) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo-I plan to spend the Fall reading this.  It has been on my shelf far too long.
3.) Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett-This is another book that has been on my shelf far too long and needs to be read.  I am sure I will like it, I just have put it towards the bottom of the pile.
4.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King-I couldn't wait for this to come out.  I got it for Christmas and still have not picked it up yet.
5.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
6.) Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn-I have heard such good things about Kate Quinn's books but I have never read them.
7.) A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power-I am fascinated by the history of genocide and have checked this book out from the library a few times but have never read it.  I am hoping to get to it before the year is over.
8.) Where Men Win Glory by John Krakauer-I have wanted to read this forever and now that I own it, I should probably go ahead and read it.
9.) Tully by Paullina Simons-I LOVED Paullina Simon's Bronze Horseman trilogy and really want to see what her other books have to offer.
10.) Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks-This book is about John Brown who is an interesting historical figure and much discussed in the part of midwest where I live.  This book got really good reviews and I am interested to see what it is all about.

Also, I hope to listen to the last 3 books in the Outlander series.  I have read them all but it was several years ago and I want to refresh my memory before the next book comes out in 2013.  I am almost done with Drums of Autumn and can't wait to get to The Fiery Cross.

Have you read any of the books on my list?  What topic did you pick for your top ten list?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: "Shadow of Night" by Deborah Harkness

From Goodreads:  Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  It has been almost a year since I read A Discovery of Witches and I had forgotten how much I loved it until I picked up Shadow of Night.  This sequel is as good, if not better, than the first book and I flew through it. 

Diana and Matthew are still wonderful characters and throughout the story we learn more about their pasts and about their abilities.  At times it is heart-breaking to watch as each of them confronts their pasts but it definitely adds a lot to the characters.  There is constantly new information about what Ashmole 782 holds, Diana's powers, who/what she is and the many creatures inhabiting the human world.  There were also a lot of new characters added to the story, many of whom were members of Matthew's 'family'.  It was never boring because there was always something new and exciting happening in the story. Most of the story is set in Elizabethan England as Diana and Matthew traveled back in time and it was really neat the way that Harkness included people like William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I into Diana and Matthew's lives.  The story is a mix of history and paranormal, so how could I not love it?

The only thing I struggled with was the fact that Shadow of Night literally picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off.  It took me a little while to get into the story because I had a hard time remembering exactly how A Discovery of Witches ended.  Otherwise, I absolutely loved this book.  There were a ton of questions left unanswered leading me to think that the next book will be amazing!  4 1/2 stars.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: "The Golden Lily" by Richelle Mead

From Goodreads:  Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Richelle Mead's breathtaking Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive. In this second book, the drama is hotter, the romances are steamier, and the stakes are even higher.

My Thoughts:  Can I just tell you how much I love the Vampire Academy/Bloodlines books?!  They are so addictive!  The Golden Lily had a ton of twists and turns and I had to make myself put it down otherwise I probably would have stayed up all night reading it.  I think I liked even better than Bloodlines and I really liked that book. The Golden Lily features a lot of the characters from the Vampire Academy books and while I miss Rose, I really like Sydney and she is becoming an awesome lead character.  The reader really gets to see her struggle between her allegiance to the Alchemists and her friendship with the vampires and dhampirs she is supposed to be watching.  If she's not thinking about it, everything seemed okay but if she remembered that she wasn't supposed to befriend them, she would get all akward and stand-offish.  I liked to se I am very curious to see how that will play out in the next book.  I am also starting to like Adrian more and more.  I have always thought he was cool character but this book definitely showed that there was more to Adrian than meets the eye. 

This book didn't really have a big cliffhanger ending like Bloodlines did but there were definitely a ton of questions left unanswered. I can't believe I have to wait until next year to read the third book!  4 stars.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

June Wrap Up

Can you believe the year is half over??  It's crazy!  June felt like a really slow reading month but I still managed to read 10 books which puts me at 67 for the year.  I looked at where I stood last year at this time and at the end of June 2011, I had read 101 books!  I have no idea how I did that.  I feel so much busier this year and I don't know why but I definitely feel like I have less time for reading or I am just reading a lot slower.

In June I read:

1.) Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
2.) The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
3.) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
4.) The White Russian by Tom Bradby
5.) Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
6.) The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
7.) The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner
8.) Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
9.) Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham
10.) The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy

Since we are at the halfway mark for the year, I thought I would take a look at how I am doing with the goals I set for the year.  I have done really well at some and not so great with others but I am still pretty happy with my progress for the year.

Blogging Goals:
-Comment more-I have been really trying to comment on other blogs more and to reply to comments on my blog.  I am a shy person and it's not always easy for me to put myself out there.
-Work on layout- I changed my layout a couple months ago and for now, it works.  We'll see how I feel later on in the month.
-Technical Stuff-I haven't done any of this.  I still don't have a button nor do I know anything about html.  I am not sure how sad I am about this.
-Better Reviews-Some days I think I am improving at this and then other days, I feel like my reviews are crap.  I just have to keep working on this one.
-Hosting a giveaway-Nope, sorry guys.
-Get more comfortable with social media-I am on twitter now!  I am not sure I know how to use it correctly but I'm there.
-Include more personal posts-I have done this a little bit more.  I am still trying to decide how much personal information I want to put out there.

Reading Goals:
-I have signed up for 5 challenges
   -Back to the Classics Challenge-6/9.  I plan to finish two more this summer so I can spend the fall focusing on Les Miserables.
   -TBR Pile Challenge-6/10.  Unfortunately, the four books I have left for this challenge are LONG.
   -Historical Fiction Challenge-Done!
   -Support your Local Library Challenge-21/24.  I should definitely finish this in July.
   -Eastern European Reading Challenge-2/4.  Not too shabby.
-Focus on reading books I already own -  Yeah, I haven't been that awesome at this one.  I have read 16 of the 81 books I own that need to be read. 
-Read at least one non-fiction book a month-I was doing really well at this one until June.  I didn't read anything non-fiction in June.
-Read two books in Russian-I haven't done this at all though I plan to start working on it in July/August.  I am taking a Russian class in the fall and need to practice a little bit before it starts on August 20.

Personal Goals:
-Run a 1/2 Marathon in April-Done!  I am even considering doing another one in October!
-Eat Better-I am eating more veggies.  It's a struggle everyday because I would rather eat junk.  Also, I need to remember that now that I am not running 25+ miles a week, I can't eat like I am.
-Set up some savings-This has been going pretty well and I am not super freaked that the move is going to break us financially.
-Reevaluate my work situation-I switched jobs at the end of May.  I am definitely much happier at work but I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

How are you doing with your yearly goals?  Have you met some or are you struggling with them?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Top Ten Books for People Who Like Phillipa Gregory

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books for People who like Phillipa Gregory
I picked Phillipa Gregory because a lot of people really like her books about the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses.  There are a lot of really great books about these two eras that are not written by Gregory and I thought I would showcase some of them here.


1.) Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir-I know I talk up this book a lot, but I really love it!
2.) The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham-I recommend any of Higginbotham's books but this one is a little different because it is told from the point of view of the losers of the Wars of the Roses.
3.) The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir-Another great book by Weir.  This book takes place during Elizabeth's younger years before she is queen.
4.) Anything by Anne Easter Smith-Anne Easter Smith's books are told from the Yorkist point of view during the Wars of the Roses and are wonderful!  I can't recommend them enough.
5.) The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas-This takes place during the Tudor era but takes place in Scotland and features Mary, Queen of Scots.  It's a great read!
6.) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel-Wolf Hall is a completely different Tudor era book as that it is told from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell.
7.) Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth-This book takes place during Henry VII's reign so it's a little different than your average Tudor book.


1.) The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser-An easy to read book about each of Henry's wives.
2.) Mary Boleyn: Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir-Fun biography of an interesting historical figure.
3.) The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn by Retha Warnicke-I read this in college when I took a class on Tudor England.  It was a really interesting read.  I also recommend Warnicke's book on Mary, Queen of Scots.

Do you have any great Tudor or Wars of the Roses recommendations?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Review: "The Queen's Pleasure" by Brandy Purdy

From Goodreads:  When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.

Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen…

Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?—the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  I know very little about Robert Dudley and yet this is the second book I have read in the past few weeks that features him and his family.  As I don't know much about him, I have no idead how historically accurate The Queen's Pleasure is but regardless, it is a fantastic story of failed love and intrigue.  Ms. Purdy does a great job of taking the reader into the minds of her two narrators, Amy Robsart Dudley and Queen Elizabeth I.  Her descriptions of the characters, their clothes, setting and thoughts are very detailed and I especially loved the descriptions of all of the clothing worn by her characters.

The main characters in this book are very well-developed.  Robert Dudley is portrayed as such an evil man in this book, at times I just wanted to kick him.  He was so horrible and fake to everyone around him and was basically the perfect villain for this story.  Was he really such a horrible person?  I don't know but for the sake of the story he was awful!  I hated reading about how badly he treated Amy and anyone who got in his way.  Amy, herself, was such a likable character but her situation is so sad.  At times, I found myself wanting to her to do something, anything, to improve her life but then I realized that in those days there was probably nothing she could have done.  She had no family or friends or money to help her escape from her marriage and it made me feel so bad for her.  Queen Elizabeth was probably the most interesting character in that I didn't know what to expect from her.  In the beginning, I assumed that I wouldn't like her but when the story is told from her point of view, she definitely becomes a more sympathetic character.  In the story, she went above and beyond to help Amy, someone she hardly knew, and wanted absolutely no credit for doing so. 

One of the things that I really liked about this story is that it showed a woman who was trapped in, and victimized by, a bad marriage and another woman who would do everything in her power to avoid such a situation.  Amy's marriage was an example of why Elizabeth wouldn't, and couldn't marry, if she wanted to stay in control of herself and England.  It was a fascinating contrast and really contributed to a great story.  Overall, this was a great story featuring a few well-known historical figures.  I have never read one of Ms. Purdy's books before but I noticed that my local library has two of her books, so I will definitely be checking those out.  4 stars.

**This book is published in the UK as "A Court Affair" by Emily Purdy**

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (7)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I only picked up one book this week which is fine with me because I am VERY behind with my reading. 

From the Library:

I have been reading a lot of serious books lately.  I need some fluffy good fun!

What books did you pick up this week?

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