Monday, December 31, 2012

December Wrap Up

December is coming to an end and I must say that I had a pretty good reading month!  I read twice the number of books in December as I did in November.  In addition to finishing Les Miserables, I read a total of 8 books: that's not my best month ever but it's a lot better than I have done in the past few months. 

With the end of December comes the end of the year so I thought I would include my stats for the year in this post.

Total books read in 2012:  112
Number of library books read:  49
Number of books that were historical fiction: 54
Number of non-fiction books read:   14
Number of physical books I own that I read:  21 (This is an epic failure on my part!)

Here is what I read in December:

1.) Her Majesty's Will by David Blixt
2.) The Raven's Heart by Jesse Blackadder
3.) Escape by Carolyn Jessop
4.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
5.) Becoming Sister Wives by the Brown Family
6.) The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien
7.) Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
8.) The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
Also, I read the last 300 pages of  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

How did you do in December?  Was it a good reading month for you?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (29)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
I had a wonderful Christmas!  The hubs bought me a Nook Simple Touch with the Glow Light feature!  I have been wanting one of these forever.  Now I just need to decide on what cover I want!
 

I also got two of the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks.  I can't wait to try out some of the recipes!
 
The hubs gave me a gift card to Barnes and Noble and picked up a bunch of new ebooks.  They were having such a great sale, I couldn't resist!
Ebooks:


 
Also, Baby F got his/her first books from my mom!

 
I can't wait to fill up the baby's bookshelves!
 
What books did you get this week? 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Year End Challenges/Goals Wrap Up

I can't believe 2012 is almost over!  The year went by so fast!  I set a lot of goals for myself for this year and I met some of them but not all of them.  My original 2012 goals post can be found here.

Goals for Reading:

 I signed up for 5 challenges and completed 3 of them.  I really wanted to finish them all but I had a really hard time with reading towards the end of this year.

Back to the Classics Challenge-9/9
2012 TBR Pile Challenge-9/10
2012 Support your Local Library Challenge-24/24
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge-20/20
2012 Eastern European Reading Challenge-3/4

I didn't do too well on all of my other reading goals.  I didn't read very many books I owned (only 21 out of 86!) and I didn't read any books in Russian.  I did take a Russian language class in the fall so I think my goal to work on the language skills kind of got met.  My last reading goal was to read one non-fiction book a month.  I did read 14 non-fiction books so I guess I met that goal in theory.

Goals for the Blog

I really didn't meet any of the goals I set for the blog.  I have been trying to comment more but I don't always do well with that.  I also started a twitter page for the blog but I tend to forget about it.  Oops!

Personal Goals

I did really well on my personal goals!  I actually finished my first ever 1/2 marathon in April and that was such a huge moment for me.  I went on to participate in three 5Ks, a 10K and a 4 mile race.  I completely embraced my love for running.  I had to give it up this fall due to some issues with my pregnancy and I miss it so much!

My other goals went well too.  I do eat more healthy foods and I have done well at saving money this year.  I also wound up switching jobs in June and am so much happier now.

Overall, I didn't do that great with my 2012 goals but I am not super disappointed.  I am not going to set any reading or blogging goals in 2013 considering all that will be going on.  I think I will be happy to just be able to continue reading regularly!

How did you do on your goals for the year?  Will you be setting any goals for 2013?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: "Becoming Sister Wives" by the Browns



From Goodreads:  In many ways, the Browns are like any other middle-American family. They eat, play, and pray together, squabble and hug, striving to raise happy, well-adjusted children while keeping their relationship loving and strong. The difference is, there are five adults in the openly polygamous Brown marriage—Kody and his four wives—who among them have seventeen children. Since TLC first launched its popular reality program Sister Wives, the Browns have become one of the most famous families in the country. Now Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn reveal in their own words exactly how their special relationship works—the love and faith that drew them together, the plusses and pitfalls of having sister wives, and the practical and emotional complications of a lifestyle viewed by many with distrust, prejudice, even fear. With the candor and frankness that have drawn millions to their show, they talk about what makes their fascinating family work, addressing the topics that intrigue outsiders: How do the four relationships differ? What effect does a polygamous upbringing have on their children? What are the challenges—emotional, social, or financial—involved in living this lifestyle? Is it possible for all four sister wives to feel special when sharing a husband—and what happens when jealousy arises? How has being on camera changed their lives? And what’s it like to add a new wife to the family—or to be that new wife?

My Thoughts:  I am completely addicted to the show Sister Wives and completely torture the hubs with it so when I saw they had a book out, I knew I had to read it.  I must say that I really enjoyed it and there is a lot more information in the book about the family than you see on television.

The book is broken up into big sections and in each section, you get to read each of the four wives' perspective on that aspect of their family.  I think this provides a unique look at the family dynamic as each wife explains things, events, etc. in quite a different way than their other sister wives' might.  The book discusses how the family was affected when each wife joined the family and how each wife dealt with their marriage to Kody as well as the family as a whole.  I'll be honest and say that from watching the show, I really don't like Robin and Meri.  However, the book gave me a different perspective on Robin and I dislike her less now than I used to.  Meri came off as kind of a bully and as someone who claimed to want to live the polygamous lifestyle but didn't want to be very accomodating to some of her sister wives.  What I think was most interesting about this book, is how little we see of Kody's perspective.  His point of view is kind of interwoven within each wives' story rather than him having his own section.

Overall, if you are a fan of the television show, you will enjoy thi sbook.  It is a fast, easy read and definitely gives you more background as to how the family works.  4 stars.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quick Review: "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green

From Goodreads:  Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.


My Thoughts:  I am not going to do a long in-depth review of this book because I think I am one of the last people on Earth to have read/reviewed this book.  I bought it when it first came out and have just postponed reading it all year.  I have never read a John Green book before but I must say that this is one of the best books I have read in a LONG time.  The writing is excellent and Hazel and Augustus are two of the best characters in YA.  They are smart, sarcastic and not the normal obnoxious teenagers you see in a cancer/coming of age book (I am thinking of the Lurlene McDaniel books I read in Jr. High).  I wish things could have gone differently for the characters because I liked them so much but the story really was perfect.  I honestly do not think I have cried so much at a book before.  I was very thankful that my husband wasn't home when I was finishing this up as I was a complete mess.  If there are still people who haven't read this book, go do it now.  You won't be sorry!  5 stars.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Escape" by Carolyn Jessop

From Goodreads:  ....Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop’s flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. Not only did she manage a daring escape from a brutal environment, she became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS. And in 2006, her reports to the Utah attorney general on church abuses formed a crucial part of the case that led to the arrest of their notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.

My Thoughts:  I have always been really interested in polygamy and have been meaning to read this book for a long time.  Carolyn's story is so sad but it's also inspiring.  She was forced to marry someone much older who she didn't like and had to live in an extremely dysfunctional household.  Her husband was a total ass.  I really wanted to punch him in the face. One of her sister wives was a complete bully while two of the others were not quite in their right minds.  The abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband and sister wives was horrible; I can't imagine living like that. 

It was interesting to read her story and through it watch Warren Jeffs' rise to power.  Things got worse and worse for her as Warren slowly came took over the FLDS.  It just blows my mind how he managed to worm his way to the top and nobody really tried to stop him considering that he made everyone's lives so much more difficult with all his crazy rules.  I was really amazed that Carolyn managed to escape the FLDS community with all eight of her children in tow.  I can't imagine how much strength she must have had to flee and not give in to all the people who tried to intimidate her into going back (including her own daughter).

The story was very well-written and easy to read.  It kept my interest throughout and the descriptions of her life and family were great.  I did kind of feel like the story ended abruptly.  Carolyn's daughter went back to the FLDS and Carolyn was starting a new life and had met someone and I felt like I was left going 'what happens next?'  I know this was written in 2007 so I am sure a lot has happened to her in the past 5 years and now I am really curious.  I know there is a sequel but the reviews aren't very good so I am not sure if I will read it or not.  4 1/2 stars.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (28)


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

Oh my goodness, I need to stay away from NetGalley!  There are so many books that I want to read!

Here is what I got this week:

From the Library:

(I already finished this and I really liked it!  Review coming soon.)

From NetGalley:



 
 
 
What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, December 21, 2012

An Announcement/Explanation

Hi All!  As you may have noticed, I have been kind of MIA lately.  I have been kind of a reading/blogging rut for a while which hasn't helped but the main cause has been the awesomeness that is first trimester.  That's right, the hubs and I are expecting a little bookworm in June!  We are super excited but I had no idea how badly first tri would affect my reading.  I had no desire to even look at a book! 

That has now passed and I am ready to jump back in!  I won't be signing up for any challenges next year because I really just want the freedom to read what I want.  I put a lot of pressure on myself when I sign up for reading challenges and I just don't want to deal with that next year.  I am going to try to be around more (I have a ton of review books to read!) but I may be in and out at times depending on what's going on in my life.

Thanks for sticking around even though things have been slow!  I have some fantastic followers!  And for fun I just had to include a picture of the fur baby.

Even though he won't be an only child for much longer, he will be keeping all the chewies for himself!I

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: "The Raven's Heart" by Jesse Blackadder

SYNOPSIS: Scotland, 1561, and a ship comes across the North Sea carrying home Mary, the young, charismatic Queen of Scots, returning after thirteen years in the French court to wrest back control of her throne.

The Blackadder family has long awaited for the Queen's return to bring them justice. Alison Blackadder, disguised as a boy from childhood to protect her from the murderous clan that stole their lands, must learn to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, building a web of dependence and reward.

Just as the Queen can trust nobody, Alison discovers lies, danger, and treachery at every turn.

This sweeping, imaginative, and original tale of political intrigue, misplaced loyalty, secret passion, and implacable revenge is based on real characters and events from the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.


My Thoughts:  I have been in a reading rut for weeks and this book was just what I needed to get out of it.  From the first few pages, I was completely sucked into the story.  The characters were fascinating and so there was so much intrigue that I never knew who I could trust. 

The story centers around Alison Blackadder whose sole purpose is to help her father regain their family castle that was conquered when he was a child.  What was really interesting about Alison Blackadder and her family was that they were based on historical events that took place in the author's family.  Alison and her father have a very unique family dynamic between the two of them that mainly has to do with all of the drama surrounding her father's past.  It's almost as though her father's past is like this dark cloud following the two of them around throughout the story waiting to wreak  havoc at the most inopportune time. 

Alison is a very unique character; I don't think I have ever seen a character like her before in a book.  I liked her because she was so different than any other character. She is raised disguised as a boy and she switches from being the girl "Alison" to the boy "Robert" and sometimes I would forget who she was supposed to be at any given time.  I felt kind of bad for her because she could never be who she really was; someone was always asking her to pretend to be someone she wasn't.  It almost seemed like she changed identities so often that even she couldn't always keep track of who she really was.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was not the most likable character.  I haven't read too many fictional works where she is featured but whenever I have, I haven't liked her very much.  I read some non-fiction works about her life when I was in college and now I feel like I need to go back and read them again to see how I feel about her.  In this book, she was very fickle and selfish and while I know she had a hard life, it was still hard to feel sympathetic to her plight. 

There was a lot of intrigue in this story; as I said above, you never knew what would happen next or who you could trust.  I loved it!  There were several plots against the queen and those around her and this just kept me wanting to know what would happen next.  Alison had to deal with all of the queen's issues in addition to trying to hide from the Humes who stole her family's land and wanted her dead.  The feud between the Humes and the Blackadders was fascinating and culminated in a way I never expected.  The end of the story was so surprising to me but I thought it worked perfectly. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was pleasantly surprised by how well-written it was.  The story was unique and engrossing and made me want to know more about the historical events portrayed.  I would definitely recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction.  4 stars.

About the Author:

 
Born in Sydney, Jesse now lives near Byron Bay. She is an award-winning short-story writer and freelance journalist, fascinated by landscapes and belonging. Her first novel was After the Party (2005), which was voted onto the Australian Book Review’s list of all time favourite Australian novels in February 2010. She is writing her next novel about the first woman to reach Antarctica.
 

 
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Follow the tour on Twitter:  #RavensHeartVirtualTour

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Back to the Classics Challenge Wrapup

I signed up for a lot of challenges this year but the one I was most excited about was the 'Back to the Classics' challenge.  I am so happy that I managed to finish it and I read some amazing books!  I think East of Eden was my favorite but The Fellowship of the Rings was a close second.

Here is what I read:

  • Any 19th Century ClassicThe Scarlet Letter
  • Any 20th Century ClassicEast of Eden
  • Reread a classic of your choice The Master and Margarita
  • A Classic Play -Macbeth *Done
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction-Frankenstein
  • Classic Romance The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language
  •                Les Miserables
         Classic Award Winner - The Age of Innocence

          Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime - To Clarify, this does not have to be a country that you hope to visit either. Countries that no longer exist or have never existed count. –The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring *Done

    Monday, December 17, 2012

    Final Thoughts on "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo


    Thoughts on previous sections:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
     
    
    I did it!! I actually finished Les Miserables!  Honestly, I am so glad I stuck with it.  Overall, this was a beautifully written story.  I struggled with some of the political and historical aspects but it was worth it to push through those parts.  I think it really helped that I broke the book into chunks.  If I had tried to read it all at once, I probably would have given up.

    I've decided that Jean Valjean is one of my new favorite literary characters.  Despite the fact that the was an escaped criminal, through his actions over the years he completely redeemed himself.  I also think Javert was a pretty interesting character.  Every thing was black or white to him; there was never any gray and I think that is what led to his downfall.  I really hated him in the beginning but as the story went on, I started to understand his point of view. 

    I'm going to keep this short because it is my 4th post on the book but I must say Les Miserables is a great book.  It's a tough read but so worth it.  4 stars.

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Stacking the Shelves (27)

     
    Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
     
    This week I actually had some time to go to the library and look around.  I picked up several different books that have been on my TBR list for awhile.  I can't wait to start reading them!
     
    From the Library:
     
     
     
    From NetGalley:
     
     
    (Sorry for the bad picture, but I am so excited to read this!)
     
    Have you read any of these books?  What books did you get this week? 
     
    

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012


    Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
    This week's topic:  Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012
    I don't have 10 authors that I fell in love with this year but I do have a couple.
    
    1.) Kate Quinn-Mistress of Rome was an excellent read.  I haven't read any of her other books but I definitely plan to.
    2.) Kate Morton-I read two of Kate Morton's books this year and I absolutely loved them.  I went out and bought her other two books though I haven't picked them up yet.
    3.) George R.R. Martin-There really isn't an explanation needed here.  Martin is an amazing author.
    4.) John Steinbeck-I was always intimidated by the idea of reading Steinbeck.  After reading East of Eden, I am just in awe of his writing.
    5.) Elizabeth Loupas-Loupas is a writer of historical fiction.  I read two of her books this year and I definitely can't wait to read any new books she may write.

    That's all I have.  I didn't read that many 'new-to-me' authors that really stood out this year.  What authors are on your list?

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Stacking the Shelves (26)

     
    Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
     
    I got one book this week and I think it looks pretty interesting.  I can't wait to read it!
     
    From Netgalley:
     
     
     
    

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Review: "Her Majesty's Will" by David Blixt

    Synopsis: 
    Before he was famous, he was a fugitive.
    Before he wrote of humanity, he lived it.
    Before he was the Bard of Avon, he was a spy.

    A very poor spy.

    England, 1586. Swept up in the skirts of a mysterious stranger, Will Shakespeare becomes entangled in a deadly and hilarious misadventure as he accidentally uncovers the Babington Plot, an attempt to murder Queen Elizabeth herself. Aided by the mercurial wit of Kit Marlowe, Will enters London for the first time, chased by rebels, spies, his own government, his past, and a bear.

    Through it all he demonstrates his loyalty and genius, proving himself to be - HER MAJESTY'S WILL.


    My Thoughts:  I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book.  I knew it was about William Shakespeare but I didn't realize that it would be so humorous.  It turned out to be story about Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe whose every move turned into a comedy of errors.  Will gets mixed up in Kit's plans to uncover treason and all kinds of craziness ensues.  There are A LOT of twists and turns in the story and I kept thinking I had it all figured out even though I didn't.

    This is definitely not your average work of historical fiction.  It is a very light, silly read that is a bit more fiction than history.  The story jumps right into the action, there isn't much time to get to know the characters in the very beginning.  I liked the way William Shakespeare is portrayed.  He seemed fairly two-dimensional in the beginning but as the story progressed he developed into a pretty interesting character.  It was neat to see how the author led Will to the realization that he should work in the theatre and write plays.  It kind of made me want to go out and read another one of his plays. Kit kind of got on my nerves because he was just a magnet for trouble and was always so non-chalant about all the trouble he caused for Will.  One thing I really didn't like about this book is how the story would have bursts of action followed by pages of dialogue that seemed to drag.  It felt like there was a lot of 'hurry up and wait' and it got really annoying at times. 

    Overall, this was a fun story portraying unique characters with some action and humor thrown in.  If you are looking to step outside of the usual Tudor era historical fiction box, I would recommend checking this book out.  3 stars.

    About the Author

     

    Author and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it."

    Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

    For more about David and his novels, visit
    www.davidblixt.com.

    

    Check out other stops on the tour here!
    Follow the tour on Twitter:  #DavidBlixtVirtualTour

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

    Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
    This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

    1.) Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond-I love the Pioneer Woman's show and everything she cooks looks so yummy!
    2.) Any of Trisha Yearwood's cookbooks-Her cooking show is one of my new favorites.  I sit in my pajamas and drool while watching her show on Saturday mornings.
    3.) Hunger Games in Russian- I need to practice my Russian skills and this would be a great way to do it.
    4.) The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges- I really liked the the first book in this series and can't wait to see what happens next.
    5.) One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf-Gudenkauf's books are so good; I definitely want to check this one out.
    6.) The Distant Hours by Kate Morton- I love Kate Morton!  I want to read everything she has written!
    7.) A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin-I still haven't read Clash of Kings but I know I am going to want to pick this one up right after I do.
    8.) Winter of the World by Ken Follett-I am interested to see how this book turns out.  I thought the first one was okay but I have heard that this one is excellent.

    That's all I've got!  I am kind of in a reading rut so this was a lot harder than I thought!  What books are on your winter wish list?
     
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